Opinion

Laws and regulations are strangling our country

“Complicated” causes more problems than “simple,” unless you’re a physicist. Complicated accurately describes our vast American system of laws. More and more, we see ordinary people and small businesses swallowed up in this legal maze, this monstrous rabbit warren of laws and regulations that are strangling our country.

Recent decades have seen a perversion of our founders’ intent to create a constitution deliberately crafted to restrict the size and reach of the federal government. Over the last century, Congress went on a rampage and passed hordes of laws. The federal government imposed an income tax (which originally was banned by the Constitution) to generate the revenues needed to employ hundreds of thousands of bureaucrats to enforce the massive number of new rules and laws.

Most of us can agree with Ray Crowley, who wrote in 1976, “Certainly we need laws to protect the weak from the strong, to aid the sick and the helpless, to discourage crime…. But there’s a limit.” Now, following four decades of grossly profligate laws created by Congress, we are far beyond the limits envisioned by the founding framers. Congress has created laws so voluminous that they must be passed before they can be understood.

But the perpetrators are not only in Congress. Since Barack Obama came to power, the Orwellian laws he imposed by administrative fiat and decree, from his perch in the executive branch, have added $5 trillion to the taxpayer’s tab: health care reform, new energy rules, environmental and “global warming” reform, bank reform and economic regulations, to name a few.

And let’s not forget the flood of new laws poured into the Floridian and American civil and economic systems by activist judges in the judicial branch. These are judges who took it upon themselves to create new law. As author/broadcaster Mark Levin reminds us, rulings by judges based on personal or political considerations rather than on existing law have permitted the judiciary to take over private-sector firing and hiring practices, prisons, school systems, farm policies and quotas. Activist judges have ordered state and county governments to raise taxes and hand over benefits to illegal immigrants.

Judges have made laws that allowed flag burnings, protected racial discrimination in the nation’s law schools, permitted seizure of private property without just compensation and protected child pornography. Levin says courts have even second-guessed the commander in chief in time of war and granted right of due process to foreign enemy combatants. In short, the courts have plowed through the separation of powers constructed by the founders, firewalls designed to balance the power of the three branches of government.

“Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny,” said Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke. Tyrannical and unfair tax laws push businesses to spend huge sums on CPA firms to draft complicated tax strategies to avoid unfair taxes. A single thief commits robbery, but when 535 members of Congress do it, it’s taxation.

Winston Churchill captured the problem perfectly: “If you have ten thousand regulations, you destroy all respect for the law.” While laws sprouting like weeds have thrown us into a sorry mess nationally, it’s not the worst of what this epidemic of laws has done to the country.

Governments love laws, because laws speed government’s growth. But too many laws smother initiative. Would-be business owners don’t spend their own capital to create new enterprises if they must wade through impassable legal briar patches. Too often, entrepreneurs don’t start new businesses if the thickets become too entangled to navigate. There are far many more ways for business people to accidentally break laws than there are paths to success.

When the government declares so many actions to be a crime, it becomes impossible for businesses and citizens to function without breaking laws. The more laws there are, the more offenders they produce. Author Harry Silverglate says the average citizen commits three felonies a day. There is little wonder that one adult in every 31 is either in jail or on parole or probation. The net result: Jobs and wealth don’t get created and communities don’t flourish.

John R. Smith

John R. Smith is chairman of BIZPAC, the Business Political Action Committee of Palm Beach County, and owner of a financial services company. He is a frequent columnist for BizPac Review.
John R. Smith

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