Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A police state?

Via Towards Mutual Benefit, your humble Devil finds this interesting article at the Centre for a Stateless Society...
A friend and mentor of mine, the late Aaron Russo, used to open some of his talks with a question: How can you know whether or not you live in a police state?

Aaron had a theory on the subject, or rather a method for answering the question:

Imagine yourself, he said, driving down the road. Not fast, not recklessly, just driving down the road as any normal person would drive to get from Point A to Point B.

Now, Russo said, imagine that as you pass an intersection, you look in the rearview mirror and see that a police car has turned onto the street behind you. The police officer isn’t running his siren and passing you on the way to the scene of some crime. He’s just settling in behind you, driving at the same speed as you… tailing you.

Are you comforted by the knowledge that the police are out on patrol, fighting crime? Or do you start to worry—do you get that tight feeling down in your gut, expecting to be pulled over at any moment for some offense that you don’t—probably can’t—know you’ve committed?

The latter reaction, Russo said, is a sign that you’re living in a police state: A society in which you and everyone around you are subject to the arbitrary whims, and expected to obey the every command, of “law enforcement personnel.”

Your humble Devil has often been mocked for his assertion that we are, increasingly, living in a police state, but I think that the above idea is worth thinking about. The root of the problem is "preventative" laws—laws that penalise you because you might do something.

I have said before that I think that all criminal law could actually be distilled into one single law: "It is illegal to initiate force or fraud against another person's life, liberty or property."

To take the example of driving a car, if you break the speed limit (or drink and drive), you have not actually harmed another human being—your punishment is based on a law that argues that you might have an increased risk of harming a human being.

(Such laws are not even consistent: driving whilst tired can be just as dangerous as being over the drink-drive limit (which is ridiculously low), for instance, as the BBC have recently highlighted—and yet there is no law against that.)

Laws that criminalise people for what they might do are incredibly dangerous, not only because they put one's behaviour at the whim of law enforcement officers (not everyone is who speeds is caught, for instance) but also because it is difficult to justify ever stopping at any point.

Should we, for instance, criminalise those who drive whilst tired? If we go to the reductio ad absurdum, will we one day criminalise all men because of the probability that they might rape someone? Or might murder someone?

You can argue that this is a stupid argument (well, I warned you) but can you point to a moral reason why we should not do so? After all, we have no proof that the majority of men do not rape women, do we?

With my simplified law, it is very simple: one can say that the law gets involved at the point at which actual harm has been done* and not before: there is a natural stopping point. When penalising people for what they might do, there is no such point.

It is this attitude that it is right and proper to criminalise people on the basis of probabilities—coupled with the idea of the state as an entity that can be sinned against—that has led to the worst excesses of illiberal legislation over the last few decades or so.

And it is why we are slipping into a police state (assuming that we are not already there, of course—an assumption that your humble Devil is unwilling to make): because once one has passed the natural stopping point—once that taboo has been breached—there is no moral reason why on earth one should stop.

There may, indeed, be practical reasons why one should stop, but our government has seemed willing to test those limits to destruction—especially since much of that practicality is based on our right to live in freedom.

But, because this stopping point has been broached, the laws under which we live are no longer concerned with individual freedom: they are concerned only with probabilities. To take an example, what does it matter that you imprison, for weeks or months without charge, ten, twenty or a hundred individuals as long as you decrease the probability of a large crime?

What does it matter that you criminalise, for speeding, ten, twenty, or a hundred individuals as long as you decrease the probability of another death?

In other words, the absolute right of the individual has been subsumed into the probability rights of society. Someone might be killed if you go faster than such-and-such arbitrary speed and, in the society in which we currently live, this alone is sufficient justification to take away your individual freedom.

As a libertarian, I view this trend for punishing on the basis of probabilities as being completely wrong: by definition, these laws destroy the right of the individual to go about their life unmolested as long as they harm no one else.

As I have said, we do not need the thousands of laws that have been made: all we need is one law—you shall not initiate force or fraud against another person's life, liberty or property.

* We can, of course, argue about definitions of harm, e.g. mental bullying, etc., but it is not really relevant here.


trueblue said...

Actually, as far as I know, there is a law against driving while your tired.

