Obsolete Law

Democracy by Dead People

Laws are vital to a free society—to protect clean air, make sure toys don’t have lead paint, and enforce contracts. But laws and regulations must be kept up to date. Otherwise people are forced to do things that make no sense, and government programs waste money unnecessarily.

Congress acts as if it has nothing to do with making laws work. A giant junk pile of obsolete laws weighs down our society—subsidies from the New Deal, regulatory programs that don’t work as intended, and mindless rules and procedures that serve no one’s interest. The giant legal heap grows higher every year.

We wonder why elections don’t seem to matter. It’s because America is largely run by dead people—past generations of lawmakers and regulators who wrote all laws and rules that dictate today’s daily choices, whether or not they still make sense. It’s hard to find any program that isn’t broken, at least in part.

The solution is not to abandon most programs, but to modernize them to meet current needs and to clean out those that don’t work. Most laws and regulations should be simplified, more like the Constitution, so that people can adapt as circumstances change. History shows that “recodifications” can unleash enormous productive energy.

The bottom line is this: It’s really stupid to try to run a 21st century society with detailed dictates from the 1930s and 1960s.


  • Overlapping and Duplicative Programs

    Since 2011, the Government Accountability Office has identified layers and layers of federal programs doing the same thing.

  • New Deal Farm Subsidies

    During the Great Depression, when 25% of America’s population lived on farms (as opposed to about 2% today), the federal government provided subsidies to farmers to stave off financial ruin.

  • Davis-Bacon Act

    Signed into law in 1931 by President Hoover, the Davis-Bacon Act requires that federally-funded construction projects pay workers the “prevailing wage” in a given area.

  • Jones Act

    The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, better known today as the “Jones Act,” requires that all goods transported between US ports be carried by US-built ships, owned by US owners, with a US crew.