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Complex Societies Need Simple Laws

By: sebastianjer , 01:00 PM GMT am 14. März 2012

Complex Societies Need Simple Laws

By John Stossel

"If you have 10,000 regulations," Winston Churchill said, "you destroy all respect for law."

He was right. But Churchill never imagined a government that would add 10,000 year after year. That's what we have in America. We have 160,000 pages of rules from the feds alone. States and localities have probably doubled that. We have so many rules that legal specialists can't keep up. Criminal lawyers call the rules "incomprehensible." They are. They are also "uncountable." Congress has created so many criminal offenses that the American Bar Association says it would be futile to even attempt to estimate the total.

So what do the politicians and bureaucrats of the permanent government do? They pass more rules.

That's not good. It paralyzes life.

Politicians sometimes say they understand the problem. They promise to "simplify." But they rarely do. Mostly, they come up with new rules. It's just natural. It's how the public measures politicians. Schoolchildren on Washington tours ask, "What laws did you pass?" If they don't pass new laws, the media whine about the "do-nothing Congress."

This is also not good.

When so much is illegal, common sense dies. Out of fear of breaking rules, people stop innovating, trying, helping.

Think I exaggerate? Consider what happened in Britain, a country even more rule-bound than America. A man had an epileptic seizure and fell into a shallow pond. Rescue workers might have saved him, but they wouldn't enter the 3-foot-deep pond. Why? Because "safety" rules passed after rescuers drowned in a river now prohibited "emergency workers" from entering water above their ankles. Only 30 minutes later, when rescue workers with "stage 2 training" arrived, did they enter the water, discover that the man was dead and carry him to the approved inflatable medical tent. Twenty other cops, firemen and "rescuers" stood next to the pond and watched.

The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, sometimes called the first libertarian thinker, said, "The more artificial taboos and restrictions there are in the world, the more the people are impoverished. ... The more that laws and regulations are given prominence, the more thieves and robbers there will be." He complained that there were "laws and regulations more numerous than the hairs of an ox." What would he have thought of our world?

Big-government advocates will say that as society grows more complex, laws must multiply to keep up. The opposite is true. It is precisely because society is unfathomably complex that laws must be kept simple. No legislature can possibly prescribe rules for the complex network of uncountable transactions and acts of cooperation that take place every day. Not only is the knowledge that would be required to make such a regulatory regime work unavailable to the planners, it doesn't actually exist, because people don't know what they will want or do until they confront alternatives in the real world. Any attempt to manage a modern society is more like a bull in a darkened china shop than a finely tuned machine. No wonder the schemes of politicians go awry.

F.A. Hayek wisely said, "The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design." Another Nobel laureate, James M. Buchanan, put it this way: "Economics is the art of putting parameters on our utopias."

Barack Obama and his ilk in both parties don't want parameters on their utopias. They think the world is subject to their manipulation. That idea was debunked years ago.

"With good men and strong governments everything was considered feasible," the great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises wrote. But with the advent of economics, "it was learned that ... there is something operative which power and force are unable to alter and to which they must adjust themselves if they hope to achieve success, in precisely the same way as they must taken into account the laws of nature."

I wish our politicians knew that. I wish they'd stop their presumptuous schemes.

We need to end the orgy of rule-making at once and embrace the simple rules that true liberals like America's founders envisioned.

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Reader Comments

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4. latitude25
08:43 PM GMT am 14. März 2012
today’s delegate count….
Romney 453 (excluding about 20 from Hawaii and American Samoa)
Santorum second at 241
Gingrich is third with 127
Ron Paul is fourth with 46

true that Romney is not even half way…..
…but still, it might make sense if the others three added up to even half of Romney’s
but they don’t

The one thing, they are forcing the republican’s hand. Making them conservative…….

...in the mean time
Obama and the democrats have launched a new campaign strategy....

Attacking christians, jews, and raising gas prices
Member Since: Dezember 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
3. RobDaHood
03:52 PM GMT am 14. März 2012
Simple laws.

1: Do no harm to others except in the defense of life, property, or country.

2: The government should interfere with the freedom of the people only to the absolute minimum extent needed to enforce law 1. The federal government has no enforcement authority or responsibility over matters that can be dealt with at a state or local level, except as explicitly and obviously granted in the Constitution of the United States of America.

3. Punishment and restitution for violations of laws 1 and 2 shall be as close as reasonably possible to the actual harm inflicted.

Probably covers 95 percent of what is needed.
Member Since: Dezember 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
2. sebastianjer
01:37 PM GMT am 14. März 2012

Obama's Pump Debacle

Jonah Goldberg

As gasoline prices climb, President Obama's poll numbers plummet. In February, a Washington Post/ABC poll had Obama up 6 points against Mitt Romney. Monday's poll has him down 2.

According to the polls, gas prices are a huge part of the story, particularly given how the last 30 days or so have not exactly been great for the GOP.

No wonder Obama is desperate to get out in front of the issue. The dilemma is that he's invested so much of his prestige in his energy policies that he can't admit those policies have been an abject failure. But he also can't have people thinking his policies are responsible for the energy price Americans care about most: gasoline.

