Every Legislation Should Have An Explicit Expiry Date

I believe parliaments should be mandated to set an expiry date for every new law they institute. Especially in times of crises. Once the expiry date is reached, the law is up for renegotiation. If it fails to get a second majority, the law is automatically reverted to the status quo ante and the rules that previously governed are put back in place. Don’t get me wrong: I am (Edit: at least for now…) perfectly fine with setting the expiry date to ‘never’ or ‘in 100 years’ for a specific bill. My point is that I want the date in any case to be in integral part of the process and a decision that lawmakers have to publicly justify.

In the wake of Covid-19 we see governments all around the world vastly expanding their powers far into the sphere previously protected by privacy and norms of the civil society. States can now more than ever put their citizens under mass surveillance, end protests, delay court rulings and detain citizens. Many of these new laws were hardly debated and rushed through legislation. For an overview see this article by the NY Times. And hardly any of these changes are as temporary as we wish they were. A norm to set expiry dates on every piece of legislation would solve or at least mitigate this problem very easily. Civil societies in most democracies would hardly tolerate authoritarian measures with an expiry date set to ‘never’ if setting a date was mandatory. These laws and measures would then have to be reconfirmed when all of this is over or else be reverted in due time.

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