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Sun, 01 Sep 2013

A recent article (via Reuters, via Hacker News) says that the US Congress should spend more time working and less time vacationing. I could go on and on about what Congress actually does when it is working, but that would go in the rants section of this blog. Here I just want to comment on one particular thing that struck me about the article.

Here's the article's main point:

We have to let our representatives know that business as usual isn't acceptable and we expect them, above all else, to get stuff done. The number of laws passed by Congress last year was fewer than at any point since 1947.

An accompanying graph shows laws passed by year from 1947 to 2012. (I could digress by asking why they picked 1947, but that would be another article.)

When I read this, I at once thought of a remark made by Edsger Dijkstra about measuring the effectiveness of programmers:

[I]f we wish to count lines of code, we should not regard them as "lines produced" but as "lines spent": the current conventional wisdom is so foolish as to book that count on the wrong side of the ledger.

It seems to me that much the same thing applies to Congress and laws; we should not count laws as "laws produced" but as "laws spent". If it takes more and more laws to give us good government (leave aside, once again, the question of how good it actually is), that means Congress is doing a worse job, not a better job. A really competent Congress would figure out how to accomplish the same goals for government with fewer laws, not more.

Posted at 19:04   |   Category: opinions   |   Tags: politics   |   Permalink
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