Matt Patterson

The United States Code contains about 47,000 pages of statutes, while the Code of Federal Regulations is 160,000 pages of red tape regulating virtually every aspect of our existence. This mind-numbing mountain of rules makes it virtually impossible to not be a criminal, because there are more regulations and laws than anyone can possibly know and adhere to. In fact, it is more than even the lawmakers who made this mess can know, as Rep. John Conyers, Democrat of Michigan, refreshingly admitted during the 2009 health care debate.

Responding to seemingly sensible calls for members to read the health care bills before they vote on them, Mr. Conyers told a gathering at the National Press Club: "I love these members, they get up and say, 'Read the bill.' What good is reading the bill if it's a thousand pages and you don't have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?"

Here we have a senior member of Congress telling us quite plainly that our lawmakers have no responsibility — and indeed, no ability — to understand the laws they make. But make no mistake; ignorance will be no excuse for you, should you run afoul of any comma of our Byzantine behemoth. You will obey, whether you understand the laws or not, whether the laws are intelligible or not.

Such a country is not, in any meaningful sense, free. We have not a government of laws but a government for laws — a state that exists primarily to grow itself. Corruption, not justice, is the lifeblood of such a state, as Tacitus warned us nearly 2,000 years ago.

Matt Patterson

Matt Patterson is senior editor at the Capital Research Center and contributor to Proud to be Right: Voices of the Next Conservative Generation (HarperCollins, 2010). His email is