The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The state is contemptuous of its citizens, and constantly harasses their peaceful behavior. One does not need to go looking for examples of such lawless behavior; two examples dropped into my lap while reading a newspaper and a blog.

For the past week the San Jose Mercury News home page has shown slide shows of scenes from the Hurricane Katrina aftermath. Yesterday their introductory photo showed a man wielding a strange-looking fat metal cylinder to batter down a door. The caption read something like "Police search for looted goods in New Orleans." (Unfortunately I am no longer able to find this photo on the website.)

Police search for looted goods? Excuse me, but don't you need a search warrant for that? It is one thing to shoot looters caught committing crimes to maintain order, but why is time wasted in the aftermath of a hurricane looking for the fruits of petty thievery?

This is hardly the only instance of thuggish government behavior after Katrina. James Donald analyzes why FEMA would keep the Red Cross out of New Orleans:

The Salvation army and the
Red Cross organized food and pure water in advance of
the hurricane, and attempted to truck it into New
Orleans as soon as the winds diminished, but were turned
back at gunpoint by the government. Private individuals
in new orleans ordered food and buses, which were
delivered by private contractors and confiscated by the
state. Government buses were left to be washed away.
Private individuals attempted to walk out of New
Orleans, were turned back, private individuals obtained
their own food and water, to have it confiscated by the

Government is power over people, the power to use
violence, to confiscate or destroy other people's stuff.
People like power. People are in government because
they like power over other people. The red cross
delivering food and water interferes with that power.
Refugees possessing food interferes with that power.
Government, government officials tend to react to
disaster as a liberation from the normal limits and
restraints. Sometimes, as in war, that liberation is
reasonable. We don't want every sergeant on the battle
field consulting a lawyer before he kills people and
breaks stuff. Sometimes, as in a hurricane or
earthquake, it is utterly unreasonable.

Government was slow to help, but was quick to prevent
people from helping themselves, and quick to prevent
outsiders from helping, because that is the inherent
nature of government, its reflexive and instinctive
reaction. The bureaucrat when he sees a private truck
full of food and water, sees an intruder cutting in on
his turf and undermining his power. They took away the
refugee's food for much he same reason as they take away
people's guns, to render them helpless, passive, and

No one is safe from the oppressive hand of the state, as AOL found out:

ALBANY, N.Y. - America Online Inc., the world's largest Internet service provider, will pay $1.25 million in penalties and costs and reform some of its customer service practices to settle an investigation by Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's office.

Around 300 consumers had filed complaints with Spitzer's office accusing AOL, a wholly owned subsidiary of Time Warner Inc., of ignoring demands to cancel service and stop billing.

The company, with 21 million subscribers nationally, rewarded employees who were able to retain subscribers who called to cancel their Internet service. For years, AOL had minimum retention or "save" percentages customer service personnel were expected to meet, investigators said.


"This agreement helps ensure that AOL will strive to keep its customers through quality service, not stealth retention programs," Spitzer said in a statement.

Imagine: a corporation thinks it important to retain customers. Quelle horreur! (Why, the next thing you know they will try to persuade people to use their services!)

I expect that some people would say that AOL does employ slimy billing practices, so why feel sorry for them? What I object to is not that AOL was punished, but how AOL was punished. The fact that Eliot Spitzer proscribes certain business practices, rather than lawbreaking, shows that he is not interested in protecting customers; he is interested in playing God. And there is no reason to believe that his crusading will stop with AOL. What if Spitzer were try his interfering hand at mandating or prohibiting practices in the newsroom, in response to a scandal at the New York Times?



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