Post-Garner: Beating the drum for an ‘American Spring’

Post-Garner: Beating the drum for an ‘American Spring’

[Ed. – It’s not a compelling analogy for Americans, even if Boaz correctly identifies sanctimonious taxation as a real burden on the economic lives of the poor — and for that matter on the public purse, given the cost of pursuing the “criminals” created by it.  What Americans remember of the Arab Spring is the thuggish crowds in the streets: some burning American flags, gang-raping women, and promising death to Jews.  Not the way any Yank envisions fighting the economy-strangling predations of petty bureaucracy.]

The violent death of Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisiaset off the Arab Spring. Could the killing of Eric Garner lead to a springtime of police reform – and regulatory reform — in the United States?

Bouazizi was a street vendor, selling fruits and vegetables from a cart. He aspired to buy a pickup truck to expand his business. But, as property rights reformer Hernando de Sotowrote in the Wall Street Journal, “to get a loan to buy the truck, he needed collateral — and since the assets he held weren’t legally recorded or had murky titles, he didn’t qualify.” …

Bouazizi was a poor man trying to engage in commerce to make a better life. His brother Salem told de Soto the meaning of Bouazizi’s death: “He believed the poor had the right to buy and sell.”

It was a story that resonated across the Arab world – a government that stifled freedom and enterprise, unaccountable bureaucracy, arbitrary enforcement, official contempt for citizens, a man who just couldn’t take it any more.

Eric Garner’s story is surprisingly similar. He had been arrested more than 30 times, for such crimes as marijuana possession and driving without a license, and most often for selling untaxed cigarettes on the street.

Why sell untaxed cigarettes? Because New York has the country’s highest cigarette taxes, $4.35 a pack for New York State and another $1.50 for the city. A pack of cigarettes can cost $14 in New York City, two and a half times as much as in Virginia. …

Eric Garner’s last words could have been said by Mohamed Bouazizi. We’ve all heard that his very last words were “I can’t breathe,” which he told the police eight times. But before his encounter with the police reached that final, fatal point, cellphones captured his frustration:

“Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. It stops today. … Because every time you see me, you want to harass me. You want to stop me (garbled) Selling cigarettes. 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.”

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