The cult of overcriminalization

scales-of-justice-150x150Last week, this Gary Fields/John Emshwiller article addressed an issue that this blog has hammered on for years – the absurd overcriminalization of life in the United States:

The U.S. Constitution mentions three federal crimes by citizens: treason, piracy and counterfeiting. By the turn of the 20th century, the number of criminal statutes numbered in the dozens. Today, there are an estimated 4,500 crimes in federal statutes, according to a 2008 study by retired Louisiana State University law professor John Baker.

There are also thousands of regulations that carry criminal penalties. Some laws are so complex, scholars debate whether they represent one offense, or scores of offenses.

Counting them is impossible. The Justice Department spent two years trying in the 1980s, but produced only an estimate: 3,000 federal criminal offenses.

The American Bar Association tried in the late 1990s, but concluded only that the number was likely much higher than 3,000. The ABA’s report said "the amount of individual citizen behavior now potentially subject to federal criminal control has increased in astonishing proportions in the last few decades."

A Justice spokeswoman said there was no quantifiable number. Criminal statutes are sprinkled throughout some 27,000 pages of the federal code. [.  .  .]

Great point, but it would have been more meaningful had the WSJ admitted its complicity in promoting the overcriminalization culture in the first place.

Oh well. This Heritage Foundry post does a good job of placing the overcriminalization issue in perspective.

My question is this: Is it reasonable to think that it is possible for Congress to curtail overcriminalization when Congress to date has been incapable of striking down something as clearly unreasonable as the abuses of security theater?

One thought on “The cult of overcriminalization

  1. It might be interesting to know what TomK has to say about WHY Congress is seemingly unable to curtail overcriminalization. A little critical analysis is likely to reveal EXACTLY why, imo. As long as the public continues to believe the lies about the events which have been used as the excuse on which to base such laws, there is no reason to hope that
    the special interests which profit from such corporate welfare need be concerned about their golden goose becoming starved anytime soon.
    I thought that conservative libertarians were smart enough and courageous enough to question things like what really happened on 9/11, and the relationships between such events, and our rapidly expanding police state.

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