No More “Comprehensive” Laws

October 25th, 2013

Yesterday, President Obama attempted to jumpstart the flailing immigration reform movement. Although he has consistently campaigned for “comprehensive immigration reform” since running for office, he now appears to at least be willing to consider smaller bills addressing particular immigration issues provided that they lead ultimately to a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal aliens in the country today.

While I’m sure I’d disagree with him as to the particulars of any bill he’d happily sign, I can say to the proposed move away from “comprehensive” legislation . . . it’s about time!

An important lesson to take away from the problems with the Affordable Care Act is that “comprehensive” is a code word for disaster. In fact, historically, comprehensive solutions have proven our least efficient or effective ways of dealing with large scale public policy problems.

The ACA illustrates the problem perfectly.

In its condensed format, the ACA is roughly 1,000 pages long.  From those many pages, we now have 11,000 pages in regulations implementing the law. For an attorney, that’s money in the bank, since you’d ordinarily need to pay someone with an advanced degree to interpret what’s there. Trust me, you’d have to pay someone to read all that since it’s incredibly tedious. I should know since I used to do that for a living.

Imagine all those words (over 400,000) for just one law.

The problem is that this particular law effectively changes the way healthcare is delivered in this country.  Given the fact that healthcare costs make up roughly 17% of the U.S. economy, any law affecting it is bound to have an enormous impact on the nation as a whole.

When a law like this is written by one political party essentially throwing together everything they could possibly want (except for the biggest prize—single payer healthcare) and then rammed through to passage, it’s no wonder it doesn’t work well.

As a result, we now have a myriad of problems or “unintended consequences” with which to deal.  Accessing a website is the least of our problems.  Instead, we have increased insurance premiums (so much for “affordable”) and job losses as a result. Sadly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Back in 1986 when the Immigration Reform and Control Act was passed and signed into law, Congress thought it too would prove “comprehensive.”  Upon its passage, many hoped and believed that granting amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants in exchange for tighter workplace rules and enforcement against illegal hiring would solve once and for all the problem of illegal immigration.

Clearly, it didn’t.

Now we have 11 million illegal aliens in the country and once again we’re considering a “comprehensive” way to deal with the problem.

I say no more comprehensive laws.  In fact, I propose the next law passed by Congress and signed by the president should be a law mandating that no law exceed one hundred pages.  To me, that sounds a little long, but many problems can’t be dealt with in two hundred words or less.  Also, I’d require that every member of the House and Senate sign a statement swearing to the fact that they actually read the bill before passage.  This shouldn’t be too much to ask.

I believe if we took this first simple step, we would be pleasantly surprised at how much more efficient government operates and with a nod to all the environmentalists out there, we’d save countless trees.



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