When George F. Will delivered the keynote speech at the Cato Institute’s 2010 Milton Friedman Prize dinner, (an excellent speech, BTW) among other things he said this:
The Wall Street Journal this morning announced with a sort of breathless surprise that about 80% of the American people disapprove of congress. Raising a fascinating question: who are the 20%?
It is a sign of national health that Americans still think about Washington the way they used to talk about the old Washington Senators baseball team, when the saying was “Washington: first in war, first in peace and last in the American League.” Back then they were run, the Senators were, by a man named Clark Griffith who said, “The fans like home runs, and we have assembled a pitching staff to please our fans.”
That is why the American people do not mind what they are instructed by their supposed betters to mind, that is the so-called problem of gridlock. Ladies and gentlemen gridlock is not an American problem, it is an American achievement. When James Madison and fifty-four other geniuses went to Philadelphia in the sweltering summer of 1787, they did not go there to design an efficient government, the idea would have horrified them. They wanted a safe government to which end they filled it with blocking mechanisms. Three branches of government. Two branches of the legislative branch. Veto. Veto override. Supermajorities. Judicial review. And yet I can think of nothing the American people have wanted intensely and protractedly that they did not eventually get.
The world understands. A world most of whose people live under governments they wish were capable of gridlock, that we always have more to fear from government speed than government tardiness. We are told that one must not be a party of “NO.” To “NO” I say an emphatic “YES!” For two reasons. The reason that almost all “improvements” make matters worse is that most new ideas are false. Second: the most beautiful five words in the English language are the first five words of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law.”
On Sunday the Washington Post reported, more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger:
According to congressional records, there have been fewer than 60 public laws enacted in the first 11 months of this year, so below the previous low in legislative output that officials have already declared this first session of the 113th Congress the least productive ever. In 1995, when the newly empowered GOP congressional majority confronted the Clinton administration, 88 laws were enacted, the record low in the post-World War II era.
Mark Twain is quoted as saying: “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.“ Will Rogers said: “This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.”
Gridlock is a FEATURE, not a BUG.