Suppose you’re the owner of a taxicab company in a largish metropolitan area. One day you notice some taxis tooling around town—and they’re not yours. They belong to an upstart competitor. His cars are newer, his drivers are nicer, and his fares are lower. Pretty soon your profits start shrinking. What are you going to do about it?
You have a couple of choices. Option A: Invest a lot of money in new vehicles, customer-service training for your drivers, GPS systems to map faster routes and so on. A lot of expense. A lot of effort.
So you go for Option B: Invest a little money in a few politicians, who adopt a medallion law: Only licensed operators with city-issued taxi medallions may operate cabs. The oldest cab companies get first dibs on the medallions, at the lowest rates. Only a few medallions are left over for the new guy, and he can’t afford them anyway. Bingo—your competition problem is solved. The customers might not like it, but what are they going to do—walk?
Is the Libyan war legal? Was bin Laden’s killing legal? Is it legal for the president of the United States to target an American citizen for assassination? Were those “enhanced interrogation techniques” legal? These are all questions raised in recent weeks. Each seems to call out for debate, for answers. Or does it?…
[I]f, in a country theoretically organized under the rule of law, wrongdoers are never brought to justice and nobody is held accountable for possibly serious crimes, then you don’t have to be a constitutional law professor to know that its citizens actually exist in a post-legal state. If so, “Is it legal?” is the wrong question to be asking, even if we have yet to discover the right one.
Of course, when it came to a range of potential Bush-era crimes—the use of torture, the running of offshore “black sites,” the extraordinary rendition of terrorist suspects to lands where they would be tortured, illegal domestic spying and wiretapping, and the launching of wars of aggression—it’s hardly news that no one of the slightest significance has ever been brought to justice. On taking office, President Obama offered a clear formula for dealing with this issue. He insisted that Americans should “look forward, not backward” and turn the page on the whole period, and then set his Justice Department to work on other matters. But honestly, did anyone anywhere ever doubt that no Bush-era official would be brought to trial here for such potential crimes? …
Nothing better illustrates the nature of our post-legal society: Anti-torture laws were on the books in this country. If legality had truly mattered, it would have been beside the point whether torture was an effective way to produce “actionable intelligence” and so prepare the way for the killing of a bin Laden.
By analogy, it’s perfectly reasonable to argue that robbing banks can be a successful and profitable way to make a living, but who would agree that a successful bank robber hadn’t committed an act as worthy of prosecution as an unsuccessful one caught on the spot? Efficacy wouldn’t matter in a society whose central value was the rule of law. In a post-legal society in which the ultimate value espoused is the safety and protection a national security state can offer you, it means the world. …
When it comes to acts of state today, there is only one law: don’t pull up the curtain on the doings of any aspect of our spreading National Security Complex or the imperial executive that goes with it. …
And when someone in Congress actually moves to preserve some aspect of older notions of American privacy (versus American secrecy), as Sen. Rand Paul did recently in reference to the PATRIOT Act, he is promptly smeared as potentially “giving terrorists the opportunity to plot attacks against our country, undetected.”…
Here is the reality of post-legal America: since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the National Security Complex has engorged itself on American fears and grown at a remarkable pace. According to Top Secret America, a Washington Post series written in mid-2010, 854,000 people have “top secret” security clearances, “33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001 … 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks … [and] some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.” …
Consider what it means to have a U.S. Intelligence Community (as it likes to call itself) made up of 17 different agencies and organizations, a total that doesn’t even include all the smaller intelligence offices in the National Security Complex, which for almost 10 years proved incapable of locating its global enemy number one. Yet, as everyone now agrees, that man was living in something like plain sight, exchanging messages with and seeing colleagues in a military and resort town near Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. And what does it mean that, when he was finally killed, it was celebrated as a vast intelligence victory?
The Intelligence Community with its $80 billion-plus budget, the National Security Complex, including the Pentagon and that post-9/11 creation, the Department of Homeland Security, with its $1.2 trillion-plus budget, and the imperial executive have thrived in these years. They have all expanded their powers and prerogatives based largely on the claim that they are protecting the American people from potential harm from terrorists out to destroy our world.
Above all, however, they seem to have honed a single skill: the ability to protect themselves, as well as the lobbyists and corporate entities that feed off them. They have increased their funds and powers, even as they enveloped their institutions in a penumbra of secrecy. The power of this complex of institutions is still on the rise, even as the power and wealth of the country it protects is visibly in decline. …
So, democracy? The people’s representatives? How quaint in a world in which our real rulers are unelected, shielded by secrecy, and supported by a carefully nurtured, almost religious attitude toward security and the U.S. military. …
Theoretically, the National Security Complex exists only to protect you. Its every act is done in the name of making you safer, even if the idea of safety and protection doesn’t extend to your job, your foreclosed home, or aid in disastrous times.
Welcome to post-legal America. It’s time to stop wondering whether its acts are illegal and start asking: Do you really want to be this “safe”?
Everyone pays lip service to the rule of law. Indeed I’ve never heard of anyone rejecting it as undesirable. (It has been called impossible under prevailing circumstances but that is a different point.) So why is the principle so flagrantly violated with almost no public outrage?
Take President Obama’s intervention in the Libyan civil war. Even if we grant that he could legally enter that conflict by his own unilateral decision – a big if, which we’ll explore below – the War Powers Resolution of 1973 requires him after 60 days to cease operations or ask Congress for authorization to continue. One week ago today the clock ran out on the Libyan intervention, yet Obama has neither ceased operations nor asked for authorization.
He’s violated the law. (Never mind that Obama said that Operation Odyssey Dawn would take days not weeks.)
