In a discussion of the struggling Immigration Reform Bill, George Will tells about the Compromise of 1850. Henry Clay worked it out, but the bill that would implement it–dealing with scores of inter-related issues, such as limiting the spread of slavery, statehood for California, the mode of territorial government for Utah, what to do about fugitive slaves, and on and on–could never get passed. It was up to Stephen Douglas, better known as Lincoln’s nemesis, to get the legislation through. He broke the gargantuan bill apart into smaller bills, each of which found its own constituency, and each of which passed.
Mr. Wills says that part of the problem in our paralyzed government is that bills are just too long. They try to cover everything. Which is a symptom of a government that thinks it knows everything. [Read more…]