voted 96-1 to outlaw the synthetic chemicals used in the making of the hallucinogenic salts. The measure was heavily supported by the Food and Drug Administration which banned the chemicals last fall for a one year trial period. Thus far forty one states have banned bath salts along with instituting penalties for possessing or selling the drug. As the FDA’s ban is set to expire, it would appear that nationwide prohibition is just around the corner.
Once enacted, the measure will be heralded as yet another instance of the state’s always watchful eye looking out for public safety. The right to do what you wish with your body be dammed; big brother knows best for everyone. Like any victory in the drug war though, a bath salts ban will not be a triumph for safety but for the ever-increasing police state that is becoming an everyday observance in America.
This past weekend, I visited Ocean City, Maryland for the first time in years. Commercially, hardly anything had changed from when I visited last. The various boardwalk venders were out peddling souvenirs that emphasized partying and heavy drinking. Given that many high school students were visiting to celebrate their recent graduation, the atmosphere was one of youthful debauchery. Admittedly, this writer was amongst the crowd eagerly looking forward to the same alcohol-soaked fun half a decade ago. At a more careless age, there was nothing more celebratory than drinking away one’s brain cells for a week straight after the twelve year imprisonment known as public schooling.
But the Ocean City I saw last weekend was a far cry from the one of my teenage years.
What was noticeably different on this trip was the growth in what has become an alarming trend in the supposed “land of the free.” On the boardwalk, it was impossible to go more than few blocks without a visible police presence. Whether it was one armed officer or a group, their stares penetrated the crowd in an effort to weed out those dangerous perpetrators who had the audacity of breaking the government’s arbitrarily chosen drinking age of 21.
The sad thing is, scenes such as this are becoming more commonplace in the United States. Police forces everywhere are becoming more militarized due in part to funding via Washington. Those public servants donned in dark blue uniforms and badges have always been nothing more than legally sanctioned highway robbers. The truth has become more apparent with the escalating number of instances where the police behave in a manner demonstrating they are no longer beholden to the same laws they enforce. Albert Jay Nock spoke to this dual system of justice when he wrote:
the State claims and exercises the monopoly of crime. . . . It forbids private murder, but itself organizes murder on a colossal scale. It punishes private theft, but itself lays unscrupulous hands on anything it wants, whether the property of citizen or of alien.
Today, the police state’s version of “public safety” involves the liberal use of batons, tazers, and the occasional cold-blooded murder. Its goal is no longer the protection of property but intimidation and compliance to mute criticism of blatant extortion. When James Madison spoke of standing armies as not being “safe companions to liberty,” he likely didn’t imagine domestic police forces functioning as well-armed military units.
The increased police presence didn’t end up being the only unnerving aspect of my trip to Ocean City. On the drive down, the GPS kept alerting me to “traffic safety cameras” that would photograph red light runners so a ticket could be issued in the mail later. Even a person with average intelligence should realize there is nothing “safe” about these cameras. They were just another innovation in the police state’s arsenal of shakedowns.
While the growth of America’s police state is alarming, its continued acceptance will only fuel its expansion. As the United States economy, along with those of other Western countries, continues to fall victim to central bank engineered depressions, police state crackdowns will only intensify to suppress an uprising. For all of its socialist-leanings, many of the Occupy Wall Street protests of last fall were unfairly met with police aggression. With the Eurozone crisis continuing to unfold, protestors who have taken to the streets over unpopular austerity measures have also been subdued by riot police. Bankocracies typically don’t like too much dissent. Still, the public’s dependency on the welfare state has eroded the best means for fighting an overarching police state. Those who look to the state for privilege have made way for the growth of law enforcement. The masses have given consent to an institution that has duped them into believing it serves their best interests.
Withdrawing consent altogether is the only useful strategy of undermining an overly violent regime. Violent clashes do very little in terms of reversing state power.
The state, after all, specializes in the deliverance of beatings and imprisonment. As a minority, it is fruitless to engage its enforcers with violence. But just because coercive intimidation is the main weapon employed by jackboot-wearing government brutes doesn’t mean there is not a useful strategy to employ.
Growing police states around the world can be combated by simply recognizing that guns and badges turn a man into a thug; not a protector of public safety. Realizing this and refusing to blindly respect the government’s well dressed goons is always the first step toward a peaceful society. Teaching others to see the truth is the next step.
As Murray Rothbard writes,
The prime task of education, then, is not simply abstract insight into governmental “errors” in advancing the general welfare, but debamboozling the public on the entire nature and procedures of the despotic State.