Following in the highly controversial case of Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown was shot by a police officer, and, sadly, died, is the more recent case in New York City, to where an “unarmed” man, Eric Garner, died via a choke-hold by a New York City Police Officer.
In The Michael Brown case, it is pretty certain, via surveillance camera, that he did commit a robbery, and apparently had an altercation with the Police Officer, which led to this tragic ending. In the case with Eric Garner, the “crime” was so monstrous that words can barely describe it! Eric Garner was caught selling loose cigarettes. Yes, that’s right! The man was committing the heinous act of selling loose cigarettes! It is almost too incomprehensible to be true, but, Eric Garner’s “crime” was engaging in commerce, to where he, “the seller,” was selling cigarettes to “willing buyers.”
I realize, in both of these cases, the men who died were both black men; and, that neither case should have had this tragic outcome. As a result, there is a huge debate going on as to whether or not there was a racial element to all of this. For the sake of this post, I will, however, forgo the racial element of this story, and focus on a problem which, I believe, very well could be at the heart of it all: And, that is victimless crimes.
Throughout The Twentieth Century, to the present day, there has been an outright explosion of “victimless” crimes, from alcohol prohibition, to drug prohibition, to Government-mandated smoking prohibitions, to telling adult citizens when, how, and where they may use their cell phones, all the way down to the criminalization of hiring volunteers for “your business,” and feeding homeless people in parks. I think any clear-minded American can see the absurdity with so many of these “Laws,” but, the problem is, often, that we don’t draw a distinct and finite line in the sand; rather, most people chose to say, “I don’t believe that people should be allowed to use “illegal” drugs, therefore, they should be prohibited”! Or, “talking on your cell phone may, could, or might cause an accident, therefore, everyone needs to be banned from doing it”! But, the broader point is not whether or not we agree with a particular Law, the question is, what kind of Governments are we allowing to take root, and how much do we cherish our Individual Liberties?
When we demand that a clear-cut victim be identified, in order for something to be criminal, it fixes a prudent standard onto local Governments and Police Departments. It also directs limited resources to where people are truly being physically harmed, robbed etc. by an actual perpetrator. If this were the case, we could be pretty certain that Eric Garner would be alive today; and, millions of other Americans, rather then being treated like hardened criminals, being thrown in jails, killed in Police raids etc., could be much more productive members of society.
Anyone who has a basic understanding and respect for Free-Markets, and Freedom itself, should, I would hope, understand the absurdity of many of these so-called Laws, and the plethora of unintended consequences that follow such Laws.
Furthermore, when Governments are free to create endless amounts of VICTIMLESS crimes, it creates Governments that see no end to what can be “criminalized.” And, as history demonstrates, it doesn’t end well.