As former Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens testifies before a congressional committee investigating allegations of the use of performance enhancing drugs in the sport, the observations in my Tech Central Station article during the last big government investigation into the matter apply as strongly as ever:
It remains unclear . . . that legislative action by the federal government is needed or appropriate in this matter. If the use of steroids is indeed a problem, one should think that state laws would certainly be able to handle it, especially given the demand-side approach Congress appears to be taking, as evidenced by yesterdays hearings. Nonetheless, performing an investigation to shine light on the problem is certainly an appropriate activity of Congress.
The reason given by the committee members as to why this particular committee was investigating the matter, however, is rather chilling.
In short, they have noted that this committee is empowered to investigate anything it chooses to look into. Equipped with subpoena power, this makes the GROC into a central investigative tribunal for the federal government. Anyone who falls afoul of the interests of the Congress—which means anyone who should chance to fall into great disfavor in popular opinion, as baseball’s steroid users have obviously done—might be hauled before Congress and forced to testify in a nationally televised fishing expedition, with or without a grant of immunity from prosecution on either the federal or state level. At which point, taking the Fifth Amendment becomes a highly public acknowledgment of wrongdoing.
Clemens’s willingness to fight the Congress and the U.S. Justice Department appears foolhardy given the amount of evidence against him, yet one can surely sympathize with his situation. No one is big enough to beat the U.S. government if they really want to get you. Al Capone couldn’t, Hitler couldn’t, and even the Soviet Union’s great empire couldn’t.
That is why that government’s power should be wielded only when necessary and only to the extent necessary. That is why our nation’s Founders limited the national government’s powers only to those explicitly granted in the Constitution (the now long-dead doctrine known as strict constructionism), and it is why our current bloated and intrusive national government is an offense against our principles and an outrage against the people of these United States.