America, the Law-crazed

America's zeal for legislating has turned us all into criminals of one type or another.


Over the past few decades, America has locked up more and more people. Our prison population has tripled. Now we jail a higher percentage of people than even the most repressive countries: China locks up 121 out of every 100,000 people; Russia 511. In America? 730.

"Never in the civilized world have so many been locked up for so little," The Economist says.

Yet we keep adding more laws and longer jail terms.

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.

In Iowa, a man with an old felony conviction found a bullet, put it on his dresser and forgot about it. A police officer, looking for something else, saw the bullet. Felons may not possess any ammunition, and this "crime" made the man a repeat offender. He's now serving a 15-year mandatory sentence for possession of ammunition. Really. The long sentence was appealed, but the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld it, saying its hands were tied by the mandatory minimum set in law.

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.

Then there's the so-called war on drugs—a war on people, actually. Lots of politicians admit that they used drugs in their youth—even presidents. Barack Obama wrote in his memoir, "Dreams From My Father": "Pot had helped … ; maybe a little blow (cocaine) when you could afford it."

And, yet in office, these same politicians preside over an injustice system that jails a million Americans for doing what they did. Don't they see the hypocrisy? Give me a break.

Libertarian entertainer Penn Jillette has it right: "If Obama had been caught with the marijuana that he says he used and 'maybe a little blow' … if he had been busted under his laws, he would have done hard —-ing time … time in federal prison, time for his 'weed' and 'a little blow,' he would not be president … would not have gone to his fancy-ass college, he would not have sold books … made millions of dollars. … He would have been in —-ing prison, and it's not a goddamn joke."

I want my government to arrest real criminals—ones who violate our rights—and to lock them up so we'll be protected. But our politicians go way beyond that. Governments at all levels have long been in the business of forbidding conduct that violates no one's rights and piling on complex laws to govern conduct that might harm someone. And they keep passing more.

They have created a byzantine maze of criminal law that is so incomprehensible that even legal specialists don't agree on what the rules specify. Then ambitious prosecutors ruin lives enforcing those laws. The prosecutors and lawmakers say this is for our own good.

No, it's not.

NEXT: L.A.'s Illegal Ban on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “AURORA, Colo. ? James Holmes, the accused gunman in last Friday’s midnight movie massacre in Colorado, mailed a notebook “full of details about how he was going to kill people” to a University of Colorado psychiatrist before the attack, but the parcel sat unopened in a mailroom for as long as a week before its discovery Monday”…..mailed-to/

    1. the psychiatrist, who is also a professor at the school, reported receiving a package believed to be from the suspect. Although that package turned out to be from someone else and harmless, a search of the Campus Services’ mailroom turned up another package sent to the psychiatrist with Holmes’ name in the return address,…the package had been in the mailroom since July 12, though another source who confirmed the discovery to could not say if the package arrived prior to Friday’s massacre. It was not clear why it had not been delivered to the psychiatrist.

      Somethin’ doesn’t smell quite right.

      1. I think the psychiatrist should be more concerned about whatever the hell,if anything, he prescribed for that sumbitch.

    2. FWIW… If the mail system at University of Colorado is anything like the one here, I don’t see anything unusual about a package that arrived on July 12th sitting around the mailroom undelivered. Our service is a vile joke during the school year and degrades even further during the summer.

      1. so the obvious next step is that a package delivered to anyone be placed in that person’s hands and opened within 24 hours of receipt.

        1. It’s is only sensible and fair. Until a time bomb kills someone.

        2. Sounds like an opening for thousands of USPS workers soon to be out of jobs.

          1. No, it sounds like an opportunity. The USPSA (United States Postal Service Security Administration) opens every piece of mail to make sure that there are no viruses, toxins, bombs, or bulk ammunition as well as checking the contents for psychotic screeds that require immediate delivery.

            If you silly libertarians don’t like it, there will be a few years before USPSA nationalizes UPS/DHL/FedEx in the name of security.