To their credit a few members of Congress are protesting. “The president is not a king, and he shouldn’t act like a king,” Republican Rep. Dan Burton said. Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman agreed: “It’s time to stop shredding the U.S. Constitution in a presumed effort to bring democracy and constitutional rule of law to Libya.”
Now there’s bipartisanship one can applaud.
How one feels about the Libyan intervention should be irrelevant here. (I think it’s improper by any reasonable criterion.) What’s under challenge is the executive branch’s unilateral authority to take the country into war, putting Americans and others at risk, not to mention spending billions of dollars in borrowed money. To say the least, the founders were determined to prevent just this from happening. Thus the Constitution gives only the Congress the power to declare and appropriate money for war. But since 1942 no president has asked Congress for a declaration of war. (“Authorizations” that give blank checks to a president don’t count.) That’s why the War Powers Resolution was adopted. It was a half-hearted attempt to restore some measure of congressional authority over war-making. The problem is that no president has accepted it, and members of Congress generally have been too pusillanimous to stand up to a president. Considering the Supreme Court’s reluctance to enter this kind of dispute between the “political branches” (as if the Supreme Court were not political), the Court probably would have ducked any challenge anyway.
So presidents have repeatedly gotten away with lawlessness. Yet as Glenn Greenwald notes, that does not make new violations lawful.
Under the War Powers Resolution a president can commit troops to combat on his own say-soonly in “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.” Thus the Libyan intervention is illegal under the Resolution. The battle between Muammar al-Qaddafi and rebel forces clearly fails to satisfy that description of “national emergency.” Obama, then, had no obvious authority whatever to lead a NATO air campaign against the Libyan government. Saving Libyan civilians from danger (even if that were a realistic prospect) cannot justify U.S. intervention. (On the dubious threat of a civilian massacre see Steve Chapman’s “Obama’s War of Choice.”)
With three wars going simultaneously, and a few more in the hopper, Americans are sick and tired of war: they don’t want to remember it – and who can blame them? Indeed, Americans don’t care to remember much of anything, these days, least of all the disastrous wars that have plagued us in recent years. Inundated with problems that seem insoluble, convinced they can have no effect on the course of events in any case, most Americans have acquired a case of advanced historical Alzheimer’s out of sheer self-protection. …
The war dead are honored, and yet the real reasons for their sacrifice are entirely forgotten, or – worse – mythologized into their exact opposite. We fought two world wars to “make the world safe for democracy” – not to save the British empire, or to establish its American successor. We fought the commies for the same reason – not to establish Western hegemony over the entire world. The history books say so, and so they must be right: who but marginal cranks can doubt these basic lessons of Official American History 101? After all, both liberals and conservatives agree, and since “politics stops at the water’s edge” that’s the only view we get to hear, and, therefore, the only one worth knowing.
Human memory is the War Party’s deadliest enemy, and that’s why they do everything to either make us forget, or else lead us to believe in some fictional version of the past, one that obscures the utter failure of all our past wars to accomplish what its authors said they wanted to achieve.
Unfortunately, the pernicious nature of the state often uses our troops as tools to further put our liberty at risk.
One vision — the vision of militarism and empire — will bring America more violence, death, destruction, impoverishment, and loss of freedom. The other vision — the vision of a limited-government, constitutional republic with citizen-soldiers — would put our nation back on the right road of peace, prosperity, harmony, and freedom.
In times of war, U.S. presidents have often talked about yearning for peace. But the last decade has brought a gradual shift in the rhetorical zeitgeist while a tacit assumption has taken hold — war must go on, one way or another.
"I am continuing and I am increasing the search for every possible path to peace," Lyndon Johnson said while escalating the Vietnam War. In early 1991, the first President Bush offered the public this convolution: "Even as planes of the multinational forces attack Iraq, I prefer to think of peace, not war." More than a decade later, George W. Bush told a joint session of Congress: "We seek peace. We strive for peace."
While absurdly hypocritical, such claims mouthed the idea that the USA need not be at war 24/7/365.
But these days, peace gets less oratorical juice. In this era, after all, the amorphous foe known as “terror” will never surrender.
There’s an intractable enemy for you; beatable but never quite defeatable. Terrorists are bound to keep popping up somewhere.
A permanent war psychology has dug a groove alongside the permanent war economy. And so, we hear appreciably less about Washington’s ostensible quest for peace. …
When war (“on terror”) is touted as the embodiment of eternal vigilance, war must be eternal — and in that case, why bother to talk much about striving for peace?
So, peace might be a good goal to recommend to some others — but if the United States is terrorism’s biggest target and most powerful foe, then this country is the last place that should expect, or seek, peace. …
A country that’s committed to being at war will treat the real potential for peace as an abstraction.
The most respectful way to honor fallen troops is to not continue sending more troops to die in unprovoked and unnecessary wars. Freedom IS free: it is inherent in all of us - as “endowed by our Creator,” and characteristic of our very sentient humanity - and thus we should not be wiled by trite propaganda into supporting militarism under the guise of requisite defense of freedom.
Another Memorial Day. Of course it’s been around for 103 years, but this is our ninth during wartime, which means we’re simultaneously honoring dead soldiers, while were putting new ones in the ground at Arlington Cemetery.