Simon Fawthrop said...

Being in a police state is not binary, it is a continuum. This is why those social authoritarians who dream up all our news laws and ever more bansturbations can get away with them and poke fun at you when you claim we are in a police state, because there is always somewhere worse.

What is most alarming is that most of these new laws are on a ratchet. Take your example of speeding. Around us most of the speed limits had 10mph chopped off them in what was an arbitrary decision. We don't get many accidents and I'm not aware of any deaths or serious injuries in the past 10 years or so.

Now, imagine what it will be like if you proposed increasing the speed limits back to what they were. You will be treated worse than a paedo because you want to kill the chiiildrreen. Not that there will be any evidence, just righteous indignation with support from the Daily Mail.

Now think about repealing RIPA. That will make you a terrorist loving paedo. Just about every law they have passed in the 20 years is on that ratchet.

The march towards a police state is more akin to boiling a frog for most people; they won't notice until its too late because they think that only criminals are affected.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Another good working definition of a police state is one where it is a crime not to report knowledge of a crime, I think we reached that stage a while back, see e.g. anti-money laundering laws, the wife of that 21/7 bomber etc.

But the being-tailed-by-a-police car-test is just as good, if subjective, in which case yes, IMHO we do live in a police state.

Stan said...

I don't think it is a stupid argument - but I think it would require a considerable amount of thought. For example - in the case of drink/driving you would not have the ability to stop anyone from drinking and driving. So what would stop someone from drinking and driving?

All you can do to deter that is to impose stiff sentences for anyone who causes an accident - not necessarily a life threatening one - as a result of being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle.

Personally, I don't think preventative laws are necessarily bad - the vital thing is getting the balance between liberty and libertinism right. In many respects we do, but quite often we lean too far either one way or the other - too draconian or too liberal. This is increasingly true in modern times where the freedoms of the law-abiding majority have been curtailed while, at the same time, the rights of the offencing classes has been broadened.

It's a tricky balance to get right and one that our politicians used to take far more seriously than they do now.

Stan said...

Oh, one more thing - we do live in a police state if the definition as supplied by Wikipedia is correct.

"The inhabitants of a police state experience restrictions on their mobility, and on their freedom to express or communicate political or other views, which are subject to police monitoring or enforcement."

The Filthy Smoker said...

Isn't the problem with drink-driving that you are not capable of driving properly if you're pissed? In this respect it is no different to making it illegal to drive without a license or if you're blind. I suppose you could argue that we require people to learn to drive and get a license because of what they *might* do without one, but is this really an illiberal requirement?

pissed off said...

I can give another example of living in a Police State in all the data bases the Government want...not for any specific reason but just to collect information because they can. I will give an example, I am a foster carer and the information I am required to provide has gone from simple Police Check...a waste of time I know but I'm only able to be angrey about so much at a time. Now Social Services wants to check stuff like my home insurance!! When I asked why this information was needed I was told if I was coming into fostering today I would also need to provide details of mu mortgage including how much my house was worth and how much my outstanding mortgage was, my income and expenditure and so on. I wouldn't care if Social Services didn't have a chronic shortage of foster carers anyway....and this rubbish is supposed to help!! How? I can only say that if any reader ever considers fostering don't do it. The kids arefine...bloody hard work but worth it. Social Services are crap.
Feel free to fill in the expletives...I have been editing them out but there were lots and lots!!

Anonymous said...

Stan: in the case of drink/driving you would not have the ability to stop anyone from drinking and driving. So what would stop someone from drinking and driving?This is the problem I find people have, they cannot think beyond human control by the state.

People regulate their behaviour in response to greater personal responisiblity (and therefore risk). It isn't illegal to stick your hand in an open flame but there isn't an epidemic of people doing that is there. Same with tools for self defence. When it was legal to bear arms, people didn't go around shooting anyone and everything they saw, all the time, just because it was physically possible.

If anything, these infantilising(?) laws serve to produce false boundaries that people believe are right and wrong. They rely less on their self-judgement and rely on the State to decide what their limits are.

You can't commit a crime against yourself, and if no one else's person or property is affected, then who gives a shit? It is only a 'crime' because these bastards in the State believe they know better (and believe they have a right to engorge themselves on the public purse for the honour).

