Hit & Run

A. Barton Hinkle on Eric Garner and Police Abuse

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When a grand jury refused last week to bring an indictment in the death of Eric Garner, the New Yorker who died from a policeman's chokehold, the outrage across the political spectrum was nearly universal. Left and right, libertarian and collectivist: Everybody was, for once, in agreement. For a moment or two.

Then fissures began appearing. One of them concerned the role New York's cigarette taxes played—or didn't—in Garner's death. Some liberals, such as Salon's Joan Walsh, scoffed at the idea that high taxes contributed to Garner's demise. But as A. Barton Hinkle observes, cigarette taxes are not just about revenue. They are also a form of social engineering, something that increases the number of occasions for the police to use force, with sometimes deadly results.