The Lost Art of Legislation

Thursday means one thing above all else in the morning newspaper: Dan Henninger’s “Wonder Land” column in the Wall Street Journal. I was late getting to it this week for the usual reasons of being overscheduled and overblogged, and I just got to it last night. This week’s column is concerns the obvious centrality of economic growth to next year’s presidential election, and Obama’s equally obvious cluelessness about the subject. (Here let me suggest that Pawlenty has laid down a brilliant marker by calling for 5% growth, a target most economists will say is unrealistic on any sustained basis, but which allows him to draw a huge contrast with the redistributionist, slow-growth mentality of Obama and today’s liberalism. Pawlenty’s view tracks closely with the “growth liberalism” of John F. Kennedy and his generation of liberals, all of whom thought rapid growth was both possible and necessary. The “limits to growth” mentality that arrived in the 1970s is one of the defects of liberalism that they are unable to overcome.)
Anyway, buried in Dan’s column this week is this nugget:

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the failure (or inability) of Dodd-Frank’s regulatory arm to write new rules for the $583 trillion derivatives market has the financial sector in a panic over its legal exposure.

This single sentence is extraordinary for what it tells us about the nature of modern legislation and the administrative state. The massive Dodd-Frank law, which was I think over 2,000 pages long, was incomplete. Like Obamacare, it requires the efforts of thousands of bureaucrats to fill in the details of how the law will actually work.
Our friends over at the “Letters from an Ohio Farmer” project dilate on this subject in greater length in this week’s letter, entitled “The Lost Art of Legislation.” The letter makes the point that Congress no longer legislates in the way the Founders intended it to, and the result is arbitrary government, as the Obamacare waivers demonstrate. “Here is another wrinkle,” the Farmer writes: “the health care law shows that Congress is now passing ‘laws’ that cannot take effect as written, because they are so woefully incomplete.” The result of the decades-long decay in legislating is that the ability of Congress to deliberate meaningfully has atrophied. Read the whole thing, as the saying goes.
And now back to our regularly scheduled coverage of the Miss USA Pageant.

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