There is a big difference between artibrary (not Common) laws and right and wrong, and when the State (or anyone) believes it can control one using the other, the conclusion is always tyranny, for no group of people has the wisdom and benevolence to run the lives of millions of individual human beings. Only the individuals have that.

For me, libertarianism is the logical extension of the principle of self ownership, and if you don't own yourself, then you are a slave to someone else, regardless of the methods used to sell it.

Roberto Brian Sarrionandia said...

As Ayn Rand pointed out, it is inconsistency and whim that make dictatorship unbearable.

She noted that if a dictatorship had a set of clear, defined and consistently enforced laws - it would be terrible - but just about bearable.

The greater damage is done by the fact that in a police state law is not contained in the black and white of legal parchment, but in the interpretation of halfwit-intellectuals and powerful thugs.

"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. "
-Ayn Rand

Captain Ranty said...

What you are describing, DK, is the Freeman Principle.

In Common Law, (the law of the land) the three basic tenets are: cause no harm, loss or injury to another human being.

We are ruled by Statute Law, the law of the sea. (Admiralty, Fleet, Commerce). None of the 60 million statutes apply to any single human being on dry land.

Under Magna Carta we (the people) were granted the right to travel the highways and byways of this kingdom in a suitable conveyance without let or hindrance. There is no need even for a driving license. To apply (beg) for a license is to ask permission. Adult human beings do not need to ask for anyone's permission.

To step out of Statute Law you have to step back onto the land. To do this you need to declare yourself a Freeman. This is a growing movement and many people have done so. When you issue your Notice of Understanding and Intent and Claim of Right, you tell THEM which laws you will live by.

Sounds as nutty as squirrel shit but when you have investigated it, and seen evidence of people walking out of court-rooms having been nailed by the policy for some misdemeanor or other (in which no human being has been harmed, injured, or made to suffer loss), absolutely scot-free, without paying a penny, the concept really does start to a) grow on you and b) make absolute sense.

Go here and read this:


Learn the difference between your Self and your legal fiction.

It is frighteningly simple.

xenophon19 said...

"It is illegal to initiate force or fraud against another person's life, liberty or property."

That should be good enough for most people, we are all treated like children by our "government" whilst they spend your (I don't pay tax - hoorah!) money on fitting themselves up with 8000 quid TVs and fixing dry rot on their "second homes'

This great groundswell of public repugnance at these greedy bastards needs to be tapped into by the UK Libertarian Party

We've been in a police state for some time now

Captain Ranty said...

Slip of the keyboard there. I meant "police".

But in reality they all work for corporations (all police forces and courts are now Ltd companies) so their correct title is Policy Men.

Corporations are designed for one thing: to generate a profit. And that is exactly what they do. The Police, or Policy Officers, collect money for them.

Dr Evil said...

In Australia the UK has been described as the first soft totalitarian state.

If a cop was following me I would be concerned.

the a&e charge nurse said...

Following the Devils logic a visually impaired 17 year old, high on crack, could drive down a residential road at 70mph - hell, why not 100mph without any fear of official interference?
After all, racing against an equally sociopathic mate on a honda 750 (sans helmet, of course) is one way to deal with the terminal boredom of living on a drab council estate.

Isn't it better to have one or two contingencies to deal with the terminally dim, or anti-social?

Or, to apply the old adage, prevention is sometimes better than cure?

Plato said...

Completely agree with most of the above.

I spend almost every moment of my time just a little bit anxious about being 'caught' doing 'something wrong'.

Speeding, not indicating early enough, standing too long in one place, signing a petition online...the list is endless.

All I need now is a TV that watches me typing this out.

*sure Gerald Kaufmann's could do that with a few tweaks*

Allan Scullion said...

An interesting thought DK but I fear an oversimplification too far.

Surely you must accept that some laws are required to set parameters for reasonable behaviour.

Drink driving is a classic example. It's no good allowing a drunk person to get behind the wheel of a car only to prosecute them *after* they do harm to another. Common sense dictates that they are very likely to injure or kill someone. Allowing it to happen makes the state culpable. Making the penalty unusually harsh (hanging, for instance) wouldn't absolve the state of the fact that it could have done something to prevent a death.

