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Author Topic: Congress logs most futile legislative year on record
philnotfil
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It takes two to tango (before anyone tries to blame it on the Democrats or Republicans).

washingtontimes.com

quote:
It's official: Congress ended its least-productive year in modern history after passing 80 bills — fewer than during any other session since year-end records began being kept in 1947.

Furthermore, an analysis by The Washington Times of the scope of such activities as time spent in debate, number of conference reports produced and votes taken on the House and Senate floors found that Congress set a record for legislative futility by accomplishing less in 2011 than any other year in history.

quote:
In 2011, the Senate ranked poorly on all the measures relating to bills and was in the lower half on votes and pages in the record. The only yardstick by which it performed well was on time spent in session, where it logged more than 1,100 hours — slightly better than the median.

Combining those rankings gave the Senate a futility score of 70, or 19 points lower than the Senate's record of 89 established in 2008.

The House record was more mixed. It spent more time in session than all but 10 other congresses, compiled the eighth highest number of pages of debate and took more floor votes than all but two other congresses. But it passed the fewest number of bills in its history and had fewer bills signed by the president than any other Congress and shared the same poor performance on conference reports.


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AI Wessex
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And yet *at least* 90% of incumbents who run next year will be reelected.
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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by AI Wessex:
And yet *at least* 90% of incumbents who run next year will be reelected.

Consider that there is a strong interest within the nation that doesn't want the government to do anything. I read somewhere once that the economy, and especially the stock market, performed better under gridlock.

For those individuals, the past year was a victory compared to the unpredictability of the first two years of the Obama administration.

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TomDavidson
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Those individuals are profoundly stupid.
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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by philnotfil:
It takes two to tango (before anyone tries to blame it on the Democrats or Republicans).

washingtontimes.com

quote:
It's official: Congress ended its least-productive year in modern history after passing 80 bills — fewer than during any other session since year-end records began being kept in 1947.

Furthermore, an analysis by The Washington Times of the scope of such activities as time spent in debate, number of conference reports produced and votes taken on the House and Senate floors found that Congress set a record for legislative futility by accomplishing less in 2011 than any other year in history.

quote:
In 2011, the Senate ranked poorly on all the measures relating to bills and was in the lower half on votes and pages in the record. The only yardstick by which it performed well was on time spent in session, where it logged more than 1,100 hours — slightly better than the median.

Combining those rankings gave the Senate a futility score of 70, or 19 points lower than the Senate's record of 89 established in 2008.

The House record was more mixed. It spent more time in session than all but 10 other congresses, compiled the eighth highest number of pages of debate and took more floor votes than all but two other congresses. But it passed the fewest number of bills in its history and had fewer bills signed by the president than any other Congress and shared the same poor performance on conference reports.


I think this is great. They should actually pay congress-critters inversely proportionally to the number of new laws they make. And give them bonuses for every time they repeal a previous law.
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cherrypoptart
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It's better to be futile than counter-productive.

I agree with Lisa. There should also be a limited number of laws, so in order to pass a new one they have to get rid of an old one. Especially with taxes.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
It's better to be futile than counter-productive.
Sadly, this Congress managed to be both.
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TheRallanator
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quote:
Originally posted by cherrypoptart:
It's better to be futile than counter-productive.

I agree with Lisa. There should also be a limited number of laws, so in order to pass a new one they have to get rid of an old one. Especially with taxes.

That is the most ridiculous suggestion I've read in all my years on Ornery. What, pray tell, should we set the number of active laws at? And how should we decide which old laws have to go when a new law is being debated?

Oh that's right, there's no right answer because it's a ****ing moronic idea in the first place.

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cherrypoptart
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Well it's hard to take you seriously through all that hostility but I'll try. I always do. How many laws are there now?

How many laws do we need?

If you want you can just look at the tax code. How many pages is it?

Remember that ignorance of the law is no excuse so every American should know every law that applies to them, otherwise they risk breaking the law, obviously. Is it even possible to know all of the laws?

