Recently, at the midway crossover break in North Dakota’s legislative session, I wrote a post about the growth of North Dakota’s legal code which has been substantial over the years (in a depressing follow-up, the legislature passed 72% of the laws it considered in the first half). Via Hot Air, here’s a video illustrating why the growth in the number and scope of laws is so troubling. It gets to the point where doing very mundane things can make you a criminal.
This reminds me of Harvey Silverglate’s excellent book, Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent. “The average professional in this country wakes up in the morning, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner, and then goes to sleep, unaware that he or she has likely committed several federal crimes that day,” reads the book’s description. “Why? The answer lies in the very nature of modern federal criminal laws, which have exploded in number but also become impossibly broad and vague.”
You really have to wonder how free we are when the only thing keeping us from being charged for any number of mundane, but illegal, activities is the discretion of law enforcement and prosecutors.
“This law will be almost impossible of enforcement,” Fiorello La Guardia wrote to Andrew Volstead as the latter’s eponymous legislation prohibiting the sale and use of alcohol was advancing through Congress. He added that it would “create contempt and disregard for the law all over the country.”
He was right. That’s exactly what happens when the government passes laws making things illegal that most of us don’t really think should be illegal.