In actual fact, a lot of driving offences are not criminal offences (speeding for instance). I'm not sure if driving under the influence is a criminal offence. Using your one line law as a litmus test, perhaps it shouldn't be... So drink driving would carry a fine but no criminal record whereas injuring or killing someone whilst drink driving would carry very severe penalties. (I can even see problems with that approach to be honest)

Anyway - a one line catch-all law would put most lawyers out of business... hang on... wait a minute... on second thoughts...


Anonymous said...

I fully agree with the article, there are far too many laws. As to the naysayers, there has always been a law against driving whilst drunk and incapable which was once applied sensibley. Now the new laws are just target ticks and money makers. Many people have lost their licence without having or causing an accident.

microdave said...

Using Russo's example above we have been living in a police state for at least 10 years. My experience came when I was waiting to turn on to a busy main road, having just visited a scrapyard to get some parts for my old and somewhat tatty car. A police patrol turned in to the side road and the driver did a double take. I thought "here we go", and spent the next 5 miles checking my rear view mirror.

I couldn't see him, but suddenly there he was, blue light flashing. I pulled over rather abruptly, absolutely incensed. He spent the next 10 minutes trying very hard to find fault, even claiming my Mud & Snow tyres were illegal. However he failed miserably, much to the amusement of an inspector who was with him.

I felt like asking him why he didn't visit a local supermarket and do some spot checks on newer cars, but had to restrain myself.

So I feel that I am always regarded as a potential criminal just because I don't fit into the standard mould.

I did get my own back - a fellow traffic officer I know was told this story and wound him up a treat!

Frank Davis said...

Or do you start to worry—do you get that tight feeling down in your gut, expecting to be pulled over at any moment for some offense that you don’t—probably can’t—know you’ve committed? The latter reaction, Russo said, is a sign that you’re living in a police state...I do get worried when I find a police car behind me, travelling at the same speed as me. But this isn't anything new. I've felt that way for the entire 30 years that I've been driving. But I don't think that entitles me to believe that I'm living in a police state.

Russo seems to be suggesting that you live in a police state if you imagine you are. After all, the tight feeling in the gut is the product of imagination.

But I do actually think that we're now living in a quasi-police state. I've felt that way since the smoking ban came into force, and "Environmental Health Officers" were given the ability to identify a whole new category of law-breakers. Worse, when the landlords in pubs were expected to become enforcers of the law, and fined very heavily if they didn't (e.g. Tony Blows £20,000). And when there were snitch phone lines set up. It reminded me of East Germany more than anything else.

This government sees the individual as being subservient to the state, and that it's the state's job to tell people how to live their lives in the most minute health-conscious and environmentally-friendly and socially-acceptable way. To do this, it needs an army of enforcers. And that is a police state, in my view.

sconzey said...

:P Even for the Devil's Kitchen, you've managed to be controvesial.

I would argue that there are four fundemental laws:
1. Property is Property
2. Theft is unlawful
3. Unjust enrichment is unlawful
4. Your Word is your Bond

Anyway, wrt road laws, David Friedman breaks the debate down into a discussion of ex post vs ex ante punishment. (http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Laws_Order_draft/laws_order_ch_7.htm)

It's an interesting discussion, he concludes that the ex ante laws one obeys should be linked to ones insurance premiums, and the ex post laws should have harsh punishments.

Anonymous said...

I broadly agree with the principle, but I have a few qualms with how this might apply where life and death is concerned.

Let me use the following lazy scenario as an example:

Say there are a group of terrorists conspiring to blow up a building and kill and injure people.

If we only prosecute after the crime has been committed, then we have life and property violated (and possibly the Peelian value of prevention over detection reversed).

If we intervene at the point of the bombs being planted or prior to detonation, then we've saved lives and property, but because the act of murder and destruction has not been committed, possibly not crime has been committed and the conspirators go free.

If the conspirators go free from their failed attempt, then they are free to commit a future attack that could be successful.

Have I misunderstood the point or does the logic follow? Unless, the act of planting bombs and all that would itself still be a crime and only the conspiracy element would be decriminalised?

