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The Florida primary boondoggle | Main | Just a little context missing from this Washington Post article (Chad)
August 25, 2007

Please Explain Libertarianism To Me
It Was Explained To Me, At Least Here, And I Seem To Be Wrong

Instapundit gives this post the Link of Silent Endorsement (as the left has it). It's about a guy stopped by cops and found to be traveling with $27,000+ in cash, for no apparent reason. There is no suggestion of a crime... except for that fact that he's traveling with $27,000+ in cash. The cops wish to investigate further. While there is no evidence of a crime, drug related or otherwise, there is that little business of traveling with $27,000+ in cash for no apparent reason.

One point I will concede: It seems unjust to me that the feds could confiscate his money for up to a full year while they try to puzzle this out. A year is too long. Either you can find evidence of a crime within a reasonably short period of time (say two weeks or so) or you can't. If you can't, you give the guy his money back.

But I'm rather astounded by Radly Balko's insistence (and Instapundit's Notorious Link of Silent Approval) that this is some extraordinary and tyrannical exercise of fascist power of the state. There are legitimate reasons for carrying such a large amount of cash on one's person-- but the list is fairly short. On the other hand, there illegitimate reasons for carrying such a large amount of cash, and that last is considerably longer. Perhaps he's just an eccentric who doesn't trust electronic bank transfers or a guy who gets off on just having a suitcase full of cash money on him. Perhaps. Or perhaps he's a mob bookie's ferryman, taking money from a local betting shop to a central mob headquarters. Or perhaps he's an income tax evader. Or perhaps a cash-mule for a drug kingpin.

I am simply baffled by the sometimes paranoid and, it seems to me, pro-criminal impulses of libertarians, and baffled by their bafflement that anyone but a fascist might see this sort of thing as rather suspicious and may wish to investigate it. I say "pro-criminal" because in many instances libertarians seem to exist largely to agitate for laws which make it easier for criminals to conduct their illicit business. They may not actually seek the result of helping criminals, but surely they know that their preferred rules have that effect, inevitably. To spare the 1% of people who just want to carry around large sums of cash on them for no particular reason but without any lawful purpose they wish to reduce the extent of police inquiry into the 99% of people who have far more obvious -- and obviously criminal -- motives for doing so.

And for the 1% inconvenienced or harassed for their suspicious, but altogether legitimate, behavior: Such inconvenience or harassment is temporary. If it's serious enough, there is always the recourse to a lawsuit to make one whole via monetary damages.

I don't get it. It seems to spring from some deeply paranoid belief that one day soon libertarians may find it necessary to "go off the grid" to avoid the jackboots of a fascist tyranny, and so they're fighting now to reduce police effectiveness in that coming dark future. The mindset seems to be of a sort of Yuppie Militiamen Auxiliary Committee. They're sort of quasi-militiamen who just don't like the woods and can't hack without a Starbucks nearby, but dig the basic philosophy of paranoid survivalism.

I see this same sort of thinking whenever a Real ID program is suggested. Right now we are required, basically, to have ID to do an awful lot of things, from getting a job (you need that social security card and sometimes a birth certificate) to boarding a plane (you can board a domestic flight without a passport, but be prepared for a lot more scrutiny by TSA officials). The problem is that all of our current ID types are extraordinarily weak and quite easily forged. So Real ID programs are simply suggesting swapping out the current regime, in which one needs an easily-forged ID to do most things, in favor of an ID which is not so easily forged.

What is the thinking behind this, exactly? Again, what occurs to me is that many libertarians envision a day upon which they will have to join the criminal class and go off the grid, so they want to make sure that when that day arrives, IDs are still as easily forged as ever. What else can explain a group of people who has no problem with the current ID regime, but is militantly, zealously opposed to an ID regime in which IDs actually accomplish what they're supposed to accomplish, i.e., ID the bearer by his actual name?

This of course is not simply a true libertarian deal; many civil-liberties-oriented, small (and ineffectual!) government championing conservatives share this set of beliefs and impulses.

I've got news for these guys: When Fascist Tyranny comes, the old order will be swept aside with a bureaucrat's signature, so whatever "checks against future tyranny" you think you're making now are nothing of the sort.

Drew Bothered To Read The Article: And he finds this part troubling--

DEA agents told Prieto he would receive a notice of federal proceedings to permanently forfeit the money within 30 days and that to get it back, he'd have to prove it was his and did not come from illegal drug sales.

I am not sure why the burden of proof suddenly falls on a person to prove they aren't a criminal because they have more cash on them then the government decides they need to.

Indeed, fair point, and certainly goes a long way towards explaining the Notorious Link of Silent Endorsement by Instapundit, and Balko's problem with the circumstances of the seizure.

That said, while the factual analysis of this particular case may be way off, my overarching narrative is yet true, and I'm only being a bit cheeky when I say that. Because this general mindset is often on display among libertarians and Bob Barr type conservatives.

I'm not sure what is meant by "proof" here, though. If the police are asking for him to explain why he's carrying around so much money, well, that seems pretty reasonable to me. I don't think they can lawfully seize the money absent carrying the burden of proof themselves, but I'm not surprised they're claiming they can in an effort to get this guy to simply say why he was cash-muling so much money.

Hmmmm... As this argument has raged on all day, I'm a lot less sure of my initial take than I was.

Maybe the pot-heads and perverts have a point.

digg this
posted by Ace at 05:10 PM

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