How Many Felonies Have You Committed Today?

“Our laws, like kudzu, grow and” grow.”

We are at the mercy of any Federal prosecutor who thinks it is worthwhile to prosecute us. At least that is the conclusion of Harvey Silvergate, the author of Three Felonies a Day. According to Silvergate, an ordinary person commits three criminal felonies every day without knowing it.

In 2016, the Obama administration added 3,852 federal regulations. The Federal Register ended the year by printing a record setting 97,110 pages of them. According to recent congressional testimony, the number of federal regulations enacted by unelected bureaucrats but carrying criminal penalties may be as many as 300,000.

This is not the kind of information that normally inspires poets, but it inspired me.


Quand un peuple a de bonnes moeurs,

les lois deviennent simples.—Montesquieu

Congress passed a law the other day

that is longer than Remembrance of Things Past

and more opaque than Finnegan’s Wake.

Our Representatives admit they haven’t read it,

which means they didn’t write it, either.

We are governed by butlers and upstairs maids.


Restaurants are required to serve us salads.

And we are forbidden to smoke indoors.

But we grow more lethargic every day.

Movie stars and journalists insist

that what’s required is plainly more repression,

And so our laws, like kudzu, grow and grow,

and we live in the shadows

of prosecutorial discretion.

“We Live in the Shadows” is from this book:


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