A recent article in The Hill described the now-adjourned 113th Congress as “historically unproductive,” observing that “few Congresses have sent less bills to a president in 20 years.”
This, I’m afraid, reflects a common journalistic belief that when legislatures are passing legislation, they’re producing something valuable. But while it’s true that when oil wells produce oil, or gold mines gold or automobile factories cars, those entities are being productive, it’s not so clear that every time a legislature passes a law it’s producing something of value. In fact, there’s good reason to suspect just the opposite.
When Congress passes a law, it is pretty much always either limiting someone’s freedom or spending taxpayer money. Sometimes those are good things: The civil rights laws of the 1960s took away the freedom to engage in racial discrimination, and the spending of World War II and the Cold War defeated the evils of Nazism and Communism.