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The Government Killed Eric Garner for Threatening One of Its Revenue Streams

Here's one way to help reduce how often cops harass, beat, and kill peaceful citizens.

The cops who ganged up on Eric Garner, put him in a chokehold, and mashed his face into the sidewalk didn’t intend to kill him. They intended only to show him who’s boss on the streets of Staten Island—and show him in a way he would never forget.

As a Facebook friend of mine put it, instead they showed him in a way he will never remember.

This pretty much explains the cops’ reckless disregard for Garner’s life that day, and it is what makes the grand-jury sham especially appalling.

This was about power. Yes, to an extent the fatal confrontation was about race—although it’s no great feat to imagine something similar happening to a low-income white guy. It was also about class. An obviously affluent and likely well-connected person probably need not fear being accosted on the street by the police.

Let’s remember what the police accuse Garner of doing: selling cigarettes that had not been subjected to the high taxes imposed in New York City and State: $5.95 in all. (The feds add another buck.) Thus, a pack costs at least $14. As a result, entrepreneurial cigarette smuggling from low-tax states is big business. Whenever the tax goes up, so does the smuggling.

In fact, smuggling used to be an honorable American profession. In colonial times and into the early national period, the entrepreneurial smuggler who served consumers by defying the customs agents was celebrated. It was the government agent who risked being tarred and feathered, then rode out of town on a rail. Had Eric Garner been set upon by Red Coats on colonial New England streets, many people might have come to his defense. Today the best we can hope for is that someone will video the confrontation with a cell phone.

The fact is that Eric Garner was a threat to no one. He was just a guy trying to make a few bucks by selling loose cigarettes—loosies—to low-income smokers harmed by the state’s and city’s tax collectors.

Well, let’s amend that. Garner, like other practitioners of his trade, was indeed a threat—to the politicians who need that revenue to play their destructive games and to assure they remain in power. Come to think of it, in the eyes of those politicians, threatening the steady flow of taxpayer money is about as serious a crime as anyone can commit. Without that money they would be nothing.

That’s why New York City officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, one of those phony men-of-the-people, have ordered the police to crack down on sellers of loosies.

The city’s accomplices in this highway robbery of smokers are the licensed retailers. The police provide the protection racket that shields the retailers’ cigarette business from free competition.

To great fanfare de Blasio announced a program to prevent a recurrence of the confrontation that killed Eric Garner. The police will get new training, blah, blah, blah.

Sorry, Mr. Mayor, but that won’t do it. Some truly radical things need to be done—such as eliminating the top-down, militarist model of policing, and moving to a decentralized system of community governance. But something significant can be done in the meantime: halt police confrontations with nonviolent persons suspected of committing victimless so-called crimes. These are acts that in themselves violate no one’s rights, such as selling or possessing drugs and guns, taking bets, and participating in other prohibited but peaceful, consensual activities.

This won’t guarantee there will be no more Eric Garners, because police have long harassed, beaten, and killed people using low-tech weapons and without the cover of victimless-crime laws. But it would help. If fewer people are harassed on the street, fewer people will become fed up and resist—if we must stretch the word resist to describe what Eric Garner did that fateful day.

Low-income minority neighborhoods experience what the rest of us can usually grasp only abstractly: the police force is an occupying army. Its ostensible purpose is to protect innocent life and property, but what it does day to day is monitor everyone with a suspicion that the sovereign’s decrees are not being respected.

This has got to change.

This article originally appeared at the Future of Freedom Foundation. 

Photo Credit: screencap

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  • Counterfly||

    This article totally misses the point. I have it on good authority that Garner was killed due to his race. End of story.

  • Len Bias||

    You forgot to say that discussinh non-racial factors is racist.

  • Len Bias||

    *duscussing

  • Len Bias||

    I give up.

  • sarcasmic||

    But something significant can be done in the meantime: halt police confrontations with nonviolent persons suspected of committing victimless so-called crimes. These are acts that in themselves violate no one’s rights, such as selling or possessing drugs and guns, taking bets, and participating in other prohibited but peaceful, consensual activities.

    Like that will ever happen. It's the only way cops justify their existence.

  • R C Dean||

    halt police confrontations with nonviolent persons suspected of committing victimless so-called crimes.

    Can't happen as long as there are still victimless "crimes".

    Every crime carries with it an implicit "failure to obey" clause, which authorizes any and all force necessary to obtain obedience.

