Commentary by James H. Shott
These days the United States and her citizens face a dizzying array of threats, among which are the current economic crisis; the government failure on the southern border where illegal immigrants threaten the safety of residents; the likelihood that the rogue state of Iran will obtain nuclear weapons; the effects of radical Islam from outside and inside our borders.
The most serious, however, is the continual growth of federal power and the accompanying encroachment of the federal government into more and more of our individual liberties, because that challenges the very essence of the United States.
Former Attorney General Edwin Meese, writing for the Heritage Foundation, recounted that a leading expert on over-criminalization, John S. Baker Jr., had estimated that there were more than 4,000 federal criminal laws, and that the American Bar Association task force reported, the body of federal criminal law is “so large . . . that there is no conveniently accessible, complete list of federal crimes.”
Most of us probably believe that laws are intended to punish actual criminals for real crimes, and since most of us aren’t criminals we probably believe that we won’t be arrested anytime soon. But with more than 4,000 laws, many of which we are unaware of, how can we be sure we haven’t become criminals without knowing it. It’s easier than you may think.
Consider these examples of laws and their enforcement that Mr. Meese lists:
• A 12-year old girl was arrested and handcuffed for eating one French fry on the Washington subway system.
• A former high-school science whiz was sent to prison after initially being arrested by FBI agents clad in SWAT gear for failing to affix a federally mandated sticker to his otherwise legal UPS package.
• A 67-year-old grandfather was imprisoned because some of the paperwork for his home-based orchid business did not satisfy an international treaty.
Congress has passed more than 4,000 laws, some of which result in idiotic, even tyrannical enforcement measures and penalties, and that is bad enough. But what Columbia University law professor John Coffee tells us is a far more serious threat to our liberty. He estimates that there are as many as 300,000 federal regulations that can be enforced through criminal penalties. And, these are not laws passed by elected representatives who are theoretically accountable to the people, these are regulations developed by unelected, and unaccountable, bureaucrats working in the bowels of over-zealous agencies of the federal government.
If you believe this is what the Founders had in mind when they sacrificed their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to throw off the oppressive bonds of King George, go immediately to the rear of the class.
How could a system of government so carefully designed to limit the size and authority of the federal government and to provide the greatest possible degree of liberty to the states and their citizens have devolved into a gargantuan, unresponsive and oppressive bureaucracy that literally sticks its long nose into the everyday activities of the citizens whose freedoms it was designed to guarantee, and that eats up fully 40 percent of the nation’s economy?
Our country has lost its way, has abandoned its Constitutional guarantees of limited government and maximum individual liberty, and has morphed into an unrecognizable, out-of-control caricature of itself.
Somewhere along the way from 1776 to today politicians realized that it was easier and more profitable to pursue self-service than their sworn duty to make the best decisions for their country.
Whatever intelligence and conscience they may have once possessed has been replaced with self-interest, and the longer they are in the Congress the likelier they are to become more concerned with matters of party and of reelection than of dutiful service, and the more likely to believe they are superior to the American people they are supposed to serve.
Hence, bureaucracies are allowed to flourish, and the proliferation of laws and regulations is tolerated, all with little concern for their effects, their fairness, or their constitutionality.
The federal judiciary has the power and the duty to rein in out-of-control lawmaking, but members of the federal judiciary are appointed for life and have no need to worry about performing to a particular standard and, like their legislative brethren, many of them abandon dutiful service to the Constitution and to the ideals of the Founders and replace Constitutional principles with their personal beliefs of what is best for us.
More than 50 years ago, as Rock and Roll was catching on, Chuck Berry asserted the new music’s power and appeal with a song containing the line, “Roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news.” Today we might see Madison rolling over and talking with Jefferson about the grotesque government their carefully crafted work has been transformed into.
There is no better time than now, no better opportunity to un-elect those long-term incumbents who are responsible for this freedom-limiting expansion of federal power and replace them with new blood, new public servants who are not part of the incestuous system that is ruining our country, and are dedicated to restoring the constitutional principles that made the United States the greatest country on Earth.
Cross-posted from Observations