The protesters picked the wrong poster child.
Michael Brown stole tobacco. Eric Garner sold it.
Michael Brown assaulted a cop. Cops assaulted Eric Garner.
Eric Garner provided a public service in the free market. Michael Brown proved a public nuisance by regarding the market as free.
Michael Brown taunted: “You’re too much of a f—ing p-ssy to shoot me!” Eric Garner pleaded: “I can’t breathe!”
Note the not-exactly subtle differences between the cases of two towering black men weighing over 300 pounds. These surely eclipse the superficial similarities between the dead pair at the hands of police. Some, on either side of the controversies, can’t see through color or size to grasp the massive, black-and-white differences.
Despite damning video evidence showing police ignoring protocol and proportion, a grand jury declined to bring an indictment against a policeman placing the Staten Island “loosie” cigarette salesman in a chokehold—surely more rear-naked choke than headlock—precipitating a police pile on the nonviolent suspect in July.
The autopsy announced “homicide.” The grand jury announced “no true bill.”
Throughout New York City, protests erupted midweek. Outside Radio City Music Hall, demonstrators held “Racism Is Tyranny” signs. The protesters want increased state intervention. But their solution generally means more of what created the problem. Government, as Ronald Reagan, Milton Friedman, and others held, isn’t the solution. Government is the problem.
As noted in this spot in July, the Empire State imposes a $4.35 tax on packs of cigarettes. The city adds a tithe of $1.60. The feds, in one of Barack Obama’s first acts as president, upped their take to $1.01. Racism may be tyranny (over the haters as much as the hated). But so is a government that siphons $7 off a pack of cigarettes.
The Marlboro Man didn’t lasso Eric Garner for undercutting him. Bill de Blasio did. The state’s greed killed Garner, whose actions—cutting out the middleman, in this case the state, on a peaceful transaction demanded by the market—can only be construed as criminal by laws themselves criminal. Like the mafia, the state pummeled a citizen who dared challenge its cartel and hubristically denied it its protection money.
There is nothing immoral, unethical, or harmful in one citizen selling another citizen a legal product at a discounted price. Buyer and seller—the only two parties who matter here—both benefit from such an arrangement. In fact, it ameliorates the injustice of inflated pricing due to a government engorging itself on a product it at once vilifies and profits from. Like the state’s simultaneous operation of lotteries and crackdown on bookies, its approach to tobacco reveals a glaring hypocrisy.
The New York City mayor rightly called Garner “a father, a husband, a son, a good man, a man who should be with us but isn’t.” De Blasio then blamed “racism” and spoke of cops who “don’t live up to the values of the uniform.” The mayor outlined a “contradiction” between police protecting citizens and a “fear” of the police by citizens. In his longwinded remarks, including messages in both Spanish and Gibberish, he never once mentioned draconian taxes on tobacco that create the unnecessary phenomena of freelance cigarette salesmen and lawmen diverted from protecting and serving to masquerading as tax-enforcement agents.
The police didn’t legislate $7 taxes on cigarette packs. Politicians did.
Yet, the Jedi Mind Trick of de Blasio and other politicians orients public ire toward the cops put in the position to enforce an unjust law by politicians coveting more and more money from the private sector. As evidenced by the New York grand jury’s refusal to indict, police remain so deservingly popular that even when they partake in actions bound to incarcerate a non-uniformed member of the public the citizenry provides them the benefit of the doubt. Transforming policemen into IRS agents remains one way to erode the goodwill engendered by the people who risk their safety to preserve order and bring criminals to justice.
“Every time you see me you want to harass me,” Mr. Garner told the police with some of the last breathes of unobstructed air remaining to him. “I’m minding my business, officer. I’m minding my business. Please just leave me alone. I told you the last time, please just leave me alone.”
The big man’s plaintive plea toward Big Government echoes long after his silencing. “Leave me alone” isn’t a black thing or a white thing. It’s a human thing.