Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

18 April 2010

Did you do your required federal reading today?

The annual report by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) on the state of federal regulations called Ten Thousand Commandments for 2010, written by Clyde Wayne Crews Jr. notes that:
  • The Code of Federal Regulations is now over 157,000 pages long
  • 3,503 new rules went into effect in 2009
  • That is a new regulation every 2.5 hours every day, all 365 days of the year
For the last decade, the number of pages in the Federal Registry, where new regulations are published, has averaged 73,018 per year.  This would suggest the Code of Federal Regulations should have grown by 730,177 pages in the last decade, but apparently many of the older regulations are replaced by the newer ones.  Fortunately!  The following plot comes from the CEI report:

Most of these regulations provide for fines, penalties, and even jail sentences should they be violated.  Ignorance of the law is no defense in our courts of law.  That may have made sense when the laws were simple enough that an ordinary American could be expected to know the law and the regulations, but I am betting that, like me, none of my readers have read all of these regulations.  Therefore, you and I are under constant threat of fines, penalties, and jail time for breaking regulations we know nothing about.  The situation is even worse, since our state and local governments are also busy writing laws and regulations.

Since we have not read these regulations, I suppose we are supposed to consult with a lawyer before we undertake any action at all.  In fact, we have to consult with a lawyer in many cases before we do not take any action at all!  But this volume of regulations is so large that no lawyer knows the entire width and breadth of these regulations either.  So, they specialize in portions of the regulations, such as bank regulations, or import regulations, or export regulations, or farming regulations, hiring and firing regulations, or gaseous emissions regulations.  So, before we undertake any action, we need to figure out how many lawyers with how many specialties we need to consult.

There are a lot of Americans who have not read 157,000 pages in their entire lives.  I surely have, but very, very little of my reading has been federal regulations, despite having worked for the Dept. of the Navy for 10 years and the Dept. of the Army for 19 months.  I certainly did not read my 9.6 regulations today that I should have read.  Now, some of you will say that surely we do not have to read all of these regulations.  We can just skim through their titles and judge whether they will apply to us.  After all, many of us are not farmers.  But, a regulation on the use of fertilizers aimed mostly at farmers, might in some cases affect those of us who fertilize our lawns and gardens.  Or, we might buy an item from an importer who is not allowed to import that item.  Are we then guilty of purchasing contraband and subject to penalties ourselves?  In many such cases we are at least likely to lose our investment in the item, since it can be seized by law enforcement authorities.  We are not talking about cocaine here, which we all know to be illegal.  But, you had better be careful which flowers you buy that have been imported.  A man has been in prison for two years for not filing the necessary paperwork to import some unusual flowers.  He claims he did not know he needed to do this and there is plenty of reason to believe his import effort was small enough that this was likely true.

Now behind the huge flood of regulations is the Congress that no longer listens to the American People.  It passes bills, many of which are 1,000 or even 2,700 some pages long.  Those Congressmen voting for these bills do not read them, even though their oath of office makes reading them their duty because they are supposed to only pass laws that are constitutional and also meet the requirement of promoting the general welfare.  Apparently, one of the reasons that most Congressmen do not care whether their laws are constitutional or not is because if they did care and if they did their duty to the Constitution, then they would have to actually read all of the laws they vote for!  Ugh..... how boring.  It is so much more rewarding to be wined and dinned by constituents and special interests who are imploring you not to hurt them or who are trying to bribe you into giving them a special benefit.  Yes, at those dinners the money just flows in for your next re-election campaign.  Who cares whether you have actually read the bills you vote for?  How many Congressmen have lost their re-election campaigns to-date for that reason?

Then these thousand page plus bills call on the various executive branch agencies to create the new regulations to deal with hundreds of issues.  The recent Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act of 2010 was more than 2,700 pages long and called upon the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services alone to create rules and regulations 137 times.  Many other federal agencies were given new responsibilities and many more new agencies were created.  This will call for many, many more new regulations.  Many of these regulations will presumably apply to the many Americans who will be forced to buy the mandated health insurance and who will receive the more rigidly regulated health care also mandated in the bill.  It appears inevitable that we will be held responsible for knowing all or many of these new regulations.  Since the health care industry is one-sixth of the economy, everyone in that industry will have to know a lot more about these upcoming regulations than the average patient will have to know.

Of course we are all pretty busy as it is.  So how on earth are we going to have the time to read all of these federal, state, and local regulations?  For one thing, there ought to be a law that no vehicle can have a radio or play any CD which is not encoded by the government as an official government law and regulation CD.  When driving, we shall be required to listen to audio readings of the laws and regulations of that area of the country we are in.  If we are pulled over for any reason, law enforcement should immediately check that we have the required CD in our government-mandated CD players.  Those too poor to have a CD will be required to apply for a federal subsidy for the purchase of the mandated CD player.  Before graduating from high school, every student must have read every law and regulation applicable to his area prior to two weeks before his graduation date and pass tests on those laws and regulations.  Once a year, every resident of the United States will go to the Department of the Laws and Regulations and pass a test on the body of the current laws and regulations including all new regulations and laws issued up to two weeks prior to that annual renewal date.

That, of course, is the socialist response to this problem.  My response is this:  It is perfectly clear that we have far, far too many laws and regulations.  The logical consequence of having laws and regulations is that we must read them and understand them.  If the burden of reading them and understanding them is so great that it cannot be consistent with our general welfare and it is an unreasonable infringement of our individual right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then all laws and regulations in excess of such a reasonable limited number, must be unconstitutional for that reason even if some small fraction fall within the powers actually granted the federal government by the Constitution.  This is because any law passed by Congress must meet both of the following requirements:
  • It must be the exercise of one of the few powers given to Congress in the Constitution.
  • It must also be consistent with promoting the General Welfare.
The Constitution does not even provide for regulations issued by the executive branch.
    Of course, the interpretation of the Progressive Retrogressives differs with mine.  They say it may either be an explicitly enumerated power or it may be anything they choose to claim is for the General Welfare.  This is nonsense for many reasons, but one of them is the reason we are examining in this post.  If the power of government is to do anything it says is in the General Welfare, then the rules, laws, and regulations will quickly become unknowable, unintelligible, and overwhelming in their demands for reading time!  This is clearly inconsistent with the General Welfare being claimed.

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