Tennessee's Roving Bandits
By David Henderson
Check out this video news story about Tennessee police stopping people and taking their money for keeps, simply on the suspicion that the money was earned on illegal drugs. The whole thing is well worth watching. Here are nine highlights in chronological order, not necessarily in order of importance:
1. 1:45: Asked if taking people’s money “is a way to make money,” District Attorney General Kim Helper can’t quite bring herself to say yes. It’s not, apparently, because she has an Ayn Rand-style attachment to the idea that “making money” means doing something productive. No, but she essentially admits it in her answer that “it is a way to fund our operations.”
2. 2:18: “Is it OK to” search your vehicle? What happened to “Just say no?”
3. 2:35: Good to see Scott Bullock of the Institute for Justice speaking out against this.
4. 3:07: One of the county governments that “makes” money from taking it from people is the government of “Cheatham.” You can’t make this stuff up.
5. 3:10: “Can I search your truck and trailer?” Hmmm. I wonder what the right answer is.
6. 4:25: Notice how hard it is to fight this taking of private property without directly fighting against the drug war. While I’m sympathetic to Scott Bullock, does anyone doubt that if the cops manage to take a huge part of the money from the drug war, that’s as good, from the viewpoint of fighting the drug war, as taking the drugs?
7. 4:30 to 5:10: This is the roving bandits part: police agencies fighting each other for the money and one of them threatening (I presume illegal) violence against another. Check here for a pdf of Mancur Olson’s classic article on roving vs. stationary bandits.
8. 5:07: Dickson police chief Ricky Chandler says “Competition can be a good thing as long as you don’t violate any person’s rights.” Well, yes. I think Mr. Chandler needs a little remedial Locke.
9. 6:25: Preview of cop shaking down driver: I won’t ask you about drugs if you just give me the money.
Kudos to reporter Phil Williams of NewsChannel 5 in Nashville, Tennessee.
HT to Bob Murphy.