Have you ever heard someone ask why Congress can’t just ‘do it’s job?’ Of course you have; people reflect on how our broken congress can’t do anything all the time. Have you ever considered what Congress does when it is working, though? Does it methodically follow the US Constitution, finding new and exciting ways to expand our liberty, or does it continuously and endlessly expand government, often well beyond the scope of the US Constitution?
Congress passes laws. That is all Congress does. Congress has been passing laws for over 200 years, and virtually all of them have restricted freedom in some way. Today, our tax code is over 75,000 pages long, there are over 4,450 federal crimes, and in a nation where ‘the right of the people to bear and keep arms, shall not be infringed,’ we have around 20,000 federal laws pertaining to the use and ownership of guns. Nobody even knows how many laws there are in total. Google it – you’ll find that there are 51 very large volumes of federal laws, and that nobody even knows how many laws are in all of those volumes. We have so many federal laws that counting them would be too much work, and since Congress passes new laws every year, the count is continuously growing.
If the answer to every difficulty is a new law, then, since life has a near infinite number of difficulties, we need an infinite number of laws – every one of which will restrict freedom in some way. In our quest for a government solution to all that ails us, we are marching headlong into tyranny, and there is no way around that without changing the nature of Congress such that its job is not to pass new laws, but to look at the totality of laws already on the books, and to either improve them, or to repeal them.
Congress has the power to repeal laws, but this is a power that is rarely utilized. Rather, once a law is passed, it generally sticks around forever, and each year we add more. If you look at the chart above, you’ll see that in 1955, Congress added over 1,000 laws – in one year alone. And that’s just federal laws. Think about all of the state and local laws passed each year.
Did you know that in Nebraska, if a child burps in church, the police can arrest the child’s parents? Did you know that it is also illegal for bars in Nebraska to sell beer unless they are also cooking a kettle of soup? In Nevada it is illegal to drive a camel on the highway, and if someone shoots your dog on your property, you can legally hang them. In New Hampshire, it is illegal to look up while peeing on a Sunday. In New Jersey, it is illegal to pump your own gas. In New York there is a $25 fine for flirting. In North Carolina, it is illegal to sing off tune. In Ohio, it is illegal to catch mice without a hunting license.
In my own state of Michigan, it is illegal for a woman to cut her hair without her husband’s permission, and if a man ‘seduces and corrupts’ an unmarried woman, he can go to prison for five years.
Do any of these laws make us safer? Do any of these laws enhance our lives in any way? And yet legislatures sat in session, debated these things, passed them into law, and they still sit on the books.
Whenever Congress does nothing, people say Congress is broken. We measure the ‘effectiveness’ of Congress based on the number of new laws they pass every year, as if making the public less free is somehow the grandest thing our government can do. Sadly, the most ‘effective’ Congress, by this metric, would also be the most tyrannical.
It isn’t just Democrats who want more rather than fewer laws. Republican gains around the country have been made, in large part, based on the promise of repealing Obamacare. Have the Republicans repealed Obamacare yet? No. Why not? Because they cannot agree on what to replace it with. Thomas Sowell made the perfect analogy when he asked, “If your doctor told you that you had cancer, and that he wanted to remove that cancer, would you ask your doctor what he plans to replace it with?” We do not need to replace Obamacare with anything. The free market will do that for us. We need to repeal Obamacare, and then we need to start looking at other medical laws, and to either improve or repeal those as well.
We have to change how we think about Congress, and what we consider their role. Congress should only rarely pass new laws. Congress should spend the vast majority of its time repealing or improving existing laws. We need less governance rather than more, and if the only thing Congress can do well is to pass new laws, then we Congress broken.
Perhaps President Trump’s single greatest accomplishment has been the hatred people in both political parties feel for him. Trump has his own party so deeply split that Congress cannot seem to get anything done.
I hope it stays that way. The more broken Congress is, the better.