With the new year comes the annual flurry of new laws.
For 2014, California has somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 laws taking effect. Sadly, most laws that are released unto the population are done with little fanfare. Most of us will only discover these laws when we see a line item on a purchase receipt detailing a new fee or charge, or an unwelcome citation from a state agency.
If a new law is so awesomely beneficial to our community, shouldn’t the proponents and enforcers proactively communicate it to all stakeholders (i.e. citizens)? One assumes that lawmakers are not hoping that people violate all these new laws; thus laws should be easily understandable and accessible by the average citizen.
When passing a new law, at a minimum, it should cover three major points:
Ideally, these three points should take up no more than one page, instead of reams of paper.
I would request a fourth aspect of law generation: metrics that measure the effectiveness of the law.
Laws are programs that are implemented to achieve goals for our society (safety, environmental, health, etc). A project manager in the private sector would have metrics and milestones to benchmark against when determining the progress and success of a program. Unfortunately for our wallets, the only metric commonly used to measure the success of a law is the amount of revenue generated.
When these laws are passed, they are done with lofty goals and guarantees. Things will be safer, better or easier when a certain law is passed. Are these claims ever verified? If someone sold you a system that was guaranteed to improve the energy efficiency of your house, yet you never saw a penny of savings, you inevitably would want to back out of that system; the scant return was not worth the investment.
For instance, 2014 brought about a handful of new laws pertaining to firearms. The usual philosophy – “These laws will make it harder for bad guys to get their hands on weapons” – is repeated as justification for these laws. If so, let us review crime statistics a year down the road to verify that the number of “bad guys doing bad things with firearms” has dropped. If not, then it may be time to reconsider these laws.
Some would point out that we cannot directly correlate the rise or fall of crime to one specific law. Yet, when laws are passed, the supporting rhetoric darn near guarantees the success of the law. One will never hear a politician try to sell the electorate on a law with a sheepish, “We want to restrict your right to (fill in the blank) because it might possibly have the potential to maybe make things slightly better,” speech. Thus, if lawmakers promise (and takes credit for) potential benefits a new law will provide, then they need to accept accountability when the law fails to meet those promises.
If a law is passed with stated goals, and those goals are not met, then it is time to consider repealing said law. To not demand accountability reviews of our laws (and lawmakers) only fuels the belief of some: “If a policy fails, it is because there aren’t enough policies.” These believers then pass more resource-gobbling restrictions.
If we are being asked (correction, “told” … few people ever “ask”) to give up liberty or property for the sake of improving the common good, then we the people should demand progress checks on the effectiveness of those sacrifices.
Brian Thiemer is chairman of the Solano County Libertarian Party. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.