Kevin Drum correctly points out the increasing complexity of laws passed by Congress and the reasons behind this trend. Steven Taylor extends the analysis, noting that the very structure of our political system virtually guarantees a host of special provisions.
I’d also point out the alternative: passing general legislation and allowing an unelected bureaucracy to fill in the details. Even with laws numbering in the hundreds of pages, we get an inordinate amount of that anyway. One shudders to think how much we’d get if Congress legislated more broadly.
Indeed, as unseemly as pork barrel “earmarked” projects are, they at least express the indirect will of the people via their elected representatives. This is probably preferable to putting the money in a pot and allowing it to be divvied up by various federal agencies on the basis of who wrote the most creative grant petititions.