Lengthy legislation reflects problems in the legislature.

According to a famous historian from the Roman Empire, Tacitus (56-117 AD), “The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.”  (1) (2)

Some recent laws passed by the U.S. Congress have been really lengthy.  For example the Affordable Care Act was 2,400 pages (381,517 words)(3).  Follow-up expansion of regulations having to do with enforcing the ACA ran to 11,588,500 words (4).  That’s thirty times longer than the ACA itself.  Whew!  The No Child Left Behind bill of 2001 had more than 1,000 pages and 274,559 words.

According to one source, complexity aids those who know how to navigate complex and convoluted pages of legislation (5).  And that can help special interests as they become experts at how to get around a law.  It may also help Congress members to be less accountable for all of the diffuse information in a bill.  A Congress member can say that they didn’t read the bill because there wasn’t enough time to read it before a vote was required after months of negotiations.  We have heard this excuse many times in the recent past.  Or a Congress member can claim that they would never agree to all of the provisions except that they were a necessary part of political compromise.

One thing’s for sure.  Simpler and shorter laws could be better for our nation.  Shorter laws would reduce special interest influence.  And also could reduce confusions regarding enforcement.  Confusing laws might lead to selective enforcement or other enforcement problems.  Laws should be easy to understand and making them impossible to understand because they are too long and complicated is a bad strategy if we want the nation to be strong politically and economically.  Not all of the laws being passed are so very long.  But laws having to do with how money will be spent or how people will be taxed seem to have become too long indeed.

Perhaps it’s time for the legislature to look at this problem and limit the length of text allowed in new legislation.  And of course there are more than a million laws that already exist and some of them should probably go away to streamline our body of legislation and make it less costly and more enforceable.  Do you think that our Congress members would ever reduce the length and the number of laws?  Should they?

Sources: (1) Wikipedia, enwikipedia.org/wiki/Tacitus, accessed 29 Dec 2015.

(2) Brainyquote, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/t/tacitus169570.html, accessed 29 Dec 2015.

(3) The Economist, 23 Nov 2013, from the print edition, http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21590368-why-congress-writes-such-long-laws-outrageous-bills, accessed 29 Dec 2015.

(4) 11,588,500 Words: Obamacare Regs.30x as Long as Law, Penny Starr, Oct 14, 2013, cnsnews.com/news/article/penny-starr/1158500-words-obamacare-regs-x30-long-law, accessed 29 Dec 2015.

(5) “For Bills in Congress, How Long is Long?, 24 Nov, 2009, http://www.opencongress.org/articles/view/1375-For-Bills-in-Congress-How-Long-is-Long, accessed 29 Dec 2015.

All text on this blog is copyrighted to Mel Scanlan Stahl. If you should refer to my blog posts or blog pages please acknowledge me as the source.

War leads eventually to economic collapse and political disorder.


Andrew Bacevich related a quote from one of the nation’s Founders.  It was written early in American history but has bearing on today’s events.  According to Bacevich, in 1795, James Madison wrote: “war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.  War is the parent of armies.  From these proceed debts and taxes.  And armies, debts and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under dominion of the few…No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

Here’s a reminder of how many U.S. dollar-funded (debts still owed) Middle Eastern Wars have been ongoing: Persian Gulf War: 1990-1991, Iraq War, 2003-2010,  Afghanistan/Other 2001-2010,   and of course our advisors and Special Forces are still active in the Middle East.  According to one source, Iraq and Afghanistan Wars cost more than 4 trillion dollars.

President Obama in his speech on 6th Dec, 2015, called for more military action: “Finally, if Congress believes, as I do, that we are at war with ISIL, it should go ahead and vote to authorize the continued use of military force against these terrorists.  For over a year, I have ordered our military to take thousands of airstrikes against ISIL targets.  I think it’s time for Congress to vote to demonstrate that the American people are united, and committed to this fight.”  Never at any point in his speech did President Obama voice doubts about whether military actions in the Middle East should continue.  And he should have doubts because disorder there has only increased since the United States started making war in the Middle East.

Deepak Lal wrote a book that discussed American empire aspirations that have affected American foreign policy since the neoliberal era began after WWII.  Most Americans, according to Lal, by contrast, advocate for strategies under the Wilsonian doctrine of supporting equally sovereign nations.  Most ordinary Americans don’t have an empire sized ambition to control world politics.  But during the neoliberal era, many politicians in American government have sought to influence global politics through military actions.  The U.S. military has been used to enforce U.S. hegemony in far away places by establishing hundreds of military bases.  Here’s Lal’s quote,

As most of the failed or failing states in Africa and the Middle East are rich in the natural resources whose rents have been misused by their predatory elites, a depoliticization of these rents is required to restore order.  An INRF (International Natural Resources Fund) maybe the answer.”  Has the level of disorder in Syria risen to the level of depoliticization?  Political order in Syria seems to have fled and Vladmir Putin criticized U.S. military actions in the Middle East for causing more political disorder there.

