John Stossel’s recent article, “America, The Law-Crazed,” brings into sharp focus America’s troubling tendency toward incarceration and criminalization. This has been driven by an expansion in the scope and scale of criminalization, with an incomprehensibly large number of criminal laws and a propensity towards more severe punishments.

Stossel’s article covers a variety of topics, from the endless occupational licensing and regulatory burdens on our nation’s most productive members to the often misguided approach to substance abuse which prioritizes incarceration ahead of treatment. The ultimate value of these policies must turn on whom, if anyone, benefits. Stossel posits that it is not the American people, but rather politicians at the expense of the people.

From the article, published originally at Human Events:

I want my government to arrest real criminals — ones who violate our rights — and to lock them up so we’ll be protected. But our politicians go way beyond that. Governments at all levels have long been in the business of forbidding conduct that violates no one’s rights and piling on complex laws to govern conduct that might harm someone. And they keep passing more.

They have created a byzantine maze of criminal law that is so incomprehensible that even legal specialists don’t agree on what the rules specify. Then ambitious prosecutors ruin lives enforcing those laws. The prosecutors and lawmakers say this is for our own good.

No, it’s not.