“Wyrd biõ ful ãræd.”

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Three Felonies A Day



My brother sent me this book.

 The basic premise is that the legal code is so huge now, and there are so many laws, that the average individual doesn't know what they are. Since some of the laws make so little sense,  people break them without knowing they are doing so.  According to the author,  the average person who leaves home and goes to work, winds up committing three felonies a day. This generally doesn't matter, because the police don't know that what you are doing is illegal either.

But, if the feds get annoyed with you, they can find one or more of these transgressions and use them to ruin a person.

For instance, I am constantly sitting up here on the mountain and saying ugly things about the government. What I say is, I believe, true. But even in these Orwellian times I hold that I can say what I think because we have freedom of speech here.

So say some petty bureaucrat in one of the hundreds of different government agencies takes umbrage at a comment I make.  He can start looking over my background and he realizes that I live with national forest on three sides. So he starts looking at satellite photos of my place, just as I can do on Google. He notices that the trail around my property line, which has been worn there by years of me walking the line,  at one point comes within 150 feet of the national forest boundary.  The next thing I know, the feds show up in the person of the Department of Natural Resources and haul me off.  I didn't know it, but there's a law against disturbing the ground within 150 feet of the forest boundary.  This is a hypothetical scenario (there really is such a law), but that's how it works.

I can't find the quote, but I remember reading one where the speaker said that the stability of a nation is inversely proportional to the number and complexity of it's laws. By that rubric the United States is very unstable indeed.

Here's a blurb about the book.

The average professional in this country wakes up in the morning, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner, and then goes to sleep, unaware that he or she has likely committed several federal crimes that day. Why? The answer lies in the very nature of modern federal criminal laws, which have exploded in number but also become impossibly broad and vague. In Three Felonies a Day, Harvey A. Silverglate reveals how federal criminal laws have become dangerously disconnected from the English common law tradition and how prosecutors can pin arguable federal crimes on any one of us, for even the most seemingly innocuous behavior. The volume of federal crimes in recent decades has increased well beyond the statute books and into the morass of the Code of Federal Regulations, handing federal prosecutors an additional trove of vague and exceedingly complex and technical prohibitions to stick on their hapless targets. The dangers spelled out in Three Felonies a Day do not apply solely to “white collar criminals,” state and local politicians, and professionals. No social class or profession is safe from this troubling form of social control by the executive branch, and nothing less than the integrity of our constitutional democracy hangs in the balance.

13 comments:

  1. Sad thing is 99.9% of the people in this country have no desire to break any law. They just want to be left alone to live their lives and pursue some sort of happiness.

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    1. That's true. All these asinine and unfathomable laws give the federal government (and sometimes the state government) the ability to hammer people they don't like who haven't done anything wrong. It's easy to get a law passed, because politicians want their name on legislation. Lots of our laws are written by big pharma , oil industry, insurance industry, et al because they draft the law and find some witless ninny in D.C. to sponsor it. That's all it takes.

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  2. I'm reminded of the quote from Atlas Shrugged:
    "There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any 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. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted and you create a nation of law-breakers and then you cash in on guilt."

    Fortunately, I realized that guilt is the sort of thing that no matter who tries to inflict it, it turns out only I can actually validate it...so, if I don't feel guilty about something then no one else can make me feel guilty about it. My world got a lot easier after that.

    Its definitely in .govs interest to have people having a little legal dark cloud over them. Gives them something to squeeze you with. For example, you may be the kinda guy who rolls through stop signs and drives five over the speed limit.....but when your vehicle emissions inspection sticker is expired you suddenly become a perfect driver, lest you get pulled over and they notice, hey, you've been driving with an expired sticker.

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    1. Your quote from Atlas Shrugged exactly describes the situation the book is addressing. From government's point of view, they don't care how they enforce "compliance" as long as you "comply."

      I like Robert Heinlein's quote where he advocates obeying only those laws which you feel make sense, and ignoring the others.

      "I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them."

      Robert A. Heinlein

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  3. I believe Tainter who made the complexity quote.

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    1. I couldn't find the quote but I saw his book and it clearly would be interesting, so I'm going to order it.

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  4. And legislatures are (largely) portrayed as failures if they don't pass another batch of laws every year, both at the state and federal levels. Don't we have enough at this point?

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    1. Ours is never satisfied unless they produce a batch of unneeded laws. They get their faces on tv by proposing feel good laws, and lots of them make a few bucks under the table by making laws that benefit their paymasters in one way or other. The last thing we need is more of it but it just keeps on going.

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  5. Here in Australia we also suffer from the same disease to a degree, the main offenders in my opinion our our local councils who bring in all sorts of useless restrictions on what you can and can't do on your own property,but the impression that I get from the US blogs that I read is that it is out of control in your country. I have always been struck by the seemingly vast number and type of law enforcement agencies in the US, I was reading somewhere that swat teams are now so common that even the Federal Dept. of Education has one. Also that mine resistant armoured vehicles are being given to police departments all over the country.

    In Australia each state has it's own Police force and there is a national Police agency called the Australian Federal Police

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    1. Everything you said is true. In my county we don't have a SWAT team, but the next county over has got one, complete with military weapons and one of the Cadillac Gauge armored cars the police are so enamored of. The whole thing is ridiculous as it is a farming community. But the county commissioners there figured the gear was free so why not take it?

      Our government is doing all it can to make people live according to the principles of an elite group at the top. Those principles basically consist of "we know what is good for you so this is a law to make you do it." Things like laws limiting how much soda pop a person can buy in a cup, or limiting how big a portion of food you get at a fast food place. But the worst is when they use the law to change lifestyles "on the sly." For instance, California is trying to ban lead in bullets. If they do that, is some ammunition company going to tool up to produce "green, California approved" bullets? I doubt it. So what the real agenda is about concerns depriving people of firearms, not lead at all.

      Even our post office and our Internal Revenue Service have SWAT now.

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  6. I read somewhere, maybe in reference to "3 Felonies...," that prosecuters in NY would play a game. The objective; pick a notable person, Mother Tereasa, and come up with a plan to prosecute the person. Then the other dda's try to pick the case apart.
    Disturbing, especially when combined with the knowledge that plea bargins are a means to inflate the prosecuters w/l record.

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    1. I have absolutely no doubt that is true. I have a first cousin who is a lawyer, and some of the things he would brag about and think were funny , absolutely horrified me. After a while, he decided being a prosecutor wasn't remunerative enough and he switched over to defending drug cartel types. He got rich but if anything just became a bigger jerk.

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