Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Broad rules=selective prosecution

The FTC has unveiled rules that would require bloggers to state any conflict of interest they might have when reviewing or endorsing products. Not withstanding the fact that, unlike many other communities, the blogosphere is pretty self-policing (think Wikipedia and how long incorrect information stays up before someone jumps on it) the Feds think it'll be a good idea that, if you say a recipe is better using a specific kind of bacon, you had better be DARN sure that you disclose any ties you might have to the hog farmer, the wood supplier for the smoker, the manufacturer, and the delivery guy. You might think I'm overstating, but that's the problem with such laws--they give license to the regulator to come down on you for any perceived reason.

I'm seeing this as part of a larger problem. In 1947, the Code of Federal Regulations, which essentially act as the strong arm of federal laws passed, was almost pamphlet sized. Now, the Code of Federal Regulations (which have the force of law done even though they are written by bureaucrats) consists of several bookcases worth of paper.

As Brian Walsh writes in the Washington Times (h.t. Insty),
Astronomical numbers of federal criminal laws lack specifics, can apply to almost anyone and fail to protect innocents by requiring substantial proof that an accused person acted with actual criminal intent.
His article has examples that are enough to chill the blood because, in one case cited, it wasn't enough for the federal government when one case was thrown out, they went after the person again from another angle. This avoids double-jepardy but I think it shows that an overzealous bureaucrat can be more dangerous to individual liberty than anything else the federal government has created.

The only thing I can see to do is to start over and wipe the slate clean. There have been movements in this area towards the IRS (who among us doesn't get a frisson of terror when you get an evelope from them?) but I think that it needs to go much further. Most of these rules and regulations that stem from laws passed are put in place without public input and the people enforcing them have little or no limits on their actions.

We are supposed to be a nation ruled by Law, not by bureaucratic regulation. We are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, but the way the federal government is working, that's not the case and these new regulations from the FTC are just another symptom of a greater problem.

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