Tuesday, August 10, 2010

10,000 Commandments

Ninety blessed days have passed since the end of the 2010 legislative session, but we still aren't out of the woods yet. Far from it, in fact. Tuesday, August 10, exactly three months after the gavel came down, the 165 largely unnecessary, mostly trivial and sometimes silly new laws approved last session become law. It's hard to see how the state is measurably better off as a result. Actually, since few if any of the new laws actually expand freedom, and most restrict it in one way or another, we're probably less better off than we were when the session began.

I defy doubters of that statement to highlight 3 pieces of legislation, approved last session, that Colorado could not live without, excluding the budget. I further challenge them to name 3 bills that actually translate into an expansion of freedom, as opposed to a restriction on freedom.

What to do about this is uncertain. As long as reporters, pundits and certain segments of the general public continue to measure a session's success according to raw output, labeling less active sessions as a "failure" to "get things done," legislators will continue to crank out new laws like widgets, assembly line-style. Wouldn't it be miraculous (and good for the state) if an entire session passed without a single bill approved, except a balanced budget? The state wouldn't suffer in the least. On the contrary, it probably would benefit from the cease fire.

Maybe we inadvertently encourage the annual deluge of new laws, new commandments, by calling our legislators "lawmakers." This sounds like something from biblical times, as if they're doing the Lord's work, handing down laws from a burning bush. But God was content to hand down just 10 commandments. Americans today have 10,000 commandments (probably more, in fact) to follow, thanks to the factory-like mass production of make-work legislation. Ignored is Churchill's dictum that the surest way to undermine respect for the law is to have too many laws.

Let's begin calling our legislators law-manufacturers, or law-generators, or just plain old "regulators," since that more accurately describes how they function. Instead of applauding them for the new laws they write, we should cheer them for the old laws they erase.

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