by Ed Lyon
As societal standards continue to evolve, devolve, and change for better or worse, legislatures continue to enact laws to prohibit illegal acts and protect people. New technology always opens opportunities for improvement, as well as attendant avenues for less-than-stellar individuals to take advantage of law-abiding citizens. Legislatures respond in the only way they know: They pass more laws. At what point does passing more and more and more laws just become crazy?
The U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) attempted to do a count of the number of actual criminal laws (presumably federal ones) on the statute books in the 1980s.
The DOJ wound up ceding defeat, perhaps because they were frantically trying to enforce the estimated 300,000 or so laws.
Attorney Mike Chase, author of the book How to Become a Federal Criminal: An Illustrated Handbook for the Aspiring Offender, points out that if he broke just one law every day, it would only take “800 years to finish the job.”
Making matters far worse is Congress granting government regulatory agencies the authority to promulgate regulations that carry the force and effect of law. This creates an entirely new set of laws that shouldn’t be, but really are. Just plain crazy. If you doubt this, try selling runny ketchup. Still in doubt? Try removing a steaming pile of llama poop from a quarantine facility. Need more convincing? Go to a national park and make an “obscene gesture” at a passing horse. Whatever constitutes an “obscene gesture” would have to be defined by the charging bureaucrat as it is a sure bet the horse would not care if you gestured at it one way or the other.
A recent SCOTUS decision underscores the sheer insanity of this situation. Alaska state cops arrested a citizen for disorderly conduct (as vague a crime as making obscene gestures). Their stated reason for the arrest was to punish the man because he expressed an opinion that hurt their feelings. To begin with, punishment is assessed by judges or juries, not by cops. That is called due process of law, supposedly guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Secondly, since when is merely expressing an opinion, an act supposedly protected by the First Amendment, an act of disorderly conduct?
Apparently these weighty constitutional amendments must have escaped the notice of at least five of the nine SCOTUS Justices. The case was affirmed because probable cause for the arrest was believed to exist, which in turn apparently trumps violations of the Constitution. With its uncountable number of vague laws, the government itself has become the less-than-stellar individual body that is taking advantage of its law abiding citizens (though with so many laws on the books, can anyone truly be a law abiding citizen?).
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