    Don't want the police to treat victimless crimes as crimes? You have to get repeal the statute making it a crime.

  • Robert||

    In a case like this, they pick out who they want to get, then pick the crime. If you stopped allowing confrontations for victimless crimes, they'll accuse the same persons of victimful crimes. Only by abolishing all crimes & all police could you prevent this shit.

  • Lady Bertrum||

    Sheldon Richman loves loosies and the people who sell them.

    TMI.

  • JPyrate||

    "Sheldon Richman loves loosies and the people who sell them."

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUmIO_MG5IU

    I say good for him Lady. =)

  • IceTrey||

    This is so easy to solve, limit government to the retaliatory use of force. In other words, all actions are allowed except those involving the initiatory use of force, threats of force or fraud.

  • woodNfish||

    Trusting government is never a good thing. It will get you murdered.

  • woodNfish||

    One of the best things that could be done would be to disarm the police. It works in Britain, but I know people will argue the US is too dangerous a place for that. It isn't. Thugs don't get respect, only fear, and cops are thugs. Cop departments are gang headquarters and their unions are organized crime because all of them work together to aid and coverup the criminal acts and abuses of their members.

  • IceTrey||

    The best thing to do is end the War on Drugs.

  • woodNfish||

    That would help too.

  • XM||

    Cigs are legal in the US. The black market was created when NY taxed it to death.

    The shadow economy deals tons of stuff that's already legal. No tax, no licensing costs, no middleman = more money to the seller.

    If the product is already legal by fed and state standards (not like pot), then the best thing to do is just leave it alone. If someone's selling it without a license, write him a ticket.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Petty offenses. Yeah, that's a great idea. That couldn't possibly escalate, like in Ferguson and such.

    Fuck this license bullshit.

  • Jim Smithy||

    exactly. why the fuck does one need a license from the government to sell a product?

  • JPyrate||

    " write him a ticket."

    ...

    And let's make the price of the ticket so high that the offender can barely pay it off, so he/she never sells another black market cig again.

  • ||

    Yes, and then what happens when they don't pay the ticket? Send the cops!

  • JPyrate||

    "This ends here. Leave me alone !!!"

    "I can't Breath"

    /dies

  • JPyrate||

  • Robert||

    Wouldn't've helped in this case, unless you thought the crowd would've beat up the cops.

  • ||

    Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do...... ✹✹✹✹✹✹ www.jobs700.com

  • ||

    Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do...... ✹✹✹✹✹✹ www.jobs700.com

  • ||

    . . . Instead they showed him in a way he will never remember.

    Pour encourager les autres.

  • GILMORE||

    I am disappoint there is no Desi Arnaz picture to go with this story

  • Michael||

    I love how progs have latched onto "I can't breathe" as their rallying cry, yet most have no clue what other statements Garner made to the cops just beforehand. Apparently, "This stops today," and "Please just leave me alone" are pure gibberish to them.

  • Enough About Palin||

    Has it been detirmined that the loosies WERE from a state with lower taxes? Beause here in Minneapolis, folks by packs at the local store, open them up and then sell them on the street at a mark-up.

  • JPyrate||

    I do mot doubt it EAP. Selling smokes to the bums around the local liquor like that would be profitable. At 14$ a pack in NYC, you know someone is going to create a pipeline.

  • Robert||

    I was determined that he had no cigarets.

  • aidanbuncebus||

    my neighbor's mother makes $67 /hr on the internet . She has been out of work for 5 months but last month her pay was $16448 just working on the internet for a few hours. see here......

    http://www.Jobs-spot.com

  • ztnjpv||

    amen

  • JPyrate||

    "In fact, smuggling used to be an honorable American profession. In colonial times and into the early national period, the entrepreneurial smuggler who served consumers by defying the customs agents was celebrated. It was the government agent who risked being tarred and feathered, then rode out of town on a rail. Had Eric Garner been set upon by Red Coats on colonial New England streets, many people might have come to his defense. Today the best we can hope for is that someone will video the confrontation with a cell phone."

    Thank you Mr. Richmond.

    Maybe these Nanny State Politicians should observe what is being done in the Craft Beer/distiller industry. In the U.S you can get better, and more variety of Beers/Spirits than you can in Europe.

  • Robert||

    So you're on this bandwagon too, Sheldon? Garner died for the reason you set out in the opening para. It had nothing to do with cigarets or taxes, and may or may not have had anything to do with race.