You can call the IRS about just tax law and get different answers to the same question from people sitting right next to each other.

And we don't even need to go into Obamacare yet because it will very likely be found to be unConstitutional. But the nightmare of compliance with that is just beginning though hopefully it will come to a quick end. Remember when it was passed that we had to pass it to find out what's in it? Who is absurd again?

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
What, pray tell, should we set the number of active laws at?
Let's say a hundred A4 pages, written in normal-spaced size-12 Arial font, using vocabulary either defined therein or belonging to the 5000-most commonly used words in the English language. Individual professions can be obliged to follow another 50 pages of law each plus (for those professions requiring licensing) another 100 pages per year of university study typically required to acquire such license.

The idea would be that you could have a single volume containing all the laws that a single man would be ever required to follow -- varying in thickness perhaps, based on level of professional specialization.

That's my suggestion after 3 minutes of thought on the subject.

quote:
How many laws do we need?
Surely the issue isn't about "number" of laws, but about their length/complexity/pervasiveness. After all you can have one very complex law that's harder to figure out than a hundred very simple ones, or that by applying to very specialized professions is less obtrusive/tyracnnical than simpler laws that however need be followed by everyone.

[ January 17, 2012, 07:37 AM: Message edited by: Aris Katsaris ]

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AI Wessex
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Call it a blind eye for a blind eye code of laws.

Here's a suggestion. Let's get rid of the laws against murder, which is way more serious than taxes, since every state has its own set of laws and legal procedures and many people are convicted or set free wrongly. Add to that that one lawyer sitting right next to another one might advise the same client differently or argue the case differently. Not to mention that if you are arrested in a different state, you have to start over from scratch to understand how their laws differ from those in your home state. Nobody can possibly understand all that, and yet your very life hangs in the balance. Or let's at least simplify the laws to cover clear-cut situations, such as (for example) "Murder is person A approaches and shoots person B in a situation where there are bystanders who all agree on every particular of what transpired."

Lots of people here believe that the 2A is sacrosanct, so it would be even easier to get people to agree to take all laws restricting gun use off the books. You could then buy yourself or your kids any gun you (or they) want, you could carry it (unless it's too heavy, in which case you could put it on a roller cart) anywhere you want. If you use it to commit a crime that is still on the books at that point, the court would have to weigh the seriousness of your action against your immutable right to possess and implicitly use the weapon.

But if you are only advocating getting rid of an old law for every new law, you could eliminate a reliable but confusing old one every time you try to add a new one to combat a new crime. So for example, you could get rid of a law against sodomy for every new one you enact against abortion. That way the universe will stay in balance and we'll all hover in a blissful state of jurisprudent equilibrium.

[ January 17, 2012, 07:44 AM: Message edited by: AI Wessex ]

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AI Wessex
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"Let's say a hundred A4 pages, written in normal-spaced size-12 Arial font, using vocabulary either defined therein or belonging to the 5000-most commonly used words in the English language."

I have thought about this for far less time than Aris, yet I find his proposal very likable, with two exceptions. I'm ok with the paper size (even though it is more commonly used in socialist countries than here), but Helvetica is a more commonly used font that has been around longer than Arial, so it should find more universal acceptance in this situation more quickly. Second, the word "jurisprudence" is not one of the 5000 most common English words, so we would have to eschew its application to the "law system", except that "eschew" is also not one of the 5000 most common words. Our first conflict. Very def we have to get rid of the Latin, too.

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
If you want you can just look at the tax code. How many pages is it?
Except you said the number of laws, not the length of any given individual law. How many pages is it? Irrelevant- for accounting quantity of laws, it's just one big one.

Setting an arbitrary limit on the number of laws will only serve to make the existing ones larger and more complex, with loosely related elements tossed in.

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G2
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quote:
Originally posted by cherrypoptart:
How many laws do we need?

