Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Friday, May 05, 2006

Crime-Fighting by Proxy

Crime-Fighting by Proxy
© 2006 Ross Williams

I pay a lot in taxes. More than most, not as much as some. Taxes on income, taxes on purchases, taxes for living on a piece of land. Taxes to the county, to the state, to the federal government. Fees to drive a car so that I can go to work and earn the income that gets taxed. Fees to avail myself of specific government services.

...which has never, ever made sense to me. We pay taxes to, among other things, create national parks so that we can go to them and get warm fuzzies while cuddling nature. Yet in order to go see the national park, we have to pay a fee. They tell us, "...because the National Park System is paid for by user-fees."

Then why am I paying taxes? and why is there a line-item in the budget for national parks under the Department of the Interior?

Courts, same thing. If anyone's been to court, you're going to be hit with "court costs". Doesn't need to be anything criminal. Don't even need to sue anyone, get sued or even have a speeding ticket. Change your name, change the title on your home, or just look up your property tax records, they'll charge you a filing fee, administrative fee or court costs. Sorry, but taxes pay these costs. It's your job to do this stuff, courts and courthouses, and you are paid by my taxes to do it. I already gave at the office.

It's infuriating when the government I pay to provide a service won't provide that service unless I pay them more money. That’s called bribery. When I slip the maitre'd a five-spot I expect to get seated ahead of the riff-raff, or get the corner table away from the main traffic lanes. Bribery and fine dining traditionally go hand in hand.

Bribery and government officials traditionally go hand in hand as well, but it's supposed to be illegal. It is when the citizen initiates the bribe, at any rate. But if the government official initiates the bribe transaction, it's often called a "fee". I'm required to slip the clerk of the court a seventeen-fifty-spot just to get them to do what they are already paid to do: change the title on my property.

How long would people go to a restaurant that required the customers to kick in a fiver just to get seated at all, even near the kitchen, a buck each time to get water and refills, two-fifty to give your order and another two-fifty to get it served, two bits each for the salad and rolls, and then have to pay the check besides? I'd pay to have the waitress not come around and ask "how's everything tasting?" -- I can flag her down if something isn't acceptable -- but for the rest of it, it would never fly. That's one out-of-business restaurant.

When we pre-pay for services we shouldn't have to pay when we get them. That's the government or the restaurant not doing its job.

But it's not only the government getting pre-paid to do a job and then demanding to be paid again when asked to get off its ass and do it that infuriates. It's the government getting pre-paid to do a job and then turning around and pawning that job off on others. And usually onto others who aren’t even in the government.

That's a lot of gall, right there.

Why exactly do we pay taxes? Why do we even have a government if they can't, don't or won't do their jobs?

We don't want kids to drink, and so we make underage drinking a crime. That's reasonable. But there's a whole lot of kids and not so many cops to watch them. If they watch for drunk kids they can't watch for murderers. So the government creates proximate crimes, and what is legal to do becomes illegal under specific circumstances because the government doesn't have the time or ability to police the matter. The government pushes the responsibility for policing underage drinking off onto retailers.

We start with underage drinking being a crime but it can't be adequately enforced, so we demand that retailers do the policing instead. If the retailer refuses, or does it improperly, we penalize the retailer. Under threat of penalty, the retailer imposes all sorts of nosy, busy-body rules and starts "carding hard" and annoying people because the real crime of underage drinking is too difficult to enforce by traditional means. A crime-once-removed is substituted and we have people and institutions not trained or authorized by law or constitution to enforce laws being commanded to enforce a law. And the cops who would otherwise be looking for underage drinkers…? They’re now setting up sting operations to catch retailers not “carding”. SO much easier.

Retailers aren’t obliged to follow “equal protection” or other such constitutionalities, and so we see spotty, haphazard and frankly capricious and arbitrary rules on how to enforce this crime-once-removed.

“We card everyone”. If the government said that, they’d actually have to do it. If the local convenience store says it, they don’t. So if you’re standing in line with a sixer of cheap American beer behind five others with ditto, and they let the first five pass without checking and only annoy you by demanding you to justify yourself before daring to buy beer, they can’t be held liable. You can’t sue them for not following their own rules. The government would be on the hook for “equal treatment” and any conviction would be tossed. Even your refusal to comply would be dismissed as unenforceable.

“We card under 35”. So if you’re 36…? You can still get carded. They don’t have to follow their rules. What it amounts is, in other words: “We demand that you justify yourself!!”

Here’s the thing: I don’t need to; I’m a free citizen in a free country. “But, but, but … what if you’re underage?” Indeed. What if? If I’m underage then I’ll be the one responsible, won’t I? That’s the price of freedom: responsibility. Underage drinking is the real crime – and I’m old enough that I passed “underage” when I turned 18 in high school – and selling to minors is proximate. It is cowardly governmental capitulation.

The moment we made selling alcohol to minors a crime the government admitted the following:
we are incompetent;
we can’t do our job;
we demand that you still pay us for doing the job we can’t do;
we demand that you do the job for us.

