What’s Broken?

There’s an interesting op-ed by Philip Howard at the Wsshington Post on what broke Washington. His basic thesis is that the sheer accumulation of laws is the major problem:

The main culprit, ironically, is law. Generations of lawmakers and regulators have written so much law, in such detail, that officials are barred from acting sensibly. Like sediment in the harbor, law has piled up until it is almost impossible — indeed, illegal — for officials to make choices needed for government to get where it needs to go.

I think there’s a certain amount of truth in this and that our system is particularly susceptible to such accretions. Our laws tend not to have sunset clauses and over time constituencies grow up for any expenditure for whom the expenditure has become a matter of life and death.

Something he doesn’t take note of is that we have a common law system. Under a common law system the laws enacted by legislatures are only the tip of the iceberg. The overwhelming preponderance of law is the law written by judges. We now have more than 300 years or accumulated judge-written law and in some areas, e.g. tax law, even specialists don’t understand the law.

One thing I want to caution you about. Mr. Howard is reckless in his assertion of fact. For example, when you examine his footnotes about this statement:

Special education, for example, now consumes about 25 percent of the total K-12 expenditures.

they don’t support the claim. He’s inferred it from a combination of hard data, testimonial, and guesswork. I haven’t bothered investigating any of his other statements of fact but verbum sap.

It’s an interesting op-ed nonetheless. I’m more concerned than he apparently is with his prescription.

This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?

1 comment… add one
  • jan

    I thought, for the most part Howard’s opinions, were spot on!

    Our mountains of laws (especially the recent layers of obsessive one’s created by the current over-zealous EPA), has critically slowed down economical productivity and the entrepreneurial spirit in this country. It reminds me of underlying reasons for disease, as espoused by Eastern medicine — blockages in the body. These can be due to blocked or stagnating energy, which then causes malfunctions in one’s physicality. So it is, in how we are encumbering the possibility of any significant job growth, by the continual sludge of rules and regulations, being mass-produced and usually generated from ideological cranial cavities of partisan bureaucrats.

    As was already mentioned, there are no sunset clauses, no ‘clinical trial periods’ to see if any of these mindless brain storms work, let alone if they may even be toxic to what is trying to be accomplished! Instead, policies are permanately installed, in bulging, complex pieces of legislation, for the benefit of pleasing a politician’s mind set — these days being that of a ‘liberal, progressive’ variety. However, there is little to none consideration for those who oppose the direction we are being forced to take. In fact, even ‘nods’ of “We hear you” are seldom in the mix, unless the public overwhelms a bureaucracy with their discontent — like was recently done to the IRS in trying to slam out new 501 (c) 4 rules.

    To this day poll after poll indicates the public thinks we are going in the wrong direction — but the WH seems oblivious. These same polls show people in favor of voter ID, of having less government intrusion, of dissatisfaction with the PPACA, in favor of further Benghazi/IRS inquiries, of having more attention being put on jobs and growing the economy, not on global warming, racism, and other socially manipulated issues. But, this WH is not listening. It continues to put it’s fist in people’s faces, placing emphasis on what they want to do, all the while discrediting anyone or opposition party who gets in their way.

    One of the latest partisan ironies, is the recent House Bill overwhelmingly passed and sent on to Reid’s Senate, empowering the Sec of the VA, in taking direct action towards the allegations of VA hospital malfeasance and incompetence. It was immediately derailed, though, by a democratic Senator who said he couldn’t support a bill he hadn’t read. The bill was 3 pages long!!!!!

    Now reflect on the PPACA bill, being thousands of pages long, with Pelosi chiding members to pass the unread bill quickly, so they could find out what was in it! I mean, how crazy and hypocritical is that? But, you won’t find many democrats showing consternation over this, because it will be lightly discussed and then dismissed in their circles.

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