Complex societies need simple laws
by John Stossel
"If you have 10,000 regulations," Winston Churchill said, "you destroy all respect for law."
He was right. But Churchill never imagined a government that would add 10,000 year after year. That's what we have in America. We have 160,000 pages of rules from the feds alone. States and localities have probably doubled that. We have so many rules that legal specialists can't keep up. Criminal lawyers call the rules "incomprehensible." They are. They are also "uncountable." Congress has created so many criminal offenses that the American Bar Association says it would be futile to even attempt to estimate the total.
So what do the politicians and bureaucrats of the permanent government do? They pass more rules.
That's not good. It paralyzes life.
Politicians sometimes say they understand the problem. They promise to "simplify." But they rarely do. Mostly, they come up with new rules. It's just natural. It's how the public measures politicians. Schoolchildren on Washington tours ask, "What laws did you pass?" If they don't pass new laws, the media whine about the "do-nothing Congress."
This is also not good.
When so much is illegal, common sense dies. Out of fear of breaking rules, people stop innovating, trying, helping.
Think I exaggerate? Consider what happened in Britain, a country even more rule-bound than America. A man had an epileptic seizure and fell into a shallow pond. Rescue workers might have saved him, but they wouldn't enter the 3-foot-deep pond. Why? Because "safety" rules passed after rescuers drowned in a river now prohibited "emergency workers" from entering water above their ankles. Only 30 minutes later, when rescue workers with "stage 2 training" arrived, did they enter the water, discover that the man was dead and carry him to the approved inflatable medical tent. Twenty other cops, firemen and "rescuers" stood next to the pond and watched.
The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, sometimes called the first libertarian thinker, said, "The more artificial taboos and restrictions there are in the world, the more the people are impoverished. ... The more that laws and regulations are given prominence, the more thieves and robbers there will be." He complained that there were "laws and regulations more numerous than the hairs of an ox." What would he have thought of our world?
Big-government advocates will say that as society grows more complex, laws must multiply to keep up. The opposite is true. It is precisely because society is unfathomably complex that laws must be kept simple. No legislature can possibly prescribe rules for the complex network of uncountable transactions and acts of cooperation that take place every day. Not only is the knowledge that would be required to make such a regulatory regime work unavailable to the planners, it doesn't actually exist, because people don't know what they will want or do until they confront alternatives in the real world. Any attempt to manage a modern society is more like a bull in a darkened china shop than a finely tuned machine. No wonder the schemes of politicians go awry.
F.A. Hayek wisely said, "The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design." Another Nobel laureate, James M. Buchanan, put it this way: "Economics is the art of putting parameters on our utopias."
Barack Obama and his ilk in both parties don't want parameters on their utopias. They think the world is subject to their manipulation. That idea was debunked years ago.
"With good men and strong governments everything was considered feasible," the great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises wrote. But with the advent of economics, "it was learned that ... there is something operative which power and force are unable to alter and to which they must adjust themselves if they hope to achieve success, in precisely the same way as they must taken into account the laws of nature."
I wish our politicians knew that. I wish they'd stop their presumptuous schemes.
We need to end the orgy of rule-making at once and embrace the simple rules that true liberals like America's founders envisioned.
I won't address the issue of whether it is the dems or repubs making all the laws; in my opinion they are both the south end of a mule headed north.
We DO need fewer laws, though. Laws should protect our bodies and property from our neighbor, but that's it. We don't need protection from ourselves, our sensitive stomach doesn't need protection from our neighbor. We don't need laws telling us how we must spend our money (think Obamacare) or how we should run our business (given that we harm neither employee or customer).
We have become a nation of little children, depending on Uncle Sam for our every need, to tell us what to buy when, to bail us out when we f*** up. We depend on govt. to raise our children for us and to provide us with parties and parks.
It is this total dependency that has caused the explosion of laws as much as anything. Why can't we grow up and take control of our own lives for a change, requiring govt. laws only for protection and perpetuation of the country (taxes, for instance)?
I propose that we form a supercommittee to formulate a set of rules and regulations for how we should go about deregulating. It should only cost eighty billion or so tax payer dollars to figure this out. Of course, it will also require the hiring of hundreds of new government employees, but that's the price you pay for shrinking the government.
I think more laws are put on us to help the prison-for-profit industry. Just like the drug war was put in place to lock up the competition for the real drug lords.(CIA)and such.
Not to mention all the new immigration laws that came about right in time for all the new private prisons! And then the inmates are used for cheap labor, and traded on the stock exchange.
That is why I think they want to ban abortion and birth control. That way, they have more poor, hungry, desperate people to slap more laws on, lock more up, make more money..
Liberal? I don't think so...I think it's corporate gangs that run things. And we need to get their influence out of out of our gvt.
Thank god we still have some semblance of some decent gvt to keep our country going. IMHO only.
Isn't there a law somewhere that says if a law is not used (i.e. broken and called into effect) within a certain period of time (limitation) it is null and void. or vull and noid? nevermind. If there isn't should we have a law like that? because lawmakers may get bored when they have nothing to do and will need to cull the old laws that no one ever intended to enforce (perhaps) in the first place. Or not. whatever. ask me if I care. I just saw the word "liberal" and it rather shocked me to see it and then every time I tried to get into this here thread I got snagged - my computer totally snagged
or whatever you techies call it.
so no. I do not feel like shopping today. But I can see why the law is not being used quite the way it all used to be. Am I making sense?
Go Ron Paul for president...a true "liberal"tarian...no party no politics, just Constitutional alignment all the way, small government and fiscal responsibility
by uncorrectedvision 7 years ago
What was my title? I thought about it and decided that Paul Krugman was the real point of this forum. I do know something about economics, politics and Paul Krugman. I know very little about the products of Summer's Eve. Krugman is a partisan, a warrior for one side and no...
by Rachael Lefler 21 months ago
How can the U.S. heal its political divides?We're increasingly in a tribal mentality of red vs. blue. As a libertarian, I'm concerned that people are not able to get along or do what's best for the country anymore; they want two dramatically opposed visions for the future of the country and do not...
by LAURENS WRIGHT 5 years ago
How should welfare be handled, other than just handing out money, food stamps, gifts, homes, etc?I work in a low income housing complex of over 200 apartments. People there get the apartments for at least $50, every thing included, up to $1200 in food stamps, up to $800 in allowance, WIC,...
by Jack Lee 17 months ago
In discussion here on hubpages, we hear some accuses religion people of being judgemental and more over accuses religious people of forcing their believes and policies on the American people through laws...That is not the religion or people I know. Where is this disconnect coming from?Could it be...
by Grace Marguerite Williams 3 years ago
Do you believe that America was much better when the Conservatives ran it or with the Liberalscurrently running it? Why? Why not?
by ptosis 12 months ago
yea or nea? Are you HAPPY! that the richest .01% get less taxes? I mean - they did earn it didn't they?Do they just work harder? Is everybody else just stupid and lazy? Hard work will only get you so far if circumstances aren’t amenable. Do you believe that “If you’re still poor at 35, you...
Copyright © 2018 HubPages Inc. and respective owners. Other product and company names shown may be trademarks of their respective owners. HubPages® is a registered Service Mark of HubPages, Inc. HubPages and Hubbers (authors) may earn revenue on this page based on affiliate relationships and advertisements with partners including Amazon, Google, and others.
|HubPages Device ID||This is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.|
|Login||This is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.|
|HubPages Traffic Pixel||This is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.|
|Remarketing Pixels||We may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.|
|Conversion Tracking Pixels||We may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.|