3 Felonies a Day

Posted: August 24, 2012 by ShortTimer in Government, Government Leviathan, Rand, Regulation

This is an older article from the Wall Street Journal, but worth reading:

When we think about the pace of change in technology, it’s usually to marvel at how computing power has become cheaper and faster or how many new digital ways we have to communicate. Unfortunately, this pace of change is increasingly clashing with some of the slower-moving parts of our culture.

Technology moves so quickly we can barely keep up, and our legal system moves so slowly it can’t keep up with itself. By design, the law is built up over time by court decisions, statutes and regulations. Sometimes even criminal laws are left vague, to be defined case by case. Technology exacerbates the problem of laws so open and vague that they are hard to abide by, to the point that we have all become potential criminals.

Boston civil-liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate calls his new book “Three Felonies a Day,” referring to the number of crimes he estimates the average American now unwittingly commits because of vague laws. New technology adds its own complexity, making innocent activity potentially criminal.

Mr. Silverglate describes several cases in which prosecutors didn’t understand or didn’t want to understand technology. This problem is compounded by a trend that has accelerated since the 1980s for prosecutors to abandon the principle that there can’t be a crime without criminal intent.

Worth reading and noting in light of the myriad of new regulations that have been implemented in the last few years, many of which carry the force of law, even though they aren’t laws.

Also worth noting is how the US tax code, as of 2011, was 72,536 pages long.  At any time, a regulation, tax, rule, policy, or even an unknown statute may mean you’re violating the law.

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.

– Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

  1. Part of the reason computing power has increased so rapidly relative to other technologies is that electronics is about the least government-regulated industry. Ayn Rand called such vague laws “non-objective laws” and considered them extremely damaging to human progress and well-being.

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