I have a theory that, on the basis of “work always expands to fill the time available”, cutting down on the time legislative/regulatory bodies meet will cut down on the unenforceable/counter-productive/group specific and just plain stupid laws and regulations they produce. It may even focus their attention on important decisions instead of focusing on convenient/petty/easy ones. I therefore suggest that we elect leaders who are willing to make the hard decisions, not just the easy ones. Another pipe-dream.
It is far easier, and way-less controversial, to make petty and inconsequential decisions while espousing that you are actually doing something useful, than to stand up and take on the more difficult decisions that will definitely bring the wrath of certain groups down on your head. Unfortunately, the primary focus of most people in power today is to get re-elected and not necessarily to actually achieve something useful. And that is just the positive side of what they do. They also pass laws and regulations that are group specific, without much, if any consideration of whether their actions are detrimental to the community as a whole.
A little unfair perhaps, but it does describe a pervasive reality nonetheless.
Speaking of real leadership, Winston Churchill, during World War II, was told that the German Air Force was about to bomb the City of Coventry. The information came from British Intelligence that had broken the German Enigma code. Churchill could have evacuated the City but that would have told the Germans that their primary code was broken. Churchill decided not to evacuate and 60,000 people died in the air raid. It was the right decision and probably shortened the War and saved thousands more lives than it cost, but I can’t imagine that being popular, or being re-elected, entered into his decision-making process. An extreme example, perhaps, but that’s why we need leaders.
In terms of how often politicians meet, the Vermont State Legislature is in formal session for four months of the year – it used to be three months. In 2020 they started on January 7 and ended on May 8. The driving principles behind this schedule were that (1) Vermont did not want professional legislators, they wanted legislators who earned their living in the real world, (2) they thought three/four months was enough time to cover the major issues that needed decisions and (3) they didn’t want their government to interfere too much in their lives.
Other jurisdictions have chosen to have their meetings out of regular office hours, basically for the same reasons. Some do not pay salaries, only expenses or per diems. Again, because they want people who live in the real world deciding policies, not professional politicians.
The other advantage in limited meeting schedules that applies to all jurisdictions is that meeting for less time decreases the costs of operation. It would seem to me that, in a time of tightening budgets, exacerbated by drops in revenue as a result of the Covid 19 epidemic, cutting back on political schedules would be a tempting policy change.
And that would benefit us all.
Less professional politicians, less dumb decisions, more reality in all decisions and better, more effective, overall decisions that benefit the jurisdiction as a whole not just certain groups.
What more could you ask for?
2 thoughts on “Short legislative sessions = Less stupid laws = Lower budgets”
Given the number of laws on the books I suspect that we all unknowingly break some of them on a regular basis. Not only that but many of the laws were written decades ago and are no longer relevant. I live in a country (Trinidad) where many of the laws were written in the early 1900s long before independence. Instead of rewriting them from scratch when we need a change we stick amendments on like bandaids. Laws are so complex that few understand them -e.g. income tax laws. It’s time to simplify life. Anything to achieve that end would be beneficial to us all.
Hi Steve, Thanks. That deserves a blog on its own. I will do so.