S. 744:1,077 pages of operable—and scintillating!—legislative language.

Published on June 20th, 2013

Something largely overlooked in huge bills like S.744, Obamacare and Dodd-Frank: Bills like this are wrong in principle, irrespective of their content, because an ordinary citizen has no realistic hope of knowing what that content is nor how it applies to him, if it does.

This fundamental point was memorably explicated by National Review's Andrew McCarthy (a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and the lead prosecutor in the case of the "blind sheik"), writing—appropriately for our purposes!—in support of Arizona's immigration enforcement law, SB1070:

“The consent of the governed, it is worth remembering, is the only just source of the power that government wields in a free society. One cannot consent to what one cannot know. Thus, there can be no legitimate government if, as Madison put it in Federalist No. 62, 'the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes, that no man who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow.

“Our elected officials and judicial officers don’t rule us. They are there to govern, to implement our will. When they resort to impenetrable legislative monstrosities to implement their own will without our consent — indeed, over our objection — that is not governing. It is dictating.

“Maybe that’s the Obama administration’s problem with Arizona’s new law: It is too short (16 pages), too clear, and too reflective of the popular will.” [Illegal Aliens: Law and Sovereignty in Arizona, April 29, 2010]

In an Orange County Register column about Obamacare, Mark Steyn echoed McCathy’s insights. Steyn wrote:

“A 2,700-page law is not a ‘law’ by any civilized understanding of the term. Law rests on the principle of equality before it. When a bill is 2,700 pages, there’s no equality. Instead, there’s a hierarchy of privilege micro-regulated by an unelected, unaccountable, unconstrained, unknown, and unnumbered bureaucracy.

“It’s not just that the legislators who legislate it don’t know what’s in it, nor that the citizens on the receiving end can never hope to understand it, but that even the nation’s most eminent judges acknowledge that it is beyond individual human comprehension. A 2,700-page law is, by definition, an affront to self-government.”

Ex-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi [D-CA] is infamous for saying that "[W]e have to pass the [health care ] bill so that you can find out what is in it." That, alone, should make vivid for everyone what a scandal thousand-page bills are.

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