Even Better Than “Read The Bill”

Frequent commenter Carl Pham has a novel and spectacular proposal, that doesn’t stand a chance in hell of being passed:

We need a Paygo Principle when it comes to Federal law. Namely, the total word count of all Federal law is forbidden — let us say by Constitutional Amendment — from increasing. Hence if Congress wants to write new law, they must first repeal or simplify enough existing law so that the total word count will remain unchanged.

And if we really want to encourage healthy competition between the political parties, like we have in the private sector, where firms compete for efficiency in providing a product or service, we can modify this slightly, like so:

(1) Each political party has their own “word credit” which they accumulate by repealing or simplifying law when they are in the majority. Credit does not pass between parties, so, e.g. if the Republicans when they take over in November repeal 50,000 words of law and then get replaced in 2012, the Democrats do not get to take advantage of the Republiicans’ 50,000 word credit. They have to earn their own.

(2) However, any credit remaining at the time you lose power carries over to the next time you gain power. So if the Republicans accumulated credit before being replaced in 2012, they could, when they return to power, immediatley start using that credit.

What I like about (2) is that it instantly reverses the motivations during a lame-duck session, or when you know you’re about to go down in flames. Rather than pass a bunch of law at the last-minute, flouting popular opinion, because you’ve got nothing to lose, you’d be motivated to repeal a bunch of law at the last minute, so as to guarantee yourself a credit when you return to power.

Naturally the other side isn’t going to help you, so you’re going to need to focus on repealing the least popular and most useless aspects of the law favored by your own party — which is very likely to align you better with the public’s wishes. You’ll tend to leave untouched the more popular stuff, and the bipartisan stuff, because you know this is most resistant to being repealed by the other side when they take over — and that helps you minimize how much credit they can accumulate right away.

Actually, I’d like to see the federal code reduced by an order of magnitude, so that could be incorporated into the plan as well. That is, in order to add new words, you’d have to take out ten existing ones for each one added. You could put some kind of floor on it to prevent it from disappearing altogether.

Of course, in order to do so, you’d be formalizing the existence of political parties in the Constitution, which doesn’t mention them at all.

Mind Your Own Business

I was going to comment on this the other day, but Ezra Levant, who has more of a dog in the fight (so to speak), has:

NASA used to be about exploring space — that’s what the S stands for. But NASA’s new boss, Charles Bolden, recently told Al Jazeera TV that Obama has given him new marching orders: Inspire children to learn math, expand international relationships. “Perhaps foremost. he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math and engineering.”

I guess that’s what happens when a “community organizer” becomes president.

But when you think about it, Hansen is following Obama’s instructions perfectly: The Saudis probably do “feel good” that NASA is trying to shut down their Canadian oil competitors.

I wish that Hansen was muzzled half as much as he pretends he is. He is, or at least should be, an embarrassment to the agency.

Will The Republicans Impeach Obama?

I would never say never — who knows what he’ll do that might merit it in the future, but the notion that it is a metaphysical certainty is nonsensical. Given who would become president in that event, it would have to be for a pretty extreme situation. I’ve always thought that the Joe Biden pick was combination impeachment/assassination insurance. And even if you think they’d impeach knowing that the Senate wouldn’t convict, that would be dumb, too. They know what happened to them the last time that happened.

A Read-The-Bill Rule

…for the people who, you know, actually vote on these legislative atrocities. From Hanah Volokh (who I assume is related somehow to Eugene and Sasha — sister?). I wonder if the new Congress were to pass such a thing, if the president would veto it? Or perhaps it’s not legislation, just a change to House or Senate rules, in which case, he wouldn’t be involved. Hard to know from just the abstract.

The End Of The Space Race

…happened forty-three years ago today. In an excerpt from the book I’m working on:

…sadly for the enthusiasts, as already noted, it wasn’t really about space. As even the supposedly visionary Kennedy told his NASA administrator, James Webb, a few months before his assassination in 1963, “I don’t care that much about space.” It was about national prestige, not space per se – space was just the venue in which the competition was to be fought. Had Kennedy not been assassinated, it’s not clear that the Apollo program would have continued, or at least no more than it was under Lyndon Johnson who, under pressure from the Congress with the rising costs in blood and treasure from Vietnam, and the Great Society (and riots in Newark, Watts and Detroit, and other inner cities), actually ordered the end of production of new hardware in 1967, two years before the first landing. In fact, it was likely only the perceived martyrdom of the president who started the program that allowed it to go on as long as it did.

Beyond that, the space race was viewed as so expensive that many in the government (particularly those of a socialistic bent in the State Department) wanted to end it permanently, and in a sense they did, by signing and ratifying the Outer Space Treaty in 1967, which banned claims of national sovereignty off planet. Absent claims of national sovereignty, private off-planet property claims became, if not impossible, problematic. This had the intended effect of significantly reducing the incentive for nations to race to other worlds, including the moon. It also dramatically reduced the incentive for private enterprise to invest its own resources in doing so, even if there were some way of getting a return on the investment, by creating uncertainty in the legality of extraterrestrial property and real estate.

Alan Wasser is trying to do something about that. This is the sort of thing a Congress truly interested in conservative space policy would do, instead of keeping the pork flowing.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!