And if we don’t? We get punished. Boy, if that don’t show those underage drinkers a thing or two…

Here’s what it shows kids: “Hey, if we try to buy booze and they card us, they’ll turn us down and at most we’ll get embarrassed. If they don’t card us we’ll have booze. Since it’s too hard for the cops to check us all we’ll be able to drink until we puke. And if they get caught selling booze to us… they’ll be the ones to get in trouble, not us.” It’s a win-win for the kids, ainnit?

You don’t think the kids don’t know that?

You’re the cops; you enforce the law. Don’t make the retailers do it for you. And don’t penalize retailers for not doing your job for you the way you want them to. It’s your job, not theirs.

Other incompetent government agencies who can’t do their job, demand we still pay them for not doing what they can’t do has been in the news recently. A lot. The INS.

It’s the INS’s job to ensure that the people in the US are supposed to be here. Being here when you’re not supposed to be is against the law. When you are here against the law, you’re supposed to be escorted to the border. “We know there are many choices in emigration today and we thank you for choosing the USA, but the next time please have your boarding pass filled out before you come. Buh-bye now.”

But the INS can’t do their job. They’ve capitulated. Thrown in the towel. Some Mexicans cross the border with marijuana, so let’s make DEA watch the borders for a while. Other Mexicans cross the border with weapons – like … um … Pancho Villa – so let’s have ATF do some border patrol as well. For a while, the raging paranoiacs declared that Mexico was the perfect conduit for pan-islamist terrorists and so therefore the US military should be doing border patrol. Not only does that plan run smack up against posse comitatus, but the premise behind it is laughably absurd if you know anything about Central America or Central Americans.

Not to belabor a point, but pan-islamist terrorists wouldn’t survive Mexico or Mexicans.

The government agency whose job it is to control immigration can’t do that job and has declared that other people need to do that job instead. Congress has given us laws that erect private-industry pseudo-cops … essentially: the HR department at Wal-Mart. As one of the nation’s largest employers, Wal-Mart is required to police the nation for illegal immigrants.

Except that Wal-Mart has no law enforcement training, nor do they have the legal authority. But if they don’t do this policing they will face civil or criminal penalty, and they are thus coerced into becoming a pseudo-cop in proxy for the incompetent INS. Untrained law enforcers who are not required to abide by constitutional precept thereupon demand that free citizens in a free country justify themselves before daring to get a job – on the off-chance that they’ll snag an illegal immigrant.

It’s not only Wal-Mart required to do this. Every employer is required to do INS’s job for it. Even for jobs – like mine – which do not get filled by illegal immigrants because foreigners who do what I do are going to stay in their own countries where they will be considered upper class; here, they’d be just another face among the faceless middle class dweebery.

And the illegal immigrants, at least as clever as our teenagers, are savvy to the methods used to catch them, too. This is why they have social security cards and drivers licenses. Properly- or improperly-acquired is irrelevant[1]; the illegals have the documentation that citizens have, and when Wal-Mart asks for their documentation, the illegals provide it. Yet Wal-Mart is still legally liable if illegals are caught stocking the shelves. Which means that Wal-Mart’s nosiness and intrusion must elevate to keep themselves from being penalized for being unable to do INS’s job for it, and which even INS can’t do.

It’s like kicking your cat because you bounced a check when buying cat food. Balancing the checkbook is your job, not the cat’s. You can tell the cat all day long that if the check bounces you’ll kick it, but there’s nothing that the cat can – or should – do about it. When you kick the cat it doesn’t fix the bounced check but it advertises yourself as an irresponsible cat-kicker.

I’ve mentioned before the analogy that’s most useful here: when a homeless guy [nee: bum on the street] breaks into your home because it’s warm and dry and you have food in the fridge, our national dialogue can only think of two things to do with him. The first suggestion, proffered by the moronic and paranoid right wing of our political spectrum is to accuse the guy of stealing the silver and put him on trial for burglary. The second suggestion, tearfully advocated by the brainless and simpering left wing of our political spectrum is to provide your intruder the spare bedroom, an extra set of house and car keys, and require that you put the guy on your medical insurance plan.

We are bandying these idiotic notions around because the idiotic solution we’ve been operating under for years hasn’t worked a lick. The solution we’ve been using is, of course, to punish you, the homeowner, for having a warm, dry and food-filled house that the homeless guy wanted to break into. Shame on us.

The government needs to start doing what we pay it to do, and stop pushing off onto us the responsibility for those things it has failed at doing – and then punishing us when their job doesn’t get done. Underage drinking is being policed by retailers; the war against meth is being fought by drug stores; and responding to illegal immigration is being done by HR departments across the nation.

Proximate crime isn’t the way to police a free country.

[1] although I find it quite ironic that when Wal-Mart gets fooled by an illegal immigrant with a phony Social Security card and drivers license it results in a fine imposed on Wal-Mart, but when the government gets fooled into giving out those Social Security cards and drivers licenses that fooled Wal-Mart in the first place the government is immune from penalty.


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