But, even assuming we could force legislators to read the bills, would that lead to better government? Maybe not. Carper had a point when he said that modern legislative language “is so arcane, so confusing…[that] it really doesn’t make much sense.”

If congressmen had to read what they passed, they might draft shorter, more comprehensible bills. But one way to do that is by punting yet more lawmaking authority to the permanent bureaucracy, which can then issue its own mammoth set of unintelligible rules. That hardly solves the problem.

A better idea can be found in a resolution recently introduced by Sen. Jim Bunning, R-KY, requiring all new legislation to be posted online for 72 hours before consideration. That could put the distributed intelligence of the web to work, ferreting out the many devils in the details of proposed laws.

However, that’s still just treating symptoms. Federal law has become incomprehensible because Congress has inserted itself into every area of American life.