An old joke runs something like this:
“We lose a dollar on every widget sold.”
“So how do you stay in business?”
“We make up for it in volume.”
The lesson? Mere numerical productivity is not key to the success of any human enterprise. Adding value is key. Quality counts. And profit.
Tell that to Ezra Klein. He measures Congress by how many laws it makes. The current Congress has made very few laws compared to previous ones — Klein has a very nifty graph of this, see at right — so Klein blasts Congress: “there’s no session of Congress with such a poor record of productivity.”
But it’s not gross-weight productivity that counts. As economist David Henderson perceptively noted, what matters is whether the laws are good or not.
The more laws we’re encumbered with, the less their quality. Or as Cicero once put it: “The more laws, the less justice.”
Laws carry the weight of force, and force is the opposite of freedom, so the more the laws, the less the freedom. Further, it’s almost impossible to manage the huge bulk of the legal code, leading to bureaucratic drudgery both in and out of government, and mismanagement of resources everywhere. At best, we wind up with only piecemeal enforcement, which is itself a temptation for a common sort of tyranny, the prosecution of folks someone in power doesn’t like.
Note that graph. Each session adds to existing law. And unlike spending feeding debt, which is at least somewhat offset by revenues, these laws tend not to be the repeal of old laws. Graph the accumulation of laws, and it goes only one direction.
The wrong direction.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.