As many as it takes. I think we're almost there:
quote:
There's no way to rule innocent men.

The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals.
Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them.

One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.

Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone?

But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted, and you create a nation of law-breakers and then you cash in on guilt.

Take a look upthread and see who wants no limits on laws, neither their scope or number.

[ January 17, 2012, 10:52 AM: Message edited by: G2 ]

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AI Wessex
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"Take a look upthread and see who wants no limits on laws, neither their scope or number."

Hmmm, I don't see anyone taking that position. You should adjust your comprehensometer.

BTW, are you reading my posts again? I'm honored!

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djquag1
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When I read G2's suggestion, I thought it was pretty ridiculous.

Aris makes it sexy, though.

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scifibum
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I don't think G2 made a suggestion other than to suggest that there's something ominous about progressive types.
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Grant
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Aris was responding to TheRall, who was responding to Cherry, who was agreeing with Lisa.

Basically, Aris was able to see past the illogic of Cherry's basic premise, and see the gold that lay at the bottom of the pan.

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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by Aris Katsaris:
Let's say a hundred A4 pages, written in normal-spaced size-12 Arial font, using vocabulary either defined therein or belonging to the 5000-most commonly used words in the English language.

A minor suggestion. The average vocabulary is around 10,000 words. I'd suggest raising the limit to say 10,000. But I like the suggestion of requiring the law to be written in common English.

However, to the idea of creating a hard limit on the amount of laws. I think that would not be dynamic enough. I don't think the root problem is necessarily too many laws as it is a process that generally creates laws and rarely eliminates them.

Perhaps a better solution would be to create mini-sessions of Congress whose sole purpose is to directly eliminate laws or to add in sunset provisions. And let is be customary to only allow a single Congressmen's name bill to remove a law. Or perhaps no more than two Congressmen who can not be from the same party. Thus when a Congressman runs for office he can advertise how many laws he has personally led the elimination of.

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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by JWatts:
A minor suggestion. The average vocabulary is around 10,000 words. I'd suggest raising the limit to say 10,000. But I like the suggestion of requiring the law to be written in common English.

10,000 words might be better.

As long as we're not bowing to the lowest common denominator. A good morning PT run isn't any good until at least one soldier falls out, then you can reign it in a little. As long as we can allow the bottom 1 or 2% in terms of vocabulary to not understand it, it sounds good.

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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by Grant:
until at least one soldier falls out, then you can reign it in a little.

Spoken like a staunch Monarchist. [Wink]

quote:
Originally posted by Grant:
As long as we can allow the bottom 1 or 2% in terms of vocabulary to not understand it, it sounds good.

I doubt that the bottom 1-2% has a vocabulary of even 5,000 common words. Vocabulary size is correlated pretty strongly with IQ.

I just want to strike a balance between a majority of the population being able to easily understand the language, but with a vocabulary sufficiently large enough to not be a hindrance to the process.

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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by JWatts:

Spoken like a staunch Monarchist. [Wink]

"I'm a firm believer in the philosophy of a ruling class, especially since I rule."
-Randal Graves


quote:

I doubt that the bottom 1-2% has a vocabulary of even 5,000 common words. Vocabulary size is correlated pretty strongly with IQ.

I just want to strike a balance between a majority of the population being able to easily understand the language, but with a vocabulary sufficiently large enough to not be a hindrance to the process.

I understand. I just had to point out that there was a difference between aiming at MOST citizens understanding the law, and ALL citizens understanding the law. I know that is not what you're suggesting.
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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by G2:
quote:
Originally posted by cherrypoptart:
How many laws do we need?

As many as it takes. I think we're almost there:
quote:
There's no way to rule innocent men.

The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals.
Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them.

One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.

Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone?

But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted, and you create a nation of law-breakers and then you cash in on guilt.

Take a look upthread and see who wants no limits on laws, neither their scope or number.

