I do not know what the learned political scientists of the republic say about it, but it seems to me that the laws of the land are so poorly written now that almost no one knows what they mean. That is a government bureaucrat’s delight. The health care bill, commonly known disparagingly as Obamacare, is typical. No member of Congress could have read it before voting on it, and even now, I doubt any congressman has read it through. I know someone who did read it through, but he is an insomniac and does not count. Then there is Betsy McCaughey, former lieutenant governor of New York. She read it through but only because she thought it an atrocity and wanted to protect Americans from it.
Finally, someone over at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) at least has read what it says about long-term health care, and the authorities there made a surprising admission: It is unworkable and possibly illegal. The department announced Friday that it would not be implemented. It would have been nice if HHS had admitted that the whole bill was unworkable before all the Democrats clapped their hands and voted it into law back in March of last year. The law does not control health costs. It will ration health care. And it ruins the vast majority of Americans’ insurance policies while lumping us all into that characteristic product of the Obama administration, chaos. Then, over the weekend we are told President Obama broke from campaigning and took an interest in what his government was doing. Now he is for the section of his health care bill that his HHS told us Friday was defunct, the long-term care provision. He is waiting for the Republicans to vote it down, and he will veto their work, so we are told. As I said, the resulting product of Mr. Obama is chaos.
It seems to me that this tendency to pass laws that are inscrutable is a growing problem for the republic, but it is not unintended. The progressives and liberals favor these abstruse laws. It is their intention to confuse the public. They intend that the laws are so convoluted, complicated and, in the end, soporific that the electorate eventually will go away with a headache.
Herbert Croly, one of the founding fathers of the progressive movement - read liberal movement - wrote in 1909 in his groundbreaking book “The Promise of American Life,” “To be sure, any increase in centralized power and responsibility, expedient or inexpedient, is injurious to certain aspects of traditional American democracy. But the fault in that case lies with the democratic tradition; and the erroneous and misleading tradition must yield before the march of constructive national democracy. The national advance will always be impeded by these misleading and erroneous ideas, and, what is more, it always should be impeded by them, because at bottom, ideas of this kind are merely an expression of the fact that the average American individual is morally and intellectually inadequate to a serious and consistent conception of his responsibilities as a democrat.”
The origins of liberalism were always undemocratic. Now the liberals are ever bolder in their pronouncements. Peter Orszag, formerly with the Obama administration before the chaos became too much for him, just penned an article in the New Republic headlined, “Too Much of a Good Thing: Why We Need Less Democracy” - and by the way, the New Republic was founded by Herbert Croly. Bev Perdue, the governor of North Carolina, publicly said, “I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover.” The “they” here are our representatives in Congress. Those are the sentiments of people with little faith in democracy. They want laws written that are inscrutable, and they will leave it to the bureaucrats to interpret those laws in ways that favor the state and the zeitgeist. Thankfully, we have the Constitution and the Tea Party.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor-in-chief of the American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. He is author of “After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery” (Thomas Nelson, 2010).