    Even if taxes were an issue, selling loosies doesn't deprive the authorities of any revenue. The cigarets are bought at retail, where tax has already been paid, and it's not as if stopping sale of loosies would cause more to be bought at retail in packs.

    But cigarets weren't at issue, because Garner wasn't selling at that time (a witnesses said) and had no cigarets on him or in his car.

    I also don't know what decentralized community governance would help in a case like this, unless we each lived in autonomous communities of 25 or fewer, where everybody knows everybody else. If the police want to fuck with you, they will, if they think they can get away with it. That's the problem: police having good reason to think they can get away with it. No decentraliz'n is going to change that.

  • JPyrate||

    I do not know where to start Robert.Other than you are an idiot.

  • Robert||

    Then tell me why the cops were giving him trouble when he wasn't selling cigarets.

  • retiredfire||

    The area merchants had complained to the police that Mr. Garner had been selling "loosies" - he had been cited/arrested and was on probation for it at the time - and had been harassing their customers.
    By the way, those on probation have lost many of their usual freedoms as a condition of not having to be in a cell - and the probationer agrees to it, in writing.
    I have to love the number of, especially Reason, posters, who channel "Carnac the Magnificent" and know what was in the minds, collectively, of the police and others in the area.

  • MSimon||

    OBEY

  • MSimon||

    OBEDIENCE TRAINING

  • JPyrate||

    "selling loosies doesn't deprive the authorities of any revenue. "

    Yes it does.

    "The cigarets are bought at retail, where tax has already been paid."

    He was selling them after paying the retail tax, which is illegal.

    "If the police want to fuck with you, they will."

    And they do.

    "police having good reason to think they can get away with it."

    "That's the problem."

    Yes it is.

  • JPyrate||

    "The cigarets are bought at retail, where tax has already been paid."

    Because you have to pay the retail tax to sell "Loosies"

  • Robert||

    But nobody is going to pay that (2nd) tax, so if you prevent those sales, the original pack sale (1st tax) doesn't happen.

  • martae||

    It's a shame that Garner was killed for practicing arbitrage, in the city that contains wall street.

  • @ShawingtonTimes||

    Let's not make a tragic hero out of Mr Garner just yet. It's not like he was selling fresh healthy produce at a fraction of the cost of WholePaycheck or most major groceries.

    Cigarettes are deadly carcinogens that destroy the lives of enslaved addicts — many who sacrifice upwards of a month's worth of housing payments on their addiction, other fail to feed and care for their own children properly as they choose to feed their addiction.

    It's the leading preventable cause of illness, disability, and premature death in the United States.

    Regular smokers increase their risk of death by

    Lung cancer 700%

    Cancer of the larynx 500%

    Cancer of the mouth 300%

    Cancer of the esophagus 400%

    Bladder cancer 100%

    Cancer of the pancreas 100%

    Emphysema 1,300%

    Heart disease 100%

    Out of 4,700 chemicals in cigarettes, researchers have identified 60 carcinogenic chemicals.

    http://www.wctu.org/cig__1.html

  • Reverend Draco||

    I love the way anti-smokers make up nonsense to give the appearance of moral authority. Fortunately, it only works on the pig-ignorant. Unfortunately, they outnumber the rest of us.

    Virtually every stat pertaining to smoking is cooked - some, because the study showed different results than intended. . . some, because the actual study was never done. . . some were cherry-picked out of specific demographics. . . much like the junk science of "secondhand smoke."
    A mere 0.002% increased health risk for people who live with a smoker - 0.0007% increased risk for workplace exposure, according to the EPA, when looking at the overall results. . . the increased health risk only becomes apparent when cherry-picking stats from one age group (seniors).

    Which leads one to wonder - what *would* you do with a real education?

  • ||

    Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do...... ✹✹✹✹✹✹ www.jobs700.com

  • Page Turner||

    I don't disagree with the premise but you lost me when you started your article with lies.

    This arrest was overseen by a black female police sergeant. If she observed a chokehold or saw the guy's face being mashed into the sidewalk, she would have ordered her subordinates to stop.

    There was no damage or trauma to the neck. The asthmatic guy who had been arrested 8 times for selling "loosies" had, was morbidly obese, had extreme hypertension, advanced diabetes (all personally controllable) and as a result had advanced heart disease. He didn't die at the scene. He died in the ambulance of cardiac arrest.

    Too bad. I was interested in your point but there's no sense in reading anything from someone who plays as loose with the truth as Rolling Stone's Sabrina Rubin Erdely.

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