      2. Beat me to it SugarFree. My old school’s mail service was worse than a joke. Forget actually recieving your mail in a timely manner. You were lucky if you ever got it at all. I’m still convinced that all the mail they recieved in the summer was immediately routed into an incinerator to cut A/C costs…

      3. Does the psychiatrist also teach in the neuroscience program?

        If so, the authorities ought to haul him in a for a bit of the third degree. These quack phrenologists have sown enough mayhem. Time to take out the trash.

        1. “Him” might be incorrect. He didn’t send the notebook to an ex-GF did he?

    3. Looks like another entity ripe for a lawsuit. If you can justify suing Warner Bros. why not CU?

  2. If we can just pass a few more laws, we can ALL be criminals!

    1. I don’t think we need any more laws, we’re already at that point.

      1. Why can’t we just have one all-encompassing giant law. You know, for efficiency.

        1. How about: “If you do something bad then you go to jail.”

          It’s perfect in its simplicity.

          1. Define “bad.”

            1. We can leave that up to the law enforcement professionals. Why bother with trifles?

            2. Exactly.

          2. I dunno, ‘bad’ is kind of ambiguous.

            How about “If you do something then we may put you in jail.”

            1. Too much margin of error.
              “If you are, then jail.”

              1. just “jail” will do.

        2. Why can’t we just have one all-encompassing giant law. You know, for efficiency.

          Guilty until proven innocent. It rolls off the tongue very easily.

    2. You guys do know, I was just being snarky.

      I leave the authoritarianism to the authoritarians… the Teams.

  3. On a related note, Mayor Bloomberg, still active in his quest to become the most uselessly over-bearing and hated politician in all of America has decided to pile on some more stupid.…..VgazASV5lJ

    1. Go for it, Bloomburg. If anything will get him tarred and feathered it’s messing with the booze that makes the city livable.

      1. I dunno, they got rid of 4-loko without any outcry. Something about a frog and warm water.

        1. All I know is that alcohol is what makes NYC work. Nibble around the edges like 4Loko and you are fine; actually try to do anything to restrict the amount of drinking and finally the people may rise up.

          1. Yeah, 4Loko was a nitch drink. But try messing with malt liquor, house wine or the bottom shelf and see what happens. Blood in the streets, man. Blood in the streets.

          2. The city Health Department will be conducting a massive, 50-question telephone survey of New Yorkers to get a better handle on the level of alcohol abuse in the city.

            I *so* wish that I lived in NYC, just so I could give the most preposterously false answers.

          3. This is hardly anything new. NY has been screwing with people’s ability to drink freely for ages; it’s already illegal to tailgate and the NYPD will yank you off of a train to hit you with an open container ticket if they have the slightest suspicion that you’re drinking (a policy that has recently been extended to the LIRR and MetroNorth). The worst part about the latter is NYC decides to waste everyone’s time and makes the offender go to court for their $25 OC ticket rather than sensibly having them mailed in.

            God, I hate New York. New Jersey is a bastion of freedom by comparison, which is just sad. The sooner global warming makes that place disappear into the ocean, the better.

    2. I cannot read or listen to anymore stupid from that fascists’s mouth.

    3. Holy shit. Yep, Einstein was correct. The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has it’s limits.

      I am going to mail Bloomburg a gift; a baggy polka-dot suit, a red nose and some floppy shoes. Oh, and a bright red, fuzzy wig.

      1. Don’t forget the donkey ears, because he’s an ass clown.

  4. And don’t forget: Ignorance of those tens of thousands of pages of law is not a defense.

    Unless you’re a cop who has violated someone’s rights.

    1. Hey, you can’t hold the police accountable just because they haven’t been trained yet.

      1. You also can’t hold them responsible if they have been trained.

        1. yawn. weak sauce

          troll-o-meter: .01

          again, i speak facts. you twist facts.

          feel free to read some arbitrator reports or case law

          1. Don’t you have some steroid to inject?
            Or confiscated pot to smoke?
            Or a jay-walker to pepper spray?
            Fkn Pig

    2. Hell even a fucking superior court judge doesn’t even have to know them all. That is what the appeals court is for, in case the superior court judge is wrong. And hell, even those black-dress cocksuckers don’t have to to know it either. that is what the supreme court is for.

