James Leroy Wilson's one-man magazine.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Just laws, cop abuse, and the arrogance of Eric Garcetti

The 2006 Duke Lacrosse case featured:
  • An investigation of a  real crime. Unlike, say, the phony "crimes" like gun or drug possession, rape has an actual victim 
  • White men, athletes at an elite university, as suspects. Maybe they weren't all rich, but they were privileged with access to  competent legal counsel.
Even after evidence indicated the accused were innocent, the police and prosecutor pursued the case.

If innocent Duke athletes aren't safe from The State, nobody is. Botched prosecutions and wrongful convictions are commonplace even when the laws, such as  laws against rape, murder, and robbery, are just and necessary.

So what happens when they're not? Increasing the minimum wage is a case in point. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, in a Freakonomics interview, said it will lead to increased "net economic activity" in his city.

That's a dubious proposition at best, but the more important question is...

Who does Eric Garcetti think he is think he is to make it illegal for people to take jobs at wages they are willing to accept?

Garcetti admits there will be some displacement with a minimum wage hike, but somehow thinks it's worth it. What will happen to the jobless?

They'll likely get public assistance of various kinds. But also, the circumstances will encourage them to earn money in the unlicensed, untaxed shadow economy.

Even if the goods and services they provide aren't illegal in themselves, they're made illegal by the lack of paperwork and taxes.

And that can lead to nosy neighbors calling the police, or police spotting and inquiring into "suspicious" activity themselves. Arrests will be made, convictions plea-bargained, and honest peaceful people will have misdemeanors or even felonies on their record.

In addition, some of that police contact will get out of hand. Sometimes police will panic or become abusive. It's statistically likely the victims will disproportionately be racial minorities.

And when an incident becomes a national headline, we'll again wonder how we can "reform" police departments so they'll be less racist in practice. No doubt Eric Garcetti will have something reasonable and "compassionate" to say.

But it's the Garcettis of the world who are the fundamental problem. Don't pile on victimless laws on top of just laws and then be shocked when minorities bear the brunt.


  1. Who does Eric Garcetti think he is think he is to make it illegal for people to take jobs at wages they are willing to accept?

    This is indeed the central point. More generally, who do politicians think they are when they pass laws criminalizing any sort of peaceful, consensual behavior among adults? Yet my sense is that most people never ask themselves the question, "What limits, if any, should there be on government(s), as long as laws are passed with good intentions?" There is disquiet whenever someone asserts "None of your business!" It seems to bespeak (to most people's minds) an unhealthy obsession with oneself and one's own selfish desires, rather than to the community as a whole, where it belongs.

    And of course, most people cannot reconcile a frank devotion to self-interest with a person who also gives willingly to charity.

    Even crazier, if possible, than minimum wage laws are laws against "price gouging" during weather or other crises. Crazier, because at least minimum wage names an exact figure in dollars and cents as a floor, but price gouging laws are vague of necessity. Many prices, constantly varying, represent what any given product was sold for before the crisis; what's the maximum permissible price after the crisis hits? And the sanctimonious "You must provide for me" mindset that these laws foster, yecccccch. But I ramble. Great column.