Personally, I have a problem with prosecuting those who express themselves in such terms as "kill Bush McHitler Blair!" or whatever. Most of the time, I suspect it's hyperbole. At the extreme end, it's an expression of someone's beliefs. We're either 'for' freedom of beliefs and expression or we're not. There's no in-between.

Intruder said...

Agree wholeheartedly, but what happens if you can spot an attempt at harming another - one guy goes up to another and is about to hit him hard on the back of his head with a cricket bat? At what point can you, or the police, intervene? I understand that you could legally warn the potential victim without infringing the rights of the potential aggressor - but it seems wrong, like political correctness - there's no common sense.

Stan said...

Field Marshall Watkins said: This is the problem I find people have, they cannot think beyond human control by the state.

Where did I mention the state? I asked, quite reasonably, what would stop people from drink/driving?

You argue that personal responsibility would regulate behaviour, but not everyone shares the same level of responsibility do they.

This is the problem I have with the libertarian stance - the assumption that everyone is good and won't indulge in immoral or irresponsible behaviour if they believe they can do so without fear of punishment or censure. It is, at best, a very dubious assumption - and at worst a very dangerous one.

What will prevent libertarianism descending into libertinism?

Assuming that everyone has the same moral compass as you is not going to answer the question.

I'd also argue that the law as suggested by DK is contrary to the principle of the rule of law - i.e. "you shall not initiate force or fraud against another person's life, liberty or property." - is exactly what the state would be doing by enforcing that law thereby putting the state above the law.

I agree that it should be a guiding principle for drafting legislation - but as a law in its own right it leaves a lot to be desired.

Anonymous said...

Stan 5/19/2009 04:39:00 PM:

Obviously this isn't about me, and what I said wasn't intended as a personal attack, just an observation when I've discussed this with people over time.

"Where did I mention the state? I asked, quite reasonably, what would stop people from drink/driving?"

Nothing will stop people who are determined to do it. Unless you want to advocate having the population chipped with implants than can detect alcohol, and if they try to use their car automatically informs the police.

But that would be just tyrannical, wouldn't it?

This can quickly ballon to anything. Why not watch everyone, all the time (even at home) to make sure they're not behaving in a way deemed by 'others' to be possibly increasing the probability of a crime maybe being committed under Common Law at some unknown point in the future?

How about this one. A poll of (male) rapists, asking them what their favourite tipple is, then logging all males drinking habits. A man drinks too many of that drink and alarm bells start ringing, you know, just in case... put him in a cell for the night.

I'm not saying that the main statement regarding others' assets (life, property etc) should be the be all and end all. But it should be the benchmark to measure all other laws against, and my problem is that people don't even think about the concept, just accept another layer of shitty impulse laws based on emotional blabbering of the mob, or their Bilderberg globalist owners.

My personal opinion is that attacking the freedoms of 60 million people because of the bad behaviour of a tiny minority is disgusting and only socialist tyrants would jump at the chance to impose their society on everyone else.

By the way Aaron Russo did an interview that I suggest everyone watch.

Aaron Russo Interview

Dick Puddlecote said...

With you on this one DK

A couple of examples with driving:

6 months for successfully driving through a level crossing.6 months for driving fast on a motorbike.In both cases no-one was injured. The charge was that it 'could' have been, or 'may' have caused injury or death. Yes, dangerous behaviour should be discouraged so probably a fine, but jail? It suggests that neither of the drivers could be trusted to have any confidence in their ability.

and the threat of jail for putting lettuce up one's nose.Not surprising the prisons are full.

Devil's Kitchen said...


"I'd also argue that the law as suggested by DK is contrary to the principle of the rule of law - i.e. "you shall not initiate force or fraud against another person's life, liberty or property." - is exactly what the state would be doing by enforcing that law thereby putting the state above the law."Yes and no.
First, we grant the state powers to do those things which we, as individuals, cannot do collectively, e.g. declare war or, perhaps, to imprison someone.

In order to ensure that the state does not get above itself, we have a mechanism for control, e.g. democracy.

However, philosophically, the state is, in fact, bound by the law. Why?

"You shall not initiate force or fraud against another person's life, liberty or property."Here, the key word is "initiate" -- you cannot initiate force or fraud.

