L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 120, May 7, 2001
Before we get our tails tied into a knot over the recent Supreme Court decision on search and seizure, let's be sure we have the basic issues straight.
The issue before the Court was not whether the seat belt law is good or bad. It's bad. The majority of the Court explicitly granted that the state had no legitimate interest in arresting violators of their seat belt law and the policeman's discretion was sorely abused. The merits of the law were simply not the issue before the Court. To judge the Judges, it's necessary to ignore the demerits of the law.
What transpired was that the woman who committed a criminal act in plain sight of an objective witness refused to agree to appear in court to answer the charges. The officer had full authority to make a formal arrest and decided to proceed. The woman was detained to establish her identity and to execute the formal criminal charges.
Again, we need to ignore the nature of the crime - even the fact that the arrest was executed by a policeman. What the woman argued to the Court, and the Court discarded as insupportable, was that the arrest was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Imagine that the crime had been destruction of property - say a broken window - and that a civil arrest had been performed by the owner of the property. We would properly defend the victim's right to detain the perpetrator and ensure a civil redress of the grievance. That's all the Court upheld in it's decision.
The Court's ruling was totally in keeping with the intent of the Fourth Amendment and is irrefutable on the grounds of common law and established legal precedent... outside the context.
The problem is that the context - laws written by the legislature, not the courts - is indefensible. The seat belt law is a victimless crime with no merit and no "compelling interest" to any state. Had that been the issue before the Court, the decision may have been totally different. We cannot fault the Court for failing to decide an issue that had not been presented as a cause of action.
Let's put the blame for the injustice where it is due: legislators who propose and support criminalization of innocent and victimless conduct that is not the proper subject of law. Where are the libertarian lawyers who will challenge victimless crimes on the "penumbra" of the Constitutional rights to privacy, autonomy and individual liberty?
From: "Shugarts, Keith" <Keith.Shugarts@B2EMarkets.com>
Dear Libertarian Enterprise,
I wrote this during the events in Kosovo but I think it replies to issues that are current today.
I was fortunate to be able to take as my research seminar in college, American Strategic History. We not only looked at the outcome of past strategies but the motives behind them. One refrain seemed to repeat over and over again, expecially when repeating the mistakes of the past. The rationale of this refrain simplified is this, "since we are better people, then by doing the same thing others (others who were flawed and therefore not as good as us) have unsuccessfully done in the past, those attempts will be successful."
Recently I have started to that same haunting refrain in the words of those boosters of the campaign against Kosovo with regards to their motives.
King William's diatribes constantly use the words, "universal ideals", "humanitarian effort", "moral imperative" as if by utterring these words and truly believing them the mistakes made in the past will not be repeated because of the so-called purity of their cause. The haughty nature of his military commanders - political generals and admirals - in regards to this operation because of their moral superiority to the enemy and the side of "rightness" and "morality". Dropping virtuous bombs and firing nobel cruise missiles into the hordes of amoral barbarous Serbs.
This nobel art is being propigated by the purveyors of American Propanda known as the mass media. For some reason the mass media must not believe that Americans are capable of thinking along two sides of an issue and therefore must present only the one and of course, decent side of an issue. This done so American's can have their opinions gaudily wrapped in the paper the nobel, virtuous, and decent.
This really doesn't come as a surprise to me since they been selecting the issues that American's should care about for decades. Earlier in my college career (1993) a professor of mine showed me an article from an "intellectual" magazine, the Utne Reader, regarding the use of the military for humanitarian purposes. It sems that King William has taken it upon himself to spread his universal ideals and concept of morality through the power of a humanitarian military.
While history itself does not repeat (only history professors repeat themselves), the mistakes of not learning from history litter the past - unfortunatly that litter is often in the form of human lives, liberties, and freedoms.
Yours in Liberty,
It is ALWAYS the case that the media condenses Supreme Court rulings into the most provocative - even if irrelevant - aspects of the case.
I think only one commentator on FoxNews mentioned that Mrs. Atwater had refused to sign the ticket (agreeing to appear in court to answer the charge), which is common for all "traffic violations" in the state of California -- and many others. I'm sure Mrs. Atwater had a good and legitimate case -- but not on Fourth Amendment grounds.
The only way to get a clear assessment of the issue and the case is to actually read the opinion. CNN is pretty good about providing an on-line link to the actual ruling, but I depend on a FindLaw service, which provides prompt and concise summaries as well as a link to the actual text. If you skip over all the historic citations and introductory summaries, most decisions only run a few pages.
I've provided the link to the Atwater case below, as well as a link to the Findlaw email newsletter that is only issued when Supreme Court rulings are filed.