As of Friday, 4,454 American servicemen and women have been killed in Iraq; 1,595 in Afghanistan. That doesn’t seem like a lot when you consider the more than 58,000 dead in Vietnam and over 415,000 killed in World War II, but we know that today’s singular medical capabilities have allowed for tens of thousands of soldiers and Marines to live today who wouldn’t have made it off the battlefield 40 years ago. Let’s just say it’s been a war of a hundred thousand casualties. …
[P]erhaps more than ever, today’s Memorial Day only underscores, even exacerbates a certain kind of malaise in America today, one more akin to feeling as though one is stuck uncomfortably in a Twilight Zone episode, where time never advances, perhaps worse: we are reliving the same Memorial Day over and over again. …
We’ve been told repeatedly over the course of nearly a decade that the military is “making progress,” that it’s halting the enemy’s “momentum” in Afghanistan. But the progress is “fragile and reversible,” so just give it more time. …
So Congress gives its routine assent to endless war, despite all the red flags. The money flows. We make the same mistakes. The dead are buried. We honor them at the next Memorial Day. …
[A]t the rate we are going, Memorial Day 2014 could come and go and there will still be dead soldiers, protests in the streets, creeping civilian death tolls, veterans killing themselves and neglect at the VA. There will be the obligatory hand-wringing, the stern vows of reform by politicians, Rolling Thunder and a pledge or two for peace – until the next Memorial Day, when we do it all over again. …
We know this war policy is dead – Iraq and Afghanistan have given us nothing in return for 10 years of sacrifice. Yet we run from the truth each Memorial Day, papering over our own “sense of disquiet” with red, white and blue. In doing, so we see the same specter of our fate every year and choose to ignore it. Delaying, of course, the inevitable.
Ask ten people what Memorial Day is about and you’ll probably receive ten different responses. Mentioned are claims of “recognizing those who have served and fallen in defense or service to their country,” “identifying patriots who unselfishly answered the call,” and “acknowledging the heroes of battle.” A common theme encountered in the discussion is remembrance. But, what else should be remembered? Are there not other aspects of war that need remembering?
Remember the architects of perpetual conflict, the schemers and tacticians who design the strategy, chart the acts of aggression, and lay the blueprints for other’s destruction.
Remember the plague of nationhood that infects the innate free spirit of men, disrupts the natural order of peaceful exchange and fuels the slavish obedience to political orders; regardless their legality or morality.
Remember the irresponsible who jump at the opportunity for conflict, forgetting reason, composure, and diplomacy. Remember how they delegate to others the duty to lead the engagement.
Remember the propaganda meisters who flood the airwaves with poisonous lies to reassure a wary, skeptical public; all carefully calculated to stultify the truth of war’s consequences.
Remember the Masters of War who profit from this heinous spectacle- those who gain power and tarnished wealth. Watch them flaunt their booty paid for with the bloody currency of children not their own.
Remember the cheerleaders who urge on “their” warriors with shouts of jingoistic fervor; yet refuse or find it unnecessary to give up theircomfort of state side security.
Remember those who have witnessed, first hand, the horror of battle and tasted the acrid flavor of war’s experience.
Remember those who discover an epiphany, a life changing understanding that war is not the glorious adventure of Hollywood imagery, not the youthful pastime of an entertaining video game.
Remember those of this group who then fail to warn others of this newfound knowledge, who fail to convince compatriots of the needless sacrifice and stolen innocence.
Remember those on the sidelines who do not obey their conscience to speak out against the carnage, who hold their tongues through shyness or cowardice; who stand by silent as family, friends, and neighbors are whisked off to their inevitable doom.
Remember the children who witness war and its atrocities. Remember the confusion within young minds told killing is wrong, than struggle to comprehend the exception of war.
Remember their bewilderment when told to accept the killing of strangers that have done them no harm.
Remember the irreconcilable conflict within the hearts of Christians whose testament instruct “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” and “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also (Luke 6:27–29)” Remember their befuddlement when finding serving their state… requires disregarding these principles. Remember the ideological clash when told serving their “country” preempts faithfulness to their God.
Remember the broken bodies and shattered psyches, still with us to remind us of war’s human cost. Remember the lost potential, the dashed dreams, the oceans of shed tears, the newly discovered war against desperation and hopelessness.
Yes, remember the fallen, the dead. Visit their resting places with solemn respect. Make note of their obscenely abundant and escalating numbers.
Remember that each grave has a face, a story, a soul represented by that slab of coldly etched stone or weathered cross.
Then, remember the graves throughout the world without adornment of a marker- a name, an individual, sentenced to a burial of eternal anonymity. Don’t the numbers now grow exponentially? Some were enemies, some were allies. Remember they also once walked the earth as those you honor. Remember they also aspired to a life of peaceful contentment, though driven by a different philosophy or creed as a means to obtain it.
Remember how, when living, all sides were compelled by opposing views of righteousness but now all are colleagues in death.
Do not only grieve for their loss but remember the lies and liars that killed them.
You may not like some of my Memorial Day posts tomorrow.
A preview: the most respectful way to honor fallen troops is to not continue sending more troops to die. Freedom IS free: it is inherent in all of us - as “endowed by our Creator,” and characteristic of our very sentient humanity - and thus we should not be wiled by trite propaganda into supporting militarism under the guise of requisite defense of freedom.
“If we look at the black record of mass murder, exploitation, and tyranny levied on society by governments over the ages, we need not be loath to abandon the Leviathan State and…try freedom.”—Murray Rothbard
Almost nine months after a Missouri dairy was ordered to stop selling cheese made from raw milk, I share details of another hare-raising story from the Show-Me State: John Dollarhite and his wife Judy of tiny Nixa, Mo., have been told by the USDA that, by Monday, they must pay a fine exceeding $90,000. If they don’t pay that fine, they could face additional fines of almost $4 million. Why? Because they sold more than $500 worth of bunnies — $4,600 worth to be exact — in a single calendar year.
If you lived in a society where healthcare, disability, food, housing, and unemployment were equalized then no one might ‘fall through the cracks’ except by choice.
That’s because we’d all be living in the cracks, assuming you mean “equalized through central planning”; see Cuba.
If you lived in a society where the minimum wage was truly ‘minimum’, then access to education, food, and housing would be equalized.
