As a kid, one of the daily cartoons that I read was a strip called, There Ought To Be A Law. It was unique in that readers would submit ideas and if their ideas were accepted, cartoonists Warren Whipple and Frank Borin would draw it and credit the contributor for his or her original idea. The cartoon was extremely popular and emphasized that life presented itself with many situations which could have been dealt with by applying simple common sense – but instead we found convoluted ways to try to resolve simple issues.
That’s not unlike the way in which we craft legislation.
There was a time when the country was filled with what we call “blue laws”. Many of those related to the observance of Sunday as a special day and imposed restrictions on the sale of alcohol – or as it was known in the old days among those with a puritanical bent, “Demon Rum”. But in an effort to make America a better place, enthusiastic lawmakers have concocted some rather amazing laws which it is hard for some of us to comprehend. Allow me a few examples.
In Alabama you may not drive a car while barefooted, nor are you allowed to have an ice cream cone in your back pocket.
In Connecticut it is unlawful to walk backwards after sunset nor are you allowed to cross a street while walking on your hands.
In Illinois it is unlawful to pee in your neighbor’s mouth and eating in a place that is on fire is a punishable offense.
In Massachusetts no man may wear a goatee in public unless he has obtained a special license for the privilege and it is unlawful for a taxi driver to make love in the front seat of his cab while he is on duty.
A brief reading of these laws (which are still on the books) suggests that not only are the inmates running the asylum, apparently they are or in the past have been elected to statewide public office. Who would create such laws? What purpose do they now (or did they ever) serve?
There are thousands of such ludicrous laws on the books in all fifty states. And while I have never had an urge to fondle a pig’s genitalia in public (Iowa) – I guess privately it’s okay – it’s easy to see how this proliferation of inane and perhaps even insane laws could easily entrap and cause any of us to be in violation of something that was concocted by a lawmaker and his cohorts at some time in the distant past.
At least theoretically we as voters do have some control over those who concoct this mishmash that passes as legislation. They do have to face us every so often to retain their positions. But the sad reality is that ninety percent of all incumbents easily win re-election, time after time after time ad nauseam, ad infinitum. Well, there is still that ten percent glimmer of hope. No such control exists for the bureaucrats who are unelected “public servants” who find ways to extend their power by writing new and extensive “regulations” which are purportedly based on the laws written by legislators. Obamacare is an excellent example of that where 2,700 pages of legislation has turned into more than 33,000 pages of regulations – and that number is still growing.
Common Sense author Thomas Paine must be turning in his grave – because clearly there is nothing common sensical in any of this. And barring a constitutional amendment establishing term limits for those in Congress it is unlikely that things will change in the future. The simplicity of a flat tax must be daunting to legislators because it is something that is far removed from their convoluted thinking. And why does that thinking exist?
It is for their own protection. Because if you write a law that is so complicated that no one can possibly understand it you provide job security so that they can “tweak” the inconsistencies which were written in the original law. To me that’s like going back to your car mechanic five or six times to correct a problem with your vehicle because they didn’t do it correctly the first time you brought your buggy into their shop.
I would enthusiastically support any candidate who wants to pump the bilge laws out of our system and streamline our legislative process so that anyone with a high school diploma could understand the laws they pass. That is probably a high expectation and one that will most likely not happen in my lifetime. Sometimes being honest has depressing consequences.
But there may be hope. Remember those blue laws? Well New Mexico has one that I actually think is brilliant. In that state it is illegal for an idiot to cast a ballot in a general election. Now that’s an idea that has potential.