Whether initially uttered by Bismarck, Saxe, or Johnson it bears repeating: Laws are like sausages. It’s best not to see them being made.
The Cybersecurity bill that failed Thursday to pass the Senate is an excellent example of ugly lawmaking. I’m not talking about the important debates over privacy vs security or regulation vs innovation; these might actually have been illuminating if carried out in the right spirit. When the bill gets re-introduced — as it surely will — let’s insist on an honest assessment of these issues and reject any arguments containing the word “crisis” or referring to trillions of dollars of losses due to cybercrime. (Let’s banish “cybercrime” from the vocabulary while we’re at it.) Let’s recognize that vendors of security systems have their share of expertise to bring to the table, but also a vested interest in scaring the crap out of a technophobic public and armies of lobbyists to carry their agenda to Congress. Let’s be sure to listen at least as carefully to people like Bruce Schneier, whose clear-eyed message is “Trust and reputation trump technology”. Or Cato’s Jim Harper, who observes that Cybersecurity will improve no matter what Congress does.
So, yes, the weeks of FUD-filled flapdoodle preceding the fatal filibuster were ugly, but worse was seeing the bill hijacked for use as a pre-season Christmas tree by zealots of the left and right for the display of opportunistic ornaments. Whether gun control from Senators Schumer and Lautenberg or abortion limits in the District of Columbia from Senator Lee, these amendments display a cynicism that helps explain why public approval of Congress is at an all-time low.
Let’s do better next time.