Laws that kill
The fundamental tenant of law, according to French classic theorist, Frederic Bastiat, “is to prevent injustice“. What purpose, then, do laws that kill, steal jobs and freedom serve? Of course, proposed legislation are never positioned as life and freedom killers, but an insatiable need to over-legislate and over-regulate puts most Americans and American freedoms at risk to serve a few.
Take, for example, the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island on July 17, 2014. There are many problems with this case that have and will be discussed for years. The incident was precipitated by the New York Police Departments’s (NYPD) alleged suspicion that Garner was selling “loosies” or single cigarettes. You see, selling a single cigarette is an affront to New York State because the transaction of one individual selling a single cigarette to another individual can’t ensure taxation by the state with the second-highest tax burden (second only to its New Jersey neighbor by 0.1 percent) and can hinder sales for the likes of Big Tobacco.
I once read a blog comment by a law professor who said he starts each Law 101 course by telling his students that every law put on the books, no matter how benign, can possibly lead to someone’s death. To be sure, the Eric Garner case is a prime example of that theory.
Though not in the same realm, the combined deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown and subsequent protests and riots have led to a discussion about the increased militarization of the police, and other protective government agencies such as the U.S. Postal Service. This increased militarization doesn’t just include tanks and semi-automatic weapons normally used on battlefields, but also legislation.
Recently highlighted on Instapundit.com was this New York Post article about the 66 percent drop in arrests by the NYPD since the killings of officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in retaliation for the killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Also down during the same time:
- Traffic tickets by 94 percent
- Summons for minor offenses by 94 percent
- Parking violations by 92 percent
- Drug arrests by 84 percent
Per Glenn Reynolds, a.k.a. Mr. Instapundit, “All of these, except maybe the drug arrests – and probably them too – are basically revenue offenses. By not arresting [or ticketing] here, the cops are starving the city for revenue. The real scandal isn’t that NYC is being denied law enforcement now, it’s that much of that ‘law enforcement is really just a system designed to squeeze money out of the citizenry.”
This increased militarization and increased legislation at best increases the amount of money picked from Americans’ pockets by the hands of government and at worst increases the chance of more Americans dying by those very same hands. They do not “prevent injustice”; they serve government and corporate interests.
Barron’s reported in its December 29, 2014 issue that between 2000 and 2014 the U.S. Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate fell from 67 percent to 62.8 percent of the U.S. population. Most of this is attributable to retiring Baby Boomers and older and younger Americans extending post-secondary education. However, as Barron’s shares, David Kelly and Hanna Anderson of JP Morgan’s Asset Management Group, also, reported that to a large extent the drop in the U.S. Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate is attributable to the increased production of U.S. criminals.
Kelly and Anderson claim that, according to government statistics, the number of Americans with criminal records that appear on employment background checks has jumped from 13 percent of the population in 1991 to 22 percent in 2012. That’s over 65 million Americans with criminal records. With the increased intrusion of employee background checks and more laws, more Americans with even minor criminal records find it increasingly difficult to get a job.
When such job seekers realize employers will refuse them employment, job seekers drop out of the labor force and are no longer included in the U.S. Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate. In many cases, these unwanted employees go on government assistance or obtain disability insurance to make ends meet, which adds strain to the U.S. economy and increases government dependency.
Take, for example, Federal marijuana laws. For the first offense of carrying as little as one marijuana joint (cigarette), a carrier can be punished with up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine. If a 19-year-old community college student from a lower-income family is put in prison for a year for carrying one joint, they will be legislated out of the labor force or relegated to low-wage jobs because that offense will show up on their employment background checks for the rest of their life.
There is nothing written in the Constitution that says individuals don’t have the freedom to do what they want to or with their bodies. The U.S. Government has, however, had a very profitable and non-deterring “War on Drugs” since 1971.
As of 2010, the Federal, State and local government spending on the War on Drugs was a $40 billion dollar a year industry. Combined, that’s over $1,200 per second and $125 per man, woman and child annually.
With fewer confusing laws intended to serve the interest of the government or corporate interests rather than “prevent injustice”, there would be fewer laws to break, fewer criminals and fewer unemployable Americans.
Prisoners of legislation
The U.S., also, has an ever-growing and profitable prison system. The U.S. has the world’s highest incarceration rate. As of 2013, 716 out of every 100,000 people in the U.S. were prisoners. Per Wikipedia, “While the United States represents about 5 percent of the world’s population, it houses around 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.”
It’s estimated that about 49 percent of these incarcerations are for non-violent crimes with the biggest influence of non-violent crime incarcerations being for war or drug-related offenses. It could be argued that a large percentage of non-violent criminals don’t require incarceration, nor require a mark on their permanent record that makes it difficult to obtain employment.
According to Yahoo! Finance, private prisons bring in about $3 billion annually with over half of the revenue from the incarceration of illegal immigrants. The theory behind the increase in privatized prisons is that is reduces costs to the government and, thereby, to the American tax payer. The problem with the savings argument is that private prisons seemingly only take the best of the best inmates, rather than the meanest and ugliest who require more security.
Regardless of the cost or savings of either privatized or public prisons, most of the inmates wouldn’t be in prison were it not for overzealous laws and regulations. This growth in the number of laws and regulations shows no signs of letting up, either.
During Barack Obama’s tenure as President of the United States, 21,000 laws and regulations have been passed, with 1,200 passed just before the clock struck midnight on December 31, 2014. In just six years, that are 21,000 more laws and regulations that could possibly lead to the death, unemployment or incarceration of more Americans.
We must ask ourselves, as a free people, do all these laws and regulations protect American citizens from injustices? Do these laws and regulations even serve our greater purpose? If they don’t serve the American people, whom do they serve? Is this the country in which we wish to live?
We’ll close with another quote from Frederic Bastiat, who asks, “If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislatures and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?”
We think you probably know the answer.