Thursday, October 2, 2014

Grandmas, Guns, and Ganja

A common critique of libertarianism is caricatured by libertarians as "but who will build the roads?" That is to say that critics of libertarians believe that there are some vital services for which there exist severe free-rider problems. Fire brigade services are a typical example: the fire department will put out house fires regardless of whether or not the homeowner has paid lest the fire spreads to neighboring paying customers.

Okay, maybe that's a bad example, as I'm sure you can easily think of private arrangements to overcome this hurdle. But the rule of law is one function of government that survives in even the classical liberal, Lockean tradition. You'd have to go pretty deep into the tassels on the ends of the libertarian tapestry to find folks willing to go all-in on the private provision of constitutional authority (I'm not saying they don't exist and there aren't plausible arguments in favor of private governance, but it's not exactly mainstream liberty movement kind of stuff). The median libertarian would probably say that if there is to be a government, its chief duty is to provide basic law and order.

And I think the median libertarian would also look at the doctrine of civil asset forfeiture and correctly note that this practice is not consistent with a legitimate rule of law, even when it's working properly. IJ used a sympathetic grandmother figure to illustrate their point in this video, but even if it were Carlos Slim having his hacienda snatched, asset forfeiture would still be unconstitutional, ahistoric, and profoundly unjust.

There are plenty of good reasons to be skeptical of what libertarians peddle. But before you ask who'll build the roads, why not work together to address what genuinely is a legitimate, profound injustice in American society?

Politics is exchange (of a sort). Civil asset forfeiture is decidedly not euvoluntary. If you're the sort interested in voting, consider demanding of your elected representatives that this immoral practice cease forthwith.

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?