In simplest terms, as far as any non-lawyer is concerned, “a law” for you and me is a kind of a rule or edict that either makes us do something or prohibits us from doing something.
Most laws are – technically – not “laws” but rather “clauses” within laws or “rules”, or “provisions” – or any such euphemisms. For the purpose of this simple article, let’s agree to suspend these technicalities and just define “laws” as anything we can get in trouble for.
Trying to establish how many laws there are on the books in the US is extremely difficult. Unsurprisingly, getting a simple answer from any one place is impossible.
The official data puts the number of new laws at around 100 per year, on average, since the 1970′s until a couple of years ago – but this clearly only counts the passed bills (about 2-5% out of all bills proposed), each of which may contain tens, even hundreds of “sub-laws”, “clauses”, “provisions”, “acts”, “rules”, “secret interpretations”, “footnote regulations” and so on. And in some cases, literally thousands – such as the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, (a.k.a. Dodd-Frank with a multitude of mind-numbing clauses which – as we already know – accomplishes the exact opposite of what the title suggests, which was the whole idea); The Patriot Act which dots the i’s and crosses the t’s of the evisceration of your personal freedoms in the name of “your safety”; health laws such as Obamacare (with its dozens of hidden tax hike laws – including even another gun law), the ultra-convoluted tax laws and so on and endlessly on!
In 2011 MSNBC estimated that some 40,000 new laws would be added that year alone. But they too didn’t explain exactly which “laws” were they counting. Was it just federal laws as defined by the US Government or did they include state, city and other local laws, rules, regulations, regulatory provisions, clauses, proscriptions, resolutions, bills and other legislation? Did they include military codes? Labor regulations? Local community rules? Anything else?
As indicated above, I’m taking a broad view here. Hence a “law” in this article is “any kind of a legislation or a rule which makes you into a criminal or at the very least subject to a fine.”
With that definition in place, a conservative estimate is that nigh on 160,000 (!) such provisions are introduced each year to make your life “better”, “safer” and more “regulated”!
If that figure is correct – and I have every reason to suspect that it actually errs greatly on the side of caution – then over a period of the last 10 years, the US was graced by 1.6 million such NEW “laws”. And never mind the tens of thousands (millions?) of “old laws” already in existence.
All told, then, if we take “laws” as “any rules that can get you in trouble”, we can estimate that there’s no fewer than 5 million of them by now, but more likely closer to 10 million in the US alone.
Meanwhile the legislative and rule-making trend continues to accellerate leaving me certain that within a few short years there will be as many such “laws” in the US as there are American citizens. Nice.
While the US is the world’s biggest bureaucracy, the race is on between legislators, lobbyists and bureaucrats of the world to better that number. The European Union creates new “laws” at an equally breathtaking pace (some say, greater still), and virtually all countries and blocks around the world are doing everything not to be outdone. The UK media admitted to over 3500 new laws in just one year – and that’s just the “big” laws – never mind the secret little clauses, rules and provisions each of which has a separate and distinct ability to make a person’s life a misery. It’s a bureaucrat’s Mecca!
“Moore’s Law”, the observation which states that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles each 18 months – a geometric progression – seems to apply in this case as well. The number of new rules and laws appears to follow a similar incremental path. Call it “Moore’s Law for Legislation”.
No single human being knows more than a tiny fraction of a percentage of those laws. And thus, every single human being is potentially a criminal in the eyes of the law! In fact, UK’s Daily Mail estimated that everyone breaks at least 260 rules a year and each adult commits 16,250 acts of rebellion in an average lifetime. So, yes, you the reader of this article are a criminal. Everyone is. No wonder the number of prisons is growing so rapidly. We’re all waiting in line to get in!
And as the number of laws grows, so does their utter inanity. You’re a criminal in North Dakota if you order pretzels and beer at the same time. You’re a criminal if you sell a circus ticket to anyone under 12, in Georgia. It’s illegal to handle any kind of reptile during a religious service, in Kentucky. You’re a criminal if you purchase or sell sex toys in Alabama, You’re a criminal if you make love while hunting, fishing – or on your wedding day – in Oblong, Illinois. You can be put away for wearing high heels in Carmel, California. The list goes on. And on. And on.
The irony of this situation is that we really – really – don’t need any of those laws. Did I just say “any“? Yes. Any and all these laws should be scrapped. And they’d better be – or we’re all doomed.
These laws don’t serve us. We serve them!
That’s NOT what the idea is.
These laws are responsible for the decrease of not just lost productivity of nations, but also for the loss of personal and economic freedoms of their citizens. According to some estimates, the US gross national product would have been more than 6 times greater today, had it not been for the cost of government since the beginning of the 20th century! And let’s not fool ourselves: that’s what all those laws are – cost of government, cost of spurious legislation. This torrent of laws does not serve the people. Not you. Not me. Not anyone. Not even a little bit.
The US Constitution doesn’t contain any laws, but rather it enumerates the government powers and guaranteed rights of the citizens. It is, in essence, founded on two classical liberal (now libertarian) principles: non-aggression and individual property rights.
You could run a complex society on just these two principles. In fact, that’s pretty much exactly what was done – give or take a paltry few hundred laws which were technically redundant in most cases anyway.
The US became the world’s fastest growing, richest, happiest and most powerful nation – ever – while its government, and thus the law superstructure, was the smallest. It’s a matter of historical record. The US reduced poverty and increased individual wealth at a rate never before seen in recorded history. That is, until the “progressive” Big Government decided to help things along – from which point on this incredible trend has flatlined or even, in some cases, reversed.
