31 July 2007

Laws from the people?

According to this Mother Jones article, Mike Gravel's Democracy Foundation is working to promote a "National Initiative for Democracy", essentially a nationwide initiative and referendum that would operate as a second federal legislative branch.  So instead of trying to vote in representatives that you agree with and waiting for them to pass laws and budgets you like, you can propose and vote on them directly.  Sounds great, huh?

Unfortunately, this approach solves the wrong problem.  We don't really have a shortage of good laws—we have way too many bad ones.  And the proposed scheme would make laws independently of Congress; the two lawmaking bodies would not work together to pass a bill, as the House and Senate do.  They would constantly trump each other, perhaps overruling the other by passing a different bill.  In the worst case, we'd end up with twice as many laws.  Instead, what we really need is another check on Congress's power.  How about a nationwide veto power?  Any bill passed by Congress would be able to be overturned by a number of vetoes (cast by registered voters nationwide) greater than half the number of votes in the last presidential election.  Also, how about adding an automatic sunset provision to every bill passed by Congress, which repeals any law ten years after it goes into effect?  A sunsetted law could only be saved or resurrected by a majority of voters nationwide.


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