Wednesday, February 24, 2010

We're All Criminals Now

In a nation of hammers, every problem looks like a nail...

In a government ruled by lawyers, every citizen looks like a criminal, and every problem can be solved by one more law...

Gene Healy at CATO writes about a case before the supreme court arguing a law "criminalizing schemes to "deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.""

Yes, it's as ridiculous as it sounds.  Justice Breyer observed, to the government lawyer defending the broad criminal statute...
"Of some 150 million workers in the United States, I think possibly 140 million of them would flunk your test."
Healy points out that the founders would in no way approve of the dense tangle of criminal law our busy barristers have spun out over these many years:
It's for good reason that our Constitution mentions only three federal crimes (treason, piracy, and counterfeiting).

At one point on Tuesday, Breyer protested: "I thought there was a principle that a citizen is supposed to be able to understand the criminal law."
Good luck with that.
More Laws Than We Can Count
There are now more than 4,000 federal crimes, spread out through some 27,000 pages of the U.S. Code.

Some years ago, analysts at the Congressional Research Service tried to count the number of separate offenses on the books, and gave up, lacking the resources to get the job done.

If teams of legal researchers can't make sense of the federal criminal code, obviously, ordinary citizens don't stand a chance.

You can serve federal time for [...] misappropriating the likeness of Woodsy Owl and his associated slogan, "Give a hoot, don't pollute." ("What are you in for, kid?" your new cellmate growls.)
... And every week Ray Lahood or some other liberal Obama apparatchik marches out and announces another new writ from the emperor.  Does it make you feel safer knowing that if you unwittingly break one of these laws you could go to jail?


WomanHonorThyself said...

Does it make you feel safer knowing that if you unwittingly break one of these laws you could go to jail? much more madness do we need to stomach!

TKZ said...

I hear "State of Fear" is a good book on this topic, though I admit I haven't read it myself, but it's a topic that interests me. What do those of us who like to live within the laws do when there are laws against everyday living?

jadedfellow said...

So why do lawyers hit the brakes when they see a snake in the road?

Professional courtesy.

Snarky Basterd said...

If I have to serve federal time for misappropriating the likness of woodsy owl it means I've done my job as a satirist/parodist, in which case I'm willing to pay my debt to society ... and probably earn millions after I get out.

Most Rev. Gregori said...

Submitted for your approval:

A woefully inadequate little man thrust upon the stage just before the final curtain in the third act of a bad tragedy.

The sum of all mankind's deepest fears now rests in this little man's fingertip ... we have just crossed over into the OBAMA ZONE.

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