We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
I agree that ignorance of the law should be part of a defense except for the obvious crimes, because 300,000 laws is more than anybody could know or even understand. This is from Reynolds in USA Today:
"Regulatory crimes" ... are incredibly numerous and a category that is growing quickly. They are the ones likely to trap unwary individuals into being felons without knowing it. That is why Michael Cottone, in a just-published Tennessee Law Review article, suggests that maybe the old presumption that individuals know the law is outdated, unfair and maybe even unconstitutional. "Tellingly," he writes, "no exact count of the number of federal statutes that impose criminal sanctions has ever been given, but estimates from the last 15 years range from 3,600 to approximately 4,500." Meanwhile, according to recent congressional testimony, the number of federal regulations (enacted by administrative agencies under loose authority from Congress) carrying criminal penalties may be as many as 300,000.
To solve this problem we need for judges to abandon the presumption that people know the law, at least where regulatory crimes are concerned, and require some proof that the accused knew or should reasonably have known that his conduct was illegal.
Because who wouldn't want the next securities fraud perps to claim that they don't know the SEC or FRB regs?
In my profession, I know every rule, reg and statute that governs my job. That there are 10,000 securities regulations that I know nothing about doesn't affect me, because I'm not a broker.
The Poetry of Violence
I'm sure you think you know all the rules in your field, but what about those outside that field that affect you? Like cutting down the tree in your back yard that turned out to be habitat for an endangered woodpecker, or filling in a ditch that some bureaucrat decided was a seasonal stream in a protected wetland area?
Another guy named Dan
hire a tree trimmer with a subcontractor license, do a permit check, call the Audubon society, if I need to cut down a tree, I'll find a way to cut it down if is legal.
The Poetry of Violence
You really think you can ensure you know everything pertaining to everything you do?
When new laws and regulations, most of them never published publicly, are passed and enacted daily at every level of government from federal to local, plus all the regulatory agencies with the power (from what exactly?) to create regulations with criminal penalties that have the power of laws yet have to pass no muster with any elected body?
The question isn't any longer ensuring you're not breaking the law, it's trying to limit the number of laws you're breaking.
And that doesn't even take into account that there are a lot of such laws and regulations that are mutually contradictory. In other words in order to abide by some laws, you MUST break others.
Trick is trying to figure out which carry the more severe penalties and trying to not break those.
E.g. the good old "keep your lane" rule for the highway. This is counteracted by other regulations stating you shouldn't "linger in the fast lane".
Now, depending on which road, owned by which agency, you're traveling one or the other may carry a more severe penalty. But do you know which it is on every road anywhere? Do you even know whose regulations are in effect on every road anywhere?
Citizens are not expected to follow the laws and regulations. It is that failure that provides so much "income" to cities and states not to mention the power to coerce citizens do do things they don't want to do under threat of jail time. Hey! Who wouldn't abuse that kind of power?
The writer of this article has for several years been occupied with a work which involved careful study and comparison of all the statute books of the United States. And the statutes, however contemptuously the court of law regard them, are after all on the utterance of the people's will. They are the direct speech of the "One who has authority."
No one could do this today, even if they made a career of it.
The author was very astute in other areas as well. Areas most academics seem willfully confused about since 1900
It may be that the present state is in the main eternal; it may be that the leap to socialism will be taken. Communism, under present evidence, need not be feared. Socialism is the greater danger of the two. And, to the mind of the writer, it is the greater evil; just as man himself is a greater thing than his possessions.
Don Boudreaux makes the distinction between laws and regulations, laws being those commonly agreed upon decisions made by society--stop on red, go on green, don't steal stuff--and regulations, which are put in place by politicians and their functionaries to restrict one in favor of another.
To be fair: a lot of these regulations are very, very specific. I work in a heavily regulated industry (Medical devices) and yes, there are eventual criminal penalties.
But I will say this- they're usually pretty sensible- like you not only have to screw up, but cover it up, repeatedly. Having, say, someone die of your device, even if it's a Class I or II (Scalpels and the like) where that is highly unexpected won't jail anyone.
And I say this as someone who thinks Ron paul is dangerous statist- it's honestly a good example of government by and large doing a good job. The FDA is a pain to deal with.
on the other hand, my area of focus is the EU and EU medical device regulation, and I'd say that the MDD and the Notified Bodies I've worked with have been too lax.
Anywhoo- my point is this- most of these regulations with criminal penalities aren't going to be "No green hats on sundays". they're going to involve recondite details of storing dangerous chemicals, or making medicines, or yes, BS EPA rules, which are BS.
Harvey Silverglate wrote the book "three felonies a day" because there are over 4000 federal felonies and he estimates that a person unknowingly commits that many felonies each day.