When it comes to new law, less is almost always more


In “Civil Disobedience,” his great work on the duty of all men to rebel against unjust governments, American philosopher and noted recluse Henry David Thoreau said, “I heartily accept the motto – That government is best which governs least.”

It was his notion that we are not served well by lawmakers who are elected and then get busy passing laws to regulate our lives and thereby justify their own existence. We are best served by lawmakers who get elected and then spend their time defending the freedoms we already have by not making new laws to regulate our behavior.

Thoreau’s contemporary and friend, writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, put forth a similar notion in an essay titled “Politics.”

“Hence the less government we have the better,” Emerson wrote, “the fewer laws and the less confided power.”

In certain parts of the country, local lawmakers and libertarian thinkers are still elected and serve long careers on the basic platform that once in office, they will keep their lawmaking to a bare minimum. They are modern-day Thoreau and Emerson philosophers to the core.

That is certainly not the case in New Jersey, the nanny state, where many freshman members of the Assembly and Senate are so excited to have won the vote and gained office that they bury their colleagues in proposed bills and laws. Thankfully for all of us, most of that legislation dies before it takes its first real breath.

For the last several weeks, Greater Media reporter Chris Gaetano and managing editor Karl Vilacoba have been working on a project to look at the records of the men and women who served our coverage area in the Assembly and Senate during the 2006-07 legislative session.

The results of that research will appear in some of our papers this week, and others next, but I’m pretty sure it will surprise you. I know it surprised all of us.

The happy fact is, very few of the bills proposed by these folk actually become law. The most efficient of our lawmakers (if you define efficiency by the ability to make new law) have a batting average of bills proposed vs. bills enacted that would keep them in the minor leagues forever if they were baseball players. Some of them, who have floated hundreds of bills, have not seen a single item enacted into law. Most die in committee or on the floor. And it doesn’t really matter which party they belong to. The batting averages of both Republicans and Democrats are mercifully low.

It was not our intent in this project to measure, or suggest, success or failure on the part of our representatives. We only wanted to take a close look at the numbers and let readers make their own decision.

I’ve looked at those numbers and made my decision. I don’t believe the best legislator is the one who proposes 25 bills and sees 10 enacted into law, or one who proposes 70 and sees 10 to a successful conclusion. Like Thoreau, I think the perfect legislator is the one who proposes few laws and passes none. Slightly less perfect is the legislator who proposes lots of bills, but is completely shut out when the last inning ends.

Take a look at our special report, and you’ll see who those shining examples of legislative inspiration are. David W. Wolfe and Jennifer Beck, come on down!

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For the last couple of years, I’ve taken aim in this column at certain anonymous bloggers who are completely happy to trash the reputations of other people, but lack the courage to put their names to their opinions and thereby accept responsibility for their vitriolic babble.

I hold one of those bloggers, who writes under the name of da Truth Squad, in special contempt. This blogger, who tortures the language, lies and snipes like a drygulcher from hiding, is a despicable, vicious human being and a true coward.

While I’ve had my suspicions about the identity of da Truth Squad, I haven’t written about them, promising myself that if the blogger’s identity was ever proved and revealed I would give him, her, or them a thorough skewering.

Last week, however, an attorney named Daniel McCarthy – who is representing Manalapan in a malpractice lawsuit against former Township Attorney Stuart Moskovitz – claimed in court papers that Moskovitz is da Truth Squad.

Moskovitz is a consummate gamesman, manipulator and political operative, but I don’t know if McCarthy is correct in his accusations. I imagine the truth will eventually be determined in court, and the author (authors?) will be subject to libel actions for the lies and slanders that appeared on da Truth Squad site and others under the squad’s pen name.

Is Moskovitz da Truth Squad?

McCarthy says definitively that he is. Moskovitz says definitively that he is not, and went so far as to accuse McCarthy of being the anonymous blogger, who “fabricated those postings for the sole purpose of accusing me of making them.”

He says McCarthy’s claims are “false, outlandish, insupportable (sic) and sanctionable,” which, ironically, would adequately describe almost everything da Truth Squad ever published.

Here’s a coincidence, however. As of yesterday (Aug. 30), da Truth Squad’s site on blogspot.com had been taken down and was unavailable. A post the next day said the Squad (like a herpes outbreak) would be back in the fall.

That’s too bad. Whoever this miserable baconhead (of the year) might be, I wish he’d stay gone.

• • •

I was troubled by a recent story in The New York Times about a trial program in China that would require 12.4 million residents of Shenzhen to carry sophisticated identity cards with a data chip that would include a trove of personal information about the bearer, right down to his or her medical insurance status, police record, personal productivity record, religion and landlord’s phone number.

Human rights activists, naturally, say the identity card program represents a huge threat to personal freedom and privacy.

Here’s my question. In 1980, then-president Jimmy Carter boycotted the Olympic Games in Moscow, in large part because of that country’s human rights record and his fear that the Soviets would turn the games into a festival of propaganda.

At this point, China’s record on human rights is every bit as bad, or worse, than Russia’s was in 1980. And if nobody in America is talking about boycotting the 2008 summer Olympic Games in Beijing in protest of China’s record on that important front, they darned sure ought to be.

Gregory Bean is executive editor of

Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach

him at [email protected].