The Daily Signal

Morning Bell: Getting a Meddling Government Out of Our Lives

The next time a cashier asks “paper or plastic?” think of Abbie Schoenwetter. He spent more than six years in federal confinement for shipping lobster in plastic instead of cardboard.

There’s no American law against doing so. But thanks to a vague, overly broad, and otherwise unjust federal criminal law, the U.S. government claimed it was upholding a Honduran regulation.

Abbie Schoenwetter’s business, health, and family life (he has a wife and three kids) were wiped out because unreasonable federal prosecutors used an unjust law to target Abbie and a Honduran fisherman from whom Abbie purchased his seafood.

He’s finally free now. But he notes that “The worst thing anybody can do to you is take away your freedom.”

Indeed, the purpose of the U.S. Constitution is to secure the rights and liberties promised in the Declaration of Independence.

Today, though, the federal government has acquired a nearly unquestioned dominance over virtually every area of American life.

The scope and depth of its rules means that the national government increasingly regulates more and more of our most basic activities, from how much water is in our toilets to what kind of light bulbs we can buy. This is a government that is increasingly unlimited, undemocratic, and damaging to popular self-government.

Conservatives want to restore real limits on a government that is out of control.

This will not occur all at once or across the board. Nor will it result from one judicial decision, presidential order, or comprehensive piece of legislation. We will be strategic, defining and pursuing a realistic path that measurably reintroduces constitutional limits—by focusing government on its primary obligations, restoring its responsibility and democratic accountability, and correcting its worst excesses.

America’s Opportunity for All, Heritage’s new plan that we have been highlighting all week, includes rebuilding constitutional self-government. Some sensible steps include:

How does the government meddle in your life? Tell us in the comments.

Matthew Spalding, Ph.D., is Heritage’s vice president for American Studies and director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics.

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