Waking up to a double dose of reality about too many laws and regulations

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp, and fashioned them at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a net-work of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided: men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting: such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

— Alexis de Tocqueville, “Democracy in America

When everything is a crime, everyone is a criminal. When everything is strictly regulated, no one is free.

The morning began with a double dose of reality about overweening government.

In the local Las Vegas newspaper there was a page-long editorial picking up on a theme being pushed by the Heritage Foundation called USA vs. You, which bemoans the fact there are now an estimated 4,500 criminal law offenses and 300,000 criminal regulations on the books.

WSJ illustration

Over on the pages of The Wall Street Journal, we find an essay by Niall Ferguson on the Regulation Nation. He reports that the Federal Register — the official compendium of federal regulations — runs 78,961 pages. And that doesn’t count countless state and local regulations, prohibitions, restrictions, licenses, mandates and covenants. Ferguson ends his piece with a shorter version of the de Tocqueville quote above.

The Review-Journal editorial recounts a couple of outrageous examples of criminal overreach from the Heritage website and then throws in a local one:

“Such ruthlessness happens right here in Nevada, as well. As reported by the Nevada Policy Research Institute, Carolyn Davis and son decided to start a moving business to help make ends meet. Through an ad they had purchased, they were summoned to an apartment. When they showed up at the address, they were met by Nevada Transportation Authority officials — some armed — who were running a sting operation, and the mother and son were charged with moving household goods without a license. They were fined $1,000, plus $500 to get their truck out of impound, and then had to embark on the licensing process, which takes from six to 18 months. Ms. Davis admits she erred by not getting the license, but with all the serious criminal activity going on in this state, is this heavy-handed approach anywhere near the best use of taxpayer resources?”

But they left out my favorite one, the SWAT raids on Gibson Guitar for illegally importing a type of wood even though they had written permission from the country of origin. As the company’s owner, Henry Juszkiewicz, tells us:

“Without warning, 30 federal agents with guns and bulletproof vests stormed our guitar factories in Tennessee. They shut down production, sent workers home, seized boxes of raw materials and nearly 100 guitars, and ultimately cost our company $2 million to $3 million worth of products and lost productivity. Why? We imported wood from India to make guitars in America.”

By the way, Juszkiewicz is a campaign contributor to Republicans.

Did you know it is a federal crime to transport water hyacinths across state lines or to traffic in unlicensed dentures or to misappropriate the likeness of Woodsy Owl and/or his “Give a hoot, don’t pollute” slogan?

Ferguson reports there are 4,062 new regulations at various stages of implementation now, and 224 of those will have economic impacts exceeding $100 million each.

Regulation costs $1.8 trillion annually, Ferguson says, which is on top of the federal government’s $3.5 trillion in deficit spending.

And that’s before we fully implement ObamaCare.

Then there is this bird-brained bureaucracy run amok that I told you about earlier: