When Everything is a Crime

Few people understand the price of overregulation like Harvey Silverglate. Over his long career as an attorney and journalist, Silverglate has seen the rising bureaucratic class enact hundreds of thousands of federal regulations and vaguely-worded statutes. The result has been the criminalization of everyday life. From university campuses to corporate boardrooms, ever more citizens are facing severe punishments for behavior that was once considered harmless.

Silverglate himself has been repeatedly pursued by the FBI, only to see the investigations come to nothing.

But the longtime civil libertarian is optimistic for change. Now that the regulatory state has grown so complex that powerful people are getting tripped up in their own rules, Silverglate thinks reform is possible. Regarding the trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell for the vague charge of honest services fraud, he said: “People who wouldn’t agree on what day of the week this is, agreed that the Department of Justice was becoming almost a terrorist organization with respect to state, local, and even federal public officials. That’s what causes change: the people in power begin to get hurt by their own system.”

Silverglate is the co-founder of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the author of Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent and co-author of The Shadow University: The Betrayal Of Liberty On America’s Campuses. He spoke with Reason TV from his Boston office.


0:42 – What is overcriminalization?

4:37 – Why do we need mens rea reform?

7:06 – How did we get all these regulations and bureaucrats?

11:11 – How can we get out of this mess?

12:50 – Speech codes, kangaroo courts, and the overregulation of our universities.

17:28 – The changing student population and the end of in loco parentis.

23:26 – Herbert Marcuse and his “wacko theory” of differential rights.

27:07 – Is freedom of speech moving forwards or backwards in society?

30:25 – How the F.B.I. came after Silverglate.

34:00 – Silverglate discusses his background and influences.

38:44 – Silverglate’s upcoming book and movie.

Runs 42 minutes.

Produced by Todd Krainin. Interview by Nick Gillespie. Cameras by Meredith Bragg and Jim Epstein.

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