Recently, Russia has pushed back against the U.S.’s continuing ambition to influence politics in the Middle East by utilizing military force.  What everyone can see is that military conflicts are on the rise.  And U.S. debt has far surpassed numbers that are easy for Americans to understand (almost 19 trillion dollars).  And continued warfare will continue to rob prosperity from the American economy.  Our government’s empire project has surpassed what is affordable and its lingering debt has become oppressive.  But that’s not all.

The War on Terror has also been used to justify curtailing the rights of ordinary law-abiding Americans.  Constant surveillance of meta-data, although ruled in American courts as unconstitutional  has continued.  Restriction of Second Amendment rights and First Amendment rights, Fourth Amendment rights, Fifth Amendment rights and other rights that belong to all Americans have been called for repeatedly and the spoken urgency for restricting freedoms seems to be increasing as politicians call for further restricting everyone’s rights .  The purpose of the U.S. Constitution is to limit the power of government and to protect natural rights (as only partially listed in the Bill of Rights).  This creates political interests in common and prevents some forms of political predation against less powerful Americans.

Although some politicians would ignore the U.S. Constitution they should not do so because ignoring the U.S. Constitution is political aggression against political order.  So even though President Obama calls for more Second Amendment restrictions and more warfare, it’s important to respect the U.S. Constitution’s protections which serve to prevent political predators from harming law-abiders.  As for the San Bernardino shooters, they are both dead.  And if they weren’t dead, they would have been arrested and prevented from causing further harms.  The goal of law enforcement is to protect Americans from violence by penalizing the violent.  Law enforcement can act as a deterrent to violence but preventing violence isn’t a goal that can work for us.  That’s because preventing violence isn’t possible.  And further curtailing American freedoms is only a form of tyranny.  The U.S. Constitution is meant to create political order by preventing the political abuses of tyranny by limiting the power of government.  Increasing the government’s power won’t protect anyone.

Finally, the United Kingdom was the last empire class nation and it had a global monetary system that worked to stabilize currency and commodity values.  It was the strict gold standard.  Part of the unrest in the world today, is being caused by the failure of a fiat monetary system to stabilize economic prices and values.  Instead, monetary instability continues.  This instability harms businesses and stimulates global political aggression.  Rather than reaching for a political solution based on bombs, soldiers or advisors, a better solution would be to address stability problems in the global monetary system.

To get more even more connections between politics and economics, buy Political Catsup with Economy Fries at Amazon.com

Sources: James Madison quote in, Andrew J. Bacevich, The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War, (Oxford University Press, New York, 2005), 7.

Deepak, Lal, In Praise of Empires: Globalization and Order, (Palgrave MacMillan, New York, 2004), 104.

Stephen Daggett, “Cost of Major U.S. Wars, Congressional Research Service, 7-5700, June 29, 2010, http://www.crs.gov, fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RS22926.pdf accessed 2014.

Pierce Nahigyan, NationofChange/News Report, 18 Feb. 2014, “Wars In Afghanistan, Iraq to Cost U.S. Over $4 Trillion”, http://www.nationofchange.org/wars-afghanistan-iraq-cost-us-over-4-trillion-1392732855/, accessed 2015.

All text on this blog is copyrighted to Mel Scanlan Stahl. If you should refer to my blog posts or blog pages please acknowledge me as the source.

Power and language partner-up in politics.


According to Alexis de Tocqueville, writing in about 1835, Americans would “talk politics” at the slightest opportunity.  “The cares of politics engross a prominent place in the occupations of a citizen in the United States; and almost the only pleasure which an American knows is to take a part in the government, and to discuss its measures.  This feeling pervades the most trifling habits of life…”  This contrasts sharply with today’s American political involvement.

Special interests have become so powerful that individuals can’t discuss politics outside of special interest topics.  Inside families, one generation may even disagree with another.  Seldom do people consider U.S. politics on the basis of clear information or political history, where people could perhaps share a common American heritage.  The twenty-first century finds political discussions happening in think tanks and lobby groups in America where big money provides bigger political access.  But think tanks and lobbies don’t relate well to American political values at the grassroots.

In 1958, Hannah Arendt wrote about the specialized jargon being used in the sciences and she saw jargon as making a discussion of politics harder–maybe even impossible.  She wrote “Wherever the relevance of speech is at stake, matters become political by definition, for speech is what makes man a political being.”  As Americans begin to realize that “talking politics” and finding common political ground is harder, as we realize that many recent graduates never studied civics or never read the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution, the missing language that would aid us all in political discourse seems important–even necessary.

Making the connections between our American political past and present is something that Political Catsup with Economy Fries can help you to achieve.  And understanding political changes can help you to understand economic changes too.  Americans from Alexis de Tocqueville’s time shared a passion for politics in part because they were united in seeking political policies that would aid American prosperity at home.  Wouldn’t it be great to engage in the old American past-time of “talking politics” at the kitchen table over the meat and potatoes or at the market shopping with your friend or during a weekend baseball game?

Buy Political Catsup with Economy Fries at Amazon.com

Sources: Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Richard Heffner, ed., (Signet Classics, New American Library, Inc., New York, 1956), original publication 1835, 109.

Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, with Margaret Canovan, (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1958), 3.

All text on this blog is copyrighted to Mel Scanlan Stahl. If you should refer to my blog posts or blog pages please acknowledge me as the source.