What does this even mean? If I “lived in a society where the minimum wage was truly ‘minimum’”, then it would be zero - and I would support that. But, since you label yourself as “progressive,” I know that’s not what you meant. So is this a convoluted advocation for a universal “living wage”? Then I’d agree with you: for the aforementioned reason that most of us would be “equalized” in indigence. Again, see Cuba.
If you lived in a society where the merit of achievement is equalized by a 90% tax, then your financial achievement would be truly ‘meritorious’.
Yes, when rewards for success and innovation are minimized, progress would be notably rare indeed. And only those “meritoriously” connected with the central planning obstructionists will have the blessings of “financial achievement.” Also, not surprisingly, see Cuba.
On May 13, 1985, in the twilight of the Cold War, residents of Philadelphia were ruthlessly bombed from the sky. The enemy government was conducting a political mission, but innocent inhabitants of that distinctly American city were caught up in the attack. After ten thousand rounds were fired at civilians over a period of two hours, a helicopter swooped in and dropped C-4 and Tovex explosives, destroying 65 houses. Five children were slaughtered in the strike.
The perpetrator was not the Soviet Union, or else the attack might have escalated into international conflict. It certainly would have made it into textbook timelines and become part of the nation’s consciousness. No, those responsible for this atrocity were members of the Philadelphia police department. The local cops sought to finish off their political enemies after years of animosity and tension. The proximate legal excuse for bombing their own city? The cops had gotten complaints about noise and the stench of compost.
Twenty-six years have passed since the bombing of the MOVE house and if there was any doubt before, it is now beyond question that the local police have become the occupying troops that Malcolm X described. They are the standing army the Founding Fathers warned against. In the United States, they are the most dangerous gang operating and they do so under the color of law. …
Reading… specific accounts of misconduct and brutality, one comes to the inescapable conclusion that police abuse is not a bug in the system; it is an intrinsic feature.
We can cite some of the most gruesome and high-profile outrages of recent years, … [but] let us limit ourselves to just the last couple months to illustrate the depth of the problem. Last month, police in Trenton shot and killed an unarmed man, saying he was reaching for his waistband. In Orlando, police tased a man to death for being disorderly in a movie theater. In Derby, Kansas, a police officer broke a teenager’s arm because he dared to talk back after getting in trouble for wearing sagging pants.
On May 5, police in Tuscon stormed into Jose Guerena’s home around 9 AM, and shot him 71 times. Yes, fearful for his family’s safety, he was holding an AR-15 in self-defense, but didn’t get a shot in, despite lies to the contrary – yet there was no evidence found of any wrongdoing or illegality on his part. In Alabama, a police officer beat an 84-year-old man for reporting a car accident and daring to put the offender under “citizens arrest” – a more civilized version of what police do routinely – and then the officer turned an ambulance away, insisting the elderly victim didn’t need medical help. Louisiana cops tased Kirkin Woolridge at a traffic stop on May 18, and he soon died of complications in jail.
These are just very recent examples that can be found from a minute of Googling. They are no doubt the tip of the iceberg. They do not begin to represent the millions of smaller injustices conducted by police daily, both under the cover of law and in naked violation of statutes and court decisions, or the thousands of daily injustices and acts of torture and sexual abuse in America’s prisons and jails, for which law enforcers are at least indirectly and very often directly responsible.
The chaotic violence of the modern police state is ubiquitous. Every day there are 100 SWAT raids in America. Remember in the old days when SWAT raids were reserved for stopping some terrorist intent on destroying half the city? Maybe that was just in the movies. There were 3,000 SWAT raids in 1981… which was bad enough. There will be 40,000 this year. …
Limited-government libertarians often reserve at least three functions to the state – military, courts and police. But why police? We never tire of talking about America as it was before the government swallowed society whole. In particular, we reminisce about the principles of 1776. Yet, although there was plenty to object to in colonial law and law in the early republic, police as we now know them didn’t exist back then.
Philadelphia adopted a police force in 1845. New Orleans, Cincinnati, Chicago and Baltimore followed suit in the next decade. From the beginning these were politicized bodies, involved in corrupt local politics and enforcing questionable laws. They were not immaculately conceived any more than the state itself. But it was not until the Progressive Era that the modern police force was truly born. At the turn of the century, cities adopted fingerprinting and forensics labs. Soon came radios and patrol cars. Berkeley, California, home to many great strides in progressive social engineering, was also a pioneer in creating modern police. …
Force might be necessary to deal with violent thugs, but allowing the greatest predator of all – the state – to monopolize the sector of the economy concerned with using force against criminals is a recipe for oppression and injustice. The entire history of government police demonstrates they cannot be trusted. They are the henchmen of all the totalitarian regimes we see on the History Channel. In the United States, they were always a menace, at least to some. They tended early on to focus their brutality against the other – immigrants, gangsters, ethnic minorities, transients and the counterculture. Today they still bias their violence against the fringes of society, the young and the powerless, but they are now so vast a presence that no one is safe, no matter how respectable, no matter his demographic. …
Needless to say, all anarchists should support outright and immediate abolition of the police. We’re talking about the enforcement arm of the state, after all. If you oppose the state monopoly, you must favor eliminating the state’s method of maintaining its monopoly – through the police. And indeed, if you distrust socialism, you should distrust law-enforcement socialism as much as anything, for this is the original sin that allows all other state depredations to follow. Also, when the state misallocates resources, it is not nearly so evil in itself as when it inevitably misallocates violence on a massive scale.
For much of U.S. history, Americans had less government and fewer police. Government will necessarily be weaker, all else being equal, the fewer enforcement agents it boasts. Without any armed enforcers, the state withers away. The fewer armed state agents the better. The growth of modern leviathan in the 20th century accompanied the rise of the city police force. Big government and cops go hand in hand.
