Would my family and I be better off financially if senators and congressmen HAD TO read every bill they vote on?
Everyone's family would be better off, other than the Senators and Congressmen.
Of course, the problem begins much lower than Washington. The best book ever written on this topic is "What Makes You Think We Read the Bills?" by California state senator H. L. "Bill" Richardson. It is a very funny book on a very depressing subject. Richardson was arguably the most astute conservative state legislator in California's recent history.
It's not just the bills, of course. It's also the "Federal Register." That monstrosity is back to 90,000 pages a year. There, executive branch agencies publish the rules and regulations that they have been authorized to promulgate by the laws that Congress never read. No one reads it, either. But, unlike most bills, which are not passed into law, any regulation in the "Federal Register" becomes operational in 30 days unless Congress protests. Rarely does Congress protest, because even fewer Congressional staffers skim the "Federal Register" daily than skim the "Congressional Record" or specific bills.
I know. I was a Congressional staffer.
If you think this sounds insane. consider this insanity. For your typical 400-page bill, the Senate will hold hearings. The committee in charge of the bill invites experts to testify. They submit papers for or against the bill. Sometimes they are paid by lobbying organizations to testify. The testimony can easily run to 2,000 pages. The Government Printing Office dutifully prints this material.
Then, two weeks later, the equivalent House committee holds hearings. Usually, the same experts return to testify. They submit the same papers. The House orders the Government Printing Office to print this testimony.
Then maybe the bill fails to pass.
Even if it does pass, the same procedure takes place in the following year in the case of annual legislation, such as passing the budget. There is an insight of economics that should not be ignored. It has to do with asymmetry of information. A special-interest group that stands to pull in an extra billion dollars because of a new law -- or lose a billion dollars -- has considerable incentive to influence the legislation. The average voter has no awareness of such a provision, nor would it pay him to find out. After all, his share of the expense is probably not measurable. Nobody tracks this. Nobody warns the average voter. Nobody could afford to warn the average voter, who would not read the warning or understand it.
Who wins? Special interests. Who loses? Taxpayers.
It does no good to complain about all this. It is inherent in the nature of legislation and the cost of information.
The voters do not care. So, the legislators will not read the bills.
Consumers are interested in what benefits them or threatens them. In their capacity as voters, they are not equally concerned. What interests us as decision-makers is specific to us. We are less interested in whatever doesn't have measurable effects on our lives.
The profit-seeking entrepreneur must pay attention to what his customers want or fear. He must pay attention to details. Congressmen are not paid -- in votes -- to pay attention to the details.
People respond in terms of how they are rewarded. When we pay Congressmen differently, they will perform differently.
That'll be the day, Pilgrim.