John Stossel's Illegal Everything

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Feb. 27, 2012

"Did you really think we want those laws observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them to be broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against... We're after power and we mean it... 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. Now that's the system, Mr. Reardon, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with." - Ayn Rand, "Atlas Shrugged"
Have excessive rules and red tape made us all criminals?

John Stossel argues that America has become a country where no one can know what is legal.

Kids who open lemonade stands are now shut down by police. Stossel tries to open a lemonade stand legally in NYC. That was quite an adventure. It takes 65 days to get permission from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

With government adding 80,000 pages of rules and regulations every year, it's no surprise that regular people break laws without even trying.

A small businessman spent 6 years in federal prison for breaking Honduran regulations (and, to make it worse, the Honduran government said he didn't). A family in Idaho can't build a home on their land because the EPA says it's a wetland-but it only resembles a wetland because a government drain malfunctioned and flooded it.

TAXI TROUBLE: Want to start a taxi business? Too bad - it's illegal. Illegal, that is, unless you buy a government-issued "taxi medallion" that can cost as much as a million dollars. One city has a free market for cabs - Washington, DC - but lobbyists there are pushing to regulate.

ILLEGAL FOOD: Increasingly, government tells us what we can and can't eat - bans on trans-fat, happy meals, "raw" foods. California officials raided a raw food club, and arrested clerks for selling unpasteurized milk. Farmer Joel Salatin, author of "Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal," explains why Americans DON'T have the freedom to choose the food they eat.

ILLEGAL DRUGS: Drug use is illegal - but should it be? Where drugs are legal, businessmen replace gangs as the dealers and pay taxes. Portugal decriminalized all drugs 10 years ago-including crack, ecstasy, and heroin. What has happened since then? We go to Portugal and get the facts from police, politicians, and drug addicts

ILLEGAL SEX: Our government bans prostitution because people think it's a dirty, dangerous business. But in brothels where prostitution is legal there is no crime or disease. On this show, three sex workers confront a prosecutor.

One bit of good news is that while there may be so many laws that no one knows if he's a lawbreaker, it has never been easier to "watch the watchmen." Tiny cameras in our iPods and cell phones allow citizens to film law enforcement and hold our government accountable. But in the last few years, cops have arrested and jailed people for taping in public. The arrests are not legal, but they happen anyway. Fortunately, arrests are caught on tape.







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