Wednesday, July 29, 2009

'The Death Of Representative Government'

This is great, short and to the point (h/t Foundry, emphasis mine):

Rep. John Conyers can't see why lawmakers should read the laws they make. What's the point? They wouldn't understand 'em anyway:

"I love these members, they get up and say, 'Read the bill,'" said Conyers.

"What good is reading the bill if it's a thousand pages and you don't have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?"

As Betsy Newmark comments:

At least some representative's aides somewhere have read some part of the bill so that should be enough, right? Who says that when you're rejiggering over one-sixth of the US economy and incurring massive future debt that you need to know what it is you're voting on.

Thousand-page bills, unread and indeed unwritten at the time of passage, are the death of representative government. They also provide a clue as to why, in a country this large, national government should be minimal and constrained. Even if you doubled or trebled the size of the legislature, the Conyers conundrum would still hold: No individual can read these bills and understand what he's voting on. That's why the bulk of these responsibilities should be left to states and subsidiary jurisdictions, which can legislate on such matters at readable length and in comprehensible language.

As for optimum bill size, the 1773 Tea Act, which provoked the Boston Tea Party, was 2,263 words. That sounds about right.

Amen to that!

If I were in Congress, I would reflexively oppose -- regardless of the topic, the sponsors, or whether or not I agreed with it -- any bill that was overly large, and any bill that was rushed through the process; the degree of my opposition would be in reverse proportionality to its size and the speed at which is was progressing.  The bigger and faster the bill, the louder I would scream.  For bills like Obamacare, I'd be hanging from the gilded chandeliers and howling like a banshee.

There's my two cents.

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