You can use force to defend yourself, and you can ask others to help defend you.

It could be argued that, in some cases, one is simply asking the state for help in defending oneself (but, crucially, force has to be initiated against you -- not the probability of force, or the possibility of force).


The Bear At The Table said...

I highly recommend Aaron Russo's 'America - Freedom To Fascism':


Anonymous said...

I think I may have mentioned that I work on the door of a pub and every night I watch the same old people come in, tank up and drive home.
The next night they're back again to do it all over.
Everywhere I've worked has been the same.
The problem is that nobody really knows the level of drink driving in this country because if they did they would find that the majority of people over the limit drive perfectly safely and don't have accidents.
Yet were they to be caught, they would be punished. Severely.
For the life of me I cannot see why. Especially when you consider that it is a proven fact that a seventeen year old with a couple of pints inside him has much better spacial skills and reaction times than your average sixty+ driver.
If you've hurt nobody, caused no damage to property and driven safely home what the hell is wrong with that?

This country is using the film Minority Report as a strategy for its laws.
What bollocks.

Bald headed John

Anonymous said...

How on earth did the human race survive in the past without 10 million laws eh.

"Bald headed John"

Funny, I watched Minority Report last night, it really seems, the worse the technocratic dystopia of these stories, the more these evil socialist bastards adhere to it.

The scene with the spiders in the apartment block just sum up what this government wants perfectly.

Steve said...

Not sure if i got lost amongst all the paranoid agitation, but are you actually arguing for the legalisation of drink driving???????? and just to throw this into the mix, in minority report the methods used had as much as reduced murder levels to zero????

Anonymous said...

Unless I am severely mistaken, people still continue to drink and drive so the current policy cannot be said to be successful. So why not try a different approach?

Another example is drugs. Prohibition was a great success in the 30s, so lets have more of the same! Another great success as well...

A friend of mine, magistrate in France, said to me once:"If you'd been to the scene of a drink drive accident, you'd change your mind". He never really explained the difference with a "normal" accident, and I pointed out that by driving, I was aware of the potential risks (drunk drivers included) which I then accepted. If I chose to drive, then I could hardly complain.

That said, isn't it interesting how the state is absolved of all responsibilities, when presumably by issuing a license to drive they would be deemed to have checked the actual capabilities of the licensee, including not driving above its capacities?

Mark M said...

To beautifully demonstrate your point, look at the 20mph speed limit proposal - made, ostensibly, because research shows that you are more likely to survive if you are hit at 20mph rather than 30. Reductio ad absurdum, we should ban all cars so that no-one ever gets hit by them.

I would support speed recommendations, set so that you can go whatever speed you want, but if you happen to hit someone your punishment is heavier the faster you were going.

Rob H said...

Trevellers are great at using Common Law to defend drink driving, driving without a license.

Under the law Travellers are "free men on the land". As they have a Common Law right to own property (like a gun or a car) they can do so without a license. They also have the right to travel from one place to another on commons such as highways and footpaths etc. So they drive without a license and when drunk without prosecution. Crucially they are rarely registered at birth and so are not bound by our statute contracts, only by Common Law. The legal advisors of the Travellers are really hot on this, which is why htey never get done for anything unless they are caught theiving or murdering etc.

Whatever your opinion of travellers - you have to admire their freedom!

Rob H said...

Agree with the Devils advice with one caveat:

When they are found guilty of your single law they need to be dealt with harshly.

This onyl works with a punishment or deterrent like death ot long-term hard labour etc.

SoldDownTheRiver said...

If 'initiate' includes conspiring and/or planning an action that is perceived as harmful, then presumably it includes wearing an explosive belt with a trigger to initiate explosion in a crowd even if you have not yet done any harm - and may not actually actually end up doing harm? If it does not include such a definition, then I could not accept that as the extent of definition for a law.

Also, if you go driving whilst you're off your head on drugs or drink, I think I'd struggle with accepting there was no analogy between that and wearing that explosive belt.

Anonymous said...

If I drive a truck with faulty brakes, carrying 3000 gallons of liquid chlorine, it's OK as long as I don't cause an accident? I think it isn't: I impose on many people a risk they didn't chose; the fact that I accept such a risk myself doesn't make it moral.