The quote, btw, is from Ayn Rand, in Atlas Shrugged. There's a good book that's dedicated to this subject, too: Three Felonies A Day: How The Feds Target The Innocent, by Harvey A. Silvergate.
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G2
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quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:
I don't think G2 made a suggestion other than to suggest that there's something ominous about progressive types.

I suggest that there is something ominous about those that want more and more laws despite their redundancy and or being contradictory such that even those in charge of enforcing them cannot interpret them consistently. Progressive or not is irrelevant although I understand the "us vs them" framework so many here rely on. I also suggest that the only rational reason for such a position is that it makes it easy to criminalize everyone as Rand wrote (good catch starLisa).

[ January 17, 2012, 05:13 PM: Message edited by: G2 ]

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AI Wessex
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"Progressive or not is irrelevant although I understand the "us vs them" framework so many here rely on."

We rely on?!??!?!

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TomDavidson
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quote:
I suggest that there is something ominous about those that want more and more laws despite their redundancy and or being contradictory such that even those in charge of enforcing them cannot interpret them consistently.
While I understand the idealistic appeal of removing laws which are no longer enforced from the books, it should be noted that the existence of outmoded law does not somehow impact the necessity of new law.
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cherrypoptart
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http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45819570/ns/us_news-life/t/new-laws-toughen-rules-abortions-immigrants-voters/

"About 40,000 state laws taking effect at the start of the new year will change rules about getting abortions in New Hampshire, learning about gays and lesbians in California, getting jobs in Alabama and even driving golf carts in Georgia."

-------------------------------------------------

How did we ever survive without these 40,000 new laws? To be fair, I looked at them and you kind of shrug and say yeah that's not so bad, okay that's a pretty good idea maybe, but then when you add them all up it's just overwhelming. That's a lot to keep track of. I was going to read a novel and play some games but I guess I'd better get cracking on studying these new laws so I don't accidentally break some of them. These are state laws so they don't apply to everyone necessarily, but plenty of us visit or travel through other states so we still have to know them, and you can't really know if the law applies to you or not until you know the law. You certainly don't want to wait until after you break it to find out about it the hard way.

If we keep making all of these laws it probably won't be too long before someone finds themselves violating one law in order to following another. Is someone really keeping track of all of this? If you've never seen the "Cube" movies, maybe check it out. That's where this is heading.

[ January 17, 2012, 07:15 PM: Message edited by: cherrypoptart ]

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MattP
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quote:
I guess I'd better get cracking on studying these new laws so I don't accidentally break some of them.
Are you concerned that you might teach school children about gays incorrectly in California or perform an illegal abortion in New Hampshire?

I suspect that the majority of these laws apply to people who will already be aware of them. Presumably the golf courses in Georgia already know about the golf cart law and are in a position to share the information as necessary with their patrons.

Also many laws, especially local/state ones, are amendments and alterations to existing laws ("strike this word, add this word...") rather than brand new sets of rules. Even the complete repeal of a law counts in the total of new laws. That 40,000 count refers to the total number of changes (additions, modification, deletions).

[ January 17, 2012, 07:16 PM: Message edited by: MattP ]

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by G2:
quote:
There's no way to rule innocent men.

The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals.
Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them.

One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.

Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone?


Football would be a much better game if we just got rid of the rules and referees.
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cherrypoptart
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How can a person know if a law applies to them or not unless they know at least a little bit about the law? Or should we just assume that if a law applies to us we'll be made aware of it before we have the opportunity to break it?

Just doing my usual almost random googling with "don't break the law" and an interesting story popped up supporting my position that there are so many laws it's almost impossible not to remain ignorant of most of them.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2011/11/15/when-you-break-the-law-online-and-dont-know-it/

"In fact, so much of our lives are moving onto the Internet, whether it’s communication through social media, collaborating on documents or taking part in a protest, that an increasing number of cases have inevitably come before the law courts involving crimes committed by seemingly ordinary people on the Internet.

