Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:
Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman propose legislation that would, as you report, “tax carbon dioxide emissions produced by coal-fired power plants and other large polluters” (“Climate bill faces long odds, despite Obama speech,” June 16). This bill is called the “American Power Act.”
Hmmm. Because it’s unclear how taxing major sources of power will promote American power, this bill’s title is misleading. Pondering this fact reveals that too many statutes are known only by the happy clichés serving as their titles – for example, the “No Child Left Behind Act” or the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”
Such titling of legislation is dangerous. Proponents of, say, the “Patriot Act” can with great ease cynically and falsely portray all opponents as being unpatriotically hostile to mom, apple pie, and all else American.
So I propose my own statute: the “No Legislation Has a Title” act. This statute would prohibit each and every government employee from publicly referring to any bill or statute in ways other than by a number assigned to that statute. For instance, Sens. Kerry’s and Lieberman’s bill might be assigned the number 14 – in which case supporters (and opponents) of that bill would forevermore be obliged to call it only “Act 14.”
By stripping legislation of titles, each statute’s supporters would be under more pressure actually to articulate details of how the statute will operate. And citizens would be more likely to investigate each statute’s contents rather than simply to assume that statutes will achieve the goals announced by disingenuous titles.
Donald J. Boudreaux