How One Person Can Change the World

JerrolLeBaronby Bruce Price   12/10/13
Here’s the story of a man who decided: “This needs doing, and I’m doing it.” All too often, Congress (and the states) vote on bills that no one has read. Most infamously, Obama’s healthcare bill was 2400 pages long and we still don’t know what it says. Nancy Pelosi suggested, “We have to pass this bill so we can find out what’s in there.” For a long time, this has been common at all levels from city to federal.

Everyone agreed this practice was outrageous, undemocratic, un-American, and just plain unacceptable. But there wasn’t a rule anywhere that said you couldn’t do it.

And that’s where Jerrol LeBaron decided he was mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it anymore. Heretofore, LeBaron was a well-behaved denizen of Hollywood. He operated a website for script writers. He was not political. But enough is enough. He–single-handedly, armed only with a sense of righteousness and lots of optimism–would force politicians to conduct themselves at a higher level.

LeBaron’s idea was so elemental, the justice of his cause was so obvious, how could he fail? He would write up a short bill called Honor in Office, and present it to the country. Everyone would see that this was a wise innovation; and Congress (and the states) would turn this bill into law.

There was one problem. Congressional people (and politicians generally) don’t like to be told what to do. They especially don’t want to be forced to read bills with hundreds or even thousands of pages.

LeBaron’s bill also demanded that We The People should have the right to see the final versions of every bill long before the vote. So we know exactly what Congress is up to. (Note that Obama promised that his bills would be posted on the Internet five days before the vote. He broke this promise.)

LeBaron had worked in the construction industry, then owned a jewelry store, and now he was running InkTip.com, which helps writers and producers connect. For some reason this wasn’t enough and Jerrol LeBaron decided he would buy a van and spend many months touring the country and collecting signatures on behalf of his crusade.

He had little money. He started in North Dakota because it’s a small state population-wise and he had a better chance of getting something on the ballot. He knew almost nobody.

He had created a website called HonorInOffice.org. where people can learn about his proposal. And once he’d been on tour for a while, he decided he could produce a good documentary, to be called Fools on the Hill, which premiered in December, 2011 (foolsonthehillmovie.com).

Here we come to a remarkable statistic. LeBaron visited every congressional office in the country. That would be 535 offices.

All of this was done because Jerrol LeBaron thought that our leaders shouldn’t vote on bills they hadn’t read. Here was something that needed fixing and he was going to fix it. Nobody was pushing him, or even encouraging him. He decided he would be a citizen activist in the finest tradition and put himself on the line. Way out on the line.

I had placed some scripts on LeBaron’s site and still got announcements. Suddenly, circa 2009, I started receiving updates about something entirely different, Honor in Office. At this point I’ve been following the project for about three years, both bemused by the quixotic aspects and impressed by his perseverance.

Sent questions about how he judges his progress, LeBaron answered: “Most of this crusade was a learning experience. This is the first time I’ve ever done a march on Congress. We did visit every single congressional office. We did have tour buses specifically pass by our demonstration and slow down so that everybody could read the signs. However, in terms of really making a dent in getting Congress to actually do their jobs, I have a lot more work to do.”

I then asked if he knew then what he knows now, would he have started in the first place?

“I knew it was going to be very difficult from the start. I didn’t realize it would be extremely difficult if not almost impossible. And yes, I would have started it anyway. It has to be done and somebody has to do it. So, I am doing it.”

Finally, I asked what is the single best accomplishment to come out of this crusade?

“Visiting every single congressional office and letting them know what we expected. It was very interesting. When we would visit the office and tell them why we were there, word spread like wildfire through the office! So there was some impact. Just not enough.”

Honor in Office continues. Check out the videos, etc. and if you like what LeBaron is doing, join his campaign.

An unforgettable aspect, of course, is that a single solitary US citizen decided, I’m going to change the country all by myself. Then what do you know? He actually followed through. He tried. He is trying now.
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Bruce Deitrick Price explains education theories and methods on his site Improve-Education.org • (1428 views)

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8 Responses to How One Person Can Change the World

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    It would probably require a constitutional amendment. As it happens, there was a provision in the Confederate constitution requiring that all bills be very simple. A similar provision would be useful today.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I read a little about Jerrol’s Big Adventure on his site. He visited the offices of every Congressional district. The impression I got (by his own admission) is that he created very little impact.

