When did we start measuring the “success” of Congress based on the number of laws it passes?  Seriously.  I’m asking: when?  I don’t really remember the moment or the year or even the decade, but at some point, Americans got into our heads that the only successful Congress was a “productive” Congress–one that cranked out every other day new laws, new programs, new “fixes” for every problem under the sun.  Both sides do it.  Republicans champion everything from unfunded prescription drug plans to revamping K-12 education and placing it in the “care” of federal government to creating government bodies that find work for veterans; they are just as guilty of this “the government that governs most, governs best” credo.

We expect this from leftists and regressives; it’s what they do.  They see a problem (or invent one), write some law to “fix” it (ignoring, of course, any and all effects it will have, all those pesky “unintended consequences”), and then merrily raise taxes to get money to toss indiscriminately (and almost always unwisely) at the “problem” of the day.  But when did Republicans start doing that?  And when did we, the people, buy into this idea that more laws, more government programs, more more more was the answer?

And there’s the rub.  We didn’t buy into the idea that bigger government is the answer, but we did–somehow, inexplicably–buy into the idea that our representatives and senators needed to “do something,” that some action should be taken, that laws should be passed.  How did we miss the fact that this contradictory impulse, this irreconcilable demand on our elected representatives to at once pass indiscriminately law after law and to respect both the Constitution and individual liberty, would and could only manifest itself in the bizarre push me-pull you political mess we’re in?

Maybe it is time to start measuring the success of Congress based on how many laws it repeals instead of how many it passes.


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