Changes in criminal law mean “the average American, the average business person and the average corporation have little or no hope of knowing all of the thousands of criminal-law statutes -- and tens of thousands of criminal-law regulations -- by which they must abide in order to remain on the right side of the law,” Meese writes.
This expansion of criminal law threatens not only our personal freedom, but our economic freedom as well. For example, some states require thousands of hours of schooling before a person can become a “licensed hair braider.” And braiding hair without such a license is a criminal offense.
Such laws don’t protect consumers, but they do protect hair salons from new competition. Thus, the power of government stifles competition and increases prices.
“One Nation” tells many horror stories about overcriminalization, but also highlights sensible, nonpartisan steps our country can take to get back on the right path. “A sound reform strategy will rest on three pillars,” writes legal scholar Brian Walsh. “Restoring traditional criminal law concepts, reinvigorating constitutional rights and reforming Congress.” Each of these steps could be enacted by lawmakers.
“I’m not against the police,” Alfred Hitchcock said, “I’m just afraid of them.” These days, too many people have reason to echo those words. It’s time to fix the legal code, before it swallows up more unintentional “criminals.”