Regulation and Civil Liberties

One of the things I have always found frustrating and confusing is the number of folks who call themselves "civil libertarians" who simultaneously have not problem with economic and nanny-state hyper-regulation.  In fact, ACLU types are often at the leading edge of calls for more regulation on safety or prices or property or whatever.

I have never been able to understand how the two are not inextricably linked.  How can bright-line protections of freedoms of choice and action be essential in one sphere of our lives but unimportant in others?  Here is just one example of how they work together, from none other than our egregious Sheriff, Joe Arpaio:

Arrest records from crime sweeps conducted by the Maricopa County
Sheriff's Office add substantial weight to claims that deputies used
racial profiling to pull Latino motorists over to search for illegal

even when the patrols were held in mostly White areas such as
Fountain Hills and Cave Creek, deputies arrested more Latinos than
non-Latinos, the records show. In fact, deputies arrested among the
highest percentage of Latinos when patrols were conducted in mostly
White areas.

On the arrest records, deputies frequently cited minor traffic
violations such as cracked windshields and non-working taillights as
the reason to stop drivers.

"These are penny-ante offenses that (police) almost always ignore. This
is telling you this is being used to get at something else, and I think
that something else is immigration enforcement against Hispanic
people," Harris said....

Brian Withrow, an associate professor of criminal justice at Wichita
State University, said racial profiling is very difficult to prove.

States have thousands of traffic laws on the books, so police can
almost always find a reason to stop someone.
The U.S. Supreme Court has
ruled that police can legally use minor traffic violations as a
"pretext" to stop someone they suspect of other crimes. Withrow said
the only way to prove racial profiling is by looking at large numbers
of traffic stops to see if "patterns and practices" of selective
enforcement exist. Otherwise, it's difficult to tell whether police are
stopping motorists for legitimate reasons or merely based on race or

Withrow agreed that the arrest records alone are inconclusive. But
he found it troubling that they show that Latinos were arrested more
frequently than non-Latinos even when the patrols took place in mostly
White areas such as Fountain Hills.

"That tells me that that is who is being targeted," Withrow said.


  1. mahtso:

    "The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that police can legally use minor traffic violations as a "pretext" to stop someone they suspect of other crimes." If you have committed a traffic violation (minor or otherwise) how can it be a pretext for the police to stop you? I understand that it was the Az Republic that wrote this and not Coyote, but I'd be interested to know in what case this ruling was made.

    The Az Republic, like Coyote, in my opinion, is against enforcement of the laws against illegal immigration. The Republic has run long articles three days in a row that appear to be designed to sway public opinion against the Sheriff and, today the Republic endorsed his opponent in the upcoming election. Given that the media and civil rights groups have been scrutinizing these sweeps, the fact that there is no proof of racial profiling is an indication that none exists.

    I've written it before but: illegal immigration is major problem in Az because much of the human smuggling is through Az; this has fueled a lot of violent crime and identity theft. Several months ago the Az Republic reported that human smuggling is a $1.6 to $1.7 billion per year business in Az.

  2. mahtso:

    One other point: I assume that Coyote knows enough about statistics (see his climate skeptic blog) to understand that comparing the number of traffic stops to the number of white people in a neighborhood is not a valid measure in determining whether profiling exists; you need to compare the stops to the number of people who are committing traffic violations. Somehow I suspect that the reporters that wrote the story (and their editors) also know this.

  3. Max:

    The question lies with the definition of freedom. I think the problem is that some people believe that the less you have to think about money and the likes, the more free you are. They shy away from the idea of risk-taking.
    So, I think, these people call themselves "civil Libertarians", because they love to have freedom and civil liberties, but they also want to eliminate risks (economically and SOCIAL - like people with bad jobs).

  4. John Moore:

    Too many so-called "civil libertarians" are really interested in a subset of liberties that appeal to them. The ACLU, for example, looks far more like a leftist advocacy group than civil libertarians.

    These self-identified civil libertarians are like Bill Mahr - a self identified "libertarian" who is really a left-wing libertine.

    In this post-modernist world, liberty to many has nothing to do with freedom (except in matters of sex) and everything to do with political correctness.

  5. Matt:

    The Supreme Court is entirely correct, in this case. If you don't like the fact that the police have legal justification to pull over just about anybody on the road, then you should work to get the laws changed. A legal situation does not just magically become more oppressive because police target particular groups for stringent enforcement. If stringent enforcement of the law against your favored group is oppressive, then THE LAW PER SE IS OPPRESSIVE and should be changed. But don't blame the cops for enforcing it. Arguing that hispanic drivers, as hispanic drivers, ought to be somehow more protected against traffic stops than the rest of us poor fools whose hearts skip beats whenever we see a police car isn't an argument for liberty, it's an argument for rent seeking.

  6. Zorkmid:

    One thing we actually want the police (sheriff's office) to do is deter and detect crime (violence, property crime, and traffic crime including drunk driving). "Hispanics" (mostly Mexicans near Phoenix) are much more criminous than Europeans ("whites") (this is easier to see in NCVS than UCR, because the DOJ deliberately obfuscates the UCR by lumping "Hispanics" with Europeans in UCR totals). They commit much more violence, many more property crimes, drive drunk much more frequently, etc. So comparing the proportion of Hispanics questioned by police to the proportion of Hispanics living in the neighborhood is improper. The right comparison is to the proportion of people arrested. Since Hispanics commit crimes much more frequently than Europeans, they naturally attract more attention from the police (sheriff). Arpaio may be a jerk, may give law enforcement a bad name, but ol' Mr. Coyote should go back to criticizing him for tent jails and pink panties rather than citing to obviously innumerate left-wing newspaper propaganda falsely suggesting that "Hispanics" don't deserve the attention of the police (sheriff's deputies).

