I have been thinking about the ways special interest groups are attempting to promote their agendas of late. I believe one of the most insidious of these methods is the attempt to legislate by redefinition. I know my fellow bloggers are aware of my opinion of those who would change the definition of a word to provide a legislative shortcut to groups or individuals to spare them the tedium of going through the legislative process.
For those who are not, I believe that to create legislative shortcuts by changing the definition of a commonly accepted word is the height of irresponsibility. (i.e. Instead of asking congress to make a new law, you simply change the definition of a term in an existing law so that it now includes/excludes the group, individual, company or government agency that is affected by that law.) This creates huge problems, not the least of which is the potential to completely redefine our government and society without so much as a "by-your-leave" on the part of the people.
If the definition of a word is changed in order to gain benefits from existing legislation, then doesn't that change the definition for all existing legislation containing that word? Even if the definition change is strictly worded to be appended to only one or two existing laws, how does that affect the process of writing legislation? How could a legislator possibly craft a bill in such a way that the meaning of the terms in it could never be changed to twist the intent of the legislation to something else entirely? If our words cannot be depended upon to mean only what they meant when written, then our Constitution and all it contains becomes just so much clay to be twisted and molded according to the whims of the day.
That said, how can such an insidious practice be stopped? I propose that we ask our legislators to craft legislation requiring that when the legal definition of a word is changed,(particularly when it is changed for the sole purpose of granting a legislative shortcut) all legislation that will be affected by that change, (Yes, in some cases, that would be every piece of legislation containing that word.), must be reviewed and have that word changed to a term or phrase that means the same as the original word but that does not include the changed definition. This would preserve the intent of the original law in a way that illuminates the flaws in the practice of legislation by redefinition. It would also discourage those who wish to gain legislative shortcuts in this manner while safeguarding our founding documents from such disastrous meddling.
This may seem cumbersome, but I cannot see any other way of protecting our current system from the havoc that legislating by redefinition will cause. If we allow one word to be redefined, where will it end? Shall we redefine "marriage"? What about "adult", "man", “woman" or "family? You know Rover there is a member of the family, it's a shame he can't get health insurance through Daddy's work too. Why stop there? Let's redefine "land", "building", and "vehicle". How much trouble could be made with that?
To allow this to become an acceptable practice would invalidate our government entirely. Our current system may take a long time to make the changes certain groups would like to have, but that is not a good enough reason to undermine it in this irresponsible fashion. If, on the other hand, this is merely another attempt to subvert the will of the people, then it is clearly our duty as citizens to make such shady dealings impossible.