And yet, you could actually run a complex society on nothing more than these two basic rules.
Rule 1: Full respect for individual property rights.
Rule 2: No violence of any kind should be permitted against any person who follows Rule 1.
You would be hard pressed to find any legal case, any disagreement, any litigation that couldn’t be effectively and fairly adjudicated if just these two principles were rigorously applied. For real.
At least two clauses within the US Constitution have been used against itself. The “general welfare” clause and the “interstate commerce” clause.
The general welfare clause wasn’t supposed to mean “let’s legislate until general welfare is achieved”. Instead, it really meant “leave people alone and their general welfare will be preserved!” Or: “let’s remove any obstacles to general welfare”. “Legislating until general welfare is achieved” is an infinite loop and an invitation to an ever-growing number of new laws. Which is exactly what we see happening.
The interstate commerce clause has been perverted in even more ways, even more perniciously. Today, just about anything – yes “anything” – that you do can be, and often is, interpreted as a violation of the interstate commerce clause. Want to grow a vegetable garden in your backyard? Sorry mate, your reckless action affects the commerce of your community, state and country – and you justly deserve to be punished. You still have your backyard garden and nobody’s come to put you away? Don’t worry – they will. It’s just a matter of time.
Few other constitutional clauses have come even close to being abused, twisted, and distorted as much as this one. Today, the interstate commerce clause has become its very opposite. Rather than facilitating commerce between nations, states and individuals – it is used to drain the life-blood out of the country’s economy and depriving people of their rightful freedoms.
You can almost not mention any freedom-limiting law, no matter how seemingly unrelated, which doesn’t in some way get its wrongful claim to legality from this bastardized clause. Knowing how to manipulate the interstate commerce clause is the power to do anything.
So why do we allow this mind-numbing inanity to go on? Why do we put up with a process which has such a stranglehold on us all? Why isn’t it enough for us to have just those two fundamental laws in place and why do we yield to the temptation of creating all those millions footnotes to them?
There are a lot of factors. But among the most dominant ones are these “Big Three”:
1. Special interest manipulation. Basically, wanton greed manifested in the desire of some folks to get rich at the expense of others, at minimum expense, dressed up as “for the good of society”. Corporate lobbyists, megalomaniac career politicians, criminals, unscrupulous profiteers, all looking for an easy way to make a buck (and blame it on “capitalism” if anything goes wrong) and to control everyone (the control is needed so the manna from heaven doesn’t stop).
2. Human pettiness. Another huge factor is the wide-spread “there should be a law against that!” attitude among most common people. This very attitude is precisely what allows the status quo to remain and reach such gargantuan proportions. This attitude is fed by political ideologies which focus on social injustice (defined by and de facto caused by the proponents of these very ideologies!), whose number one role is to fan the flames of discontent in order to
get the sheep to demand a wolf for their own safety.
3. Low IQ. And then there’s the intelligence and education factor. Let’s face it. Most of the people responsible for initiating the processes leading towards all these new laws – the there-should-be-a-law-against-that crowd, as well as the greedy so-and-so’s from point 1 – really aren’t very clever. It doesn’t take much IQ to “demand something,” does it? It doesn’t take great education, culture or intelligence to bribe a greedy megalomaniac either. Not to be outdone, most of the legislators and government types (the greedy megalomaniacs) who actually introduce and enforce these laws are themselves not the brightest sparks either. Precious few among your representatives, congressmen, government officials and certainly your bureaucrats, have IQ’s above the national average, somewhere around 100-110 points! In fact, truth be told, the average IQ of a person in a position of power is almost certainly considerably lower than the average IQ of the reader of this article! You’re enslaved by dummies. And, finally, the common masses bearing the brunt of this wanton abuse – including you and me – are the dumb fall guys in all cases with no exceptions. And this includes the intelligentsia, the pundits and the clever clogs who consider themselves oh so intelligent. They’re so smart, they’re actually stupid. And cowardly.
Winston Churchill said “if you have 10,000 regulations, you destroy all respect for law.” What about 10 million?
The myopic view of “law” as an essential tool to “regulate” human behavior has been hijacked as much by manipulators, con-men and criminals for their own purposes, as by the common person who, naively, believes that there is no better way. Progressive and “liberal” ideologues are particularly fond of all this “regulating”, though “conservatives” aren’t much better either. They all beg to be enslaved. And they’re getting their prayers answered.
As long as laws remain cut off from their primary sources – the non-aggression and the individual property right principles – we will never achieve justice. As long as laws are allowed to be used against the rule of law – we will never be free. Until we demand that all laws which pervert our natural rights be repealed – we’re allowing our cage to be smaller and smaller.
To decide which laws should go and which ones should stay, we must follow these simple rules of thumb:
1. If a law/regulation makes everybody happy – scrap it – since everyone agrees, there’s no need for it
2. If a law/regulation makes most people unhappy and only some people happy – scrap it immediately.
3. Only laws which preserve the individual property rights and shield the individual from aggression (including especially aggression by government) should remain on the books.
It’s time to nullify and repeal 99% of all the laws. And if your representative doesn’t agree – vote the profiteering, collectivist So-And-So out.
And all the while remember that the world’s smallest-ever national bureaucracy was responsible for creating the wealthiest, most egalitarian and most powerful nation on the face of the earth in what seems like a blink of an eye. And then observe that it now takes the world’s largest bureaucracy to undo it at an ever-increasing pace.