In a recent column in The Dallas Morning News, Philip Howard put forth a unique idea, have federal and state laws expire after ten or fifteen years. He proposed that laws be repealed so they could be revisited instead of piling up like “sediment in a harbor.”
Just think of how streamlined some aspects of government could be if laws determining how agencies are administrated were culled. IRS, anyone? That agency is so top-heavy with laws I wonder how it can even stand anymore.
Howard wrote, “Our political class assumes that, after a law is formed in the crucible of democracy, it should be honored as if it is one of the Ten Commandments, except it is more like one of 10 million.”
Ten million laws. Whew. Who can even keep track of so many? Are some so obscure they haven’t been read in decades? Where are they all stored? Do new laws contradict old laws? Do we even know?
I like Howard’s idea. He believes that “A healthy democracy must make fresh choices.” Society changes and evolves, it doesn’t remain in one place forever, but our laws do. Sometimes it is amusing to look at old laws that are still on the books in some states. We laugh at a law that prohibits spitting on the sidewalk, but nobody says, “Gee, maybe we don’t need that law anymore.”
And I’m guessing that at least half of those 10 million laws that govern us are as antiquated as that one.
The title of Howard’s op-ed piece was “One nation under too many laws”, and I agree. How about you?