To read the full text of this opinion, go to: http://laws.findlaw.com/us/000/99-1408.html
To subscribe to a FindLaw Newsletter, visit the FindLaw Newsletter Subscription Center at http://newsletters.findlaw.com.
From: "Tom Wright" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Has anyone noticed the irony in the current vacation plans of Mr. Dennis Tito, the so-called 'Space tourist'?
Russia, the former rootstock of communist economic tyranny has committed that most laissez-faire of acts; selling it's services to the highest bidder.
At the same time, the former rootstock of economic freedom and liberty, fought like a demon to prevent this, in raging fear of losing it's socialist monopoly on space flight.
A second level to the irony, is that Mr. Tito, an American subject, (I hesitate to use the term citizen anymore), had to leave his supposedly free homeland and travel to Russia, the land of the second largest mass genocide in history and the home of the first communist dictatorship, to enjoy the economic freedom and liberty to take the vacation he desired and could afford to pay for.
To add even more insanity to this, N.A.S.A., in an action worthy of a six year old feuding with his brother over their bedroom, has drawn a line down the middle of the space station and forbidden Mr. Tito from crossing it. You can just imagine the administrative chin quivering in anger, the regulatory tears of indignation over the insult to their territory, the self righteous pout of their bureaucratic lips, as they scratch the chalk around the walls of the station and say, 'Mine!, Mine!, you can't have it!'.
Perhaps the name of N.A.S.A. should now, finally, be officially changed to N.A.S.S.A., the 'National Administration of Soviet Socialist Aerospace'.
From: "Russell Morrison" <email@example.com>
NASA, in a fit of childish pique, has decided that Dennis Tito doesn't deserve to fly in space. Apparently, in the opinion of NASA, no one has that right, except those members of the government trained and approved master race, known to the rabble as "astronauts".
Never mind that Mr. Tito paid top dollar for his trip. Never mind that he's not hurting anything or anyone while he's up there. Never mind that he, too, went through some weeks of training so that he, too, would be at least as qualified as, say, an elementary school teacher. Or a U. S. Senator.
No, he shouldn't go because he (Horrors! The ignominy!) paid for the trip.
Once upon a time, I wanted to be a part of the space program. Once upon a time, I watched in wonder as American astronauts orbited the Earth, walked in space, and then on the Moon. Once upon a time, I sat glued to my television as three incredibly brave men fought to bring their damaged ship safely home.
Those days are gone. I see clearly, now, that NASA (and, by extension, the U. S. Government) regards space as its exclusive playground, not to be invaded by common folk. And, in looking back at NASA's monopoly on American space exploration, I see that this childish attitude has been a long-standing policy, a policy that tarnishes the glory of former accomplishment.
And now, I can clearly see that NASA's time has passed. Or maybe, like the childish bully that pretends he owns the playground, NASA's "time" never really was; perhaps it was merely an illusion, brought into being and maintained by the force of government at the unwilling, and frequently unknowing, expense of the taxpayer.
How sad that the eventual human entry into the Final Frontier will be slowed by the country that, once upon a time, led the way to the future.
From: "Bill Butson" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The United States Supreme Court is sometimes referred to as the "High" Court. In light of their recent "precedent" allowing police to arrest, handcuff and detain we lowly peasants for something as trivial as not wearing a seatbelt, I'm now wondering what these black robed demons are smoking to make them that "High".
How can these "experts"(sic) at law justify this ridiculous position?
Is America trying to emulate Nazi Germany where the Gestapo can detain and arrest at will for not having your papers? Obviously YES, according to the Supremes.
Are the "Judges" on the "High" court trying to out-do Stalinist Russia where the KGB can pull you off the street on a whim and ship you to a Gulag as an undesireable for not wearing a seatbelt? Obviously!
There is already a dramatic change occuring in the citizen-police relationship in this country and this foolish, heavy handed decision just adds fuel to the fire of discontent. Wearing a seatbelt is a personal decision, not a police decision.
I suggest that the police of this country focus on real crime, you know "bad guys" who rape-rob-steal and break things, rather than handcuffing and arresting people for not wearing a seatbelt.
There is a growing concern in America that police powers are already too "heavy handed" and militaristic in dealing with average America.
To the men of America I ask you, how would you react if you came upon an "officer" with your wife or daughter or mother handcuffed and bent over the hood of a squad car because she was not wearing her seatbelt? This is outrageous and reeks of a "POLICE STATE" mentality. There WILL be trouble with this decision. "Joe Six-Pack" will come across the "Missus" getting handcuffed and the pistol will be pulled! I don't blame him.
Sleep tight America, the Goons are restless!