[What if we stopped passing new laws?]

The United States stopped making laws.

Stopped doing shit.


The legislative and executive government just…


The police enforced the laws already on the books.

The market moved as it should go.

The army stood only in defense to oncoming attacks.

And the government did shit.

Just sat there.

Took a vacation for infinity.

Would we be better off (assuming there is/was no threat to our defensive security)?

I don’t think so. I’ve tried to write this post three times now, so here’s the shortest version yet:

*I think you’d have big coordination problems, such as building roads and things. People CAN do them without a government, but it makes it easier, I think.

*Law enforcement would go to hell. I’m not sure how the police enforce “the laws already on the books,” because they operate with tax money collected by the government. Do they continue to get money somehow? Wouldn’t tax collection - or some other means - necessitate a body of some kind to do so?
*Also, I think it’d be very hard for law enforcement agencies to coordinate. This would be a major boon to domestic terrorist groups.

*What would you do about businesses? Pollution, for example, is monitored and prosecuted not by the police, but by the federal government.

There’s sometimes a need for new laws.

Let’s say I figured out a new scam which wasn’t adressed by any of our current laws. I steal millions. If no new laws are created to prohibit what I’m doing, others could join in, and we could rob the country blind.

With the way that technonolgy and our society changes, the law must be fluid to deal with any new scams which aren’t covered by what’s already on the books.

Moderator’s Note: What if people gave titles to their threads that gave other people an idea of what the thread is actually about?

Edited thread to give it a new title.

Is democracy being suspended in this hypothetical, or would we be under enforced anarchy?

I’ve been throwing this idea around in a few debates with friends for a while. We really don’t need seatbelt laws, referendums encouraging perceived desirable behaviors, laws condemning consentual sexual behavior, etc.

In fact, in order to make the elected officials earn their pay check, I think they should be forced to review all the laws on the books (well, not all at once), and start repealing ordinances that no longer make sense or apply to modern life

Government governs best when it governs least, and all that.

I predict that if all American legislation was stopped, in 20 years Skynet would pick up the slack.

And Skynet wouldn’t be friendly about it, either.

Fortunately, we’d have the genetically-modified Supersoldiers to save humanity.

I don’t think we need to stop all laws, we just need to introduce some new ways to limit thier number. How about requiring any new law introduced to be accompanied by a detailed argument concerning which part of the constitution allows it. Or failing that, at least 2 earlier laws that should be removed if it adopted. We would still retain the current checks and balances, but give them some more tools to do their jobs.

Absolutely and without any modicum of doubt. There is no more need for new laws than there was any need for laws in the first place. You don’t need the defensive standing army either. Anyone who would militarily invade the U.S. could be dealt with by local public health authorities. Behaving in a rational manner like that would entirely remove the problem.

Why do we need to limit our number of laws?

Although I hear it frequently complained of that we have too many laws (or, rather, I think “regulations” would be the better term) on the books, there’s two essential points that I think are missing from that statement:

  1. Laws are, generally speaking, enacted for the common good; and
  2. Laws are only relevant for the particular purpose for which they are enacted.

As a case in point, let’s consider the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health) regulations. OSHA deals with, among other things, safety in the workplace, particularly in construction sites. The regulations are…well, thick. There’s a lot of them. They might seem needless…I mean, why should a construction site be required to shore up walls greater than 8 feet in height? Why not nine? Why stick all these complications on the construction industry?

One of my lawyer buddies represented a woman whose husband was killed because his construction company didn’t shore up the walls at 8 feet. He was crushed to death. I bet she wished that company had been following the regulations. I bet she’ll be grateful for any compensation she gets when the court rules that their failure to follow OSHA was negligence per se.

My point: we can nitpick about how complicated laws get, but if you think about a great deal of them, they really are founded in the idea that people need to be protected, and that we need a predictable sense of laws on which to follow that. We could simply generalize that in terms of “Do no harm,” but how’s a construction company going to be able to translate that into “shore your walls at 8 feet” instead of 9?

And second: laws are relevant only to the situations in which they apply. OSHA regulations probably won’t apply when, say, you’re getting a marriage license or writing a will. The law might seem to be a complicated mess, but keep in mind that in any given situation, 99+% of our laws won’t be applicable to it.

While OSHA itself is
a federal law passed by Congress, the law states the Secretary of the OSHA Administration, “shall publish a proposed rule promulgating, modifying, or revoking an occupational safety or health standard in the Federal Register …”

Congress regularly passes federal laws, and within those laws, grants federal agencies with rule-making authority. The OP needs to address this issue as well.

The OPs theory is one thing. The reality is quite another.

This question would apply equally to any polity, not just the US.

What is the function of a bakery?

To bake bread and other fattening goodies.

What is the function of a legislative body?

To concoct laws and pass them.

End of story.
Legislative bodies cannot and will not stop passing laws because they have no other purpose in life.

Throughout human history, it has never occurred to any Solon that perhaps there should be an upper limit to the number of valid laws that can exist at any one time, or even consider applying a maximum word limit to each law.

If the limit has been reached, then an old law would have to be repealed to make room for a new law.

After all does anyone believe that Peru (to take just one of over 150 ridiculous examples) is better governed by having 8 million Laws and Presidential Decrees on its books? Hell, no mortal could possibly have the faintest idea what the law is in such circumstances.

The thing is, Congress does a lot more than just issue lists of “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots.” Those laws just get the most publicity because they tend to be the most annoying.

Congress’ day today stuff tends to be more like, a need is recognized for flood insurance because the lack of it is impeding economic progress in areas that flood heavily. Private insurance companies won’t foot the bill for flood insurance because there’s no money in it, but Congress doesn’t want to get into the business of being an insurance agent. Instead, Congress drafts a law underwriting flood insurance policies that are sold by existing insurance companies, who get a percentage of the premium. Because the Treasury will ultimately pay for the policies, Congress drafts very strict terms and limitations, and enacts legislation giving FEMA control over the issuance of the policies. Eventually a disagreement arises in the courts over whether only federal courts can hear cases about these policies, or both federal and state; Congress clarifies the issue by giving federal courts exclusive jurisdiction. Eventually another disagreement among federal courts arises as to the interpretation of a section of the code, or maybe the flood insurance law conflicts with a totally different section of the code in an unforseen way; Congress again passes a law clarifiying the issue. And so on, until eventually the law might become obsolete for whatever reason and is scrapped for something else altogether.

The day to day activity of Congress is a lot like running a business. If we were to just disband Congress and go with the laws we currently have, it would be like getting rid of the board of directors and just letting the factory run itself. Eventually problems will arise that need to be dealt with.

Clear and to the point.


If one is to look through the number of laws enacted each year, the overwhelming number of them do simple things like rename post offices and so on. You can check on this by going to thomas.loc.gov, and clicking on “public laws,” and you’ll get to a list of what has been enacted recently.

A great bulk of the rest actually amend existing laws: either to refine what previous Congresses have attempted to do or to fix their errors or oversights.

Of the other laws that are enacted each year, several are appropriations bills. The Constitution requires that these be passed before money is drawn from the treasury.

There are, in fact, very few laws passed in any year that actually break new ground. One of the few that I can think of in recent history is the No Child Left Behind Act.

Other than that, Pravnik hit the nail on the head.