Founders Turning in their Graves
By Pierre Lemieux
Especially on July 4, James Madison must be turning in his grave. Here is one reason, among others.
The Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States lists all tariffs imposed by the U.S. government. Revision 8 of the 2019 edition, dated July 2019, contains 3,882 pages. You can download it from the United States International Trade Commission.
To be fair, the Harmonized Tariff Schedule also contains tariffs at a zero rate, that is, tariffs that could be imposed but are not for the moment.
These 3,882 pages of tariff details add to the Code of Federal Regulations’ more than 185,000 pages. (This last figure is from Clyde Wayne Crews, “Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State,” Competitive Enterprise Institute, 2019, p. 18).
I understand that James Madison is now recognized as the author of Federalist #62 (it used to be debated whether it was Alexander Hamilton instead), but any other author among the Founders would probably also turn in his grave. Madison wrote:
The internal effects of a mutable policy are still more calamitous. It poisons the blessing of liberty itself. It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?
Erratum: I erased two sentences from this post after a reader indicated a bad error I made in calculating (and greatly overestimating) the disk space occupied by the Harmonized Tariff Schedule. I don’t think it changes my main points. Sorry.