A case in point: the 14 people who filed before a Federal Court in San Jose last September. All of the mostly-young defendants pleaded not guilty to charges of carrying out a cyber attack against PayPal late last year in support of Anonymous, the hacktivist network that protested companies who blocked financial services to WikiLeaks. Some of these defendants are thought to have believed that they not only wouldn’t get caught, but that their actions were legal and akin to a digital sit-in."

--------------------------------------------

That's not something I could see myself doing but looking at the broader point of how many laws there are, that makes it difficult to fault someone who claims ignorance. Supposedly it's no excuse, but who can possibly know all the laws?

Every time you do anything now, you have to get on the internet and look up all the applicable laws?

Isn't it a bit funny that the conservative is arguing about too many laws while the liberals are defending more and more and more? The claws come out. I find it amusing.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Isn't it a bit funny that the conservative is arguing about too many laws while the liberals are defending more and more and more?
No. It's unsurprising, because nowadays conservatives are all about stupid adherence to principles they've heard other, smarter people espouse but which they themselves do not understand.

Consider: an excess of confusing law is a bad thing. On the other hand, some laws are indeed good and necessary. A wise conservative hears this and thinks, "We should ensure that the laws which are created are good and necessary, and the laws which exist are improved to remain -- or become -- good and necessary." (A wise libertarian, refusing to grant that almost any law can be good or necessary, is an oxymoron.)

However, an Internet conservative, one of those monkeys who types by bashing the keyboard with his binkey, hears other people say that excessive law is bad and immediately says, "Hey! We should establish some completely arbitrary quota beyond which no new laws should be made, and we should focus on whittling the number of existing laws down to that entirely arbitrary number! Even though, once you consider the impact of local and state regulation, this number is meaningless in its impact anyway!"

The people with brains here are pointing out that this position is absolutely nonsensical.

[ January 18, 2012, 07:20 AM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
Isn't it a bit funny that the conservative is arguing about too many laws while the liberals are defending more and more and more? The claws come out. I find it amusing.
Are you accusing me of being a conservative, cherry?

Let us discuss who wants more vs fewer laws on the issue of the "war on drugs".

Let us discuss who wants more vs fewer laws on the issue of prostitution.

Let us discuss who wants more vs fewer laws on the issue of same-sex marriage. (keep in mind all the laws conservatives need to define who qualifies as female and who qualifies as male, in the cases of intersex/transgender/transexuals)

Let us discuss whether "conservatives" are in favour of laws against immigration, and laws against flag-burning, and laws against mentioning you're gay while in the Army.

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AI Wessex
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"Isn't it a bit funny that the conservative is arguing about too many laws while the liberals are defending more and more and more? The claws come out. I find it amusing."

I can't help but comment on this, as well. My thoughts are in line with Tom and Aris, that a law isn't a bad thing because it is called a "law". Conservatives have all sorts of touchstone symbols that they viscerally respond to as bad and even evil. The word "liberal" itself has become the highest value such symbol, even higher than "taxes". It makes me long for the days of the sound byte, which would seem almost interminably long in comparison. I find that kind of "funny".

[ January 18, 2012, 08:32 AM: Message edited by: AI Wessex ]

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JWatts
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Most of these posts are strawman arguments where you are not even trying to address the opposite side, but taking swipes at imaginary positions.

1) Excessive regulation and law is a bad thing.
2) Effective regulation and law is a good thing.
3) The process has to be dynamic in the long run, with older useless laws/regulations removed and newer laws/regulation being added.
4) The aggregate total of laws/regulations could potentially hit a level where the system becomes dysfunctional. It's possible it's already there in some cases.
5) The US currently has no effective mechanisms for keeping the growth of laws/regulations in check.

This has been a recognized issue for decades, so the matter isn't new nor is it likely to be critical anytime soon.

