By Karen Kwiatkowski
Two Tennessee state legislators have proposed a new office of state government. Their idea might be a lot of fun, especially in an era when taxes are rising, drones are flying and disposable income shrinking.
Normally, creating another government office and its attendant bureaucracy is an exceptionally bad idea. But this proposed office has a happy function that might actually serve the people, increase liberty and promote common sense.
An Office of the Repealer might really be a great idea.
Its function would be to go through state government looking for bad laws and bad regulations. These are laws and regulations that either do not work, have had disastrous consequences or perhaps are simply outdated. The Office of the Repealer would then submit those laws to the state legislature for repeal.
What might that mean for Virginia?
There are some unneeded laws on the books that have already been repealed in Virginia. For example, freedom reigns in the selling of peanut brittle, lettuce and hardware.
Tickling women, however, may still apparently be illegal, as is owning a radar detector or caring for a wounded deer.
In the assembly now, a bill is going forward to allow a police officer to stop a driver for suspected texting. HB 1907 makes texting a primary offense, as opposed to a secondary one.
We must be kept safe from wild deer, radar detectors, giggling women, and our compulsion to text. At all cost.
Silly laws are one thing. But so many of these laws and regulations are not only silly - they are extremely popular among legislators, and even the people at large. The texting bill was just passed overwhelmingly in the House, and strongly in the Senate. But what will it really do? What will be that law's unintended consequences?
Smart and safety conscious people do not text and drive. But many compulsive texters are well, compulsive. Now, they will hold their phones below the dashboard, and text away. The average and below-average texter will be focusing entirely away from the road, becoming even more of a deadly threat to him or herself, and others.
In modern America, we are all lawbreakers, as Harvey Silvergate described in his 2009 book "Three Felonies a Day." Sadly, what the nanny state doesn't realize is that there is a societal cost that comes with excessive and micromanaging laws.
Increasingly, we accept that laws can and are routinely broken - in effect, we accept and own the state's suggestion that we are all criminals. If the "broken window" theory of policing works -- cracking down on minor property offenses to prevent greater offenses - then the opposite is in play here. With so many laws unenforced and unenforceable, we all become criminals together, and we tolerate that "criminality" with a wink, a nod, and a long-term habit of disrespect for law and lawmen.
Another impact of these laws is the ratcheting effect of state fees and fines. Existing fines and fees may be arbitrarily increased, and new fines and fees never disappear. The need for more law enforcement officers and incarceration facilities may be required. Certainly, the state has a bureaucratic interest in "making" more money, and "creating" more government jobs.
Thirdly, the proliferation of laws and regulations leads to a false and dangerous belief that someone else is responsible for our actions and that we are no longer responsible to behave wisely, and seeing that those around us do.
Governments at all levels often exhibit a kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder, driven by a superstitious and false idea that if people step on a crack they will break their mother's back - and thus stepping on cracks must be banned.
An Office of the Repealer might help us all take more personal responsibility, and it might cause us to pay attention to what our legislators are doing to us. It might give us a chuckle now and then. But when we the people prefer to be told what to do, when we like to be told how to do it, when we crave the corral and fear real personal responsibility, one more bureaucrat in Richmond won't make much of a difference.
Karen Kwiatkowski is a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, a farmer, a part time professor, and a liberty-minded conservative. She writes from the southwestern edge of Shenandoah County. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org