Robbing Peter to Pay Politicians

While most of us have been rightfully railing hard against the Ermächtigungsgesetz Patriot Act and Homeland Stupidity Security, we’ve not been paying as much attention to another civil liberty slowly eroding away. Fortunately for us, Russmo has been on the ball, and provides us with his latest in a long series of timely political cartoons. Asset forfeiture may apply to more than just drug dealers, too. Common household items may be enough to have your home and car seized, as Reason’s Jacob Sullum provides:

Hard as this collateral damage is to justify, it pales next to that suffered by other innocent victims of the government’s war on methamphetamine. Last summer, for instance, state and federal agents arrested 49 convenience store clerks and owners in Georgia on charges they sold pseudoephedrine and other supplies to informants posing as meth cooks.

The supplies, including matches, charcoal, antifreeze, coffee filters, aluminum foil, and cat litter, were all perfectly legal. The charges, carrying penalties of up to 25 years in prison as well as fines and asset forfeiture, are based on the doubtful premise the defendants knew or should have known what the fake customers pretended to be planning.

So where does all the seized money go? Sam Vaknin provides us with his view:

According to David McClintick (“Swordfish: A True Story of Ambition, Savagery, and Betrayal”), in the late 1980’s, the FBI and DEA set up dummy corporations to deal in drugs. They funneled into these corporate fronts money from drug-related asset seizures.

The idea was to infiltrate global crime networks but a lot of the money in “Operation Swordfish” may have ended up in the wrong pockets. Government agents and sheriffs got mysteriously and filthily rich and the whole sorry affair was wound down. The GAO reported more than $3.6 billion missing. This bit of history gave rise to at least one blockbuster with Oscar-winner Halle Berry.

Alas, slush funds are much less glamorous in reality. They usually involve grubby politicians, pawky bankers, and philistine businessmen – rather than glamorous hackers and James Bondean secret agents.

The asset forfeitures continue, as well as graft and corruption in high places. Thomas Jefferson defined tyranny as “that which is legal for the government but illegal for the citizenry.” If in doubt about whether we live under a tyranny today, I’d recommend that you go purchase a case of Sudafed, some coffee filters and a few gallons of antifreeze. Before you begin your shopping spree, I have one simple recommendation: Please consider donating your house and other assets to charity.

Stephen Gordon

I like tasteful cigars, private property, American whiskey, fast cars, hot women, pre-bailout Jeeps, fine dining, worthwhile literature, low taxes, original music, personal privacy and self-defense rights -- but not necessarily in this order.

  1. A while ago, when my wife was sick at home, she asked me to go pick up some cold medicine. When I got to the drugstore (Rite Aid), I couldn’t decide which cold medicine to buy. So I picked out a couple of different ones.

    Nyquil, Tylenol Sever Cold and Flu, Sudafed cold medicine, and Tylenol Cold/Flu strips. I wanted to try the strips since they were new, but also wanted to make sure I get something tested and tried before.

    When I got to the register, I was informed that I could only buy 2 cold medicines at a time, due to the ingredients.

    Ridiculous. What is someone supposed to do if their entire family is sick? Rationing?

    Would I be arrested if I went to another store the same day and bought 2 more items? I can’t afford to be arrested, let alone accused. There are just too many laws for people to know what they are.

    I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t need to pick up matches and cat litter that day too.

  2. Mike,

    Ignorance of the law is not only not an excuse… it’s also unavoidable, especially nowadays. Sad, isn’t it, that one can become a criminal without malicious intent.