The last words out of the mouth of strangling victim Eric Garner are actually a metaphor for how libertarians feel about the entire welfare-warfare state under which modern-day Americans have been born and raised.
Don’t his words express precisely how we libertarians feel? Leave us alone, we say to the state. Get out of our faces. Get out of our lives. You’re suffocating us. You’re killing us — literally, spiritually, financially, and economically.
Thomas Jefferson described this phenomenon in the Declaration of Independence: The king’s government was sending “swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.”
There is hardly any part of our lives that government officials aren’t involved in. They just won’t leave us alone. Drug laws. Economic regulations. Income taxation. IRS audits. Asset forfeitures. Home raids. Secret surveillance. Draft registration. Permits and licenses. Minimum-wage laws. Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Terrorist blowback from an interventionist foreign policy. Checkpoints. Perpetual crises and chaos.
It never stops.
The direct cause of Eric Garner’s death was obviously the chokehold that the cops put on his neck, which prevented him from breathing.
But let’s face it: The real cause of death was his selling of individual untaxed cigarettes, in violation of law. That’s what the cops were arresting him for when they killed him.
Oh sure, they call it “resisting arrest.” That’s what they always call it. But the truth is that they killed him for selling individual untaxed cigarettes in violation of the law.
Under libertarian principles — indeed, under the principles enunciated in the Declaration of Independence, which Americans celebrate every Fourth of July — a person has the fundamental, natural, God-given right to sell whatever he wants to sell without governmental interference, including booze, tobacco, marijuana, fatty foods, or whatever.
My hunch is that deep down Eric Garner understood that. My hunch is that that’s why he was saying, “Stop harassing me. Leave me alone!”
In the 1950s, cops killed a man in Utah named John Singer. He wasn’t selling cigarettes. He was refusing to send his children to public (i.e., government) schools, which at that time was against the law.
When the cops came to arrest John Singer for refusing to comply with some judge’s order, they shot him dead. They said it was because he was “resisting arrest.” The truth was that they killed him for refusing to send his children into the state’s schooling system.
Eric Garner had six children, whom he was obviously trying to support. He was doing that by selling cigarettes. I wonder how much money he earned doing that. Despite his anguished plea — Stop harassing me! — Just leave me alone! — the cops simply couldn’t do that. They obviously felt compelled to continue going after him. The law is the law.
The death of Eric Garner — indeed the death of so many other Americans at the hands of the cops, especially in the war on drugs — is the culmination of the welfare-warfare state way of life and what it has done to America. The federal government is killing people overseas as part of its perpetual “war on terrorism.” The cops are killing people here. All with impunity. Killing has become an integral part of America’s governmental culture.
We are the serfs. The government is the master. The cops kill people because they can. The CIA kills and tortures people because it can. We all know that nothing will happen to any of them.
Is the solution better soldiers and better cops? Better training? More secrecy? More efficient chokeholds?
No, the solution is to dismantle all the destructive policies both here and abroad that serve as the justification for soldiers and law-enforcement personnel to harass people, eat out their substance, abuse them, torture them, and kill them. The solution is to dismantle the entire welfare-state, warfare-state way of life that is alien to our heritage of liberty. When that happens, we won’t need so many soldiers or cops.
In other words, go away. Just leave us alone. You’re suffocating us. You’re killing us.
Jacob G. Hornberger is president and founder of The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va.