The Deadly Cost of a Nanny State

Eric Garner is not dead because of racism. He’s not even dead because of bad policing (which is not to say that this was good police work). Eric Garner is dead because a series of government actors decided: the poor shall not smoke.

NYT, March 26, 2013 : Bloomberg Seeks End to Cheap Cigarettes,

 Along with strengthening the penalties on retailers that evade tobacco taxes, the second bill establishes a minimum price for cigarettes and cigarillos, or little cigars, of $10.50 a pack, the first time such a strategy has been used to combat smoking. The bill also prohibits retailers from redeeming coupons or offering other discounts, like two-for-one deals.

New York’s price-regulation bill would, in effect, close off the remaining means of access to cheap cigarettes and little cigars, which make it easier for teenagers to experiment with smoking, and progress to smoking regularly, said Brett Loomis, a researcher at RTI International, a nonprofit institute that offers research and technical services to governments and businesses.

A move, which should come as a surprise to no thinking person and thus every politician, that only served to intensify the illegal trade in “loosies” or un-taxed cigarettes. To be fair, this was just another bump for the loosie trade, which had already benefited from Mayor Bloomberg’s earlier major tax hike on tobacco;

The administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has outlawed smoking in restaurants, bars and playgrounds, and outside hospital entrances. Even city parks, beaches and pedestrian plazas will soon be off limits to smokers. Then there have been successive rounds of taxes — the most recent one, a $1.60 rise in the state tax in July — that raised the price of a pack of cigarettes to $12.50 at many Midtown newsstands.

“The tax went up, and we started selling 10 times as much,” Mr. Warner said. “Bloomberg thinks he’s stopping people from smoking. He’s just turning them onto loosies.”

Wow, it’s almost like imposing crippling taxes will create a thriving illegal trade in a product that many people want, just not at the artificially inflated price!

It’s almost as if you can make big money smuggling tobacco. Almost.


Now, some have argued that to look at the underlying cause of the police interaction is to be ‘insensitive’ to the racial issue: I contend that it is the opposite. Unless these (often liberal) reformers that want to “address the race issue in law enforcement” are suggesting that we start using robots as peace officers

And we all know how well robots do as peace officers, right Bob?

It’s a simple truth: police are people. People being flawed, some percentage of people will be bad actors, without regard to their profession. Police, however, are uniquely empowered to administer violence, or as Sunil Dutta, Ph.D., 17 year LAPD veteran proclaimed, “I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me.” Dr. Dutta certainly gets points for honesty, if not tact. Of course, the fact is we live in a time when associating ‘tact’ with police is most appropriate when thinking of them making a Tactical Response.

The truly sad fact of the matter is that a bad result from an antagonistic civilian-police interaction doesn’t even need bad actors, only bad actions. A misheard word, a bad day, a gesture mistaken or even confusion about a toy can change an ordinary day into a tragic one. The reality is that the NYPD did not swoop down on Eric Garner from the sky like a random bolt of lightning, this entire chain of events was initiated (as Senator Rand Paul observed) when politicians that the people elected enacted laws that the police are expected to enforce. As Ace of Spades points out (emphasis in original);

Nevertheless, we actually pay them to use force when a law-breaking suspect (even one breaking a trivial law) resists arrest. That is the job we’ve given them.

To say this guy is guilty of murder or manslaughter seems to me to be a case of scapegoating the people we’ve tasked with implementing a policy that we have imposed ourselves.

If trivial laws should not provide grounds for arrest, We should change the laws to say so.

If cops should just let a non-compliant but non-felony suspect go if he resists arrest, we should make that officially part of their job description.


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