A fugitive people within a nation is tyranny.

Posts tagged ‘punish’

A Different Look on Law: Why Punish People for “Speeding”?

by Eric Peters

speed trapWhy should anyone be subject to punishment merely for driving “x” speed? Is it not of a piece with punishing someone for merely consuming alcohol?

The justification usually given is that “speeding” might cause harm.

Ok, sure. The same is true about drinking beer. Someone (generally) might drink beer and beat his wife. But we do not presume (for now) that everyone who drinks beer willbeat his wife – and thus, drinking beer must be forbidden. And violators of this policy punished.

What about punishing (hold onto that thought) people when – and only if – they actually do cause harm? Not before – and not because they might. Or because “someone” else has.

It’s a crazy idea, I realize.

Imagine: You’d only have to sweat cops or face a judge if you (and not some other person you never even met) could plausibly be charged with having caused harm to an actual victim or damaged the actual property of someone else. Mark that. A flesh and blood victim would have to be presented.

And it would be the obligation of the courts to prove that harm was done to establish guilt before requiring restitution (much preferable to punishing people, which smacks of house training a puppy).

There would be an end to this business of people being put through the system who’ve harmed no one. Who are punished for manufactured offenses against the state.

Can the state be a victim?

Is the Tooth Fairy real?

It’s absurd – and vicious.

Do you feel guilty of wrongdoing when pulled over by a cop for not wearing a seatbelt? Who have you harmed? What justification – other than “it’s the law” – is there for punishing you?

How about driving faster than an arbitrary number plastered on a sign? You get pulled out from a crowd of others doing the same thing; none of you harming anyone or even plausibly threatening it. It’s merely your unlucky day. Your time to pay.

As the cop slides in behind you, does your internal monologue run along the lines of, “well, yeah… I did a bad thing… I deserve this.”

Or do you feel disgust, anger – and resentment?

Of course.

legal speed limits by state

This has serious implications.

Laws without a moral basis are just arbitrary rules. They have no moral force – and that makes people subjected to them feel abused. Which they have been. Meanwhile, it also makes it more difficult to deal with the relatively small number of people in society who actually do cause harm to others. If you doubt this, take a drive into a “bad” neighborhood; where are all the cops?

They’re manning radar traps and safety checkpoints in the “nice” neighborhoods!

Remember the “Drive 55″ idiocy that lasted from about 1974 to 1995? Overnight – and for the next 20 years – it became illegal “speeding” to drive 70 when the day before it had been legal to do that and – presumably (being legal) “safe.” How does it become “unsafe” to drive 70 on the same road today that it was (apparently) “safe” to drive 70 on yesterday?

What was it Bob Dooole used to say? You know it, I know it, the American people know it.

Millions of people were simply ripped off – had their money stolen from them under color of law.

The contempt and corruption this bred is incalculable. It festers to this day. Because while “Drive 55″ is history, the same rigmarole exists on secondary roads. Every day, thousands of people are pulled over and literally robbed. Issued what amount to ransom notes – state-sanctioned extortion – for driving at reasonable and prudent velocities that happen to have been codified as illegal “speeding.” The fact that virtually every one “speeds” – this includes cops – is the clearest, most inarguable proof that the laws are absurd. And their enforcement a sort of low-rent sadism that also happens to be very profitable.

What’s the solution?

speed trap in TexasSpeed limits as such ought to be thrown in the woods. They are arbitrary, morally indefensible – and most of all, one-size-fits-all.

People are individuals and some people are better at certain things than others. This includes driving. Tony Stewart is a better driver than I am. But I am a much better driver than my mother-in-law. Why should Tony Stewart be dumbed-down to my level?

And why should I be dumbed-down to my mother-in-law’s?

Imposing arbitrary, one-size-fits-all limits on anyone for anything is by definition unfair.

Arbitrary man-made “speeding” laws based on a dumbed-down/least-common-denominator standard amount to ugly and stupid people punishing the good-looking and smart ones.

The people who support such laws support anticipatory and pre-emptive punishment. That is, laws that assume something bad will happen if “x” is not punished.

And which punish the “offender” as if something bad had actually happened.

Even if it never did.

Innocence of having caused harm is (currently) no defense. It’s not necessary for the government to produce a victim. All that’s necessary, legally speaking, is for the state to prove that “the law” was violated.

Comrade Stalin would approve.

Cue the keening wail that, absent speed limits, people will drive excessively fast and lose control.

Yet they do exactly that already – speed limits notwithstanding. Just as people still drive soused (and senile, too).

The difference between the harm-caused/actual victim approach – and the “it’s the law” approach – is that the former only holds those who actually do lose control – for whatever reason – accountable. Everyone else is free to go about their business. To live as adults – rather than be treated as presumptively unintelligent children.

