Does any more insidious criminal act occur than the needless creation of crime where no crime had previously existed? "Stroke of the pen, law of the land" - that's not cool: it's cruel and unnecessary government of human beings.
I've come to the conclusion that some bureaucrats are highly superstitious. They appear to believe that legislation works magically, and the slightest pen-stroke of each petty and capricious regulation automatically becomes emblazoned in the brain of every citizen. Such power would be awesome if it was real, but it's a hallucination - the only legal trip these days is a power trip, and apparently neither the DEA nor the TSA tyrants impede most political high flyers in the least. Many bureaucrats are undoubtedly clever enough to realize that they're setting the equivalent of leg-hold traps, or planting a legal minefield for unwary citizens who can't possibly stay informed of every law on the books. People in our society seem increasingly paralyzed by the danger of stepping afoul of errant laws.
Who benefits when a crime is committed? Criminals benefit if they are artful enough to evade the state's punitive power or resourceful enough to hide behind it, and more than any other group genuine criminals benefit from victim disarmament schemes. Victims of crime seldom benefit, except through winning the lawsuit lottery - instead they are often victimized anew by a cumbersome and corrupt legal system. The state almost inevitably derives financial benefit directly or indirectly from crime of any sort. One frequently hears the term "frivolous lawsuit," and the term "frivolous law" seems equally apt. The enforcement of frivolous and arbitrary laws is a golden cash cow for the state, and a convenient tool for selective tyranny.
A license or permit is essentially state-granted blessing to do something the state would otherwise consider a crime. A fine, fee, or levy is the state's way of getting its cut after the fact of a "crime" committed without its advance permission. The state reveals its priorities in what it protects - a state that ostensibly exists to protect people's freedoms and then requires people to sacrifice their freedoms to protect the state appears entirely self-contradictory.
Countless people are held hostage in prisons for victimless crimes - in some cases where a person was wronged, leaving the perpetrator free and productive to provide appropriate restitution to a victim might make more social and economic sense than imprisonment at the expense of innocent taxpayers. Legislation turns non-aggressive personal behaviors into "crimes" - gambling, recreational drugs, defensive weapons ownership, consensual sex acts, smoking, even home schooling. More regulation equals less freedom.
What freedom ordinary people possess now seems like permanent parole dependent upon state approved behavior. "The authorities" check in on us in various ways, often by requiring us to check in with them through census forms, filing income tax paperwork, applying for permits and licenses, registering our persons, guns, and automobiles, etc. Our freedoms are contingent upon taxes paid, licenses acquired, submission to 'civic obligations' like jury duty or military service, registrations and permissions. We each pay dearly for our freedoms in sweat, if not in blood. The more sweat the state requires of people to stay out of jail or avoid having property confiscated, the more likely blood will eventually feel like a reasonable price in defense of the freedom of labor. People may reach a point where they treasure sweat enough to consider blood expendable instead.
Expecting the state to eradicate a primary source of its wealth seems like a woefully naïve approach toward reducing real crime. Cracking down on something is rarely an effective way to contain it - put an egg on the kitchen floor and crack down on it, and you'll have egg all over the place. So why do people buy so much rhetorical nonsense from politicians? Why do promises of "getting tough" sound acceptable from politicians when in practice anyone can see that such anti-social behavior would land an ordinary person in the slammer, especially when such a threat was directed against the people who take such obvious delight in "getting tough" on politically powerless individuals?
Leftists may understand the value of "sustainable" corporate practices, but in the process of trying to curb "corporate abuses" they embrace unsustainable government practices and encourage governmental excesses. The concept of "socially responsible investing" has caught on like wildfire, but the concepts of "socially responsible economics" and "sustainable" government practices remain primarily a concern of the old right. Socialists and capitalists seem to enjoy squabbling over political differences too much to recognize the futility of a debate where common humanity constantly loses to combative ideologies.
Capitalism allows people the freedom to effectively vote with dollars, while socialism would appear to render the dollar vote intentionally ineffective. Economic sense argues for the capitalist perspective, and much as I may dislike the term "capitalism" in many of the commonly used contexts, I value the dollar vote and the economic freedom to use it.
A vote at the ballot box buys nothing that I value, and it supports causes that I consider objectionable and socially irresponsible. It rewards spurious claims of representation and legitimizes theft through coercive taxation, condones the misuse of war-making powers, and facilitates the fracturing of society into groups along divisive political lines.
A political vote seems analogous to seeing that the Emperor is naked, and offering him your own tiny cloak as a band-aid. Many, many freely offered cloaks seem necessary to conceal the Emperor's nakedness adequately… I prefer to keep mine. People may begin to notice that the Emperor wears only a shrinking loincloth composed of the voluntarily donated cloaks off voters' backs. My small contribution toward exposing an Emperor in his birthday suit feels like the socially responsible decision - if enough people abstain from voting, the Emperor may shrink back into the decent britches he outgrew long ago.
I will not cloak the Emperor with my endorsement as an excuse for him to grow any bigger, to take more hostages, to declare unjustified wars, or to continually expand the definition of "crime" until the only 'law abiding' citizens left are people with enough political power to bend the law, while politically powerless people are forced to pay hefty penalties and surrender rights for breaking laws that seem outrageous in the first place.
The buck, despite its faults, passably represents my chosen interests. The vote stops here.
published at Endervidualism on 10/21/04