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© 2007 Daniel J. McLaughlin


Don’t Just Do Something


“Don’t just sit there, do something!”  We often hear that, or a close relative of it, when there is a matter of great urgency.  When it comes to politics, however, many of the significant problems and entrenched conflicts we have in this country, and in fact, the world, arise from the reality that government has done something.  A much more appropriate admonition for them would be “don’t just do something, sit there!”. 


People are often concerned when the US congress or state legislatures are deadlocked.  They worry that important business is getting left undone.  Consider the fact that there are over one hundred thousand pages of new federal and state laws and regulations enacted each year, an estimated 78,000 for the federal government alone.  No single person in any legislative body can really know everything that they are voting on.  With just those at the federal level, it would take 1 person two and a half years, working 5 days a week, 8 hours per day, reading at a rate of 4 minutes per page just to read the new federal laws and regulations enacted in one year.  Most of the laws passed by your legislators cannot be thoroughly understood by anyone, and actually take years for courts to interpret.  It is an eye opening experience to go to the congressional website and peruse the list of bills currently being discussed or recently passed.  Make sure you have a bottle of Tums for the tummy close by, you might need them.


When you multiply the annual glut of new federal and state legislation by the number of years we have been imposed upon, can it be any surprise that there is such abuse of the laws and the legislative process, such a crushing burden of litigation, debt and taxation, and such confusion in the markets.  There is, indeed, a state of emergency in this country. 


The current economic situation has people crying to congress and the president to do something.  Various economic stimulus packages have been presented with the assumption that congress and the president know what to do, can agree on what to do, that the cure will not be worse than the illness and that the long run negative effects will not more than mitigate any short run gain.  In fact, “doing something” is all they can do.  It would be more responsible of them to admit their mistakes and undo all of the things they have done to get us here in the first place.


People make rational decisions about their lives based on their understanding of reality and their expectations for the future.  Their understanding and expectations may be imperfect, but the more stable the conditions are, the better people will be able to make correct decisions that enable them to achieve their goals.  The more unpredictable the conditions, the worse people will be at making the correct choices to get their expected results.  From health care to foreign relations, incoherent policy and constant changes make it difficult for individuals, businesses, and even foreign governments to determine the course of action that is best suited to their own circumstances. 


Some people are hoping for a Democrat for president.  Regardless of partisan politics, with the current democratic majority in congress, a democrat for president would make it far too easy to get things done.  We have already lived through a recent case of congress and president working too closely together.  That will certainly not make us better off.  With all of the evils inherent in the present two party system, maybe the best we can hope for is a divided congress antagonistic toward the president.  Maybe that is the only way to keep them from doing as much “something”.


This country has a proud tradition of individual liberty.  Freedom is the very foundation of America.  That concept is an important focus of much of the political rhetoric because it rings true to most of our people.  It is a harsh reality that the rhetoric bears no resemblance to the reality of lawmaking in this country.  Freedom is the default position, the starting point.  The only thing that government can do is take it away.  Active government is destructive government, and the pace of activity continues to accelerate.


Politicians say they want to make this a better place.  They could do that if congress and state legislators, the president and governors would just take a year off and leave us alone.  We need to tell our legislators “don’t just do something, sit there!”.




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Copyright © 2007 [Daniel McLaughlin]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 01/31/08

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