Thursday, March 23, 2006

In fulfillment of Ayn Rand

Texas is now conducting sting operations of the stupidest sort imaginable: agents of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission are going undercover to arrest people for public intoxication.

From Atlas Shrugged: "There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws."

"Public intoxication" is, by itself, another of those victimless crimes that's a waste to apprehend for, prosecute and punish. For one, bartenders aren't supposed to serve alcohol to someone they suspect or know is intoxicated, so I wonder if these sting operations have the hidden purpose of catching the bars too, which can then be fined heavily. Now, if some drunk harasses me or injures me, or merely relieves himself in public, what would it matter if he's drunk or sober? Punish him for the real crime, not his physical condition. And if he hasn't done anything but had one too many drinks, why is it such a good idea to throw him in jail with real criminals?

Could he injure himself? Certainly, but that is strictly his own concern. As Jefferson said, and this is worth quoting as often as needed:
The care of every man's soul belongs to himself. But what if he neglect the care of it? Well what if he neglect the care of his health or his estate, which would more nearly relate to the State. Will the magistrate make a law that he not be poor or sick? Laws provide against injury from others; but not from ourselves. God himself will not save men against their wills.
The government is not our nanny, that its purpose is to prevent us from harming ourselves. It becomes a different matter when someone else is harmed, but it makes no practical difference if the one who caused the harm is drunk or sober. He should be punished regardless, and the victim (or victim's family) can sue for damages. Texas' state government, though, thinks it can engage in preventative measures, but they never work for situations like this.

I'm sure Texans feel much safer now. Instead of resources being used to hire enough patrolmen to pull over all dangerous drivers (not just drunks), ABC agents are scouring bars for possible drunks who may not be driving anyway. They can't hope to police every bar, and they might also miss the quiet drunk under their noses (he seems to be nursing the same Scotch for the last hour, but it's actually his seventh, and he talks so little that you don't guess he's inebrated). I can't help but think of Texas' effort as like examining each toothpick in a new box, in case one has a splinter. Yes, there's certainly a possibility of harm, but the time involved is not worth reducing (never eliminating completely) the risk.


Anonymous Brad Warbiany said...

I posted on the same thing last night. I'm not sure what's stranger, that this happened at all, or that this happened in Texas. I could see someplace like Massachussetts or California doing this, but Texas?!

Thursday, March 23, 2006 11:15:00 AM  

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