DownsizeDC.org is a great website to visit and a great organization to support. Their ability to translate libertarian ideals into concrete pieces of legislation that would improve the way Congress operates is second to none. Here, for example, are the six items they have highlighted for their Downsize DC Agenda:
- The “Read the Bills Act”: The “Read the Bills Act,” or RTBA, would require all bills to be posted on the Internet for seven days prior to any vote so that citizens could weigh in on the proposed text. The bills would also have to be read orally in the presence of a quorum in the House and the Senate. Perhaps more importantly, however, the RTBA would require all members of Congress who intend to vote in favor of any bill to file affidavits certifying that they had actually read it themselves and knew its contents. This would promote public participation in the legislative process, prevent legislators from explaining away votes for unpopular measures with the claim that they didn’t know all the details in the bill, and—just maybe—discourage Congress from writing bills that run to hundreds and even thousands of pages in order to regulate so many unnecessary details of our lives.
- The “One Subject at a Time Act”: This bill takes aim at a major reason for the existence of so many deeply unpopular laws: the propensity of Congress to bury a few unrelated special favors in the middle of a bill that is supposed to deal with something else entirely. The OSTA would require all bills to address only one subject. Furthermore, all bills would be required to carry a title that describes what is actually in the bill, rather than a misleading, propagandistic title like “PATRIOT Act” or “DISCLOSE Act."
- The “Write the Laws Act”: The WTLA attempts to end Congress’s abdication of its constitutional power to decide what the laws are. In recent years, as evidenced by the recent financial “reform” bill, Congress has passed laws that are little more than general statements of policy accompanied by instructions to various regulatory agencies to write the substantive rules Congress couldn’t be bothered with. This results, necessarily, in government by unelected bureaucrats and unelected judges. It also, quite often, produces the disgraceful spectacle of a Congress that agrees to have a federal law about something without agreeing on what the federal law should say.
- The “Free Competition in Currency Act”: This bill addresses one of the most fundamental economic problems we have: the corrosive influence of the Federal Reserve’s easy-money policies. Those policies facilitate excessive spending and unnecessary wars by Congress, and are the major cause of economic “bubbles” that wreak so much havoc on our prosperity. The FCCA would end government or quasi-government monopolies on the issuance of coins or currency, so that people would be free to deal in money that could not be arbitrarily drained of its value by government fiat. Although the concept of competing forms of money may be strange to most Americans today, it has been the norm for most of our history as a nation. Historically, and across many different civilizations, gold, silver, and other precious metals have been the commodities used most frequently and most successfully as money, and so the FCCA also prohibits capital gains taxation of transactions in these metals, in order to prevent the government from making them less competitive forms of money in the future. (Readers who want to learn more about these issues should read DownsizeDC.org’s FCCA background page, and may also wish to read Murray Rothbard’s excellent introduction to the problem, What Has Government Done to Our Money?)
- The “Enumerated Powers Act”: This requires Congress to specify in each bill precisely which enumerated Constitutional power it is exercising. The point, of course, is that there are really not very many enumerated powers that the Constitution gives to Congress. Bank bailouts, gun laws, drug laws, farm subsidies, automobile manufacturing, and free colonoscopies are just some of the many things our founders never intended Congress to have anything to do with. The Enumerated Powers Act would not prevent Congress from twisting and stretching the words of Article I, Section 8 of our Constitution in order to justify all manner of meddling, but it would make members of Congress go on the record with their tortured interpretations so that voters could hold them properly accountable.
- The “Fiscal Responsibility Act”: This cuts Congressional pay for every year the budget remains in deficit. A one-year deficit costs each member of Congress 5% of his pay. If deficits last for two or more years, the annual cut becomes 10%. Pay is restored to pre-deficit levels only after the budget is restored to balance.