The Constitution is the primary law of the United States of America. This law consists of seven articles with a total volume of 4.5 thousand words. It has been amended 27 times since its adoption in 1787. The Constitution has less than ten thousand words, even when combined with all the amendments. Anyone can read it in less than an hour.
The Constitution governs The US political institutions, and in Article 1 has given legislative powers to the US Congress. US Congress includes both the House of Representatives and The Senate. The people of the United States elect their representatives, who work the whole year to propose and approve laws on behalf of their constituents. These representatives must ensure that the new regulations do not contradict the Constitution and reflect the people’s will.
The official records of the Acts of Congress are called the United States Statutes at Large. How large are they? During the first one hundred and eight years of its existence, every Congress published their documents and put them in the archives. The first attempt to codify the great mass of accumulating legislation lasted ten years and failed in 1907. They published the first and second edition of the US Code in 1926 and 1934, respectively. Since then, every six years, the representatives meet to update the Code of Laws of the United States of America (the US Code). Their task is to identify the changes made by Congress since the last “main edition” was published and to read all the new Statutes at Large and make the corresponding changes to the US Code chapters. The official Code was last printed in 2018.
The US Code consists of 52 titles, and each of these titles has chapters, subchapters, parts, sections, paragraphs, and clauses. Such an organization allows a lawyer or any citizen to locate and refer to a provision in the US Code and locate the correct statement in a very lengthy legal document.
How large is the US Code?
Few people know the answer to this question, but one can easily find this out. “The office of the law revision counsel” (OLRC) publishes the Code on the US government website, and anyone can download it and count the words. We have done that recently; the United States Code’s current version contains over 43 million words.
Distances on a cosmic scale are too vast for our conventional measurements. That is why astronomers use lightyears to measure cosmic distances. A lightyear is a distance that light would cross in one year (about 5.88 trillion miles). It is much easier to discuss the size of the universe in that scale. For example, the closest neighboring star, Proxima Centauri, is 4.3 lightyears away from the sun. The nearest galaxy is a little further away: 2.5 million lightyears.
The size of texts is often measured in minutes-to-read. For example, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” contains 88,305 words. The average reader can finish this book in a day, but most of us cannot afford to dedicate eight hours a day just for reading. A large book will tire you out and make you read slower. A complex language or a complicated subject will take even more time. What is the most massive fiction book you can imagine? Lord of the Rings? War and Peace? No, we now have a much better example. If you add up all seven books of Harry Potter, you get 1,084,170 words; that is one million words and similarly The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The Harry Potter is about the same size as The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and War and Peace combined.
The current version of the Code of Laws of the United States of America is the size of 39HP.
Take a breath and read it again!
A text of that size is unimaginable. That is more than the Encycopædia Britannica. A theoretical person will need two years to read that much fiction literature (200 words per minute, five hours a day, seven days a week). In the case of technical documents, this time will increase to 7-8 years. But since we are talking about legal documents, the time it takes to read them will go up to 15-20 years. The reality is that all these estimates are meaningless; no one can read so much text. It is just impossible. The USA Code, the Federal Public Law by which all Americans live, is physically unreadable!
There is ‘some mistake,’ you might think. That cannot be true. If in doubt, then go ahead, download all these files from the government website, and count the words yourself. You will find the link at the bottom of this article. Warning, these 58 files require 600MB of disk space.
How is it possible?
The first US Congress opened in 1789. And by 1905 (shortly before they first tried to put together a code), the entire accumulated volume of Statutes at Large was about 2 million words (1.9HP). By the time the first version of the Code was published, the Statutes at Large had grown to 5 million words (4.6HP). The graph below shows the growth in the cumulative volume of the Grand Code from the first Congress until today:
The volume of accumulated texts of the Statutes at Large has already passed the 129HP mark (140 million words). One hundred twenty-nine Harry Potters. Keep in mind that we are talking only about federal law. There are also regulations, executive orders, and presidential directives. Moreover, every state issues its ‘own’ laws and regulations. The local government also does not hesitate to add its own legislation. These are not just historical documents. It is the active law that defines what every US citizen can and cannot do. If you violate any of these rules and regulations, the government can charge you a fine, place you under arrest, and, in some cases, even execute you. Think about it: we, citizens of the most liberal country in the entire world, live by a law that NO ONE CAN READ!
How did it happen?
