Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
--C.S. Lewis--

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Don't Read The Bill

I'm sorry, but I just can't get too worked up by all of the liberal congressmen who admit that they have no intention of reading any of the healthcare bills before they vote on them.

First, let me stipulate that I agree that any Congressmen who ranted and raved about no one reading the Patriot Act before they voted on it, but are now willing to do the same on healthcare are hypocrites. Second, let me also say that, as a conservative, I'm more than willing to sign on to the idea that it probably says something not-so-good about our government that we've extended its size and scope to such a degree that people readily admit that they couldn't understand a bill if they did read it. After all, the founders were able to declare independence from England and create our political system in about 6,000 clear words (We seem to be heading downhill. After all, God created the entire world in about 1,400 words). And last, let me also acknowledge that, as a simple matter of political tactics, "read the bill" is effective. When people are confused and suspicious about legislation, forcing their representative to admit they have no intention of actually reading it certainly does sound devastating.

Having said all of that, the bottom line is that we are where we are. Government is huge. It overreaches, and federal legislation is scary, complicated stuff. I analyze state legislation for a living. I also made my way through college reading Shakespeare, Dante, and Dostoevsky (and enjoying it). And yet, on the few occasions that I've had to pick up a federal bill and do something useful with it, I find myself fighting the urge to curl up into the fetal position and suck my thumb. Talking about what a horrible state of affairs we've come to may be cathartic, but it doesn't do anything meaningful.

But let's pretend for a moment that this reality wasn't the case. Let's say each member of Congress was limited to a single, ten page bill per session. That would still require each member of Congress to read 5,350 pages of legislation per year. I seriously doubt even such a limited goal is within their reach. And since it seems to be an open question whether some members of Congress are even operating at a high school level, asking them to read this bill really seems to be a futile gesture.