Sunday, July 24, 2005

Stunting Leviathan's Growth

How will people be able to check government power as it gradually increases? One way is to make sure that government does not grow at a fast pace. Rational ignorance[1] is an ever growing problem because there are simply too many laws, sponsored by too many politicians, written in too much legalese over hundreds of pages, and being passed too quickly. It is impossible for any one person to be familiar with and understand these laws. Even the politicians who pass these laws don’t even read them or know what they say! Yet, these same laws are imposed and enforced on people who cannot possibly know that they exist, let alone what they entail.

My recommendation is this: only one law may be introduced and passed every two weeks. A bill should not take up more than one full page in the Sunday paper, so that everyone may read it and understand it in its entirety. This prevents political leaders from engaging in rational ignorance themselves and signing a bill just because its name sounds innocuous. This prevents other politicians from burying additional clauses into the bill to direct money towards their constituents.

The two weeks is somewhat arbitrary, but the reasoning behind it is simple. In two weeks the average citizen has time to review the law, to consider its fairness, costs and benefits, and the two weeks also allows enough time for individuals to write to their representatives and for the representatives to read the opinions of their constituents. Additionally, this limits government to passing a maximum of twenty six laws per year, a much easier number of laws for people to remember and a much slower pace for potential government expansion. Because there is a limit to the number of laws that may be introduced, only the ones that are most important and most popular will be introduced. Politicians will be under greater scrutiny because it will be less costly for people to be informed about the decisions their elected officials make.

[1] Rational ignorance: One may engage in what is termed 'rational ignorance' when it is more costly to know something than to remain ignorant of it. For example, I may decide that it is not worth it for me to know the names of every celebrity in Hollywood (I have better things to do with my time); therefore, with regards to names of celebrities, I am said to be rationally ignorant. The cost for me to learn every celebrity's name far outweighs any benefit I may obtain from that knowledge.

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