Do We Want a Federal Police Force?

The Supreme Court and Congress Versus the People

Probably the last thing that would have occurred to New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer on his way to meet “Kristen” in Room 870 of D.C.’s Mayflower Hotel was that both he and the Emperor’s Club VIP were under FBI surveillance for federal crimes—prostitution and a financial crime called “structuring.”

Traditionally, the enforcement of criminal law in the United States has been handled by the states.  As a government of constitutionally limited power, Washington has typically exercised self-restraint, policing only crimes against itself, crimes taking place on government property, and crimes involving a substantial interstate element.  However, in the past few decades, the federal government has increasingly created federal crimes that overlap state ones.  There are now over 4,000 federal crimes in the U.S. Code.

Washington is so rich that it has grown careless: No local police, investigating a gun charge, would have acted like the U.S. marshals who went into the Idaho mountains at Ruby Ridge to arrest a separatist hermit—killing his 14-year-old son and wife—to bring him to trial, where he was ultimately acquitted of any serious charges, after the government had squandered ten million dollars.  The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) and FBI agents spent much more than that in a 51-day siege at Waco, Texas, before burning 82 Branch Davidians—men,...

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