Brian: So glad you can join us today to discuss this vital issue, Eric.
Eric: Hey, no problem. I’m glad I could make it.
Brian: OK, I know your background is in cars and motorcycles. How did you become interested in what we’ll call the “Liberty Movement?”
Eric: It follows naturally when you think about it. Cars are, after all, fundamentally about liberty. I say on my website that the freedom to drive is being systematically undermined by authoritarian control freaks dressed in red and blue. That’s how my former conservatism evolved into Libertarianism, this oddball idea that live – and let live – ought to be the basis for human interactions.
Being able to go when and where you like, on your own schedule, driving the kind of vehicle you want that meets your needs and budget. Unfortunately, that’s becoming less and less true these days, you know?
Brian: Yeah, like with every other aspect of our lives these days. Tell me, was there something specific that pushed you to that libertarian position?
Eric: Yes. The approval by the Supreme Court of dragnet-style “sobriety” checkpoints without even the pretense of individualized suspicion, which prior to this case had been a bedrock constitutional protection.
That is, police had to have a demonstrable, specific reason to suspect you’d either committed or were about to commit a crime before they could subject you to a criminal investigative procedure.
The Supreme Court “threw that in the woods,” as I like to say – and by doing so not only upended a basic constitutional protection, they also helped make it routine. Principles matter. This is how we got to the NSA and TSA and probably soon, many more – and much worse – things.
Brian: Exactly. The ratchet effect. Once they can do something, that power is used to do something else, then another. Once the government is granted a power it’ll never give it up.
Brian: So, what changes have you noticed most over the years? How have the police changed?
Well, since the new High Holy Day of Sept. 11 the country has become demonstrably meaner, in my opinion. Police, for example, are now almost indistinguishable from an occupying army – and it is no coincidence that many police are former troops calloused – even brutalized – by their experience overseas. Not all, but many.
And the cult of “officer safety” is out of control. On the one hand, we are encouraged to regard police as “heroes. But in my mind, a hero is a person who places his own life in harm’s way to protect others; who gives others the benefit of the doubt, even at risk to himself.
Yet cops are taught to regard the slightest failure to immediately comply with whatever they demand as a “threat” to their “safety” – and savage, disproportionate violence is often the immediate reaction.
Brian: Sorry to interrupt, but this is a huge problem. I’ve seen examples where police have killed 90 year-olds because they feel threatened by their friggin’ cane or something. And they’re killing harmless dogs every day because they feel threatened by a barking golden retriever. Man, if you’re frightened that easily get another job.
There was one case where two cops were reprimanded by their police chief for using traditional self-defense tactics to disarm some guy with a knife instead of shooting him. Sounds heroic to me, but the chief said it set a bad example to other cops because it threatened “officer safety.”
Eric: Amazing, right? We’ve all seen the depressing spectacle of, for example, Eric Garner in New York City, chokeholded to death. While Garner may have been large, he never physically threatened anyone and his “crime” was extremely petty.
But incidents like that are now all too common. They transcend race and economic class, too. To be blunt, we’re (civilians) are all “indigs” now – as the “troops” overseas refer to the native populace.
Brian: OK, we touched on this, but what are your thoughts on what many perceive as the increasing militarization of police?
Eric: It is not a matter of perception. It is a matter of fact. Police now routinely sport body armor, high-powered semiautomatic pistols and rifles, vs. the revolvers and shotguns of just 20 or so years ago, as well as armored vehicles and “assault” teams, which are increasingly used in over-the-top ways.
I’m talking about no-knock raids in the middle of the night to apprehend suspects who are often accused of non-violent offenses and who could be apprehended without such needless brutality.
But perhaps the most ominous – and obvious – sign of the police becoming something else… is the way they’ve been used to “lock down” entire communities, frog-marching innocent people out of their homes and cars at gunpoint. This sort of thing would have been inconceivably in the America I grew up in – which was the America of the ’70s and ’80s, not that long ago.
Brian: And we won’t even get into how many times SWAT teams have targeted the wrong houses, and how many innocent people have been killed or injured as a result. Do you agree that local law enforcement is becoming increasingly nationalized, especially due to fears of terrorism?
