Saturday, December 06, 2014

The Deadly Impact of Too Many Laws

Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter has a good piece on the problem with too many laws--including hundreds of thousands of administrative laws. He writes in the context of Eric Garner's death from a police choke hold.
"The problem is actually broader. It's not just cigarette tax laws that can lead to the death of those the police seek to arrest. It's every law. Libertarians argue that we have far too many laws, and the Garner case offers evidence that they're right. . . . Better [law enforcement] training won't lead to perfection. But fewer laws would mean fewer opportunities for official violence to get out of hand.
. . .
"In addition to [3000 crimes in federal law], [in Overcriminalization legal scholar Douglas Husak] writes, an astonishing 300,000 or more federal regulations may be enforceable through criminal punishment in the discretion of an administrative agency. Nobody knows the number for sure."
It is astonishing that there were a slew of police officers trying to arrest a man selling loose cigarettes in New York City. Just as it was to see a BLM swat team on Cliven Bundy's Nevada ranch over a cattle grazing issue.

Carter sums up by saying he is not criticizing the cops who carry out the legislative will, but the unthinking legislators who add law upon law without thinking of the consequences.
"The criticism is of a political system that takes such bizarre delight in creating new crimes for the cops to enforce. It's unlikely that the New York legislature, in creating the crime of selling untaxed cigarettes, imagined that anyone would die for violating it. But a wise legislator would give the matter some thought before creating a crime. Officials who fail to take into account the obvious fact that the laws they're so eager to pass will be enforced at the point of a gun cannot fairly be described as public servants."
Willingness to pass myriads of laws on trivial offenses or give free rein to administrative agencies to make and enforce their own laws is not only destructive of civil and human rights, but of our system of a limited government with enumerated powers.


MAX Redline said...

Excellent post, TD!

I've often noted that Congress is at its best when they do nothing, and I've long argued that "administrative rules" with no accountability amount to a perversion of our system of government.

I firmly believe that for each new law passed, at least three should be voided.

T. D. said...

Your posts have done a lot in raising my consciousness of this problem, Max. Thank you!

When I ran across Carter's column, I knew I wanted to revisit the issue in terms of overcriminalization and the Garner case.

It also is playing into my views of what I would do as a juror (which your posts also have had an impact on). There are too many prosecutions for acts that should not be criminal. At best they should receive fines--like traffic tickets--not arrests and incarceration.

MAX Redline said...

Apologies for corrupting your views, TD. Overcriminalization is just something that's concerned me for years, along with the militarization of police, which I believe is criminal in and of itself - yet glorified in media. Look at any tv show; the cops break down the door in full military gear. Of course, they never find anybody in the place, but still....

T. D. said...

Yep, Max, you are definitely influencing my views. Exactly right about swat teams and violence glorified on TV. Those big liberals who write the shows don't seem to be appalled at police violence when it comes to crimes (or even viewpoints) they don't like. It's always odd to see shows like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit preach against threats they don't like (from NRA type people or abortion protesters) and yet their heroes threaten prisoners and smack them around somewhat regularly when they are upset with them.

MAX Redline said...

All of the Law & Order shows work that way, TD. They're a destructive influence, in my view, because they glorify militaristic actions. Same with NCIS and related shows. It becomes the new norm, and they don't remotely approach accuracy.

Most people don't even realize that Miranda rights aren't required to be listed to you upon arrest, but the cop shows make it look like that's what happens.

T. D. said...

And how the police have to keep their emotions under control when they're with the bad guys. For the Hollywood left, it's all about their emotions--not about principles.