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Yeah, I thought that title would get your attention. That’s right, I’m a criminal.

So what’s my crime? I’m not sure yet. But guaranteed, there’s something on the law books I’ve violated and for which I apparently deserve prison time.

And here’s the thing: You’re a criminal, too. Yes, you. And you, and you, and you. Apparently we are ALL criminals in one form or another.

This notion was confirmed after reading an article about a seafood broker named Abner Schoenwetter who was imprisoned for eight years and required to cough up tens of thousands of dollars in fines for “agreeing to purchase lobster tails that federal prosecutors said violated harvest regulations – in Honduras.”

The silliness of Mr. Schoenwetter’s “crime” is so great that he’s being used as a poster boy for overzealous legislation that makes criminals out of everyone. But no matter what kind of outrage you may feel after reading this guy’s story, the fact remains that Mr. Schoenwetter now has a criminal record, cannot vote, and his chances of employment are just about nil. All thanks to some lobster tails.

“Legal experts say there are more than 4,450 federal crimes on the books and as many as 300,000 federal regulations that can be enforced criminally,” notes the article. “From 2000 to 2007, Congress created 452 entirely new crimes.”

I find that phrasing interesting: Congress created 452 entirely new crimes. Out of what, thin air? Amazing.

So, like it or not, somewhere among those 4,450 federal crimes and 300,000 federal regulations, there are no doubt numerous violations I’m committing on a daily basis simply by existing. And apparently for any number of these crimes, I can be incarcerated right along with gangsters, murderers and child abusers. Isn’t that nice?

Statism’s illogic exposed for all to see in F.A. Hayek’s “The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism”

The thing that concerns me about this plethora of crimes, laws and regulations is that the penalties and punishments may not necessarily fit the crime, but they might well fit the political suasion.

What I mean is this. What prevents a judicial system from favoring those with approved political affiliation and punishing those of differing affiliation? What prevents a judge from handing down different sentences depending on whether you’re a liberal Democrat or a conservative tea-party member?

If you remember that lovely report on right-wing extremism put out by the Department of Homeland Security, anyone who disagrees with the current administration can be construed as a domestic terrorist. To my dismay, I learned I fit the profile perfectly.

With federal crimes “created” out of thin air, it seems within the realm of possibility that “violators” who don’t like a political administration can have vindictive charges levied against them. See my point?

After all, it’s well-known that individuals are targeted by government officials merely for holding different opinions. Rush Limbaugh, I’ve heard, is audited every single year just for being Rush Limbaugh.

And that’s why I’m worried. Who knows what obscure federal regulation I’m violating? Which government goons are waiting to swoop down on me in the middle of the night and haul me away? Or does that make me sound paranoid? I dunno, ask Mr. Schoenwetter.

Ayn Rand (of “Atlas Shrugged” fame) wrote, “The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights, cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.” My husband and I have always been big proponents of individual rights. It’s why we refuse to surrender our children to the brainwashing in public schools. It’s why we try to live an independent and self-sufficient lifestyle in a rural location.

But to federal bureaucrats, such an attitude on our part must mean we’re up to something nefarious. It can’t just mean we like milking our own cows. It must mean we’re hiding the bruises at best, and plotting to overthrow the government at worst.

It’s not just individuals who can be targeted, of course. Businesses presumably have deeper pockets, so they’re natural victims. Gone is the silly notion that a business should be able to provide its customers with products that they want, at prices they can afford. Instead, businesses are required to kowtow to an astoundingly detailed, invasive and burdensome list of regulations in total conflict with customer demand and corporate profitability. Frequently, these regulations are imposed in the name of “the children” or “the environment.”

The most classic example, of course, is the phase out of the beloved, safe, cheap, reliable and otherwise unacceptable incandescent light bulb in favor of a product that is poisonous, expensive and inferior.

And manufacturers of shower heads – shower heads, of all things! – must conform to federal regulations for water usage, rather than having the audacity to give a customer what he wants (such as a shower head that actually issues appreciable quantities of water). I ask you, do shower heads sound like the kind of matter with which the federal government – your tax dollars – should be involved? Can you point out the justification in the Constitution?

But it doesn’t matter, because companies that manufacture shower heads that exceed the dribble Al Gore wants you to experience in your bathroom are fined staggering sums of money. “This spring, the federal government fined four such companies a total of about $150,000,” snorts Rob Long of the National Review Online, “just for making a shower head that people want – and stern warnings are being sent out on Department of Energy letterhead.”

Department of Energy …!

I’m sorry, but we are living in a country with a government vastly out of control and bloated with bureaucrats whose sole purpose is to eliminate a free-market economy. Our government now has the ability – quite literally – to arrest every single one of us for violating one regulation or another. In other words, it can pick us off one by one whenever it’s expedient. What a comforting thought.

Meanwhile, Mr. Schoenwetter, unable to find a job due to his criminal record, is now selling brass home décor items. I need a brass home décor item about as much as you do, but those candlesticks sure look nice, and frankly Mr. Schoenwetter could use a break.

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