Monday, March 29, 2010

There's no way to rule innocent men

In addition to plowing through the recent Cedric Katesby haul o' plunder, I recently purchased Three Felonies A Day: How The Feds Target The Innocent, by Harvey A. Silvergate. 
I'm not very far into it, but the premise of the book is that government is trying to expand its power by criminalizing more and more everyday activities. 
It used to be said that "ignorance of the law is no excuse".  That maxim is now a hopelessly naive statement, as our government has written law after law after law, mostly to please various well-entrenched supporters and to increase funding for their various and sundry insane projects.
Nobody, I repeat, nobody can hope to navigate any major business project without hiring a legal, tax, environmental, or labor expert.  That's the way our government wants it to be.   

This morning's web browsing took me to a recent post by The Devil's Kitchen, on a slightly different topic.  Mr. Kitchen quotes this passage from Atlas Shrugged, on the topic of manufacturing criminals. 

"Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against—then you'll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be enforced nor objectively interpreted—and you create a nation of law-breakers—and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr Rearden, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with.
Whether you know it or not, you are probably commiting an average of three felonies a day.  Do these crimes harm anyone? No.  But they're a good source of funding when Uncle Sam needs some more food for the machine.


Anonymous said...

When I visited Tallinn, Estonia, I read that back in the 14th and 15th centuries a town crier would read aloud the entire Code of the Lübeck Law from a Town Hall window, so that no one could use ignorance of the law as an excuse – most of the people were illiterate.

They didn't say how long it took to read the Lübeck code aloud, but I suspect they could do it in less time than it would take to read the entire US Federal Register (plus all state and local legal codes) today.

Anonymous said...

"...when Uncle Sam needs some more food for the machine."

Or leverage of some kind, such as in a RICO case where you have the "little fish" in hand, but you want the "one that got away". Mis-remember some trivial piece of information and get charged with "lying to a federal officer"; that's how they brought down that criminal mastermind, Martha Stewart.

Tim Lebsack said...

It is more difficult each day to know which laws I am allowed to break.

NickM said...

I was going to put you onto DK's post.

Here's some examples:

WV: horider

Yes, it certainly has got horidor.

Fester said...

I just read a blog written by a guy who was harrassed searched and threatened while crossing the border into Michigan from Canada because he took a picture crossing the bridge of the "welcome to Michigan" sign, according to the border thugs taking pictures of the bridge is illegal.