Back when I was a kid, curmudgeons would gather around the cracker barrel or pickle barrel or sports bar urinal to discuss the major problems of the day — from potholes to the high cost of gas and the high cost of dying. Then, some grizzled malcontent would raise his hand in indignation, point to the heavens and declare, “THERE OUGHTA BE A LAW!”
“There oughta be a law!” was uttered from one end of the country to the other every time an American got his or her nose out of joint or felt aggrieved — as we all do — by the forces of nature or the powers that be. These loyal Americans were motivated by the misbelief that new laws are a cure-all for what ails society.
For four decades, there was a comic strip titled “There Oughta Be a Law” that invited readers to send in their wacky ideas for new and exciting laws, and the proposals poured in. There are legislators who do the same thing in enlightened states like California, where they have more laws than avocados.
They actually have contests for people to think up new laws … and then they reward them with a tax increase or two. These are people who believe that one, two or three thousand more laws will improve our quality of life. So be the first person on your block to send in an idea!
No one knows how many laws there are in America, but in any session, Congress can pass from 450 to 650. California is good for 1,000, Connecticut 140. Always remember what American humorist Will Rogers said: “The trouble with Congress is that every time it tells a joke it becomes a law, and every time it passes a law it becomes a joke.”
Inventing new laws is such a popular pastime that we have a profession, which is held in high esteem, called a “lawmaker,” who is as prolific but not as profitable as, say, a bookmaker. My hunch is the state of Connecticut would legalize anything, from tolls to weed, if it brought in money to spend.
America has more laws than we know what to do with, so many laws that all of us are probably breaking several a day without even knowing it. Lawbreakers beware: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. There are so many laws that law enforcers are probably forced to look the other way when they’re being broken.
And where would we be without lawyers to help us understand the law, especially the Mother of All Laws, the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, a mere 2,300 pages when it was passed. I shudder to think of the hours that went into drafting Obamacare, which is now being dismantled. All the money that went into creating that whole megillah, not to mention the money that goes into dismantling it, could have been spent on repaving Lexington Avenue, if not all of Manhattan, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Juno, Alaska, and the whole stretch of I-95 for the greater good of mankind and motorists.
Lawmakers are full of brilliant ideas. Perhaps you read that the state of Washington recently passed a law that permits “recomposition,” whereby dead bodies are turned into soil in a practice known as “human composting.” Through the miracle of modern technology, a dead body can be quickly transformed into a cubic yard of soil. Would our Founding Fathers have done that to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson? Then, why should we do it to Aunt Tillie and Uncle Igor?
It’s time to come to our senses. I recommend our lawmakers pass a law that requires them to convene every five years, or maybe every 10 years, and follow a simple formula: For every new law they pass, they should be required to unpass two or three or 40. It would benefit this country if they spent more time taking laws off the books than adding them. Less is more. After all, God in his infinite wisdom only needed 10 … and we can’t even obey them.
Joe Pisani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.