On Legislation

“It’s so long that no one has any idea what’s in it,” Mr. Bates concluded. “How would you fix that, Magundi?”

“I agree with you completely,” Mr. Magundi replied. “When our legislators are voting on legislation that none of them have actually read, and in fact not one of them could possibly have read, the system is plainly broken. But a simple constitutional amendment would take care of it. Congress shall make no law encompassing more than five thousand words in English, including any preambles whatsoever. There. I’ve fixed it. Now all you have to do is get that through Congress and thirty-eight of the states, and we’re done.”


3 thoughts on “On Legislation

  1. One suspects that committees would take to reporting large quantities of interrelated bills, operative under a Rule by which they must all be taken up together. Perhaps a particularly enterprising legislator would even move the creation of a

  2. … new House calendar in which bills may only be taken up in blocks. Alternatively, one might come to expect the legislature to, on votes approaching unanimity, waive the constitutional requirements as a matter of course, much as is often done with required readings, the discharge of bills, and the like. One supposes that such a blatant disregard for the intent of the amendment would roil the public for a time, and perhaps inspire a fervent legal challenge, but the Courts would almost certainly dismiss the matter as a political question outside their purview, observing that Congress is the final authority on the administration of its own rules, and comes nigh unto being the unimpeachable authority, judicial review notwithstanding, of all Article I and related constitutional procedures.

    Legislators will, you may be sure, go to great lengths to ensure that they need not go to the unreasonable length of actually reading, much less comprehending, the legislation before them.

    And who can blame them? Would you really want to read 1,000 pages of “AT 135, AFTER “13” STRIKE “4,” AND INSERT “1,281”?

  3. You’d have to exempt appropriations bills from that limit, or else you’d have to divide up the annual budget into so many thousand or million separate bills to handle all the millions and billions of separate accounts and line-items that money is being spent on, that still no human could possibly even read the list of bills being voted on, much less the bills themselves. Or else it would force congress to just appropriate lump sums to each department of the government with no official legally-binding restraint on how exactly it gets spent, turning the unelected bureaucracy into an even bigger magnet for pork and graft than it is already.

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