"The internal effects of a mutable policy are [...] calamitous.
It poisons the blessings 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if they be repealed before they are promulgated,
or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows
what the law is today can guess what it will be tomorrow."
by:
James Madison
(1751-1836), Father of the Constitution for the USA, 4th US President
Source:
"Federalist" # 62, in The Federalist (Indianapolis: Modern Library and National Foundation for Education in American Citizenship, n.d.), p. 406
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Reader comments about this quote:
200+ years and still a bullseye. Voluminous says it all, especially for the tax code. Talk about incoherent!
 -- Joe, Rochester, MI     
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    Supreme Court members should be required to read, and swear to understand, this before every court session. Perhaps they would be less tempted to constantly fantasize about the meaning of the clear English language in which the Constitution is written.
     -- S. Engel, Fredericksburg     
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    Only men of great understanding and vision could be responsible for drafting the governing Constitution of a Nation of, by and for the people. We would do well with such men/women in government today.
     -- KS. , Queensbury,NY.     
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    Such voluminous rule making is the cause of chaos and rule of man (as averse to rule of law) rule breaking; which in turns inspires more voluminous rule making that causes more ... (a very vicious cycle) Returning to such an envisioned Representative Republic would help to eliminate compelled compliance, license, victimless crimes, theft of the noble laborer's fruits, forced charity - ID - insurance, etc.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    We have arrived! Never to return.
     -- A.Jurgensen, Stuart, FL     
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    It is almost as if he was writing about the tax code and the IRS. No greater infringement on liberty and privacy exists in hthis country. Both must abolished if we are ever to be free again. FairTax.org
     -- helorat, Milton     
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     -- Robert, Sarasota      
    S. Engel suggests that "Supreme Court members should required to read...[and] understand" this quote; the legislators are the ones who should understand this, they make the laws.
     -- victor, Southern Utah     
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    Heck, Congress doesn't even read the bills they pass. NAFTA is 20,000+ pages long and is one of the most sweeping pieces of legislation ever enacted by Congress. (Check out the link on the right to visit the 'Read the Bills Act Coalition' -- good stuff and non-partisan.) There are so many rules now, everyone of us is in violation of something.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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     -- Anonymous      
    It would be a great service to the nation if the teachers union would instruct their denizens to familiarize children with true libertarian thought than distract them with social justice and their sexual orientation etc. They could be reading Madison instead of Heather Has 2 Mommies.
     -- H Rearden, Burr Ridge ILL     
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    More sunset clauses please.
     -- anonymous     
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    James Madison must have had a crystal ball enabling him to see into the 21st Century. Our tax code, Obamacare and hundreds of other acts are so long, so complicated and so unnecessary that they could only have been passed without our legislators even reading them.
     -- Nadine Keilholz, Cary, NC     
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    James Madison was very profound in this eye opening statement.
    We have been taken down the garden path laid out by violators and usurpers of this nation's ONLY Supreme Rule of Law. But,
    I take heart in those who are awakening to the dire consequences of letting the hard fought for freedoms and liberties slip through their hands.
    It is up to the individual and We The People to keep tolling the bell of freedom .. whether young or old.
    If you have laid down and given up then you my friend are part and parcel of the problem ... because, eternal vigilance and standing stalwart was the great example of this sovereign nation's founders. The founders were not ACQUI-YES-SIRS and neither should we be.
     -- Mary - MI     
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    Was Madison speaking of Obamcare, or what?
     -- George Hollister, Comptche     
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    It is not a crystal ball that gave them great insight, But the Word of God. The King James Bible. A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education, Walk softly and carry a big stick. Guess who ? Thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck, Song of Solomon 4:9, which is in one accord with Psalm 32:8, I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Also Psalm 33:18. puts it to the point ! The eye of guidance and the chain of time. Or as The apostle Paul, our apostle puts it. God provides the RULE. And it is much longer than seven thousands years. This is in one accord with the hidden arm of God that President Washington refers to. He drew comfort , however , from the fact that the Almighty Being had overseen America's birth. " No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the affairs of men, more than the people of the United States " This also in one accord with Isaiah 51:5 and the prophecy of our coming nation. By way of the isles. My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust. These things, the eye and the chain are passed down from generation to generation, so says the LORD. Eye opening statement is right Mary.
     -- watchman 13, USA     
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    Good question. I think if all the people who vote to 'Kick" all the dumb "ass" politicos out, then we have some relief from the stupidity in Washington. We need new blood with rational thinking.
     -- Paul Edwards, Indian Head     
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