With congressional approval ratings at the lowest ever, it’s evident: the sclerotic old institution needs new blood.
But note what I’m not saying — that “Congress doesn’t do enough.”
As A. Barton Hinkle points out in a column, yesterday, complaints about the 113th Congress hail from “CNN to McClatchy to NPR to the L.A. Times,” one lamentation dominating: “the 113th makes ‘the infamous “do-nothing Congress” of the late 1940s look downright prolific.’”
But, as he makes clear, the complaint is witless.
Producing more bad legislation is certainly no improvement. And, as Hinkle observed, the most talked-about recent congressional responses to apparently real problems have been widely judged worse than the problems themselves. Almost everybody was glad that SOPA — the “Stop Online Piracy Act” — didn’t pass; vast majorities opposed and now regret Obamacare.
So, why is most new legislation bad? The reasons are legion, but one stands out: Congress doesn’t even have time to read the laws it debates and passes.
A British economist explained it like this:
[E]ven Members of Parliament find the burthen of reading through the multitudinous and mazy provisions of the Bills issued day by day . . . too heavy to be borne by mortal man.
That was over a hundred years ago. It’s worse in this new year of 2014, both in Britain and America. Today’s laws are cooked up in back rooms by legislative assistants and lobbyists. When such is “more,” less is better.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.