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AI Wessex
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Your 1-4 are meaningless, since they are totally subjective. You could have intoned that mantra on almost any topic by replacing the words "law" and "regulation" with whatever else is bothering you. Your 5 is simply wrong. The legislative process is designed specifically to promulgate and maintain laws for the benefit of the citizenry and society. If you don't think your representative is doing his job well enough you should vote to replace him with someone who will be more effective. If you think the system itself can't be held accountable, then you should advocate for amendments or a whole new Constitution that you think would work better.
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cherrypoptart
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I like the way Aris and JW put it better than my clumsy attempts.
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Wayward Son
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What you need to realize, cherry, is that most of those 40,000 news laws are to address specific actions that specific groups do, not the general population.

The laws we have for the general population (i.e. that affect everyone) rarely changes dramatically. But laws to address specific points in the general law, those are frequently written.

This is how legislation is supposed to work. Laws that have a minimal impact to address problems.

The alternative is to just have general laws and allow the courts to decide how it applies in specific instances. I believe you call it "legislating from the bench."

Is that what you are advocating? [Smile]

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G2
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyrtolin:
quote:
Originally posted by G2:
quote:
There's no way to rule innocent men.

The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals.
Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them.

One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.

Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone?


Football would be a much better game if we just got rid of the rules and referees.
That's a very shallow analogy that does not apply to the actual situation. Would football be a better game with 40,000 new rules every year? Would football be a better game if referees had different interpretation of the rules? And let's not forget regulations that have the force of law, would more of those make football better too? Or would all those new rules every year make football games confusing, difficult to manage and ultimately futile? It's OK, shout it out when you know the answer.

quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
While I understand the idealistic appeal of removing laws which are no longer enforced from the books, it should be noted that the existence of outmoded law does not somehow impact the necessity of new law.

It's not about removing outmoded laws, not sure why you even brought that up. It's about tens of thousands of laws, some contradictory, many so vague they can mean anything. It's about making it impossible to be a law abiding citizen - and it is very nearly impossible to be so now if not actually impossible.
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G2
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quote:
Originally posted by Wayward Son:
What you need to realize, cherry, is that most of those 40,000 news laws are to address specific actions that specific groups do, not the general population.

The laws we have for the general population (i.e. that affect everyone) rarely changes dramatically. But laws to address specific points in the general law, those are frequently written.
/QB]

Where did you ever get the idea that there are multiple classes of laws? Frankly, this is a bizarre interpretation of law to think that they do not address the general population. I assure you, they do apply to everyone.


quote:
Originally posted by Wayward Son:
[QB]This is how legislation is supposed to work. Laws that have a minimal impact to address problems.

The alternative is to just have general laws and allow the courts to decide how it applies in specific instances. I believe you call it "legislating from the bench."

Is that what you are advocating? [Smile]

Of course, you re-frame it to be the opposite of what he's really saying. [Roll Eyes]
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
That's a very shallow analogy that does not apply to the actual situation. Would football be a better game with 40,000 new rules every year?
If there were 50 different conferences, each with dozens of divisions, each with their own farm leagues, then 40K might be a lowball on the number of policies, programs, rules, budgets, etc that were produced out of the system.

We're talking about a community of 400 million people, and you want pretend that 40K community decisions is a big number?


quote:
Would football be a better game if referees had different interpretation of the rules?
IF there was no need for interpretation, there wouldn't be a need for the referees in the first place. That's already baked in.

quote:
And let's not forget regulations that have the force of law, would more of those make football better too?
When the call is made, the call is made. That's force of law for the game.


quote:
Or would all those new rules every year make football games confusing, difficult to manage and ultimately futile? It's OK, shout it out when you know the answer.
Let's say that the NFL has about 100K employees, and each of the 32 teams just sets budget each year. Scale that up to a population of 400 million, and you've got the equivalent of 128,000 new laws, right off the bat, and you haven't even gotten into accounting for training programs season schedules.

And looking at the big picture is being generous- if we were just counting players and game rules, then one rule change a year would be the equivalent of over 200K laws.

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