Saturday, July 3, 2010

Overly Simplistic

So, how would it change the nature of American government if every law came with a sunset clause, by default? In order to persist beyond, say, three years, they'd have to be re-adopted. I believe that the primary change would be to make governance more experimental and more fluid. Good thing? I don't know. I think most people are annoyed by the very slow pace of positive change in this country, but probably most are happy that the pace of negative change isn't any more rapid.

Would there be other significant unintended consequences? E.g. Regime uncertainty? Could those consequences be mitigated in some way?


  1. Cool blog! And interesting idea...

    My first thought was, wow- that could get scary. Considering that presidents stay in for 4 years, your example of a 3 year term for every law could mean that Obama's administration could entirely re-write anything he wanted to. Probably by inserting his name into the pledge of allegiance, for starters.

    My next thought was - dang, that would REALLY bog down government. After working first hand with government time tables and processes, and I don't think it would be pretty. It would create a lot of jobs though, but a lot more govt spending. And a lot more lawyers - contracted to rewrite the laws but also to figure out how to interpret laws (ie, if a trial goes on for 6 months and the law about the issue at hand is changed in that time...).

    And how many things would get slipped through? If there are so many laws being rewritten all the time, how many would we actually pay attention to, while others are being rewritten in interesting ways by whoever was contracted to rewrite it? Even small changes could have huge ramifications, especially if law rewriters were "encouraged" (ie monetarily) by interested parties to change a word here or there...

    Well apparently I'm not overly optimistic about our government:)! Maybe because I just read the post about the MKULTRA... yikes!

  2. Mindy,

    Yeah, overly simplistic is probably too generous. Half-baked is probably nearer the mark.

    I'm interested in a couple of things here. One is government that experiments a lot, consciously. You know, try something out and collect data on how it works and then try to improve it next time around. Currently, we act as though each new law is going to be written the right way the first time, and that once it's written it's going to stay relevant and effective into the foreseeable future. An automatic sunset clause could relieve some of that overly high expectation.

    Another thing that interests me is formally recognizing that laws go obsolete all the time (often much sooner than anyone expects) and that we shouldn't continue with those laws just because they're already on the books and it's a lot of effort to change them. Bad laws should die and not be renewed. Mediocre laws should be improved. Obsolete laws should be updated or dropped.

    So, how could we get the positive effects I'm suggesting without having the negative effects that you and I have both mentioned? Surely there's a way.