There are cases when there is no possibility of punishing someone after the event, or the punishment (even death) would be grossly disproportional to the harm done.

AMPOIC said...




Robin said...

I would have thought that you live in a free society if you worry that athe police constable thinks you may have criminal tendencies.
You live in tyrranny if you worry that the police constable thinks you may not have politically correct thoughts.

The Pedant-General said...

"If I drive a truck with faulty brakes, carrying 3000 gallons of liquid chlorine, it's OK as long as I don't cause an accident? I think it isn't: I impose on many people a risk they didn't chose; the fact that I accept such a risk myself doesn't make it moral."

This - and others like it - misses the point.

Here's how you deal with this: if you DO cause an accident, you are not just done for the accident, you are done for gross negligence - the penalty should be much more severe.

This is the heart of the matter. If you "impose a greater risk" on others, but in the actual case do not cause an accident, what actual harm is done? Who has suffered a loss?

Alan Scullion in particular is wildly and dangerously wrong here:
"Drink driving is a classic example. It's no good allowing a drunk person to get behind the wheel of a car only to prosecute them *after* they do harm to another. Common sense dictates that they are very likely to injure or kill someone. Allowing it to happen makes the state culpable. Making the penalty unusually harsh (hanging, for instance) wouldn't absolve the state of the fact that it could have done something to prevent a death."WTF? Suggesting that the state is culpable for failing to stop an individual making a free choice is not just on the path to madness but all the way there, through the front door and with its feet up in front of the fire.

No: the way to prevent bad stuff happening is to make sure that individuals are fully responsible for their actions. That includes the period when that individual has, by their own free actions, rendered themselves temporarily irresponsible.

Thus, kill someone when driving under the influence and you could/should be up for a manslaughter charge: you were negligent in driving under the influence and your negligence directly resulted in the death.

As soon as the State takes responsibility, individuals stop.

Mr. A said...

I agree with Frank Davis - I think the Smoking Ban has done a lot to wake people up to the Police State we now find ourselves living in.

It's sad (but unfortunately true) that the Government could increase Police powers, mount electronic and camera surveillance on the Populace, introduce disgusting legislation like the Civil Contingencies Act and try to lock us up for months without trail, and most of the British populace would just shrug their shoulders and either ignore it and instead turn on "X-Factor," or think, "Well it's for criminals and terrorists, innit. It won't affect me."

But when they were suddenly herded into "designated smoking areas", when their smoking landlord could no longer smoke in his own property or allow them to smoke there even if he wanted to, when open-air areas suddenly became non-smoking and, if they then grew concerned and did a simple Google search and found that any research into the "science" behind secondhand smoke was flawed and utterly unscientific, THAT is when they thought, "Hell, even on my Friday night out, when there are no Police or Smoking Enforcement Officers around (and we know there aren't) we are still trooping outside like good little toddlers because we don't want to get into trouble."

I had an argument with Tom Harris Labour MP, on civil liberties, and he said, "You're exaggerating. I don't think many people are concerned. If anything I've never even heard it as a doorstep issue until the last couple of years." I pointed out to him that the Smoking Ban, which affects 15,000,000 people and hundreds of thousands of businesses came in a couple of years ago. Even he, a Labour MP, begrudgingly admitted I may have had a point.

Labour shot themselves in the foot with the Smoking Ban. Without this Righteous piece of legislation they could probably have continued undermining our Civil Liberties for years. But the Ban is so blatant and affects so many people they just brought unwanted attention to their totalitarian aims. They may as well have made everyone wear boiler suits and have the BBC broadcast non-stop hymns in praise of our Glorious Leader as far as waking up the general public was concerned.

On a slightly different point, I've also noticed that since 2007 they've become a lot more aggressive in their actions. It's almost like they expected the Ban to fail and now that they see 15 million trooping in and out like good little automatons they are clapping their hands and saying, "Good God! I can't believe they're actually doing it!" Great! Let's get out all those plans we thought would never fly - clearly, they will!!!"

The Smoking Ban, and the Government-funded Nazis behind it, have a lot to answer for.

NHS Fail Wail

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