How Many Laws Do We Really Need?

From Capitol Report: “Despite the slow start while new legislators learned their way around the capitol, over 3,400 bills have been filed by the 2019 deadline that could change state laws in the two months of Florida’s Legislative Session.”

Think about that. Thirty-four hundred bills in two months in one state.

How is that even possible?

We hear frequently from conservatives that our federal and local governments are over-regulating everything. I always took that to mean that they were passing laws that put restraints on free enterprise. But 3,400 bills in two months? That’s way beyond restraining free enterprise. I can’t even imagine how many areas of our lives it takes to accommodate so many bills.

How many people do you need to think up and write 3,400 bills? Not to mention the people you need to do the research and file the documents and circulate copies and so on. Then there is another level of “workers” — journalists, lobbyists, and government watchdogs — who spend their time reading and reporting on those bills.

I asked Alex, our research associate, to find some facts about the growth of government bureaucracy in the USA. Here are some good ones:

  1. More Americans are employed by the government than by the country’s entire manufacturing sector.
  2. The federal government indirectly employs an additional 12 million people, more than any other governmental agency or enterprise in the world.
  3. Every year, the government spends $279 billion on federal employee salaries – and that number continues to grow.
  4.  Since inception, the federal bureaucracy has quintupled in size, now housing more than 2,300 subsidiary programs, administrations, and departments.
  5. When federal laws were first organized in 1927, they fit into a single volume. By the 1980s, they filled 50 volumes of more than 23,000 pages.

How many laws do we really need?

At one time, it was believed that 10 were enough. Now there are so many it’s impossible to get a reliable count. And if you had one, it would be grossly outdated in a week’s time.

If there’s a silver lining to all this, I’d like to see it.

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Vitiate (verb) – To vitiate (VISH-ee-ate) is to impair, debase, make ineffective. As used by George Orwell: “All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.”

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“The Future of Higher Education: Apprenticeships vs. Business School” by Peter Diamandis

The university system in the USA is a huge business. It thrives on higher-than-inflation tuition increases and big donations from successful alumni.

Some of the smartest people I know believe that college education is outdated. They argue that a motivated person would do better learning on his own, for free.

I’ve argued with them over the years. My view, in a nutshell, is that the value of an intellectual environment and mentorship on the core skills of success – thinking, writing, and speaking – cannot be overestimated.

But it’s becoming more difficult to make that case today. First, because liberal arts programs are increasingly devoted to leftist ideological positions. (The “diversity” provost at the University of Michigan earns $400,00 a year.) But also because technical education, in today’s interconnected world, moves way too fast for academics to keep up.

In this recent essay, Peter Diamandis compares the value of getting an MBA from Harvard or Yale to joining an apprenticeship program where future entrepreneurs get to work on current business challenges in real time. LINK

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Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think 

Answer these 4 questions:

  1. In all low-income countries in the world today, how many girls finish high school?

a.- 20%

b.- 40%

c.- 60%

  1. In the last 20 years, the proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has…

a.- Almost doubled

b.- Remained more or less the same

c.- Almost halved

  1. How many of the world’s one-year-old children have been vaccinated against some disease?

a.- 20%

b.- 50%

c.- 80%

  1. Which geographical regions have the highest incidence of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer?

a.- Those that have lots of sunlight

b.- Those that have moderate sunlight

c.- Those that have little sunlight

Someone left a copy of Factfulness by Hans Rosling in my office for me. I don’t know who it was, but I’m grateful.

It’s a book about a surprising problem: the enormous amount of ignorance about the answers to some very important questions. As Rosling points out, many of the “facts” that we accept as true and indisputable turn out to be false. And this is not a function of education. College grads prove themselves to be as ignorant as high school dropouts. In fact, monkeys do a better job of getting most of these important answers right. (I’m not kidding. Rosling has convincing evidence.)

I came upon this phenomenon about 15 years ago. Back then, you may remember, people were convinced that sun exposure was the cause of skin cancer and were doing everything they could to keep themselves and their children away from its rays. This didn’t make sense to me. The sun, after all, is the primary source of life. And as many studies have since proven, I was right to be skeptical. We now know that a healthy amount of sunlight each day promotes Vitamin D (more a hormone than a vitamin). And that wards off not only skin cancer but just about every other inflammation-related disease. (And, yes, geographical regions that get lots of sunlight have the lowest incidence of melanoma.)

Answers to the 4 questions, above:

  1. c
  2. c
  3. c
  4. c
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Inculpate (verb) – To inculpate (in-KUHL-pate) is to blame or accuse. As used by Germaine Greer: “Guilt is one side of a nasty triangle; the other two are shame and stigma. This grim coalition combines to inculpate women themselves of the crimes committed against them.”

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