Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Why are laws and regulations overly complex and incomprehensible?

Ask yourself, who benefits from complex, incomprehensible laws?  In virtually every instance, at least two groups always benefit: the lawyers/legal profession, and the politicians/political class.  And when the law is directed at economic activity, there's usually some number of businesses that also benefit.

Peter Schweizer, a Fellow at the Hoover Institution and political commentator, has a new book out that is receiving rave reviews.  It's entitled, "Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets" and in it, he provides an answer to the question posted above:
Why are laws so complex and often incomprehensible? Schweizer notes that by writing them this way, they are subject to interpretation, which benefits the permanent political class in several ways. Staffers who write the laws often “cash in” by taking high-priced jobs advising firms covered by the laws on how to comply.

Incomprehensible laws also create substantial discretion on enforcement, and Schweizer gives lots of evidence to support the view that political cronies often escape enforcement, while political enemies are targeted. People who pay in to PACs and political campaigns can avoid enforcement actions that are targeted at those who do not.
The excerpt is from a valuable review of Schweizer's book at The Beacon by Randall Holcombe.  Holcombe's review is educational in its own right and definitely worth a read.