A friend of mine who happens to be a government employee and now a died-in-the-wool statist (he keeps calling himself a liberal, but I don’t think he knows what it means) started a conversation with me stating that “you know how much of a liberal (read: statist) I am, but when is it OK to fight back against the police, get killed over it, then be labeled the victim?”
I read a good bit of the grand jury evidence against Michael Brown in Missouri, and like the grand jury, came to the conclusion Michael Brown was shot in self-defense.
I watched in disgust as he robbed a convenience store, forcefully pushing aside the owner as he was confronted for stealing the cigarillos. So I have little reason to believe the “gentle giant” argument put forth by those who knew him. Kind people don’t do what he did to that innocent store owner.
See the video here.
While I’m not glad he is dead, I have no reason to believe Michael Brown treated Darren Wilson with any more respect than that victimized store owner. I feel that if Michael Brown is a victim, he is only a victim of his own aggression, not a racist police officer’s actions.
But the Eric Garner death has a completely different meaning to me; one I cannot ignore.
Whereas Michael Brown robbed a store and attacked a police officer it seems, both felonious activities, and both with clearly defined victims; the impetus for police action against Eric Garner is very different.
Here is the video account of what happened. The actual interaction that lead to Garner’s death is at the end of the video at approximately the 8-minute mark.
Medical examiners ruled the death a homicide, due to neck compressions, as one can imagine. Famed medical examiner Michael Baden backed up the findings.
But what led to the police confronting Eric Garner in the first place?
Eric Garner was selling untaxed cigarettes in front of local area businesses, garnering complaints. New York has a $4.35 tax on packs of cigarettes from the state, but add to that, a $1.50 tax by the city of New York, and they are by far, the cigarette taxing capital of the United States.
This overtaxing of cigarettes in the city has led to an underground market for untaxed cigarettes bought out-of-state, them smuggled in and sold on the street. Often referred to as “loosies,” whereas a normal pack of cigarettes go for $14.50 in NYC, Eric Garner’s loosies would typically sell for around $8.00.
While I understand that businesses don’t like people outside their stores selling “illegal” goods, the sidewalk is public property. Aside from store owners who were annoyed, Eric Garner’s only victim would have been the city and state of New York for lost tax revenue—he was harming no fellow citizens.
The police are not rightfully given much of a choice on which laws they choose to enforce. Even if they didn’t agree with the law, they are sworn to uphold it, and regarding the cigarette tax, they did exactly that.
When I wrote The Point Of A Gun two years ago, I asked people to consider this basic principle when considering a proposed law. Would I be willing to kill someone over it? If not, I shouldn’t ask government to potentially kill someone for me over it.
Some people felt I was fear-mongering at the time, making up ludicrous arguments to promote libertarianism. Surely no police officer would kill someone over something so benign as cigarette taxes, they would argue.
Apologies for saying us libertarians told you so, but…we told you so.
Eric Garner may have been a menace to local businesses, he did have a long criminal history for more serious crimes, and he certainly could have been more cooperative with the police. But while he was clearly irate, I didn’t see him attempt to attack any officer, so there was no victim the police were protecting at the time, including themselves.
If Eric Garner had been murdering a homeless guy, raping a woman, or molesting a child, no one would be upset he is dead now at the hands of the police. We’re mostly all willing to kill someone under those circumstances.
So that means the policeman’s actions were not the problem. The problem is, and often always will be, government oppression that leads to mini-revolts like this one.
If libertarians were in power, Garner would have been no different from any other street vendor selling random goods, but in New York, liberty is all but dead, especially for smokers.
So if you want freedom, you must start voting that way. Otherwise, you have no right complaining when the government carries out orders you essentially voted for them to enact. People yearning to be free will stand up for their rights, and under these statist-like rules in New York, will either get accidentally or purposefully killed for defying them.
We libertarians will always ask, “What is so wrong with the concept of No-Victim-No-Crime?” Because we can surely tell you what is wrong with statism. It results in deaths of victimless “criminals” like Eric Garner who should be alive today, and able to sell whatever the hell he wants to sell, so long as he isn’t hurting anyone.