Arnold Kling  

We Need an Anti-Congress

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Iain Murray writes

Speaker Pelosi has released the text of the New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, Really Good Eggs and Consumer Protection Act (I snuck something else in there - can you tell?). It weighs in at a table-breaking 888 pages.

In my humble opinion, we should only have laws that are:
--clear; and

To ensure this, we need a new institution. I propose the Anti-Congress, which would be empowered to instantly repeal any legislation that fails to meet any of these criteria.

I've just finished Michael Barone's Our First Revolution, in which he extolls the accomplishments of the English Revolution of 1688-89. Prior to that revolution, Barone points out, about the only power the legislature had was to raise taxes if the King wanted to go to war. In the absence of war, the King could go for years without even calling the legislature into session.

I had difficulty putting myself in a frame of mind to share Barone's sentiments. I find myself nostalgic for the Ancien RĂ©gime.

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COMMENTS (10 to date)
caveat bettor writes:

That is probably the best blogged idea of the year.

Unit writes:

We already have the anti-congress: it's called supreme court.

jsalvati writes:

Perhaps I am just stating the obvious, but:
1) That's not just your humble opinion; it's also Hayek's and anyone else who believes in strong, formal rule-of-law.
2) Those are called judges

Vincent Clement writes:

simple, straightforward, clear, and necessary

Wouldn't that make politicians unnecessary?

I'm an Urban Planner and before we had a change in senior management (aka 'the new boss'), our reports were two, three maybe four pages long. In fact, it was the goal of another planner and myself to write one-page reports when possible. We boasted out loud when one of us achieved the one-page report.

Then came the change. Now our report for easy applications, regularly come in at 10 to 12 pages - on a good day. We are including everything plus the kitchen sink. It's maddening.

Before, the recommendation and analysis was right there. Now, they are lost in a sea of useless background information and other comments.

James Hamilton writes:

I have long favored the Swiss system, in which the minority party in Congress can relatively easily ensure that passed legislation is sent to a public vote for possible veto. Rather than the California initiative process (in which all sorts of ill-considered ideas get through), voters get to say "yes" (the already-passed legislation becomes law) or "no" (it does not).

D. F. Linton writes:

Heinlein (in the voice of Prof. Del La Paz) proposed the same thing in the Moon is a Harsh Mistress: A legislative body that could repeal any law with a vote of 1/3 of its members, but had no other powers.

reason writes:

I have long favoured something subtler, but with the same effect. The total amount of law currently in force should have an upper limit. If you want to add new laws you have to first repeal some old ones.

TDL writes:

How about a constitutional amendment that sunsets all laws and departments every 6 to 10 years? Although, an anti-congress sounds interesting.


Alex writes:

Article 9, section 9, 20th point, of the short-lived Confederate Constitution reads: "Every law, or resolution having the force of law, shall relate to but one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title."

Is that what you meant?

Sudha Shenoy writes:

And the monarch had to provide a quid pro quo for getting his taxes passed: "Redress of grievances before supply". Also the taxes were specific & one-off: the tax was levied, the money raised, & that was it: end of tax. Those were the days....

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