John Stossel

Something's happened to America, and it isn't good. It's become easier to get into trouble. We've become a nation of a million rules. Not the kind of bottom-up rules that people generate through voluntary associations. Those are fine. I mean imposed, top-down rules formed in the brains of meddling bureaucrats who think they know better than we how to manage our lives.

Cross them, and we are in trouble.

The National Marine Fishery Service (NMFS) received an anonymous fax that a seafood shipment to Alabama from David McNab contained "undersized lobster tails" and was improperly packed in clear plastic bags, rather than the cardboard boxes allegedly required under Honduran law. When the $4 million shipment arrived, NMFS agents seized it. McNab served eight years in prison, even though the Honduran government informed the court that the regulation requiring cardboard boxes had been repealed.

How about this one? Four kindergartners -- yes, 5-year-old boys -- played cops and robbers at Wilson Elementary in New Jersey. One yelled: "Boom! I have a bazooka, and I want to shoot you." He did not, of course, have a bazooka. Nevertheless, all four boys were suspended from school for three days for "making threats," a violation of their school district's zero-tolerance policy. School Principal Georgia Baumann said, "We cannot take any of these statements in a light manner." District Superintendent William Bauer said: "This is a no-tolerance policy. We're very firm on weapons and threats."

Give me a break. These are just some of the stories featured in a new book, "One Nation Under Arrest". I'll discuss more on my Fox Business show Thursday night.

Here's another: Ansche Hedgepeth, 12, committed this heinous crime: She left school in Washington, D.C., entered a Metrorail station to head home and ate a French fry. An undercover officer arrested her, confiscating her jacket, backpack and shoelaces. She was handcuffed and taken to the Juvenile Processing Center. Only after three hours in custody was the 12-year-old released into her mother's custody. The chief of Metro Transit Police said: "We really do believe in zero-tolerance. Anyone taken into custody has to be handcuffed for officer safety." She was sentenced to community service and now carries an arrest record. Washington's Metro has since rescinded its zero-tolerance policy.


John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate