Think nothing can be done? Vote for Gary Johnson. Let’s work on getting moralistic and paternalistic laws off the books so that there is less policing in the first place. No, this isn’t easy, but changing federal law (POTUS doesn’t do this directly, but can have an affect) and having a SCOTUS that will take seriously protecting individuals from bad state law may be the best way to start.
Consider the following very-possible case: police pull over a car because they can see that neither the driver nor the passenger is wearing a seatbelt and in this jurisdiction, seatbelts are required and failure to wear them is sufficient for a stop. (Driver’s and passenger’s first charges.) The passenger happens to smell of marijuana smoke. Now there is probable cause to search the car. The passenger resists. (Passenger’s second charge.) Officer finds 3 ounces of marijuana and some plastic bags. (Driver’s second and passenger’s third charge: possession with intent to distribute.) Officer finds a gun under driver’s seat. Driver has legal right to this gun (licensed, etc). (Driver’s third charge: possession of firearm during the commission of a felony, that being the possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.) Isn’t it clear that things in this situation can get heated?
Imagine being a business person on your way to deliver a good to your customer and then being pulled over as the two people in that example were. Wouldn’t you be annoyed? Assume you start out cooperative. As the officer that pulls you over starts charging you with various crimes that have nothing to do with harming anyone and that seem … well …. contrived, wouldn’t you get upset? You couldn’t be charged with illegally having a firearm, for example, but for the fact that you were delivering the harmless good to your customer. You get upset. The police officer gets upset because you get upset. This seems like a pretty clear recipe for further problems.
Having a libertarian that wants to rid the country of moralistic and paternalistic laws seems like a path to solving the problems. Johnson has not come down as firmly on these issues as I would like (his response to the question about hard drugs on the CNN “town hall” was much weaker then it could and should have been), but he is at least for decriminalizing marijuana and might be open to discussing more. And he is clearly more likely to agree with Justice Sotomayor about the problem of the carceral state then Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. (See her dissenting opinion in Utah v. Strieff.)
So let me suggest again: Vote libertarian!
- Peter suggested I add these:
2. I saw these related pieces, well worth reading, after I put up this post: Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic, Jack Hitt at Mother Jones, and perhaps less to the liking of our readers, José Martín at Rolling Stone.
3. Finally, take a look at this Guardian piece. Imagine, as Steve Horwitz did, that “the two major US political parties were the Libertarians and the Greens.”
OH, and this from the LP.