Thousand-page bills, unread and indeed unwritten at the time of passage, are the death of representative government. They also provide a clue as to why, in a country this large, national government should be minimal and constrained. Even if you doubled or trebled the size of the legislature, the Conyers conundrum would still hold: No individual can read these bills and understand what he’s voting on. That’s why the bulk of these responsibilities should be left to states and subsidiary jurisdictions, which can legislate on such matters at readable length and in comprehensible language.
First, as Steyn points out, one reason legislation is long is because in many cases it amends existing laws (and therefore must use all sorts of legelase to reference existing laws). The other reason it’s long is that there are about 6 words per line and about 30 lines on a page. It’s not exactly like we’re asking our well paid elected officials to read Ulysses. There’s really no excuse for failing to grasp the impact of a bill because it’s too long. Indeed, John Boehner’s office seems to have been able to chart things out pretty well.
More to the point though, why are state legislatures better equipped to write and/or comprehend complex legislative issues than federal bodies? Certainly the Massachusetts experience doesn’t suggest this is the case. I mean, you’re still dealing with the exact some problems. Also, what makes Steyn think that a local bill which has to reference and interface with all sorts of federal statutes will be any more “comprehensible” than a federal one? And why, pray tell, does Steyn think that state legislators, who have smaller staffs who lack the same access to subject experts, will be better equipped to comprehend such a complex issue? I suppose you could argue — and perhaps rightly — that the federal legislature is too dysfunctional to actually pass an effective bill, but that’s not what Steyn is arguing.
If Steyn thinks that health care is simply too complicated to reform — a fact systems in a wide range of coutries outside the US would seem to contradict — he should just come out and say that it’s not worth the hassle to make sure 47 million people have access to health care or life saving medication.