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russell lester

Orchardist, Grange

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Should US laws have expiration dates?

There are a number of laws that are passed in this country and that over time with the change of issues importance become less relevant or irrelevant yet remain on the books unless actively repealed. Would it be better to have laws automatically be reviewed every 10 or 20 or even 50 years? Should the sitting congress not renew them, or the sitting president not sign them then they would no longer be in effect. What laws would be exempted from this if any? What laws would you wish to see with such a expiration date? Why? Why do you not like / like this idea?


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  • Jan 9 2013: The US already has laws with expiration dates, such as laws on tax rates and the patriot act, as far as I'm aware this is very uncommon (though not non-existent) in the rest of the world. Obviously laws that deal with ethics should be exempt from having expiration dates and with America's political division its questionable whether any law should have an expiration date at all. I believe its better to take a good look at a law BEFORE passing it, then the travesties of justice that are DOMA, the patriot act and the ban on marijuana would not be here in the first place. Maybe if American politicians started acting less like Taliban mullahs and ignorant jocks ("who needs science anyway?") and more like experts and states(wo)men there would be no need for expiration dates.
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      Jan 9 2013: I respectfully disagree. With the rate at which society is evolving due to the internet and technology it is almost a necessity to revisit laws at regular intervals to see if they are still relevant. Just thinking how much has changed in the last decade in regards to societal norms one would have to say that the law is seriously behind the times. Requiring a standard review of laws on every from local to federal government would be prudent.

      As far as putting expiration dates on laws I think that is a slippery slope. I think a required review of the body of law at regular intervals would be a better course of action.
      • Jan 10 2013: And I'm arguing that legislators in the past who let themselves be guided by "societal norms" were incompetent in the first place. Nothing becomes right or wrong when popular opinion changes, something was always right or always wrong and if our legislators (and voters) aren't enlightened enough to see that then we might as well have a dictatorship. Of course there are laws that are just practical and have nothing to do with right or wrong and they should change over time, you can have expiration dates on those, but enlightened legislators wouldn't need them.
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          Jan 10 2013: Maybe societal norms was not the best phrasing that I could have used. My thought is that the review of laws at required intervals will address problems that arise due to society advancing faster then those laws.

          Also reviewing law would serve to show holes or areas of law that are necessary and are not currently on the books. My initial thought was regarding prescription pain pill abuse. The law is seriously lacking in proper punishments for people that abuse such substances. Just one example of how a review of law could serve to bring that law more in line with the times.

          As an aside, I disagree that right and wrong is a black and white concept that "enlightened" men and women should be able to write legislation regarding any issue with no problems. The grey area between right and wrong is often seriously difficult to navigate and when legislators inevitably get it wrong sometimes (they are human after all) it's not an issue of incompetence, its an issue of their own humanity. This applies to voters as well. A review of the law as society evolves will serve to revisit some of these issues and allow congress to reconsider their previous actions. I think this would serve the nation quite well.

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