Governments do one thing well. They make things illegal. They have done so with startling efficiency since before the ink was really dry on the Constitution. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, they fail to understand the fallacy of legality.
The idea itself isn’t really that hard to comprehend. Most know it on some level at least. That idea is that the legality of an act only matters to those inclined to follow the law. By definition, those that will run afoul of a law aren’t likely to follow laws in the first place.
Where the fallacy of legality kicks in is where government enacts laws in the name of public safety. For example, take the old Texas law that forbid Suzanna Hupp from taking her gun into a diner where she was eating with her parents. Hupp was inclined to follow the law because she was law abiding. Unfortunately, George Hennard wasn’t so inclined. He rammed his pick-up truck into the diner and began to shoot patrons. Two of the dead were Hupp’s parents.
Honestly, this isn’t a difficult thing to comprehend. Unfortunately, we see far too often that those we elect to “lead” don’t grasp the basic concept.
Laws exist as grounds for people to know what is acceptable and what isn’t, not as a way to hamstring the law abiding but as grounds for the non-law abiding to understand they are crossing the lines of decency. They should serve as the expectations of what humans should do.
For example, laws against murder don’t hamstring the law abiding (despite smart remarks to the contrary). Instead, the level an expectation that people should not kill and that those who fail to comply will be punished.
Yesterday, the Washington Examiner reported that the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats and led by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), is the “laziest” in 20 years based on the number of laws they’ve passed and time they’ve spent in session:
For those who need proof that the Senate was a do-nothing chamber in 2011 beyond the constant partisan bickering and failure to pass a federal budget, there is now hard evidence that it was among the laziest in 20 years.
In her latest report, Secretary of the Senate Nancy Erickson revealed a slew of data that put the first session of the 112th Senate at the bottom of Senates since 1992 in legislative productivity, an especially damning finding considering that it wasn’t an election year when congressional action is usually lower.
For example, while the Democratically-controlled Senate was in session for 170 days, it spent an average of just 6.5 hours in session on those days, the second lowest since 1992. Only 2008 logged a lower average of 5.4 hours a day, and that’s when action was put off because several senators were running for president, among them Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain.
On the passage of public laws, arguably its most important job, the Senate notched just 90, the second lowest in 20 years, and it passed a total of 402 measures, also the second lowest. And as the president has been complaining about, the chamber confirmed a 20-year low of 19,815 judicial and other nominations.
Many conservatives have taken this as another opportunity to knock Reid and his Democratic counterparts. And while there is no doubt in my mind that Senate Democrats would pass more bills if they didn’t have to work with House Republicans, you’re not going to find me complaining about this.