Another amazing job done by the federal government.
Two objections to the current state of federal law have been that no one knows how many federal crimes there are, and no one can easily find them all…
No List Exists
The American legal system has always presumed—often incorrectly—that every person knows every criminal law. In fact, no one—no police officer, no prosecutor, no judge, and no law professor—knows all of them. One reason why this problem has existed is that there is no compendium of all federal criminal laws that a person—or a lawyer—could turn to when issues arise.
In the past the Justice Department and the American Bar Association (ABA) separately attempted to prepare a list of federal offenses. Neither the Justice Department nor the ABA succeeded, no other component of the executive branch has picked up the baton since then, and no comprehensive, easily accessible list exists today…
The federal government has the legal and moral responsibility to make the federal criminal laws known to the public before someone can be charged with a crime. To date, it has not met that responsibility.
So the federal government creates all these laws that the people must obey or face criminal prosecution, but then the government provides no way for the people to see what those laws are. And since ignorance of the law is no defense, the public faces the risk of running afoul of laws they don’t even know exist. The government’s irresponsibility increases the burden of responsibility for the citizen. This reminds us of the high error rate on advice given by the IRS.
The January 2004 report of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration [TIGTA] confirms the IRS’s error rate for advice it gives at its hundreds of walk-in Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) remains unacceptably high.
The report reveals the IRS provided “flatly incorrect answers 20 percent of the time.” In another 15 percent of the cases, the IRS provided a “correct” answer without first obtaining the background information necessary to provide a correct answer–a serious oversight when providing tax advice.
But of course, the IRS is not responsible if you file an incorrect return on the basis of their bad advice. The taxpayer always retains full responsibility. The government can screw up on its own tax rules, but the taxpayer can’t.
Likewise, airport security run by the TSA is incompetent, inefficient, and irrational, and has never caught a terrorist…but you have to just shut up, take off your belt and shoes, and keep that line moving.
A vivid way to see the extent to which the people have lost control of their own government is to reflect how often the government cuts the citizen no slack, despite itself being inept and bungling in the same field. In a truly free republic it would be the other way around; the government would need to get its act together before the public had any obligation to pay or to obey.