Unknown Laws Provide A Bonanza For “Law Enforcement”

This story is quite revealing: “Web of environmental rules threatens Gulf Coast businesses with jail, steep fines.”

“As head of a family-run business in North Carolina that takes customers on deep-sea fishing trips, Gould is just one of a growing group who say they have suffered at the hands of regulators imposing stiff fines and disproportionate penalties. The government tells him when, where and what he can catch. ‘Total control of your life – that’s what they want,’ said Gould. ‘You take away the incentive for somebody to do something bit by bit by bit. It’s like peeling the layers off an onion. You can only peel so much and then you don’t have any onion left.’”

I think that is exactly right, but we should  not imagine that this process works because the rules are meant to be obeyed. Just the opposite: the point is to keep the rules hidden so that people disobey them without knowing it, or else to make so many that no one can help disobeying them.

“According to a new report by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, thousands of people are being prosecuted for environmental crimes every day they didn’t know were even on the books. They’ve been threatened, fined and thrown in jail. The trend is especially prominent along the Gulf Coast, but is becoming a national issue. In Texas, there are 11 felonies relating to harvesting oysters that can land a person in prison for a decade. In the Carolinas, government officials have cracked down on fishermen — both commercial and sport — and in some cases cut off their ability to make a living.”

It is true that bureaucrats want power, but that doesn’t mean they want us to obey the rules. As stifling as written rules can be, they leave us with areas of freedom. If we obey the known rules then the bureaucrats have nothing more to say to us. This is unacceptable to them. Real power requires constant fear, a motive to obey and submit to whatever the bureaucrat says or does.

These thousands of laws are perfect for what they are designed to do.  By surprise enforcement or selective non-enforcement, Americans can be kept in bondage to fear. Only this constant fear can “unpeel the onion” and produce total compliance–which means abject submission.

Ayn Rand put it well in the mouth of one of her bureaucrat villains in the novel Atlas Shrugged:

“Did you really think we want those laws observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them to be broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against… We’re after power and we mean it… There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted and you create a nation of law-breakers… and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Reardon, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”