Now that we are about to send a fairly large number of new
people to Congress, and state and city governments, it might be an appropriate
time to implore them to do something about all the archaic and unnecessary laws
and regulations that we have on the books.
Because of the nature of our various bureaucracies, there
seem to be constant pressures to write new rules and regulations, whether we
need them or not. Pushing for this is what justifies the continued growth of
government, which in turn causes us to hire more workers. This then allows
managers to claim a need for higher salaries to run these larger departments.
Congress and state legislatures meanwhile aid and abet this
mudslide of new rules by passing new laws. This is how our elected officials
show their electorate that they are “doing something”. The truth is that the
electorate, for the most part, would like everyone to just leave them alone,
but there is always some pressure group or business pushing for something that
will promote their interests. And we all know that money and “pitchforks and
torches” are what determine life for elected officials. Nobody wants the media
to call them “do nothings”, so we wind up with 100,000 pages of IRS rules and
2000 page healthcare bills that are passed without reading.
When was the last time someone got credit for eliminating
laws, or rules and regulations? It sure would be nice, however, if somewhere in
this country someone was actually looking at making our lives a little simpler?
If I were President or a Governor, the first thing I would
do is offer meaningful bonuses to our government employees for identifying archaic
or dysfunctional laws and regulations that could be eliminated. And I guarantee
there are plenty of them. The bonus money we would pay would be more than
offset by the savings to the governments and the public of getting them off the
It’s too bad that there isn’t some way a Congress person could
get their name on a bill that eliminated existing rules and regs. But that
would hurt the business of CPA’s and lawyers and bureaucrats across the
country. And who really runs Congress?
I wrote “There Oughta
Be a Law
” (Granite Grumblings,
) to complain about how complicated government makes our lives. If
you tossed all the federal, state and city laws into a mixer and spread them
everywhere, you would have a world where you should theoretically be afraid to
step outside your front door (and probably be afraid to go into your bedroom).
All of the concerns listed in this article deal with laws
that are in effect somewhere in this country. And since then, we have actually
also instituted some food laws that I only joked about as a possibility. Silly
There Oughta Be a Law, Oh Wait, There Is One!
We have too many laws! Every time some politician or
pressure groupie wakes up with a bad hair day, Congress or some state or city
governing body passes a new statute. This has been going on since 1776 and is
an accelerating trend. We keep adding new laws and hardly ever take the old
ones off the books.
The lawyers like to joke that we are no longer the “land of
the free” but instead are the “land of the fee”, and they are right. Before we
say or do almost anything in the current litigious atmosphere, we need to check
with a lawyer, accountant, environmental consultant, or OSHA expert, to make
sure we aren’t breaking some kind of statute or code. And a lot of times you
can’t even get a straight answer from them, because so many laws are vaguely
written or archaic. Some of these laws are so old and out of touch with present
society that they haven’t been enforced in years. But they are still there and
are available to be pulled out at a moment’s notice, to be used by angry
enforcement personnel for selective prosecution.
The Supreme Court recently addressed this when they tossed
out the selective prosecution of someone for a bedroom law which had been on
the books for years, but was almost never enforced. There are similar laws out
there for a whole range of “crimes against the state”, including a slew of
other bedroom violations, safety regulations, dress codes, and general
I started to wonder how many of these laws I might have
violated at one time or another. I decided to think about a normal event that
might have turned me into a criminal somewhere in this country. I thought about
my morning walk. Correct that, a hypothetical walk that I might have taken but
really never did. Here is a list of hypothetical actions that would have gotten
me in trouble somewhere in the United States, although not necessarily in
jay walked across several side streets.
walked on the grass in Capital Park.
loitered outside the bagel shop.
littered by tossing some bagel bits to the birds.
actually did feed the birds (two sparrows).
cussed at a car that almost ran me over in the crosswalk.
used a handicapped stall in the McDonalds men’s room (they only have one
wore a Dartmouth Indian t-shirt.
I also observed the following crimes being committed:
really heavy guy jogged by me topless.
kid was riding his bike on the sidewalk.
lady was walking her dog and he was not on his leash.
dog did publicly defecate in Bicentennial Square (without bag).
guy publicly grabbed his girlfriend’s rear end.
lady plugged a meter.
guy popped his four-year-old on the bottom after the kid ran out into the
motorcycle couple drove down Main Street without helmets.
Now I know many of you are saying that I am ridiculous for
even bringing this stuff up, but somewhere in this country there are groups of
people who are horrified by each of these actions, and are ready to prosecute.
Actually, if they saw it, everyone would be ready to prosecute the topless guy.
The thing that really scares me, however, is that not only
do we have a lot of dumb laws on the books, but also we keep putting out new
ones every day. And no one seems to sunset any of them.
We could easily have laws soon for all sorts of things from
banning fast foods, to demanding the wearing of sunglasses in sunny climates,
to requiring restrictor plates on cars. There is no end in sight to the
foolishness of some of this stuff.
So the next time you take a walk, or work in your garden
(poppies may soon be illegal), or build a deck with pressure-treated wood, or
go to Burger King, get some legal advice, or face the possibility of spending a
few years in the slammer.
As the keeper of the flame for “living free”, New Hampshire
needs to take a stand and tell all the nanny’s to take a seat.