There is a very good article by long time libertarian author Wendy McElroy posted on the Foundation for Economic Education’s FEE Online site. She discusses what has come to be called the “overcriminalization” of American. She describes this as the “legislative orgy of criminalizing trivial or harmless behavior” which has occurred over the last few decades. McElroy points out that “from 2000 to 2007 Congress added 452 new federal crimes to the 4,450
already in effect and the roughly 300,000 regulations that can be
enforced criminally.” While McElroy sites several examples this one shows how extreme it can get:

 In 1999 [Abner Schoenwetter] was
accused of buying lobster tails from a long-time supplier. The purchase
allegedly violated harvest regulations in Honduras. Among the
violations: The lobsters were in plastic bags rather than cardboard
boxes. Schoenwetter provided American prosecutors with evidence from
Honduran officials that no law had been broken; the attorney general of
Honduras filed a friend-of-the-court brief stating that the cited
regulations had been voided. Despite having no prior record,
Schoenwetter was convicted and served six years in prison. Now released,
the convicted felon is without a job to support his ill wife and faces
possible eviction from his home. A good man with no criminal intent has
lost the fruits of a lifetime due to the zealous application of
Kafkaesque regulations.

McElroy proposes some sensible solutions which include:

  • eliminating the ability of civil judges to imprison debtors for contempt of court;
  • reestablishing the need to prove ?criminal intent? for criminal charges;
  • ceasing to prosecute victimless crimes, like drug use and sex between consenting adults;
  • eliminating prosecutorial immunity for corrupt or excessive prosecution;
  • enforcing constitutional protections such as ?the presumption of innocence?; and
  • making all courts, including family courts, transparent.