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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Your money or your life?

Writing over a century ago, Lysander Spooner wrote in No Treason: The Constitution of no Authority:

"Your money, or your life." And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat. The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the roadside, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful.

According to this story, however, it seems Spooner may have been too kind to the state. (h/t Overlawyered)  It seems that under a "state law that grants authorities the power to seize property used in crimes is wielded by some agencies against people who never are charged with — much less convicted of — criminal activity. ... Virtually anything of value was up for grabs: cash, cell phones, personal jewelry, a pair of sneakers, and often, the very car that was being driven through town." The best part is that after the property is seized, criminal charges are dropped if you sign a waiver declining to pursue your property claim back from the county. Of course, the law was written two decades ago as a tool to combat the drug trade, but as is always in these program, “[i]n a lot of cases, they’re more focused on trying to find the money than in trying to find the drugs.”

This is why even conservatives, who may be morally opposed to drugs, should be very careful when they empower the state to legally engage in a war on drugs. It does not solve the problem and diverts the efforts of law enforcement to enlarging the state. Liberals who want to empower the state to wage war on economic ills should also take caution.

Posted by Moin A Yahya on February 12, 2009 | Permalink


Asset forfeiture is a license to steal. It's an awful policy that is being adopted in Canada more completely everyday.

Great post, Moin.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-02-12 11:10:44 AM

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