L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 235, August 24, 2003
The Dominoes Fell
Exclusive to TLE
Those of us in South Dakota have been granted a rare opportunity to ponder the failings of government-supplied justice. Last Saturday, on his way to his nominal home in Brandon, South Dakota Congressman Bill Janklow rammed a motorcycle driven by Randolph E. Scott of Minnesota. Janklow was approaching an intersection at a high speed, failed to obey the posted stopsign, and struck Scott, who had the right of way. Scott sustained fatal injuries.
Any way one looks at this incident, Janklow was in the wrong. Legally, he failed to obey a posted speed limit, striking Scott at 70 to 75 miles per hour at the intersection of two two-lane highways. Janklow failed to obey a posted stopsign. He appears to have lied in his report to the police, stating that he swerved to avoid another vehicle in his lane of traffic -- yet the existence of this vehicle cannot be corroborated.
From the perspective of the Zero Aggression Principle (the only thing I'm truly concerned with), Janklow incorrectly judged the safe speed for his environment. While this isn't in itself an Initiation of Force, his speed combined with his failure to observe another approaching vehicle led to one.
Morally, Janklow has initiated force against Scott, and Scott is due restitution for harm.
Unfortunately, it is inherently impossible to provide restitution for causing an individual's death. The best that Janklow could possibly do would be to provide Scott's survivors with the same support and assistance for what would have been the remainder of Scott's life. Given the emotional and financial commitments inherent in any individual's existence, even this would never truly suffice.
From a legal standpoint, it seems clear that Janklow is guilty of some form of involuntary manslaughter. However, therein lies the problem:
Bill Janklow is a career politician. He is former Governor of South Dakota, on multiple occasions and winning several re-elections. Were it not for term limits, he'd still hold the office.
A non-South Dakotan would surmise that Janklow is a well-loved statesman. After all, why would he be repeatedly elected, first to Governor, then to the US House. Sadly, Janklow is universally despised. The fact of the matter is that over the years, Janklow built a corrupt political machine in South Dakota. It is an evil mechanism designed to allow Janklow to acquire and maintain power to the exclusion of all other considerations. It's a political machine a Chicago Alderman would admire -- and having spent the decade of the 1990s in Chicago, I know whereof I speak.
We can expect, therefore, that the "criminal justice" system in South Dakota will work its magic in Janklow's favor, and the criminal will receive all the justice.
Consider the preferential treatment Janklow has already received: It's quite certain that if I had killed a biker while wildly speeding and ignoring a stopsign, I'd've been charged with manslaughter and spent Saturday night in jail. I'd've not been given the consideration of a full week's investigation and methodical examination of the meager facts. My obvious fault in the matter would have had the investigating officer reading me my rights as the ambulance carried away my victim.
That is, if they still read you your rights in the United States. In the wake of recent Supreme Court rulings, perhaps he'd've simply booked me, taken me back to the station house, and beaten a confession out of me.
In any event, if it had been me, I'd've been in jail Saturday, not wandering around free and uncharged while the county Sheriff wrung his hands and wished for a way to avoid having to commit political suicide by charging the most despotic individual in South Dakota history with any kind of crime.
Here's my prediction of what will now happen:
Janklow will use his political power and the petty little he's spent a lifetime building, and arrange to have absolutely no charges filed against him.
On the off chance that some shred of the "criminal justice" system in South Dakota operates as it was intended, Janklow will use his empire to have the charges reduced from the obvious criminal charge of manslaughter to something civil. Perhaps he'll arrange to be charged with violating Scott's civil rights, at most. He'll be fined a paltry sum or settle out of court, and be back on the job without ever actually appearing in court.
The one thing that Janklow will never allow to happen is the one thing that would happen to any other South Dakotan: be sent to prison, probably for the remainder of his life.
You see, if Janklow steps into any of South Dakota's prisons, he'll be confronted with individuals that his immoral laws and political empire put there. Some of them will wish to exact revenge. Janklow's life expectancy in a South Dakota prison could be measured in days. Perhaps hours.
In a free society in which individuals self-govern guided by the Zero Aggression Principle, the responsibility of a force initiator like Janklow is purely moral: he must provide restitution to his victim, to the best of his ability. In a free society, Janklow and the Scott's survivors would contract with an adjudicator. He would hear the facts and negotiate some form of restitution, which would probably entail financial support consistent with what Scott would have provided for the remainder of his life, plus restitution for the emotional suffering caused by the removal of Scott from their lives forever.
In all likelihood, Scott would never have been involved in the accident.Janklow has a long history of force initiation. In a free society in which Janklow's victims were capable of defending themselves against such predators, Janklow would no doubt have been appropriately dealt with by one of his intended victims decades ago.
Regardless, in a free society, Janklow need not worry about being raped and killed in prison. A free society is disinterested in exacting revenge or punishing force initiators. Rather, a free society exacts restitution to return a victim to the state he was in prior to the initiation of force.
Should Janklow fail to attempt to provide restitution to his victim, a free society would employ a form of "excommunication." Bereft of immoral laws that require individuals to associate with one another, laws that manufacture crimes in which there are no victims, and crimes designed simply to regulate behavior, the number of force initiators becomes a very small group. The overwhelming majority are individuals who have initiated force by accident or, like Janklow, through negligence. Intentional force initiators will be a dying breed -- literally. As Robert A. Heinlein noted, an armed society is a polite society: without immoral laws that disarm the average individual (gun control laws), most sociopaths will find honest work rather than risk death. Those few who can't control their impulses will eventually be killed by an intended victim.
Largely free of crime, the 24x7 news channels of a free society will resort to publicizing events as trivial as check-bouncing. Assuming Janklow failed to provide restitution, in short order his picture and story would be plastered all over the news and Internet. Talking heads will discuss his likely fate and what a disgusting excuse for a human being he is.
About the point at which Janklow reached the notoriety of Jean-Benet Ramsey, he would find it impossible to trade for even the basic necessities of life. He'd be reduced to living out of garbage cans and sleeping under overpasses, providing a concrete example of why initiating force is a very bad idea.
In short order, he'd either provide restitution or die.
That's what would happen in a free society in which individuals self-govern guided by the Zero Aggression Principle. Unfortunately, we live in a police state in which government rules with raw, naked force, and Bill Janklow has amassed a political empire that allows him to manipulate that force to his own benefit.
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