      But the bigger impression I was left with (deduced not from Jerrol, but from the culture at large) is that Congress is a moral and intellectual wasteland. It is simply beyond the ken of most of these people to have a noble idea.

  2. faba calculo says:

    I’m not sure that, as posed, this would be possible to do or even desirable.

    Consider this. There are two ways to write a bill: in legalese, which, when read by non-lawyers, is not particularly meaningful; or in common language, which means that the technical details would likely fall to the bureaucracy to decide. And despite the fact that I work for the federal bureaucracy (or perhaps because I do), I’m not sure this would be a good idea either. Furthermore, there’s the small matter of enforcement. How do you find out whether or not your congressmanperson actually read it? And what do you do to him if he didn’t?

    As an alternative, we might require that everyone read the chairman’s mark of each bill. At least in the Senate, each bill has an accompanying chairman’s mark, which is a version of the bill written in plain language and which follows the same structure as the bill (i.e., it’s isn’t just that the mark says what the bill means, it’s also that each section of the mark says what each section of the bill means). I’m certainly no expert on marks, but as I recall, the one for Obamacare was about 10% as long as the actual bill in pages (possibly a larger percentage when measured in words).

    The problem then would be that the marks have no legal standing. You could say one thing in the mark and then say something else entirely in the law itself. Therefore, the mark should be given legal standing. If someone felt that the law contradicted the mark to a significant degree, that law would be challengeable in court.

    There would be drawbacks to this approach, of course. With marks now having legal standing in court, they themselves would start to become more legalistically written themselves. If this process continued far enough, the marks would then lose their original value. Furthermore, the courts would become more involved in the legislation process.

    However, unless the problems disturb you more than an even more empowered bureaucracy and/or a Congress that is even more lawyer-heavy than current ones, this would seem to be a viable alternative. Furthermore, in addition to making everyone in Congress read the bill, it would also allow the people to read binding versions of laws being proposed. And it would give citizens and/or citizen groups like think tanks (who have their own embedded lawyers, even if individual citizens don’t) the standing to compel Congress to explain things upfront.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      One cannot force congressthings to read bills, and probably not even to make them truly comprehensible. But they could be required to allow enough time for them (and interested laypeople, such as Betsy McCaughey researching Obamacare) to read these bills (a delay based on bill length). The clock would start ticking from the time the bill was publicly posted in its final form.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said, Timothy. But the real issue is that these large, non-read bills represent complete statism. It doesn’t matter what the bills say. It’s all about giving discretion to the state. And the larger and more incomprehensible these bills are, the more discretion that state has.

        And we see this in the many ways that Obama and Congress work against the rule of law (this includes both parties), especially in the way Obamacare itself is being haphazardly administered. There is no rule-of-law going on here.

        And we, the people, are getting used to this state of affairs. We’re getting very close to the point where it doesn’t matter what it says on any given piece of paper. The overriding principle is “equality,” “social justice,” or (as it typical with any statist regime) the naked acquisition of power (and the concomitant sadism in regards to punishing an endless list of supposed enemies). When law itself is of little or no consequence, we will be driven by the mob and by demagogues. We see those mean forces gathering even now.

        We’ve already let the cat out of the bag. This brave and noble person traveled the country and simply confirmed that the people in and around Congress are morally and intellectually dead.

      • faba calculo says:

        I doubt there is enough time in the year for anyone to read all the legislation that’s proposed in Congress every year. Hell, I’m not sure there’s enough time to read the budgets alone. Having to read every piece of legislation one must vote on would likely lower the volume of legislation, which may well be a good thing, but how much of a drop are we talking about?

        As for John Q. Public, where the ability (or lack thereof) to read legalese is another issue, I even more doubt that an entire year would be enough time to read all legislation being voted on by ones legislator, let alone all of them. For these reasons, I think it would be better to focus on the marks (and giving them legal status).

        • Timothy Lane says:

          All I would require is that there be time for each bill to be read, both by the legislators and the public. What they do with that time is their business. If nothing else, it would encourage smaller bills, since the delay before they could be passed would be smaller.

          • faba calculo says:

            I guess it isn’t such a big deal if you require that there be enough time to read the bill in question as opposed to there being enough time to read ALL the bills that are to be voted on. The former would certainly be manageable, the latter not so much.

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