Look at the chart above. For the first 128 years, each US Congress produced a reasonable number of documents (an average of 50 thousand words per term). But the picture changed dramatically in 1917. The 65th Congress published 561 thousand words. The 67th one has produced 958 thousand words (0.9HP). Since then, no congress has posted less than a million words. The only exception was the 96th Congress, which was 145 thousand words shy of the million:
Between 2013 and 2015, the 113th Congress gave birth to an 8HP monster (nearly 9 million words). The current Congress is on the path to break this record. Something happened in our country just before 1917. Some event or events that fundamentally changed the way our country is functioning. Something was the reason why we, the US citizens, changed the way we treat the legislative process, how we build and use our government.
The beginning of the last century was turbulent not only for the United States but also for the entire world. However, we are confident that only two factors can explain these incredible changes.
The first of these dates to 1909; US Congress passed the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which it ratified in 1913. Here is its full text:
The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
In 1913, the US government imposed the first progressive income tax scale with a maximum tax rate of 7%. As you know, all taxes collected by the Federal Government are spent at the discretion of Congress. In other words, the US congressmen got their hands on an inexhaustible source of money. From that day on, our legislative branch of government had a new job. As Will Rogers said: “The difference between death and taxes is death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.”
But that is not all. Another event began a revolution that will gradually but fundamentally change the world as we know it. Since Marconi invented the radio in the 1890s, his invention began to enhance the communication industry. In 1913, there were 322 licensed radio amateurs in the United States; by 1917, that number had grown to 13,581. In 1923, there were 556 radio stations in the United States, and by 1940 there were already 765 of them. The Federal Communications Commission issued their first licenses for commercial television in the USA in 1941.
The mass media has forever changed the way we receive information. But most importantly, the media have changed the way we propagate it. Advertising is becoming an integral part of any business. But if it is possible to spend money to convince people to buy something that profits you, then why not spend money to persuade them to vote the way that benefits you? Politicians need money to get elected, and those who are elected get full control over how your money is spent. The combination of progressive income tax and the technical evolution of mass media changed not only what kind of people we send to Congress, but how we decide who gets our vote:
Now we know what happened. Back in 1913, our country was turned into a machine for filling pockets of corrupt politicians, crooks, and thieves. The people of the United States were too busy building the world’s greatest economy to notice that fraud. Today, people begin waking up. Over the past hundred years, greedy legislators have ruined our legal system, corrupted all government branches, and forced our country into enormous debt. They are doing all that to get rich without hard work and to gain power without talent. It is time to change that.
Frequently Asked Questions
|Q. What do we care about all these old texts? Most of them were only valid for a short time.|
|The Statutes at Large indeed include both public and private law. However, only “general and permanent” laws get inserted into the US Code. It does not include provisions that apply only to a limited number of people (a private law) or limited time, such as most appropriation acts or budget laws, which apply only for a single fiscal year. Also, considering the unimaginable size of these documents, there is every reason to believe that the US code contains many errors.|
|Q. Isn’t it true that the US Code supposed to be large? After all, it includes many provisions related to select cases and particular groups of people.|
|Most of the laws do not apply to you, but every rule applies to someone. How can you be sure you are not breaking any law right now without reading and understanding the entire Code of law? Plus, what does not apply to you today may be relevant in the future. How can you make any decision without knowing and understanding all the laws?|
|Q. Why bother to read the law? We have an army of lawyers who will do this for us.|
|Indeed, we have an army of lawyers. Their services are in demand and, therefore, expensive. As we can see, for many years now, their services have been a kind of fraud. Do not kid yourself. No one can read 129HP of legal texts. No one can even read 39HP of legal texts. Only computers can process this amount of data, but no program (yet) can understand what these documents are saying. We are on our own when we face that sea of information.|
|Q. I want to verify all the facts. Where can I download all these documents?|
You can download the full and current version of the US Code from this page: https://uscode.house.gov/download/download.shtml
Library of Congress. United States Statutes at Large. Congress 1-82. Years 1789-1951: https://www.loc.gov/law/help/statutes-at-large/
United States Statutes at Large (vol 65-127) Congress 82-113. Years 1951-2013: https://www.govinfo.gov/app/collection/statute
The Feredal Register contains the most current documents and updates them daily. Starting Mar 1936: https://www.govinfo.gov/app/collection/fr