  7. gadfly:

    "Racial Profiling" is an oxymoron. Profiling by its very nature is a necessary action in order to efficiently provide safety and order. After the airplanes were hijacked on 9/11, security personnel automatically became more skeptical of Arabs than WASPS. Heavily-muscled 250 lb men get more attention than a 75 year old granny when police are attempting to find a suspect who ransacked a home.

    If the hero of the right, Joe Arpaio, stops Mexicans (I refuse to be politically correct) in order to find illegals in Arizona, then I will give him credit for not being a dumbass.

  8. Dr. T:

    The key issue for libertarians to focus on is that there are so many traffic- and vehicle-related laws that police can legally stop almost any driver at any time. Similarly, almost any restaurant, bar, or store can be shut down by zealous prosecutors, health inspectors, building inspectors, tax inspectors, etc.

    Our representatives and executives at every level of government pass law after law after law. Almost no governments have automatic sunset rules. Almost no governments require discontinuation of old laws when new laws are passed on the same issue. This situation is beloved by the government bureaucracies and by lawyers, but it impinges on our liberties.

    I also disagree with Matt who said "...don't blame the cops for enforcing it [a bad law]." I feel that it is perfectly appropriate to blame cops who enforce bad laws. They should be capable of exerting judgment about which laws should be enforced under which circumstances. Eight years ago I sped past an unmarked police car while driving my severely injured daughter to the hospital. The policeman chose not to enforce the speeding law when he realized how near she was to dying. Similarly, the Arizona deputies can choose whether or not to stop a car with a cracked windshield or taillight. Apparently, they choose to stop the cars only when the drivers are Hispanic. Minor auto damage becomes the excuse for checking the papers of all Hispanics. There are many Hispanic citizens and legal immigrants in Arizona, so the false positive rate must be very high. This does not seem to bother the Sheriff's Department. I would feel like a third-class citizen if deputies pulled me over and checked my ID at every opportunity. Shouldn't true libertarians object to this harassment?

  9. mahtso:

    "Similarly, the Arizona deputies can choose whether or not to stop a car with a cracked windshield or taillight. Apparently, they choose to stop the cars only when the drivers are Hispanic."

    Do you have proof of that? Given all the attention focused on the Sheriff's Office with respect to these sweeps, I think it would be well documented if they stopped only Hispanics.

  10. SunSword:

    > ACLU types are often at the leading edge of calls for more regulation on
    > safety or prices or property or whatever.

    Duh. They're socialists.

  11. Mike:

    Wow, a lot of action. I have a lot to say:

    Daniel Gonzalez is always writing articles in support of Hispanic causes, and against the Sheriff. This is the unfortunate side effect of Liberal newspapers choosing sides. The newspaper can publish biased articles because they have wide circulation. People will read all the negative articles about Arpaio and allow their opinion of him to be swayed.

    When reading the article, two words came to mind. Affirmative Action. If you read into the article, you would almost get the feeling that the writer is suggesting that not enough Whites, Asians, and Blacks are not being pulled over and/or arrested. Perhaps we should use a quota system, complete with action plans to ensure that arrests match the population of the target area. If 10% of the population of Mesa is black, then we need to ensure that 10% of those that are arrested are black, right? Logical?

    A few years ago, (I've since lost the article), a study was done on one of the New Jersey turnpikes. There were accusations that the highway patrol was discriminating against blacks, more of them were being cited for speeding. So as part of the study, photo enforcement was set up. However, no citations were given, this was purely a study. When the speed limit was exceeded, by I believe 11 MPH, the camera would snap a photo. After the study period, they looked at the skin color of those that were photographed. A large majority were black. This could have meant many things. Perhaps there was a larger population of blacks living and working around that stretch. Or it could have been cultural issued more than racial. Usually white people driving large pickups than blacks. This is a cultural thing. Could it be possible that more blacks disregard the speed limit more than whites? I don't know, I don't have enough information.

    However, a few days after the release of the data from the study, it was retracted. It was concluded that the study was flawed because it occurred to them that most of the "blacks" couldn't be recognized due to "glare on the windshield". Yeah, right. I have a feeling someone similar to the ACLU got involved.

    Another point: When if Arpaio didn't enforce immigration law? Would the paper print an article suggesting that illegal immigration is a root of a lot of our crime, and then blame the Sheriff for not doing anything?

    I respect Warren a lot. His understanding, and explanation of statistics and economic forces are logical. His belief that Capitalism should spread around the world makes sense, and I understand and agree with him. But what is the root cause of illegal immigration? I believe that it's the Socialism of Mexico, and other Central and South American countries. Mexico, for the most part, lacks a middle class. Due to discrimination, and severe corruption, there is pretty much only the poor, and the wealthy.

    The reason illegal immigration is a problem is because of Mexico, not because of the USA. I would support an alliance between our two Presidents that allow for the dispatch of troops to help with their drug war problem. I would also like to two to work together to help rebuild Mexico's centralized government, basic reform that is. But all our politicians do is pander to their Presidents. They don't need pandering, they need our strength.

  12. Erica:

    I agree with the fact that racial profiling in MOST, not all cases is done for a reason. If you are looking for people smuggling Mexicans into a country, then probably Mexicans would be the best people to look at. If you are looking for a suspect in an Asian gang shooting, yo uare going to look at Asians. Saying htat this is wrong is like saying that if a pitbull bites you, animal control has to look for german shepherds and cocker spaniels too, because just to look for pitbulls would be species profling.