Perspectives: That which is not forbidden is now mandatory

OPINION – Imagine going to bed a law abiding citizen and waking up the next day a criminal.

This isn’t just an academic exercise; it’s become a reality for gun owners in states like California, New York, Colorado, and now Connecticut. Individuals who have followed the rules, worked hard, and been productive citizens their entire lives have become potential felons overnight.

It’s not because of anything they did. It’s not because of something they’ve threatened to do. The only thing that changed was the passage of an administrative law forbidding possession of standard capacity magazines for their firearms. If convicted of illegally possessing a banned magazine, they face jail time and the permanent loss of most of their civic rights.

In this case, the law isn’t stopping criminals from doing harm; it is creating new criminals where there were none before.

We are drifting further from the principle that a free society requires only enough laws to provide protection against individuals who had actually injured others. Now we see laws being passed for the purpose of increasing the state’s power over us even when our actions are peaceable.

We’re fast approaching the point when everything that is not forbidden will be compulsory.

When complicated and innumerable regulations are imposed by centralized power instead of being distributed widely, our laws become arbitrary and tyranny takes root. Consider how “zero tolerance” policies are administered and you’ll begin to understand the extremes to which this worldview leads.

A childhood drawing of a soldier with a gun is treated as a terrorist threat. Nail clippers or an aspirin at school bring suspension for violation of weapons or drug policies. Under this inflexible thinking, average people can be punished over laws that they had no idea they were breaking. Individuals are sent to prison over paperwork errors or charged with conspiracy over things they never intended to do.

Even if we spend every spare moment researching laws, edicts, administrative rulings and regulations, we will miss some. All it takes to become a criminal is for a bureaucrat at any level to take an unhealthy interest in someone. Then it’s simply a matter of finding the appropriate loophole to snare them.

Any of us could be guilty of something. We have no intent to commit a crime and yet we can’t be sure that we haven’t somehow broken some law somewhere.

This can be illustrated with a quote from Ayn Rand’s masterpiece “Atlas Shrugged” where a bureaucrat admits, “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.”

Pointing out the increasingly belligerent nature of our legal code is not a call for anarchy. But many of our laws appear to support the belief that somehow human nature has changed to the point that we cannot be trusted to do the right thing without being pre-emptively micromanaged.

Obviously, there is value in those laws that provide society with justice, protection, and order. We should have a sense of civic pride when we are living as productive, upstanding, law-abiding citizens.

But clearly, some laws promote and protect our freedom while others try to prevent it. The bigger question is, how many of us recognize when we’re being backed into a corner?

Free people are willing to read the fine print, examine the technicalities and take action to either prevent or to correct bad laws. Those who do not wish to be free either shrug and change the channel or roll over and go back to sleep.

Most of us instinctively sense that the endless encroachment of the state does not bode well for the future of freedom. Writer Boston T. Party has pointed out that if a people get the government they deserve, then it stands to reason that government gets the people it deserves.

Creating a nation of potential criminals may turn out to be a very bad idea. To paraphrase mild-mannered comic book hero Bruce Banner, “Don’t treat me like a criminal. You won’t like me when I’m a criminal.”

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.


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  • Billion April 4, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    That’s pretty dramatic, but I don’t think you meant to say: “We are drifting further from the principle that a free society requires only enough laws to provide protection against individuals who had actually injured others”

  • Amanda Ballif April 4, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Thank you, Brian, for telling the truth in a succinct and helpful way. The number of laws is so overwhelming, that our country is fast becoming a society where people will get away with breaking long-standing laws because we are too busy thinking about all the new ones. I call it chaos.

  • Francis Pope April 4, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    Those of us who are old enough, may well remember a statement by then Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.
    “Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you.” He also made the statement,”I once said, “We will bury you,” and I got into trouble with it. Of course we will not bury you with a shovel. Your own working class will bury you.”
    I believe that we are being buried right now. Of course not by Khrushchev who is long dead, or the USSR which no longer exists. We are being buried by our own politicians, who have succumbed to, if not communism, at least socialism.

  • Chris April 4, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    If you truly believe that we need “only enough laws to provide protection against individuals who had actually injured others,” then what do you think of our drug laws that make millions of Americans criminals for simply possessing a substance?

    • Bryan Hyde April 4, 2013 at 7:22 pm

      Such laws are inconsistent with the proper role of government.

      • mark boggs April 5, 2013 at 5:05 am

        How about the Defense of Marriage Act?

      • Chris April 5, 2013 at 9:14 am

        Thank you, Bryan. I hoped you would say that. Many of those who complain about the “nanny state” are hypocritical when it comes to drug laws and other similar laws against gambling, usury and prostitution.

  • Karen April 4, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    My generation read Atlas Shrugged in the 70’s and thought it was a “masterpiece” (to use the words of Bryan Hyde). Then we grew up and discovered that her ideas about objectivism, etc. were morally selfish. In other words, we grew up. Now we have the far-right embracing the Ayn Rand motto. Are they ever going to grow up?

    • Bryan Hyde April 5, 2013 at 9:38 am

      Is considering yourself entitled to the labor of another person considered “grown up” these days? That sounds more consistent with slavery or serfdom. Being assimilated by the big-government Borg doesn’t equal intellectual or moral maturity.

      • Karen April 5, 2013 at 3:24 pm

        Rejecting the selfishness of Ayn Rand (people who are enamored of her should really read more about her views) has nothing to do with big government or the “nanny state”. It also has nothing to do with Paul Ryan’s “takers” and “makers” nonsense. Being “grown-up” recognizes that we are morally bound to help each other and that sometimes government provides the best means of helping us help each other.

        • zacii April 5, 2013 at 4:33 pm

          You mean the gov’t provides the best means of force to make us “help” each other.

          That is hardly moral.

        • Bryan Hyde April 5, 2013 at 6:58 pm

          I actually agree with you, Karen, that Ayn Rand’s “virtue” of selfishness can be taken too far. Ever notice how children have no place in “Atlas Shrugged” or “The Fountainhead”? I agree with zacii that our personal responsibility to be our brother’s keeper is not a matter of government coercion.

    • William April 8, 2013 at 3:46 pm

      Karen; I certainly am not as well read as you appear to be on Ayn Rand. However, selfishness does exist. Rand is not the only one to say that. Other libertarian mind folks (such a Basiat) taught very eloquently that man is both lazy and selfish. He taught that if it is beneficial men will naturally glut themselves on the labor of others. That does not make them advocates of selfishness, but only expressing acknowledgements of it.

      Unrestrained government simply places the selfishness of mankind into the hands of a few rather than at the whim of each. In that respect government is a form of cowardice. Men defer the intent to plunder from other into the hands of socialists (government), to avoid the consequences of their personal theft. Government is merely institutionalized dominion over others.

      What most people fail to see is the single most significant factor of the USA’s independence. Even the French, whom sought to replicate the USA independence missed the fundamental truth. The USA is the only nation in the history of the world that was founded on the principle of non-coercion. Every other government was designed to engage in “power over”unlimited individual rights. The USA government was singularly established to FIRST protect individual rights from such coercion.

  • Eric Martin April 6, 2013 at 11:16 am

    It is pretty dramatic, especially after all that happened in my world and Rachel’s last week. Its time for us to be more aware of our government and our elected officials. It is our right to demand what is appropriate. Too many people turn a blind eye to the abuse of women, children and our rights to protect.

    Read the back story of why…

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