Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A modest proposal.....

I recently heard a famous writer** interviewed and he said that his goal is to lessen the role that politics plays in all our lives. And I thought, "Now that would really be something." And then I thought about New Hampshire.

One of the things I think the Granite State has right is that their legislators are part-time. This means that "legislating" is not on their minds all day, every day. They simply can't spend each waking moment telling you what to do and not do because they have real lives and real responsibilities to which they have to attend.

So I present you with a truly modest proposal: six months, no new prohibition laws. That's right, from the smallest town council to the largest federal legislative body, just stop. Take a deep breath. And for six months, don't tell us that there's anything new on the List of Things We Cannot Do. On the small side, that speed limit you wanted to lower? No, just wait and see. On the bigger side, that thing you wanted to add to the list of things you can't do to your own body? No, leave everyone's body alone for a little while.

I realize that this will simultaneously thrill and repulse the extremes. The left will love no new drug bans, no new abortion restrictions, but hate that they can't pass any new environmental regs during the same time, or tell us what we can eat, or pass a new tax (yes, a tax is a prohibition -- on failing to pay your taxes; don't believe me? Try it and see what happens). The right will flip those hates and likes around 180 degrees. The No Fun Crowd on both extremes will have to sit down and shut up, rather than telling us what we can't do. And legislators won't know how to spend their free time.

Well, in the beginning anyway.

Then, when they recover from the initial shock of not bossing us around, they can start tackling the big problems: debt, spending, funding Social Security, etc. There is not a single prohibition law that could not wait six months to be enacted.

And, I like to think, that after six months of no new prohibitions, maybe some of those legislators might have broken their addiction to telling people what to do, and might think twice (or more!) before passing an onslaught of new prohibitions -- maybe even only pass the ones that they are absolutely sure we really need.

More realistically, perhaps even if the legislators don't see the light on their own, the electorate would enjoy the break from being told what to do and begin to insist that future candidates act accordingly.

To those of you who object, let's put it this way: try it, for six months. Not even a year, just six months. I've tried it your way for my whole life, and all I see are statute books and municipal codes overflowing with laws that say, "Though Shalt Not...." Some of them conflict. Some of them are obsolete. Some are just ridiculous. And yet the list of prohibitions grows longer every day. Stop the madness; take a deep breath; and do something else for six months than telling me more things that I am not allowed to do. Mr. or Ms. Legislator, you might even have some time for a real life, like your compatriots up in New Hampshire.


**No, I won't tell you who it is because you will immediately judge the statement based on its origin, rather than its content. If you happen to like him, you will think it's brilliant; the converse will be true if you loathe him. And, honestly, I hate that crap.

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