Liberty Impact Statements

It is probable that most excessive legal restrictions occur, not due to bad intentions, but simply because the impact on liberty is never seriously considered when new laws are passed. American liberty is treated like a kind of endless resource that can be chipped away at over and over again whenever some other concern seems "important." Even if that may have once been true, it is no longer. As new laws pile up on the books every year, our liberty is disappearing at an alarming rate. More and more people are starting to feel it.

To assure due consideration of the effect on American liberty when new laws are proposed, the legislature should be required to provide a "Liberty Impact Statement" (similar to an environmental impact statement) for all new laws affecting liberty. This Liberty Impact Statement would be based on an assessment process not unlike the routine budget-impact assessments that Congress already gets from the Congressional Budget Office. For a new law to become effective, the Liberty Impact Statement would be required to show, based on substantial evidence, that the three requirements of strict scrutiny are met (a compelling governmental interest, narrow tailoring, least restrictive alternative).

The Liberty Impact Statement process will not guarantee that unjustified impingements on individual freedom will never occur, but it would at least assure that the impact of laws on liberty gets more than the scant attention that it often receives today.

Congress would hardly consider passing a law having serious budget consequences without first getting a careful and objective review of fiscal impact from the Congressional Budget Office. The costs that new laws impose on American liberty are just as important if no more so.


More laws = Less liberty
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