What a concept!

speed trap victimSpeed advisories would be fine. For example a sign letting you know that there is a sharp curve ahead and maybe reducing speed would be good. Drivers unfamiliar with that road – and never having driven that curve before – may find this information helpful. But why should the local who is familiar with that road – and who drives that curve everyday – be subject to punishment for taking the curve at a higher speed?

Assuming, of course, that he does so competently, without causing harm to anyone in the process?

That was once the American Way. Not “do as you please” – the dishonest, demagogic bleat of Clovers. But rather, do as you please… so long as you don’t cause harm to others.

The false choice offered by Clovers is total control in exchange for total safety – the “risk free” world. But this is a quixotic quest that can never end, because risk cannot be removed from this life. We all get sick – and die eventually. Entropy happens.

What can be excised, however, is the risk to our liberties, our peace of mind, our enjoyment of life – presented by random and arbitrary interference and punishments based not on what we’ve done, but on what “someone” might do.

original article

Walter Scott and the Need for Child Support Reform

by Joy Moses

Scott-police-fatal-shootingWalter Scott’s death was striking because a police officer fired eight shots at him while his back was turned. When something so tragic occurs, observers tend to wonder why. The officer’s actions and utter disrespect for human life can never be justified. But recently, the New York Times published new information about Scott’s split second decision to run — his child support case. According to his brother, “Every job he has had, he has gotten fired from because he went to jail because he was locked up for child support.”

Elements of Scott’s story reflect existing concerns about the child support system. A debate over potential large-scale reform is more than a decade overdue. The seeming impossibility of change has always loomed ominously large, overshadowing calls for reform and pushing them into the dark corners of the policy world. However, at this current political moment, there are national conversations about policing, bipartisan criminal justice reforms and an existing White House initiative focused on men and boys of color — concepts that would have seemed laughable just a few short years ago.

indigent in America

child support can make a man indigent

There are some fathers who absolutely refuse to care for their children and they should be held accountable. However, the current system reaches well beyond that group, creating negative consequences for men who are rarely credited with being caring parents and are simply too poor to pay. The political explosiveness of the “deadbeat dad,” a figure that some researchers say sprang out of the same sources as his female counterpart (the “welfare queen”), helped distort the foundations of child support policy. The system seems to partially rest on underlying beliefs that low-income men, and especially those who are black, avoid work and financially providing for their children at all costs while also being permanently childlike and in need of both discipline and lessons on how to behave.

Over the years, the program has effectively served many families (transferring funds from one parent to another) for which it should be applauded. However, policies built on a foundation of stereotypes about numerous men who don’t want jobs stand in stark contrast to the reality of numerous jobs that don’t want the men. Researchers like William Julius Wilson (More Than Just Race), have documented decades long trends of disappearing job opportunities for low-skilled workers as well as increased criminal justice involvement which further leads to employment discrimination.

billboard-crimeWhen entities spend significant time on activities that fail to help and that actually hurt parents and families, it’s often useful to redirect their energies elsewhere. Reforms should shift the program mission and values away from damaging racial stereotypes that hurt families of all races and towards efforts to accurately diagnose the needs of families and take ‘pro-social’ action to address them.

One useful primary goal would be to comprehensively address the family law needs of low and middle-income families, helping with a very real challenge — the increasing and extraordinarily large number of families who can’t afford an attorney or who don’t feel comfortable representing themselves in legal matters. In doing so, agencies should assume that parents of all racial and class groupings share in a desire to care for their children, suggesting that they be treated with respect and provided with quality customer service. This would build upon efforts to accurately identify bad dads whose non-payment is rooted in an adamant refusal rather than their economic circumstances.

chronic-stressWith such a vision, services would start to look much different. No longer treated as enemies of the state, low-income fathers would be less likely to literally and figuratively run away from child support. The sole focus wouldn’t be on a father’s monetary value but on improving father-family relationships. Court decisions and unaddressed legal needs would be replaced by model practices like mediation that support mothers and fathers in making their own decisions for their families. Punishments like imprisonment would be replaced by employment assistance. And other proposed reforms designed to guarantee child support for women and children would avoid potential incentives to hound men for unaffordable reimbursements of funds states pay out to women and children.

Some states have already experimented with such reforms, finding positive results that have included increased child support payments by fathers and greater parental satisfaction with agency services. The Obama Administration has encouraged states to adopt these best practices while proposing helpful new rules. However, there are limits to the changes that can occur without Congress overhauling currently existing state requirements and incentives.

We need a fruitful, progressive conversation that abandons a focus on the status quo and reform efforts that toy around existing edges — instead choosing a new vision for the future that endeavors to do the hard work of changing the culture and functioning of a system that means so much to so many.

—-

Of course, there is no mention in this article about U.N. Treaty or the Bradley Amendment, which prohibits child support arrears from being changed or removed – but the article does pretend to care (and is much kinder than I am). Meanwhile, the welfare queens still have control over America at great cost to all Americans. – MJR

overthrow

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