9/12/2012

Unproductive Waste

I spent a day with a kid who I had hoped would be specially productive in adulthood. Among a group of reasonably intelligent kids, he seemed like someone who might blossom into someone who might contribute something useful to our society. I don't see him often. In fact, I guess I have seen him less than a couple of times in the last couple of years, so I was surprised to find he'd not only dropped out of an engineering program because it was "too hard" but had a lifelong desire to be in "law enforcement." To a guy like me, that's like finding out that someone I thought I knew a little turned out to be a mafia hitman. Not that I'd be amazed that I'd misinterpreted that person's character, but I'd be amazed that someone with choices would choose to be so worthless to society.

Let's be honest, cops are a necessary evil; humans being the un-house-broken mostly-vicious animal that we are. Necessary evils, by design, tend to attract less-than-idea characters. In the case of a government so near to a police state, as our has become, the people inclined to enforce laws that are often harmful, unproductive, and unjust are usually just the sort of people who enjoy activities like the police riots at last year's Republican National Convention in St. Paul. Often exactly the kind of people you would not want to be in that sort of position. In fact, it's probably safe to say that anyone who wants the job shouldn't be allowed to have it. (Very much like politics, the military, and corporate management.)

In that pointless discussion with a mindless kid, I brought up the fact that I believe a good portion of our "law enforcement" business is about persecuting unimportant victim-less crimes and avoiding chasing down the criminals who do the most damage to society. Wikipedia lists among this group of activities: "traffic citations and violations of laws concerning public decency, and include public drunkenness, illicit drug use, vagrancy, speeding and public nudity." In fact, Wikipedia's section on victimless crime is unusually good and complete with all arguments and a good bit of history. Surprise!

Of course, the real reason most of us "hate cops" is that nobody likes a tax collector. Even tax collectors hate tax collectors. Since our governments have been disabled by Repuglican inability to figure out that taxes pay for stuff, cops have been retasked with the job of handing out as many fines as possible for insignificant "offenses" while ignoring real crime and the most vicious predators. And that's why we hate them.

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