The Time Has Come for a Transpartisan ‘Repeal’ Caucus
The federal government’s decadeslong war on marijuana, one of the most life-mangling policies ever enacted, could be ended with a single sentence: The Controlled Substances Act shall not apply to marijuana.
Put it in a bill, vote on the bill, pass the bill, sign the bill, done. Much of the federal government’s drug war law enforcement machinery would grind to a halt. No legislative horse-trading, no Christmas tree–style gifts to favored constituencies, no giving old bureaucracies new responsibilities. Just the simple and urgent removal of the legal justification for grievous government harm.
This elegant approach, redolent of the 21st Amendment‘s repeal of federal alcohol prohibition, is untenable to big-government lifers like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.), as Jacob Sullum has repeatedly detailed in these pages. But it’s the shortest line to a point where a supermajority of Americans want policy to be. And it’s a template that could and should be used, at every level of government, by every flavor of politician.
The internet is filled with listicles (many of them dubiously sourced) of colorfully archaic states’ laws, about bouncing pickles or pronouncing Arkansas. A handful of states have law-revision commissions that go hunting for such deadwood in the legal code.
But there are more pressing outrages on the books right now whose speedy removal would reduce state-sanctioned injustice and relieve some of the immiserations of centrally-planned folly. A cross-partisan caucus of politicians, staffers, activists, commentators, and other professionals in the disreputable world of politics could and should band together on a case-by-case basis, identifying bad and harmful laws and regulations on the books, and propose direct legislative repeals.
The “Repeal” Caucus could rally around existing legislation—like the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, or the repeal of the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iraq. It could make and popularize the consistent and compelling argument that these anachronistic laws are used to inflict tangible damage on human beings. And then having gained a few victories and built some muscle memory, Repealers could go on to explore the joys of bad-law removal across the superstructure of government.
Among the many laws and regulations ripe for the excision:
* The Jones Act. A perennial libertarian target (oh look, here’s another damning Cato Institute study from this week!), this protectionist 1920 law prohibits non-American ships from carrying cargo between two American ports, including far-flung islands in U.S. territories such as Hawaii and Guam. The result? Jacked up prices for basically all goods shipped to those destinations, including comparatively poor Puerto Rico. All to protect the builders and owners of fewer than 100 American ships.
Here, let’s let Capt. Andrew Heaton explain.
* Similarly, the Foreign Dredge Act of 1906 requires dredging ships to be American-built/owned/manned, thereby making t
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