      But you, my dear mere civilian, you have to know them all, and perfectly.

      Really? Fuck the law.

  5. “There’s no way to rule innocent men.
    The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals.
    Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them.
    One declares so many things to be a crime
    that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.”
    ?Ayn Rand

    1. I was gonna post this if someone else didn’t 🙂 My favorite quote from Atlas Shrugged, though I’ve never read the book.

      1. A nihilist with a favorite quote from a philosophy book he hasn’t read.

        See, HnR really is much more interesting once the troll fog burns away.

      2. My favorite quote is Francisco d. Anconia’s money speech, and yes I have read the book

      3. I think my favorite parts of Atlas Shrugged were the ridiculous over-the-top poetic deaths for some of the villains/duped sheep. Case in point (Spoiler Alert), I still remember near the end when the scientist who stole Hank’s metal and the would-be-general-dictator-thug get killed by a combination of idiocy and lust for power (correct me if I’m wrong its been awhile) when they turn on the sonic death ray or whatever the hell that thing was.

        But yeah, that quote ain’t bad.

        1. That was the Obama Peace Beam — er, the Thompson Harmonizer.

      4. Not a quote, but I particularly liked what I call “Reardon’s Epiphany”. When the government people explain the new steel production plan, he asks them how they expect him to continue when he will be losing money on every pour. And they say, you’ll find a way, you always do. He realizes they have no clue how business works, they just expect the money to always keep coming. Hardly seems like fiction, does it.

  6. Sadly lots of people will not talk about people being locked up when they should not be, they will blame it on the usually inequality problem.

  7. There is *some* good news:

    Amid national gun debate, Maryland’s concealed carry rules to relax

    Needless to say, I’m gobsmacked that this is happening in MD.

    1. Sad that a judge had to force this on the legislature and executive branches of the state. Glad to see it though.

    2. so it’s becoming a shall issue state?

      1. Legg’s March decision said the Second Amendment constitutional right to bear arms is “is all the reason [an applicant] needs.” The ruling turns Maryland into a “shall issue” state, like most, which automatically issue gun-carry permits once safety conditions are met.

        Looks like, but I can’t see Gov. Muscles and his Ministers of Sheep Fucking letting this go without a very dirty fight.

  8. Sales rolex replica, High-quality replica rolex watches,Top brand watches,all luxury watches for sale cheap and cheapest only $59 ,Buy cheap watches online at

  9. 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…..c-3_7.html 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.

  10. I can’t believe it! I agree with you, John.
    One of the things on the horizon, that is already starting to make the problem even worse, is the privatizing of the prison system. The more prisoners, the more profits. Wait ’til you see the local judges being bought by these corporations, paid to increase the number of jailed Americans.

    1. Private Prisons will be run more efficiently, meaning more people can be arrested and jailed on the same budget. So, I’m conflicted. When government inefficiency is the only thing checking government abuse, is it wise to eliminate the inefficiency before eliminating the abuse? I don’t think it is.

  11. I think it’s time we start legalizing Marijuana everywhere. Stop living in fear and start thinking about how great the future will be! LEGALIZE IT!

    Why don’t we just start legalizing it everywhere? Why are so many people still stuck in this FEAR stage…? Stop worrying, start hoping. LEGALIZE IT!

    If you live in a state where Marijuana isn’t legal yet and still want the same type of highs, I suggest checking out It has amazingly detailed legal highs reviews and where to get them without getting ripped off!
    Also! I’m starting up a new forum dedicated to my fellows stoners. Come on over and join the high conversations! We’re quite new, but VERY welcoming.


  12. you got a nice blog everyone loves this exceptionally well written

  13. a cool post there mate i certainly love this site this article just what i was looking for

  14. valuable information enjoyed every bit of your post great post

  15. i love your content thanks a lot for the blog great articles

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.