Law, Legislation, and Health Care Sausage
Joel Achenbach has a good piece--with a good photo--on the mind-numbing detail of putting together the health care bill. The lead:
The bill, a work in progress called H.R. 3200, is already phone-book thick. The latest amendments this week swamped Room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building, home turf of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Some 250 amendments had appeared by Wednesday night, and the number jumped to 350 by Thursday afternoon. The amendments filled 39 file boxes on chairs, under desks and in the aisles.
To really understand what a bill says, you'd need to have the existing laws memorized.
Here's a fairly typical passage from H.R. 3200:
Section 1834(a)(7)(A)(iii) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395m(a)(7)(A)(iii)) is amended
(1) in the heading, by inserting 'CERTAIN COMPLEX REHABILITATIVE' after 'OPTION FOR'; and
(2) by striking 'power-driven wheelchair' and inserting 'complex rehabilitative power-driven wheelchair recognized by the Secretary as classified within group 3 or higher.'
And that goes on for a thousand pages.
This is exactly the kind of detail that shouldn't be prescribed in legislation. Hayek's Law, Legislation and Liberty is not a fully successful book, but the distinction he makes between the general principles of liberal "law" and the excessively detailed and illiberal decrees of "legislation" is valuable as a heuristic.