Laws today reaches all aspects of society. From digital television to military payments, environmental protection to bankruptcy: the law is far reaching into every corner we could imagine. We have the United States Code, which is “the consolidation [...] of the permanent laws of the United States” (which, in all, is rumored to be about 200,000 pages long). Oh, and don’t forget the Code of Federal Regulations which is simply the Executive Branch’s version of the United States Code- this having over 50 titles (or basically big chapters). Simply put: the government regulates virtually every aspect of society. As my English professor likes to say about things, “It’s become a mare’s nest of confusion.”
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From his 1800s perspective, Frederic Bastiat, in his treatise The Law, praises the United States: “There is no country in the world where the law is kept more within its proper domain: the protection of every person’s liberty and property. As a consequence to this, there appears no country in the world where the social order rests on a firmer foundation.” What would Mr. Bastiat say now if he looked at the United States?
Our nation, as Frederic Bastiat predicts of other countries who journey down the road of over regulation, is “lost in uncharted territory.” We have become burdened by laws that are “religious, fraternal, equalizing, philanthropic, industrial, literary [and] artistic,” Bastiat writes. We have become a nation that regulates every little aspect of society to the point that we have abandoned our founding principles which lay firm in life, liberty and pursuit of happiness (or property) – this being encompassed in the tenet of limited government. The greatest fears of founders has been confirmed: the government cannot control itself.
The concept behind our government system instituted in the U.S. Constitution was the fact that the federal government would remain limited in its powers and actions. Just a short time before leaving the oppressive regime of Great Britain, this was sensible. Americans understood what could happen when a government decided to overstep its bounds: nullification of law and revolution would abound. Americans did not want a repeat of that.
Fast forward to 2014, we are plagued with the same issue. We have become a nation, in the words of Bastiat, that is “open to an endless succession of complaints, irritations [and] troubles.”
We are far from the nation that the Frenchman Bastiat had admired so fondly.
But how do we, as a nation, remedy this issue? It’s simple- revert law to it’s original purpose: “act as an obstacle to injustice.” If the United States of America reverted to our previous ideals of limited government which was to ensure that life, liberty and property were upheld, many of the issues and conundrums our nation is dealt with would be no longer!
With the removal of thousands of pages of federal regulation, bureaucracy would be no longer, our budgets would be slashed and the Presidency wouldn’t be encroaching far into the legislative branch. By repealing useless laws (i.e. Affordable Care Act) that only stymie the growth and lives of our citizenry, Congress’s approval ratings would come back from the trough, spending would, again, be slashed, and individual liberties would be restored. Simply put, our nation would be better off.
Law is not supposed to be complex and far reaching; it’s supposed to ensure that people are protected from injustice while being able to live free, prosperous lives. Last time I checked, analog television wasn’t an injustice.
Will this be popular: no. In the words of Ludwig von Mises, anyone who opposes the popular way of doing things will be labeled an enemy of the people. To make the United States better, however, I’m ready to be labeled as an enemy of the people do what’s right. We have a great nation and a great foundation- it’s time we ensured that the United States can last as such.
Hank Prim | Hillsdale College | @HankPrim