17 June 2010

The “No Legislation Has a Title” Act

Cafe Hayek | Don Boudreaux

Because it’s unclear how taxing major sources of power will promote American power, this bill’s title [the "American Power Act"] is misleading. Pondering this fact reveals that too many statutes are known only by the happy clichés serving as their titles – for example, the “No Child Left Behind Act” or the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”

Such titling of legislation is dangerous. Proponents of, say, the “Patriot Act” can with great ease cynically and falsely portray all opponents as being unpatriotically hostile to mom, apple pie, and all else American.

So I propose my own statute: the “No Legislation Has a Title” act. This statute would prohibit each and every government employee from publicly referring to any bill or statute in ways other than by a number assigned to that statute.
Hear, hear!!

I had previously suggested that all bills be title by the CBO or similar organization rather than their sponsors, but this is much simpler.

Not only are the titles of laws often misleading and self-aggrandizing, they also contribute to the tendency to think that merely passing legislation is equivalent to solving a problem. (Something I know Prof Boudreaux finds as repugnant as I do.) Merely by using terms like "The Stimulus Bill" and "The Jobs Bill" you're begging the question as to whether these acts will actually stimulate anything or cause net job growth.

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