by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Lavrentiy Beria, head of Joseph Stalin’s secret police in the old Soviet Union, supposedly said, “Show me the man, and I’ll show you the crime.” Stalin executed anyone he considered a threat, and it didn’t take much to be considered a threat. Beria could always find some law the targeted person had broken. That’s easy to do when there are tons of vague laws on the books. Stalin “legally” executed nearly a million people that way.
I’m not saying that America is like Stalin’s Russia, but consider the federal laws we have. The rules that bind us now total more than 160,000 pages. The Congressional Research Service said it was unable to count the number of crimes on the books. Yet last week the feds added or proposed another thousand pages. States and cities have thousands more. Have you read them all? Have our “representatives” read them all? You know the answer.
When there is a big crime, legislators quickly demand that felons be given longer jail sentences and “mandatory minimums” for repeat offenses. This wins votes but kills judicial discretion and crushes unlucky people. …
… Most of us won’t be victimized by mandatory minimums or the countless ambiguities in today’s laws, but if you are the kind of person America needs most — an inventor who creates something or someone who builds a business — there is a bigger chance that you’ll fall victim to the incomprehensible maze. The laws burdening business and finance are bewildering — Dodd-Frank merely piled on. Even enterprises with big legal and accounting departments better watch out.