Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Douglas here.
Steamboat Springs Two days ago, the Colorado Legislature called it a wrap for 2009. Unfortunately, as our lawmakers packed their bags and headed home, they left my fantasy unfulfilled for yet another year.
I dream of a day when sometime, somewhere, somehow, some group of elected officials will convene for the purpose of removing laws from the books instead of adding them.
Hey, what can I say? My flights of fancy tend toward the bizarre.
Then again, what would you expect from a public policy wonk who spends his free time observing the Steamboat Springs City Council debate issues like "fee in lieu" or watching Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger turn beet red every time Sheriff Gary Wall appears at a meeting?
But seriously, wouldn't it be nice if just once in our collective lifetimes a group of lawmakers gathered for the sole purpose of removing laws instead of piling on additional ones that most of us don't know, fewer follow and even less respect?
Here's a quick quiz. No Googling allowed.
Name 10 - any 10 - of the hundreds of laws and regulations your local, state and national elected representatives enacted in the last year.
What's that? You can't name 10?
Really? You can't even name five new laws or regulations passed in the last year that you're personally responsible to follow upon pain of fine or imprisonment?
OK. It may be unfair to expect that those of us who work outside of the political class would be able to recite even a few of the new laws and regulations passed each year that burden us all.
But, it is reasonable to expect that those in the political class - who, after all, write and pass the laws we mere mortals are expected to heed - know the laws they've enacted. So next time you bump into your friendly local, state or national politician, give them the same test with a few slight twists.
Ask your elected representative to:
- Name 10 civil or criminal laws they voted for since being elected.
- Recite the sanctions for violations of the law.
- Provide the number of times the law has been enforced.
- Provide the cost of enforcing the law.
- Provide evidence that enforcement of the law met the goal of the law.
If your chosen elected official objects to the quiz and makes excuses about why he or she can't answer those five questions, ask one more.
Ask a question that should be exceedingly simple for any elected official adhering faithfully to the American form of government that - as envisioned by the framers of the Constitution - is supposed to value and protect the liberty of its people above all else.
Ask your elected representative to name something - anything - in the daily lives of Americans that is not burdened by law or regulation.
Ask that one simple question, and I guarantee they'll be unable to successfully provide an answer, because there arguably is not a single aspect of life in the United States that is not impacted by law or regulation.
In fact, I'm so confident that every facet of life in America is within the purview of some regulation or law that I'll buy a pizza for anyone who can defeat that proposition. And, I'm so convinced that legislators are allergic to removing laws that I'll throw a pizza party for any legislative body within Routt County that schedules a meeting for the sole purpose of repealing five or more laws before the end of the calendar year.
It's time that elected officials realize that the more our legislators legislate, the less Americans respect the law because they view the law as more of a burden than a benefit. As a nation, we've passed the point where the majority of our citizens can truly be said to be law-abiding, because the laws are too numerous and onerous for any one American to comply with at all times.
But, we can dream, and we can try to influence our elected representatives into actually subtracting laws instead of adding them. That might add respect for the law while subtracting contempt.
That would be addition by subtraction.