If your goal is to end the welfare state, the regulatory state, the wars, or anything else seriously bad about government, abolishing the police would seem to be a major priority. Do you oppose taxation? Abolish the police, as well as all other agencies of government law enforcement, and see how threatening those 1040s and state tax forms seem then. …
Some will argue that the police protect our rights. But if the market is really better than socialism, abolishing the police outright shouldn’t be a problem. Why trust the state to continue cornering the market on rights protection? If protecting life, liberty and property is important – and it most certainly is – we cannot … let the central planners and their armed enforcers run the show. Fire them immediately. The market will find a better way to protect us within 24 hours, if it takes nearly that long. If we all take up the abolitionist cause, certainly by the time police are abolished, civil society will find a way to fill the void. …
First of all actual crimes are almost never prevented by the police. The vast majority go unsolved. At best, the police investigate them after they occur, and then usually do nothing. Sometimes they make an arrest, which might, at a huge expense to taxpayers, result in someone in jail – and maybe even the right person. Even in this minority of cases, the idea that jail is a remedy to the rights violation, or prevents more rights violations from occurring, is an unchecked premise. Even putting violent predators in prison where they can brutalize less violent people may not actually reduce the amount of aggression, if we count the victims in the cages, as we should. Meanwhile, even the government’s pursuit of actual criminals entails numerous rights violations in itself – investigations of the innocent, enslaving jurors and witnesses, turning lives upside down. Victims are never made whole. And for this we have to run the risk of being shot or wrongly arrested by the state.
Second of all, the police actively encourage violent crime in myriad ways. They enforce the drug war, which probably doubles the number of homicides and vastly increases street crime, along with some help from gun control, which they also enforce. Gun control, by the way, demonstrates that people do fear the police more than criminals – otherwise no one would follow these gun laws. Instead, law-abiding folks know the risk of being caged for this non-crime is more significant than the risk of being caught unarmed by a private thug. So does gun control operate in preserving the advantage for private criminals. Abolishing the police outright, even if it put upward pressure on crime rates, would probably overall lead to fewer crimes because of the elimination of the criminality incited and encouraged by state activity.
Third and most important, the police themselves routinely violate the rights of innocent people as a major component of their job description. The greater their numbers, financing and power, the worse it gets. It is the job of police to harass the innocent, to jail people for victimless crimes, to stop people for minor traffic violations, to trick people into admitting law breaking, to fulfill quotas for arrests, and to generally instill in the community a fear and awe of the state. It is almost impossible to be a police officer on the beat and not violate the non-aggression principle on a regular basis. As a material fact, most police conducting arrests on the street are committing acts of kidnapping, theft, trespass, and invasion. Those who arrest people who end up in prison are effectively accessories to rape and assault.
Even if having police is a desirable thing, we cannot do so safely until the bad laws are off the books, and then it would be best to fire all police and start over. If having had a severe criminal record tends to disqualify people from the job, so too must having been a reputable police officer. If I am too harsh in this regard, it is just one more reason to abolish the government’s police and allow for the market to take over. Allow entrepreneurs to decide which former government police are redeemable and employable as private security and which are not.
What to do about violent thugs? The market, social norms, private security, the wonders and corollary institutions of private property, gated communities, private gun ownership, religious values – all the blessings of civil society are on our side. But the police rarely are. When a violent criminal kills or assaults or rapes or steals, we all condemn it, and we can find a way to deal with it when the criminals are not protected by the system. But what about when the criminals are the system?
Private security is already a greater bulwark against violent and property crime than many people realize. … For a decade and a half, we have had three times as many private guards as public ones, yet it is an oddity indeed to hear about their abuses, unlike those of the police that make the papers every day – and that’s just counting reported offenses. It should be no wonder. As market actors, private security guards are generally heroic defenders of property, commerce and life, and are liable for the wrong they do, unlike the state’s armed agents, who work for an institution of monopoly, theft, kidnapping, rape rooms and murder.
Can we really survive without government police? When we consider how much they do to disrupt civil society, it would seem obvious that we can. The police, on balance, are a force for decivilization and disorder. They commit massive violations of person and property. They enforce gun and drug laws that basically create organized crime and breed gang activity. Most of what they do encourages, rather than diminishes, violence. Despite all this, America remains a fairly civilized place. If we survived this long with the police, just imagine how much better off we’d be without them.
The Obama Energy Department is loaning a foreign car company $3.5 billion so that it can pay the Treasury Department $7.6 billion even though American taxpayers spent $13 billion to save an American car company that is currently only worth $5 billion.
“He just hit me once,” the student later recalled in a sworn deposition. “It wasn’t a fight. It was nothing.”
Unfortunately, [Officer Daniel Alvarado of San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District Police] happened to be prowling the intersection in his patrol car, and witnessed the trivial dust-up.
“Freeze!” Alvarado shouted at [14-year-old Derek Lopez], who bolted from the scene. Alvarado, in his mid-40s, briefly gave token pursuit before relating the first of several self-serving falsehoods.
“I just had one run from me,” wheezed the winded tax-feeder. “I saw an assault in progress. He punched the guy several times.” (Emphasis added.)
A supervisor instructed Alvarado “not [to] do any big search over there” in pursuit of the assailant. “Let’s stay with the victim and see if we can identify [the suspect] that way.”
Rather than doing as he was ordered, Alvarado bundled the “victim” — who was probably more terrified of the armed functionary than of his obnoxious classmate — into the patrol car and went in pursuit of Lopez.