"Despite the gains we've made, today's high gas prices are a painful reminder that there's much more work to do to free ourselves from our dependence on foreign oil and take control of our energy future," the president declared Monday in a statement on the one-year anniversary of his "Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future."

Let's take the second proposition first. Obama often says, "Under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years." That's true: It's also true that under Obama's administration, Snooki from "Jersey Shore" got pregnant and Charlie Sheen lost his job. And he can take about as much credit for those developments too.

Never mind that if he'd gotten the cap-and-trade proposals he campaigned on, energy prices would be even worse. (He once acknowledged that under his plan, electricity prices would "skyrocket" and coal companies would go bankrupt. His Energy secretary, Steven Chu, admitted he wanted America to emulate European gas prices, when they were about $8 per gallon.)

The boom in oil production has taken place almost entirely on private and state lands, while on federal lands it's dropped (11 percent from 2010 to 2011 alone). The administration has also slowed the permitting of offshore oil and gas development to a trickle.

Another major factor is the development of new technologies that make it possible to extract ever more fuel from domestic sources. Instead of words of support, Obama keeps telling those companies they need to be taxed more and have their subsidies yanked, and he's touting the wonder-working power of algae (a possibly valuable fuel source by the middle of the century).

Ending subsidies to business entirely, including oil companies, is a good idea. But Obama's policy is completely different. He thinks he's smarter than the market and can pick winning industries and products.

It's an ugly record. Forget Solyndra -- and other solar and wind firms that have been going belly up like birds around a windmill -- that's old news. So is his decision to block the Keystone XL pipeline.

Last year, the Energy Department awarded a $10 million "L Prize" for development of an affordable and eco-friendly light bulb. Philips just put its winning model on the market, for $50 apiece. Meanwhile, GM has temporarily suspended production of the Volt because of lack of demand for the "affordable" electric car.

On the unaffordable end of the market, things are even worse. Consumer Reports tried to test drive the new $107,850 Fisker Karma, but it couldn't: "We buy about 80 cars a year, and this is the first time in memory that we have had a car that is undriveable before it has finished our check-in process."

There's actually plenty Obama could do to help with gas prices, but he's right not to do some of them. He shouldn't release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, nor should he appease Iran on its nuclear program. But he could, for instance, suspend the Jones Act, which requires that all ships carrying goods between American ports be U.S. flagged. Doing so would dramatically lower the cost to distribute oil and gas (and outrage his union base).

Obama was recently asked by Fox News' Ed Henry whether high gas prices are a deliberate result of White House policies. His response was telling. "From a political perspective, do you think the president of the United States going into re-election wants gas prices to go up higher? Is there anybody here who thinks that makes a lot of sense?"

In other words, Obama desperately wants people to think he's against higher gas prices -- at least until he gets re-elected.
Member Since: Dezember 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1. sebastianjer
01:06 PM GMT am 14. März 2012


BY: CJ Ciaramella

An oil and gas trade group filed a lawsuit Monday challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s renewable fuel regulations, saying the rules are unachievable and amount to a stealth tax on the industry.

The American Petroleum Institute has requested that the D.C. Circuit Court review the EPA’s rules for cellulosic biofuel, a renewable fuel source made out of plant material such as switch grass and woodchips.

In a statement, API Director of Downstream and Industry Operations Bob Greco said the EPA’s mandate was “divorced from reality” and “forces refiners to purchase credits for cellulosic fuels that do not exist.”

The EPA’s renewable fuel standards were first passed in 2007 and require refiners to blend certain amounts of renewable fuel annually, including cellulosic biofuel. In 2010 the mandate for cellulosic fuel was 100 million gallons, rising to 250 million in 2011 and 500 million in 2012.

However, there is no commercially available cellulosic fuel available in the United States. Rather than waive the mandate, which it has the power to do, the EPA lowered the target to 6.6 million gallons for 2011 and 8.65 million gallons for this year.

Refiners must buy a 78-cent waiver credit for every gallon under the target, amounting to approximately $6.8 million in penalties paid to the Treasury. And that’s not counting the other costs of the mandate.

“We have a team of dozens of people—approaching 100—trying to understand how we will comply with these regulations,” said one oil industry executive. “The internal hidden costs of the regulation are staggering and far exceed the tax costs.”

The American Petroleum Institute requested the EPA waive the cellulosic mandate for the last two years, but it denied the request both times. The EPA has argued setting quotas keeps demand from slipping.

Several cellulosic biofuel plants are expected to be operational by 2012 and 2013. EPA spokeswoman Cathy Milbourn told the New York Times the agency believes the 2012 quota will be “reasonably attainable.”

However, the long-term success of the program remains in question. A congressionally requested report from the National Research Council concluded the U.S. is unlikely to reach cellulosic ethanol production mandates by 2022 unless “innovative technologies are developed or policies change.”

It also noted that reductions in greenhouse gas emissions because of the mandates were uncertain.

The case is American Petroleum Institute v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 12-1139, U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia Circuit.

In an email, the EPA said it “will review and respond to the suit appropriately.”
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