Another big success for libertarianism
By Scott Sumner
Pot legalization is an issue that has been largely ignored by Democrats and Republicans, but championed by libertarians. And now it’s sweeping the country, as more and more states jump onboard.
I often get newsletters from various libertarian groups, and I’ve noticed that asset forfeiture laws are another big concern. Police who pull someone over on the highway can simply take the driver’s money, on suspicion that the funds were used in some sort of crime. No crime need be proved. It’s highway robbery by police.
In other cases, a minor conviction results in the forfeiture of a valuable piece of property, worth far more than the maximum fine imposed for the crime. For instance, an Indiana man had his $42,000 SUV seized by the government after being arrested for a minor drug offense with a maximum penalty of $10,000. Asset forfeiture process is a completely lawless system, which relies on the discretion of law enforcement officials. They do not have to prove anything in order to seize one’s property.
While Democrats and Republicans ignored this issue, libertarians fought hard to eliminate the practice. Now the Supreme Court has struck a blow against unrestrained asset forfeiture:
WASHINGTON — Siding with a small time drug offender in Indiana whose $42,000 Land Rover was seized by law enforcement officials, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that the Constitution places limits on civil forfeiture laws that allow states and localities to take and keep private property used to commit crimes.
Civil forfeiture is a popular way to raise revenue, and its use has been the subject of widespread criticism across the political spectrum.
The revenue aspect of asset forfeiture is particularly corrupt. Police seize assets to gains revenue for their own use, to help fund more lavish police budgets. This is something you expect in third world countries, not advanced democracies.
Occupational licensing, organ transplant markets, and zoning reform are other areas that are ignored by the two big parties. Let’s see if we can begin to make progress on more parts of the libertarian agenda.
PS. It was a unanimous 9-0 decision, which is one reason why I’m skeptical of arguments that focus on “liberal” and “conservative” justices. All that matters is whether they are good judges or bad judges.