Lopez vaulted a nearby fence and hid in a backyard shed containing Christmas decorations. The homeowner saw the intrusion, and a neighbor flagged down Alvarado’s patrol car. The officer drew his gun “when he came up the driveway,” recalled the homeowner. Within a minute or so, a single gunshot resonated through the neighborhood. When asked by the horrified homeowner what had happened, Alvarado — who reportedly looked “dazed or distant” — replied that Lopez “came at me.”
“The suspect bull rushed his way out of the shed and lunged right at me,” the timorous creature later claimed in an official report. “The suspect was literally inches away from me, and I feared for my own safety.” (Emphasis added.)
Alvarado was lying, of course. An autopsy revealed “no evidence of close range firing [on] the wound,” and no gunpowder stains were found on the victim’s bloody t-shirt. …
Alvarado, who four times was on the cusp of being fired for insubordination, disobeyed a direct order on November 12. He falsified key details of the shooting in his official report. A 14-year-old boy was gunned down execution-style for the venial offense of engaging in an adolescent scuffle, and for compelling an overweight middle-aged badge-polisher to run a few hundred yards. According to the San Antonio Police Department, this is all perfectly acceptable: The department ruled that the murder of Derek Lopez was a “justified” shooting.
Although he’s been removed from patrol duty, Alvarado remains on the force, albeit in a tax-subsidized sinecure. Although he had repeatedly been threatened with termination for sloppiness or defiance in carrying out administrative duties, Alvarado faces neither criminal prosecution nor professional censure for murdering a 14-year-old boy. Apparently, insubordination in carrying out office functions is a much graver matter than insubordination that results in the needless death of an adolescent Mundane.
Despite the fact that this incident involved two teenage boys who attended a special school for troubled juveniles, parents should understand that students in practically any government-run “educational” institution can fall prey to sudden — and potentially lethal — police violence.
[T]he chief Senate sponsor of the Texas bill targeting TSA groping of airline passengers has withdrawn the measure, saying support quickly dwindled after the feds threatened to [essentially] create a no-fly zone over the Lone Star State. Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) blamed Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the state Senate, for stirring up opposition to the bill, which the state House approved a few weeks ago, by citing the federal threat to shut down Texas airports. Patrick said the 30 or so votes he had when he introduced the bill had shrunk to about a dozen by yesterday afternoon. “There was a time in this state, there was a time in our history,” he mournfully toldTheTexas Tribune, ”where we stood up to the federal government and we did not cower to rules and policies that invaded the privacy of Texans.”
“Sometimes it seems that the beau ideal of many conservatives, as well as of many liberals, is to put everyone into a cage and coerce him into doing what the conservatives or liberals believe to be the moral thing. They would of course be differently styled cages, but they would be cages just the same. The conservative would ban illicit sex, drugs, gambling, and impiety, and coerce everyone to act according to his version of moral and religious behavior. The liberal would ban films of violence, unesthetic advertising, football, and racial discrimination, and, at the extreme, place everyone in a “Skinner box” to be run by a supposedly benevolent liberal dictator. But the effect would be the same: to reduce everyone to a subhuman level and to deprive everyone of the most precious part of his or her humanity—the freedom to choose.”—
Murray Rothbard explaining how conservatives and modern liberals are essentially the same creature. (via blistexfan)
Wait, liberals are banning football now? People need to keep me up to date on our new ways of ruining fun and freedom!
Murray Rothbard died sixteen years ago. Unfortunately for all of us, Ol’ Murray doesn’t exist today as some zombie philosopher who, when not nomming on braaainz, comments on the latest encroachments on liberty by statists.
To provide context: around the time of this writing (“For a New Liberty,” where this quote is from, was written in 1973), certain leftists found the inherent violence and apparent sexism of football as bannable offenses. Still, while the particulars may not be current, the overall sentiment remains relevant: lefties and righties each have their own special ways they want to tell the rest of us how to peacefully live. Sometimes they even agree.
“Sometimes it seems that the beau ideal of many conservatives, as well as of many liberals, is to put everyone into a cage and coerce him into doing what the conservatives or liberals believe to be the moral thing. They would of course be differently styled cages, but they would be cages just the same. The conservative would ban illicit sex, drugs, gambling, and impiety, and coerce everyone to act according to his version of moral and religious behavior. The liberal would ban films of violence, unesthetic advertising, football, and racial discrimination, and, at the extreme, place everyone in a “Skinner box” to be run by a supposedly benevolent liberal dictator. But the effect would be the same: to reduce everyone to a subhuman level and to deprive everyone of the most precious part of his or her humanity—the freedom to choose.”—Murray Rothbard explaining how conservatives and modern liberals are essentially the same creature. (via blistexfan)
Republican members of Congress—nigh lockstep supporters of the Wall Street bailout, the Iraq War, and the PATRIOT Act when their party controlled the executive branch—profess to have rediscovered the Constitution during the first two years of the Age of Obama. …
[W]hat if the Anti-Federalists, those often prescient opponents of the new Constitution in 1787–88, were correct in asserting that the Constitution would lead, inexorably, to a centralized national government that would levy extortionate taxes, wage shameful wars, and usurp the powers of state and local governments? Was disregarding George Mason, Patrick Henry, and Luther Martin, and scrapping the Articles of Confederation, a fatal mistake?…
Let us… assume the possibility of a limited government that stays within constitutional bounds. A decent respect for [the] Tenth Amendment would deprive the federal government of its current role in education, for instance, as well as the provision of health care. But no single act would have a more profound and far-reaching effect than reorienting U.S. foreign policy along the lines of the advice given in George Washington’s Farewell Address: to reject “foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues” (goodbye, NATO); to avoid “excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another” (goodbye, Middle East); and to beware “those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty” (goodbye, military-industrial complex).
