Home // Posts tagged "sock it to the state"

Court decisions aside, scofflaws have long made gun control unenforceable

The following was written as a sample chapter for a book on how scofflaws limit state power, curbing the reach of government officials and carving out a modicum of liberty even when and where it’s officially forbidden. The overall book was intended to go much farther than the gun control issue, but it came to an abrupt halt a bit over a year ago. That’s when my agent called me on a Sunday morning to tell me how much he hated what I’m publishing below. Apparently, his loathing of my work couldn’t wait another 24 hours to be expressed.

So … Caveat emptor.

I doubt I ever would have gone to the black market to purchase an illegal assault weapon if it wasn’t for New York’s annoyingly restrictive gun control laws.

Wait. Let me back up a bit.

New York State passed the Sullivan Act back in 1911. The law required people to get a government permit to own or carry any weapon small enough to be concealed – handguns, in particular. Issuing the permit would be a matter of official discretion, which is a policy continued to the present day. Read more [+]

Why not get personal with pushy government officials?

I wonder, really, why we don’t hear about incidents like this more often:

HEMET, Calif. – A man suspected of carrying out a series of booby trap attacks  against police in a small Southern California town was expected to be charged in the case Wednesday, authorities said.

Nicholas Smit was arrested Friday for investigation of making a booby trap and assault on a police officer with intent to commit murder.

Smit is suspected of planting booby traps to hurt a Hemet police officer who arrested him after suspecting that he was growing marijuana, law enforcement officials said.

I no longer have a commercial publisher, so I don’t have to pretend that I disapprove of directly targeting government officials. Yet I’m not specifically advocating putting bear traps on the front seats of cop cars — for one thing, the unwashed masses are likely to get offended that one of the brave “thin blue line” got his steroid-shriveled testicles caught in the trap, and, for another, there’s an unfortunate likelihood of being caught, like the apparently rather dim Nicholas Smit, in Hemet.

But I’m surprised that we don’t hear more about direct, creative targeting of abusive law-enforcement officers and presumptuous officeholders.

Considering how often politicos are caught doing things for which we we mere commoners would be harshly punished, such as neglecting to foot a share of the tab for the politicians’ own spending sprees, or engaging in a little sexual experimentation in public places, wouldn’t it be worth assigning aggressive private investigators to pry into their past indiscretions and monitor their current activities? Of course, not every investigation would pay off, but focusing on especially obnoxious specimens would not only derail the occasional derail-worthy career, it would cast further doubt and disrepute on governing institutions.

Honestly, does anybody really doubt that at least one member of Congress is a serial killer? Or that at least two keep teenagers chained in some dungeon?

Yes, that requires funds, but having worked for a couple of political organizations, I’m impressed by the quantity of money that’s dedicated to low-payoff activities, like lobbying and publicity campaigns.

What about protesting outside the private homes of government officials? It seems unfortunate that when this is most often done, it’s along the lines of Cindy Sheehan’s vigil in Crawford, Texas, which was guaranteed to annoy the neighbors while then-President Bush snored comfortably in the White House.

The goal should be to make the official uncomfortable.

There have been incidents over the years. I seem to remember that a King County, Washington, politician had a load of trash dumped on his front lawn in retaliation for his support for restrictions on property rights. And I believe that a Pennsylvania official who supported a ban on anonymous mail drops was zapped by a local company revealing that he took advantage of just such a service.

And, of course, the Phoenix New Times published Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s home address.

Can you think of any other past examples that might point the way to future tactics?

A few thoughts on Glenn Beck

I know it’s fashionable among some of my co-ideologists to deride Glenn Beck as a clown who damages the libertarian brand, but just when I think I’m completely fed up with the guy, he does a great service to the cause of freedom. Right now he’s on Fox News promoting F. A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, along with Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. He’s also interviewing Thomas Woods from the Ludwig von Mises Institute on the tendency of governments to point to their own failings as reason for more state intervention in the economy, and chatting with Yuri Maltsev (another Austrian economist) about the realities of socialism he experienced in the old Soviet Union.

Does anybody else bring so much advocacy of freedom to such a wide audience? The only other person I can think of is John Stossel — and yes, Stossel is more consistent, serious and intellectual, but he doesn’t have the same following.

Beck may be a clown, but sometimes, it takes a clown.

Note: One day later, The Road to Serfdom has jumped to #1 on Amazon.

Why wouldn’t an anarchist cafe eject a cop?

There are good people wearing police uniforms and there are bad people wearing police uniforms. More to the point, however, people in police uniforms have willingly chosen to take a job in which they act, at best, as enforcers of laws passed by government officials — and often as agents of the whims of those officials. So it really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody that the proprietors of the Red and Black Cafe, an avowedly anarchist establishment in Portland, Oregon, asked Officer James Crooker to take his business elsewhere. If you don’t like governments, why would you want to serve people who willingly work for them?

That gut-level, ideological opposition to the role of police officers likely explains the seeming inability of cafe co-owner John Langley to articulate a clear reason he gave the officer the boot at the time of the incident. Crooker is a cop; in Langley’s mind, that was probably reason enough. Langley’s early lack of clarity has been seized upon and mocked by police supporters — generally in poorly spelled and badly reasoned comments that default to mantras about cops being the thin, blue line that stands between decent folk and howling barbarians, even as they threaten arson against the cafe, urge officers to take their time responding to incidents there, and call for the city to have a politicized look at the cafe’s compliance with all rules and regulations.

If you’re an ideological supporter of government power, it’s easy to fall back on unreasoning support for the state’s servants (and, ironically, validate objections to government power in the process).

Given time to ponder, Langley came up with clearer articulation of his concerns:

I don’t have anything against this particular officer and I don’t know anything about him…A police officer in uniform makes people feel unsafe because of previous experiences…

We’re gonna value the people that have been victims of police violence. Some of them have talked about having their belongings being taken away or sprayed with water. It is exacerbated by the situation in Portland right now. The response to the mental health crisis is shooting people and beating people to death.

The anarcho-entrepreneur didn’t pull his reasons out of thin air. Less than a month ago, after a series of police shotings and complaints about the official response, Portland Mayor Sam Adams booted the city’s police chief and took direct control of the police department. In a press conference, he said (PDF), “Despite the extraordinary efforts of the courageous few who wear the badge, the relationship between the citizens of Portland and their police officers is not what it needs to be. Too many Portlanders express concern about their own safety–not because of crime, but rather fear of their own police force.”

Less dramatically, police are clearly working these days less as a thin blue line against crime than as tax collectors who selectively enforce laws with an eye to maximizing revenue for the government. In 2008, the Detroit News found that Michigan police departments were stepping up traffic enforcement solely to increase the money they collected.

“When I first started in this job 30 years ago, police work was never about revenue enhancement,” Utica Police Chief Michael Reaves said. “But if you’re a chief now, you have to look at whether your department produces revenues. That’s just the reality nowadays.”

Officials elsewhere are equally open about their roadside revenue-enhancement efforts. It’s difficult to see a public safety aspect to the use of laws as means for mugging the public. If there’s a thin blue line, it leads directly to people’s wallets — and tags police as, too often, nothing more than agents of state power, for any purpose, good or bad.

Yes, police can do good deeds and often play a legitimate role in responding to crimes against people and property — maybe the critics will be right and John Langley will someday wish a cop were present to deal with a stick-up artist. But he and his colleagues have good reasons, ideological and practical, to object to the presence of a police officer in their place of business.

At least a few people agree with the Red and Black Cafe’s stance — business is reportedly way up since the incident.