The new climate change report just out is 841 pages long. No one is going to read the whole thing. I doubt even the authors read the whole thing, and much of it appears to be a cut and paste job. Even the highlights (what we used to call “executive summary”) is 148 pages long. As Churchill once said in returning a long memo to a subordinate, “The report, by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read.”
Mark this down as yet another example of unrequired reading. Over the weekend the Washington Post offered a feature entitled “Unrequired Reading” about all of the useless and marginal reports that Congress or the bureaucracy has seen fit to mandate. Did you know that the feddle guvmint produces an annual report to Congress on dog and cat fur protection? There’s even a report on the state of little league baseball. As the story reports, “This Congress is officially expecting 4,291 written reports, from 466 federal agencies and nonprofit groups.”
But back to that fur report. As David Fahrenhold describes:
First, workers have to gather data about the enforcement of a law banning imports of fur coats, furry toys or other items made from the pelts of pets. How many shipments were checked? How many illegal furs were found?
The data are written into a report, passed up the chain of command and sent to Capitol Hill.
And then nothing happens.
Although it was Congress that demanded this report in a 2000 law, the legislators who pushed for it are gone. The debate over imported pet fur has waned. Congress lost interest. Of the seven committees that still get copies of the report, none reported finding it useful.
Still, the law lives on, requiring a bureaucratic ritual that has become a complete waste of time.
Here’s an idea: let’s require that members of Congress read every report aloud from the well of the House chamber.