“[I]n most things that matter, Obama is not even Bush-lite: he’s more like Bush-plus. I’m not questioning his moral intent, but simply looking around me at new wars, continuation of laws that remove Americans’ basic rights, mass transfer of wealth from the working man to the large subsidized groups, including financial corporations and unions, that fund the old political game.
The old, tired, self-defeating left-right paradigm of American politics is about two teams that want to shape the world in one way or another, but both sharing the desire to impose their view on others, and both, therefore, with an interest in maintaining those fundamental aspects of the modern political settlement that allow politicians and their favored institutions to operate outside the most basic confines of the Constitution that was supposed to make the USA a Republic that protects life, liberty and property of all individuals.”—Robin Koerner in the Huffington Post (via hipsterlibertarian)
“The state is not armed with superior wit or honesty, but with superior physical strength. I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is strongest.”—Henry David Thoreau
Updated guidelines released yesterday by the USDA say that, finally, we can cook pork just a little bit less and not have to worry about it being undercooked. The guidelines lowered the “safe” temperature for pork to reach before being considered cooked down from 160 to 145 degrees, meaning pork can be slightly pink.
For those of us who don’t rely on government to tell us what foods to eat, we’ve been using the 140-145 degrees threshold and safely enjoying slightly pink pork for years.
Yesterday the U.S. Justice Department warned that the federal government may cancel all flights out of Texas if the state legislature approves a law aimed at preventing the Transportation Security Administration from groping airline passengers without probable cause. H.B. 1937, which was approved unanimously by the state House of Representatives and is being considered by the state Senate, applies to any government employee who, without probable cause to suspect a crime has been committed, “performs a search for the purpose of granting access to a publicly accessible building or form of transportation” and in the process ”touches the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of another person including through the clothing, or touches the other person in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person.” Such a search would be a misdemeanor punishable by a $4,000 fine and up to a year in jail. …
Either Texas backs off and continues to let government employees fondle innocent women, children and men as a condition of travel, or the TSA will cancel Texas flights. The Federal Government showed its willingness to bully the State of Texas if attempts to protect passengers from being forced to give up constitutional rights are not dropped.
The DOJ attempted to justify their action by an appeal to the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution and by claiming that the bill “would conflict directly with federal law.” However, HB 1937 already grants a defense to prosecution for an offense that the actor performed pursuant to and consistent with an explicit and applicable grant of federal authority that is consistent with the United States Constitution.
"The bill clearly states that an agent is exempt from prosecution as long as a constitutionally sanctioned federal law directs them to perform the invasive, indecent groping searches-including touching breasts, sexual organs and buttocks," noted [Simpson].
"Instead of threatening to shut down flights in Texas, why doesn’t the TSA just show us their statutory authority to grope or ogle our private parts?" asked Simpson.
Take action and do not let the state senate or governor violate their duty to protect the liberty of the residents of Texas by caving to federal pressure. Hopefully, Texas paves the way in our fight against this tyranny.
Possibly the most disturbing statement to me is “if you don’t like it, you can leave.” It’s a thoughtless justification for crimes against humanity under the implication that since the majority or the law deems something “okay” something must be “okay.”
Honestly though, when you ask the senders of this message if it was “proper” for anti-Civil Rights groups to tell activists to leave rather than work to reform, they commonly say it wasn’t. Then when you point out their statement is a lousy justification for obstructions of rights, just as the anti-Civil Rights groups statement was a lousy justification for obstructions of rights, they commonly rethink their pathetic statement.
It’s like: If you don’t like being stolen from then move; if you don’t like work-brigades then move; if you don’t like concentration camps then move; if you don’t like unfounded incarceration then move; if you want your rights to be observed then move somewhere they’ll be acknowledged. So, the obstruction of rights within an arbitrary border is OKAY because a law deems it “okay.”
“I’m Jewish. Eating pork or shellfish is not allowed in my tradition, but I would never ask the government to impose that on our fellow citizens. We have to be careful about trying to enshrine our beliefs, however religiously valid you may believe them to be, in the Minnesota Constitution.”—
Minn. State Rep. Steve Simon, advocating against a state amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman. The amendment would pass.
The mechanism of predatory exploitation of consumers requires substantial monopoly power that is used to increase prices, thereby reducing the outputs sold. But Standard Oil had no initial market power, with only about 4 percent of the market in 1870. Its output and market share grew as its superior efficiency dramatically lowered its refining costs (by 1897, they were less than one-tenth of their level in 1869), and it passed on the efficiency savings in sharply reduced prices for refined oil (which fell from over 30 cents per gallon in 1869, to 10 cents in 1874, to 8 cents in 1885, and to 5.9 cents in 1897). It never achieved a monopoly (in 1911, the year of the Supreme Court decision, Standard Oil had roughly 150 competitors, including Texaco and Gulf) that would enable it to monopolistically boost consumer prices. So it can hardly be argued seriously that Rockefeller pursued a predatory strategy involving massive losses for decades without achieving the alleged monopoly payoff, which was the source of supposed consumer harm. …
In the aftermath of the predatory-pricing myth, America now has multiple federal laws — as well as reams of unfair competition laws at the state level — to protect us from a nonexistent threat. Rather it appears to be a good example of H.L. Mencken’s assertion that “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
Even worse than the absence of consumer benefit from all this antitrust “protection” is that it has become a means by which those outcompeted in the marketplace use allegations of predatory pricing to paralyze the competitive superiority of rivals, when the advantages of this superiority are passed on to benefit consumers. The cost of such allegations is supercharged by the triple damages that successful antitrust claims are awarded. Antitrust cases can cost tens of millions of dollars to defend — costs that the defendant must “eat” even if they are found innocent. They involve vague and therefore arbitrary criteria (competition that benefits consumers is always “unfair” from the perspective of those who have been outcompeted), and can require plaintiffs — who are essentially guilty until proven innocent — to prove their intent in price cutting was innocent, rather than an evil attempt at monopolization (which could occur in a free market only if every consumer believed they were made better off as a result). In other words, antitrust is more likely to be a lucrative legal shakedown racket whose costs consumers ultimately bear, than consumer protection. …
As Harold Demsetz summarized it, “The attempt to reduce or to eliminate predatory pricing is also likely to reduce or eliminate competitive pricing beneficial to consumers.”
