21 Mar 2012

Sunset provisions

I am thinking that all laws should automatically lapse within 10 years.

What would happen if the EPA had to be re-authorized every ten years? The tax code?

The constitution would be exempt, so that means that freedom of speech, the income tax, and the right to an abortion would not be subject to these limits.

Your thoughts?

Does that make sense?


  1. That is not a good idea. Status quo bias is stronger than this kind of provision. Look at the Bush tax cuts which actually were designed to sunset after 10 years. They were extended twice now, but each time involved a crippling level of debate. Sound and fury, resulting in status quo. Why would it be different if you replace "Bush tax cuts" with "Clean Water Act" or the EPA?

    Now imagine if *every law* had to be renewed like that. We'd just be debating whether to renew laws constantly.

    So, yes if you think government should be crippled, it sounds like a great idea, but most people don't think that, so why would that majority allow this to happen?

  2. Having sunset clauses as a default in all new laws might be the happy medium. In that case, proponents of new laws would need to at least persuade present lawmakers that future generations should be bound (virtually in perpetuity) to the proposed law, as opposed to including the default sunset provision.

    I've long felt that this sort of debate would be good for our democratic institutions. But then, I also am not as discouraged by the prospect of constant debate over whether to renew laws... or "crippling" the government... as the previous comment suggests.

  3. Offsetting any potential benefits, I see *enormous* costs in the institutional lawmaking infrastructure required to do this, which raises risks that new replacement laws would be done poorly, with big opportunities for rent-seeking.

  4. Sri Vedachalam22 Mar 2012, 15:07:00

    It's funny, David. EPA does need to be re-authorized, but is regularly not, since funds are appropriated through other provisions and things seem to move on even without the re-authorization.


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