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Opening Arguments

4,889 and counting

Always wanted the romantic life of the outlaw? Congratulations, you may already be one!

The federal government has created more than 400 new crimes since 2008, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

In a June report to the House Over-Criminalization Task Force, the CRS identified 439 new criminal offenses to the U.S. Code between 2008 and 2013.

A 2008 analysis by the law scholar John S. Baker for the Heritage Foundation found that, between 2000 and 2007, the government added 452 crimes to the books, indicating the government has increased the rate at which it created new crimes.

The 2008 report identified “at least 4,450 federal crimes.” Adding in the CRS report tally, there are now 4,889 federal crimes on the books.

And that's with a supposedly do-nothing, gridlocked Congress. Imagine the damage they could do if they were functioning at full speed.

Obviously there are federal laws we can all support, like those about child pornography and racketeering. But some of them are as questionable as you might imagine. Mailing cigaretrtes and smokeless tobacco has been criminalized, for example.

Conservatives concerned about federal overreach rightly complain about taxes and spending and the expansion of the administrative state. But expansion of the criminal code is another way the federal government goes beyond its constitutuionally defined limited role.