People Matter

When a politician stands in front of a microphone with dozens of reporters hanging on every word, it is not uncommon to hear something about how this legislation was passed to "help the people".  If the legislation is deemed important enough, there will be multiple people all standing beside the politician smiling and looking very pleased.  We are led to believe that people matter.  Do they?

Politics has always been a give and take.  No law is ever as simple or impactful as we are led to believe.  In fact, nearly every law enacted by our government had a losing group.  In some cases these losers were common criminals.  It is illegal to steal someone's wallet.  Sure that makes sense.  How about making it illegal to use a cell phone while driving?  There could be some legitimate reasoning behind that.  What would you think of a law that allows your government to seize your property if they feel it is in the best interests of the community?  This has happened before.

A community in search of taxable revenue is approached by a commercial developer.  The developer recognizes the value of a particular plot of land.  It doesn't matter that the land is already developed for residential housing.  So the developer makes a bid to the local government to buy the land (the land the government doesn't actually own) and in turn the developer will put up a commercial property that could generate multiple times the taxable revenue for the local government.  Now, I am sure you are thinking that there is now way this could happen.  The private property owners would have to be willing to sell their homes to the developer for this to be possible.  Ask Susette Kelo about her thoughts on the issue.  She may have a difference of opinion.

Okay, so you say to yourself an eminent domain case is bad, but really my politicians are trying to make our country better through passing new laws.  According to a number of different sources, the average is more than 300 new laws every year.  If we are to assume that some of these laws are valuable to someone, that still leaves quite a few laws that may not benefit all of us going forward.  That is just one year.  How about all of the previous years?  It becomes overwhelming to think about how many laws exist.  You have probably heard that ignorance of the law is no excuse.  This means that if a law is passed that makes something illegal and you didn't know the law existed, that is too bad.  You are still guilty and have to pay the penalty.

We don't even really know how many federal laws exist in the United States.  There was an attempt made in the early 1980's and even then they couldn't get a handle on the total number of laws.  We think it is fair to say that there are a whole lot of laws.  Some of which (likely a very small amount) that better the vast majority of the lives in this country.  Conversely, it would be fair to say that there exist quite a few laws which should in no way exist and provide benefit to a very small number of citizens if any at all.

There are many, many laws that never get enforced at any level of the government.  More laws are passed every year to add to the previous unused laws.  Passing laws should not be a full-time job.  There is no need to have an unending flow of laws that only benefit the record of the politicians involved.  When a politician returns to their home district or state, they love to tell voters how they are looking out for them.  They are doing it for the people.  If you re-elect them, they will continue to fight for the people.

Perspective is the only way to look at this issue.  If a particular politician gets a law passed that benefits you or your family then you are more interested in keeping them in power.  If they enact a law that harms you, then you can't wait to toss them out of office.  If the law means nothing to you then you don't care one way or the other.  This is why the vast majority of laws mean nothing to nearly anyone.  The politician can show that they are passing laws, but not offending any large group.  When they take a stand, it is usually along party lines or with the largest (or loudest) majority.  This isn't lawmaking, it is popularity making and job justification.  A politician who doesn't pass laws, is just an overpaid bureaucrat.  Neither making a difference nor causing problems.  Politicians want to be noticed.  They can't get noticed by doing nothing, so they do something.  Unfortunately for you and I they are usually only doing something for themselves.

Any law or act or by-law that passes is designed to benefit someone or something.  Follow the money.  Some will trade power for money and others will trade money for power, but it is usually one of the two.  Very little is done in American politics that is truly done because it is right.  Deals need to be made and haggling behind the scenes to get something passed.  All of this leads to, bloated legislation and ambiguous laws that end up harming you and not helping you.  So when  politician tells you that everything they do is for the people, we challenge you to ask which people.  Do people really matter in American politics?