If competition is viewed as a dynamic, rivalrous process of entrepreneurship, then the fact that a single producer happens to have the lowest costs at any one point in time is of little or no consequence. The enduring forces of competition — including potential competition — will render free-market monopoly an impossibility.
The theory of natural monopoly is also ahistorical. There is no evidence of the “natural-monopoly” story ever having been carried out — of one producer achieving lower long-run average total costs than everyone else in the industry and thereby establishing a permanent monopoly. … [A] ”dominant” firm that underprices all its rivals at any one point in time has not suppressed competition, for competition is “a permanent economic process.” …
The theory of natural monopoly is an economic fiction. No such thing as a “natural” monopoly has ever existed.
“The free market is not an ideology or a creed or something we’re supposed to take on faith, it’s a measurement. It’s a bathroom scale. I may hate what I see when I step on the bathroom scale, but I can’t pass a law saying I weigh 160 pounds. Authoritarian governments think they can pass that law - a law to change the measurement of things.”—P. J. O’Rourke. (via libertarians)
In the wake of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision requiring California to reduce its prison population by about 30,000, Dale Gieringer of California NORML notes that the state was incarcerating nearly 25,000 drug offenders at the end of last year:
A total of 8,587 inmates were being held specifically for simple possession of a controlled substance. Another 1,401 were being held for marijuana-specific felonies. The remaining balance were being held for sales, manufacture or distribution of other controlled substances.
For those who do not equate selling people stuff they want with raping or murdering them, these numbers provide strong grounds for doubting the predictions by Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito that the early release of California prisoners will produce a public safety disaster.
One of the things that always struck me as more than a bit strange about the Libertarians was this overwhelming tendency to jump up and start shooting at the drop of a hat. Now, granted, there are a few prominent Libertarians who don’t think war should be a first resort… [b]ut, quite frankly, this brand of Libertarian is so few and far between that I think you have to count them as noise on the pure and undeniable signal of Libertarianism that pulsates from Matt’s [Welch’s] first [blog] post…
Indeed, Matt Welch’s decade-old blog post (did anyone know who he was then? do very many know now?) on September 12, 2001 (why does that date seem familiar?) is completely indicative of the libertarian consensus on war (and not, seemingly, any of the dozens of subsequent posts that were skeptical of Bush’s wars, nor what the likes of Murray Rothbard or Ron Paul or anyone else have said).
“[T]here can be no consent since there is no way to opt out. The argument from receipt of tangible “benefits” also fails. These are paid for by compulsory taxes you never consented to. Only if such things as roads, schools, and fire protection were funded voluntarily, could you be said to have consented to the regime by using them. That never happened of course. Also, again, to consent, there must be a reasonable way not to consent. If I refuse to use the streets, I die of starvation. It’s a distorted view of consent that leads to the “argument”: join us or die!”—
Washington is driven by overwhelming amounts of bipartisanship, as today’s vote (and the Reid/McConnell agreement that preceded it) yet again demonstrates. The 8 Senators voting against cloture were Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, Democrats Jeff Merkley, Mark Begich, Max Baucus, and John Tester, and GOP Senators Lisa Murkowski, Rand Paul, and Dean Heller (GOP Sen. Mike Lee announced he’d vote NO but missed the vote due to inclement weather). Sen. Paul, along with Sen. Tester, took the lead in speaking out against the excesses and abuses of the Patriot Act and the vital need for reforms.
But what’s most notable isn’t the vote itself, but the comments made afterward. Sen. Paul announced that he was considering using delaying tactics to hold up passage of the bill in order to extract some reforms (including ones he is co-sponsoring with the Democrats’ Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Leahy, who — despite voicing “concerns” about the bill — voted for cloture). Paul’s announcement of his delaying intentions provoked this fear-mongering, Terrorism-exploiting, bullying threat from the Democrats’ Senate Intelligence Committee Chair, Dianne Feinstein:
"I think it would be a huge mistake," Feinstein told reporters. "If somebody wants to take on their shoulders not having provisions in place which are necessary to protect the United States at this time, that’s a big, big weight to bear."
In other words: Paul and the other dissenting Senators better give up their objections and submit to quick Patriot Act passageor else they’ll have blood on their hands from the Terrorist attack they will cause. That, of course, was the classic Bush/Cheney tactic for years to pressure Democrats into supporting every civil-liberties-destroying measure the Bush White House demanded (including, of course, the original Patriot Act itself), and now we have the Democrats — ensconced in power — using it just as brazenly and shamelessly … Feinstein learned well.
So when they were out of power, the Democrats reviled the Patriot Act and constantly complained about fear-mongering tactics and exploitation of the Terrorist threat being used to stifle civil liberties and privacy concerns. Now that they’re in power and a Democratic administration is arguing for extension of the Patriot Act, they use fear-mongering tactics and exploitation of the Terrorist threat to stifle civil liberties and privacy concerns (“If somebody wants to take on their shoulders not having provisions in place which are necessary to protect the United States at this time, that’s a big, big weight to bear,” warned Feinstein). And they’re joined in those efforts by the vast majority of the GOP caucus. Remember, though: there is no bipartisanship in Washington, the parties are constantly at each other’s throats, and they don’t agree on anything significant, and thus can’t get anything done. If only that were true.