Eric: Again, this is not a matter of opinion but of fact. The Department of Homeland Security and the TSA are two specific examples of the federalization – um, the centralization – of law enforcement. Federal grants are also being used to wheedle local law enforcement into becoming more – I hate to use the word, but it’s apt – Gestapo or East German Stasi-like.
Brian: Yeah, well, as long as the feds are offering heavy weaponry and armored vehicles, strings are attached to them. That’s how it works. Listen, this is probably a dumb question, but can we count on the legal system to rescue us?
Eric: Uh, I think the facts speak for themselves. The Supreme Court habitually “constitutionalizes” acts and laws that are obviously at odds with the Bill of Rights, which was of course added to the Constitution specifically to prevent the kinds of abuses that are now, tragically, an everyday part of our lives.
The obvious example being the now-defunct prohibition against “unreasonable” searches and seizures. If it is “reasonable” to stop people and search people at random, without even attempting to claim that there is reason to suspect them of a crime, then words have no meaning and the Constitution can mean whatever the court says it means.
Which of course is exactly what has happened.
Brian: You know, I think “reasonable” is probably the most dangerous word in the law books. How do you define it, really?
Brian: Yeah, but the courts always seem to give the government the benefit of the doubt, don’t they? But I know of story where Palm Beach County, Fl. cops admitted to planting evidence on innocent people because they weren’t submissive. Who’ll guard the guardians?
Anyway, what role do you think asset forfeiture programs have played in the increased aggressiveness of police? Cops can just take your money now if they suspect you’re a drug dealer or something. They don’t need any proof. And YOU have to prove you’re innocent to get it back. That turns every concept of justice we have on its head, doesn’t it?
Eric: Well, there’s the profit motive – the harmful effects of which cannot be overemphasized. Cops have been given literal legal authority to simple take things – money and cars, for example.
This is not merely a rotten – arguably evil policy upending a moral principle of Western civilization going back at least to Magna Carta that a person shall not be deprived of his property without due process of law – but it turns the element supposedly charged with maintaining civilization into brigands, highway robbers. Literally.
And it’s the worst sort of highway robbery because the victims are legally powerless to protect themselves. If a random person attempts to rob you, for instance, the law still allows you to resist – even if that means simply attempting to escape. But if you attempt to escape an officially sanctioned robbery by a policeman- which is what these seizures are – you face felony charges.
Brian: Where are the Founding Fathers when you need them? Scotty beam me up! Listen, this is starting to come up a lot now – should police be required to record all encounters?
Eric: You know, I’d rather they be required to respect people’s rights! Also, that they be confined to pursuing actual criminals – that is, people who cause actual harm to other people or their property.
In a free society, the people’s choices – including their vices – ought not to be a matter for law enforcement, provided their choices and vices do not entail harm caused to other people or their property.
That said, what’s good for the goose is definitely good for the gander. But the most important thing is that citizens not in any way be molested or threatened for recording police.
Brian: Totally agree. Ok, I’m just going to take a second to grab some water.
This is Brian Maher, part of the team here at Laissez Faire.I’ll be filling Chris’ size 12’s today. He’s in Vegas right now undergoing special – nah, I can’t spill the beans. Let’s just say he’s meeting with a former CIA spook about the secret world of “clandestine operations.” He’ll tell you all about it when he gets back. So stay tuned…
Today we’re pleased to be joined by Eric Peters. Eric is a libertarian “gearhead” who’s written about automobiles and motorcycles in places like The Washington Times, Investors Business Daily, The American Spectator, National Review, The Chicago Tribune andWall Street Journal.
He’s also written two books – “Road Hogs” (2011) and “Automotive Atrocities” (2004).
But these days he’s writing more about the American police state he sees emerging and its growing threat to the liberties our forefathers fought and died for.
Eric “lives in the boonies of rural Southwest Virginia with his wife and various animals, won’t have a cell phone or get near an airport until the TSA’s Submission Training goes away.”
As you can imagine, Eric’s not some bleeding heart ACLU egghead. He’s just a regular dude afraid the country he grew up in is vanishing before his eyes. Probably a lot like you and me. And listen…
Living a free life in an increasingly unfree world is what we’re all about here at Laissez Faire. But that’s getting harder to do with the NSA spying on us, the IRS acting more like the KGB… and the police looking more like an occupying army than public servants.
Has become this:
Most Americans have no clue about what’s going on. But you need to. And we’re determined to help you thrive despite it all. So Eric’s going to help break it all down for you today.
Let’s get started after this short break…
Brian: OK, we’re back. Listen, Eric, what do you see as the biggest threat going forward, i.e., tax by mile, biometric tracking, driverless cars?
Eric: I’m against all of ‘em, but I see the general blase attitude toward the increasingly blatant abuses of our former liberties as the single greatest problem. Too many people are indifferent; believe that these abuses are meant to “keep us safe” or “save lives.” If they’d watch less football and read more history, perhaps they’d realize the danger.
Brian: That’s what’s so great about Laissez Faire readers. They don’t take this stuff lying down. They’re engaged. They have a much better understanding about what’s happening than most Americans. So tell us, what can we do as individuals to fight back against this madness?
Eric: “Fighting back” is probably not a good choice of words for the same reason that I would not get into the ring with Floyd Mayweather.
Brian: OK. Explain…
Eric: Our best hope, those of us who want a return to a society that values liberty, respects the individual’s right to be left in peace provided he himself is peaceful, is to persuade more of our fellow Americans that things are headed in the wrong direction.
Here’s how I put into perspective: ask people you’re discussing a given issue with whether they, personally, would be willing to point a gun at another human being to compel him to go along – and perhaps use the gun if he declined. This clarifies the issue. It often makes otherwise decent but not thoughtful people think a little more deeply.
That, I think, is our only long-term hope.
Brian: OK, more of a “hearts and minds” approach. I agree, that’s the long-term solution. But what about today? What about technologies like Cop Block and other technologies becoming available to everyday folks like us?
Eric: I’m for them. Any vehicle that helps to spread the message of liberty – by calling attention to tyranny – is an ally in our cause. We have the advantage of information – and the means of disseminating it easily and inexpensively.
The Internet is the Gutenberg Press of our time. We must take advantage of it. So I’m all for tools like Cop Block because they give power to the individual, where it belongs in a free society.
Brian: Good stuff. We’ve pretty much been talking philosophy here. But a lot of our listeners are probably wondering what to do if they’re stopped by a cop or find themselves confronted by one. How should they handle it?
Eric: Good question. Given the fact that cops have a gun and a badge and you are literally at their mercy, the best policy is to be polite, non-confrontational and cooperative to the extent the law requires. However, do not go beyond what the law requires.
If you’re driving, you are obligated to provide ID, registration and insurance upon request. But you are not obligated to answer questions. Remember, anything you say can and will be used against you.
Never consent to a search of your vehicle or person, even if you know you haven’t done anything illegal and are not in possession of contraband.
Brian: Should you record the incident?
Eric: If you have a recording device, use it. You are legally entitled to do so, at least for now. Advise the cop you’re recording the encounter for your mutual safety – it’s nice to turn their logic around on them.
The mere fact that you are recording them may cause them to tone down their behavior – to behave more reasonably. If possible, upload the recording to a cloud or similar so that even if the device is confiscated, the recording is beyond their ability to erase. That’s why Cop Block is such a good tool.
And don’t argue with cops. It won’t turn out well. Your goal should be to defuse the situation, if possible, and get out of it with yourself intact and the least damage done.
The best policy of all is to do everything possible to avoid dealing with cops at all. Buy and use a good radar detector. Blend in with the crowd. Avoid “checkpoints” – many are publicized before they are set up – and other situations that might put you in a cop’s gunsights, literally and figuratively.
Brian: Great. Listen, we’re about out of time, so I’d like to thank you once again for joining us today. This is a major issue and you’re doing God’s work by exposing the truth. Keep it up.
Eric: Sure. Thanks for having me. We just can’t sit back and let this happen. We’re Americans, after all. We love freedom too much to watch it vanish because we didn’t take a stand.
Brian: Great stuff. Thanks, Eric. So let me give you Eric’s website. It’s an amazing source of information not only on the growing police state but also a lot of fun car and motorcycle stuff. I enjoy reading everything he puts out. I think you will too. Click here to access it.