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Frohickey
Oct 1, 2003, 01:40 PM
Designated decoys (http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36~158~1665091,00.html)
By J.D. Tuccille

A policeman parks his car outside a bar shortly before closing time, certain that the exodus of drinkers will provide him with a tipsy driver or two toward his arrest quota. Immediately, an obvious drunk stumbles from the bar. The drunk drops and retrieves his car keys repeatedly as people leave the bar, enter their vehicles and head home. Convinced that he's found an easy target, the officer ignores the departing crowd. Finally, the drunk reaches the last remaining car, enters and starts the engine.

The officer flips on his lights and pulls his cruiser next to the drunk's car. Grinning and obviously stone-cold sober, the man says, "How's it going, officer? I'm tonight's designated decoy."

You don't have to approve of drunk driving to enjoy the joke's gleefully rebellious spirit. The idea of people working together to defeat enforcement of a law they dislike draws from a deep-rooted tradition of healthy disrespect for authority in a country founded in revolution.

Of course, some folks take exception to such a spirit of rebellion. They insist that in a democracy like ours, laws are expressions, through our representatives, of the will of the people, and should be obeyed.

That will has expressed itself recently through regulations that make pat-down searches a matter of course in airports, demands that property owners get government permission before building on their own land, and even bans on smoking in privately owned businesses.

"The people" have apparently become a bunch of busybodies.

Troubling though that is, it's not unexpected. In the 19th century, Alexis de Tocqueville, the French political and cultural journalist whose insights into American democracy remain fresh today, observed, "The French under the old monarchy held it for a maxim that the king could do no wrong. The Americans entertain the same opinion with respect to the majority."

De Tocqueville went on to warn, "If ever the free institutions of America are destroyed, that event may be attributed to the omnipotence of the majority."

America remains a democratic country - increasingly democratic, if the growing taste for referenda and recall elections is any indicator. But Americans increasingly demand that majority preferences be enforced in areas of life that were previously left to individual choice.

Directly or through elected representatives, voters call on government to abridge civil liberties to combat terrorism, restrict the use of private property so non-owners can enjoy pretty views, order Americans to buckle their seatbelts, and saddle even the smallest businesses with crippling regulations intended to make people healthier, happier or less inconvenienced.

To be honest, the story of modern American democracy isn't just a litany of rights violations. Voters - particularly in the West - have also gone to the polls to legalize the medical use of marijuana, reform asset-forfeiture laws and defeat restrictions on firearms ownership. But the fact that people who want to be left alone have to win their victories at the ballot box demonstrates that individual rights - on which even a democratic government can't legitimately trample - have taken a back seat to the "will of the people."

Democracy and liberty are barely on speaking terms in modern America.

This is no isolated phenomenon. In his book, "The Future of Freedom," Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria warns that democracy is spreading to countries with no tradition of limited government, personal freedom, or the rule of law. Contrary to classroom fairy tales about democracy going hand-in-hand with freedom, the result has been a plague of "illiberal democracies" in which elections lead to intrusive laws and repressive regimes.

America, with its growing web of laws, regulations, licenses and inspectors imposed by elected officials or by referenda, is abandoning its own traditions of limited government in favor of this unfortunate trend toward democratically imposed intolerance and conformity.

Fortunately, not all of us feel bound to obey the illiberal will of the majority; some people remain wedded to the idea that they have a right to run their own lives no matter what happens at the ballot box. Look at stubborn restaurant owners who refuse to enforce local smoking bans, or librarians who erase records of borrowed books to keep them out of police hands, or jurors who free defendants who violated laws that shouldn't exist. Separately and together, these dissenters do their best to thwart democratic tyranny.

This minority of free-thinking and free-acting people have effectively chosen to be our "designated decoys." We owe them our thanks - and we need a lot more like them.

J.D. Tuccille is an Arizona-based writer and political analyst.

========================

Thoughts, agreement to the sentiment of the piece?

Desertrat
Oct 1, 2003, 02:10 PM
Lordy, half the folks in my community would happily volunteer as some sort of anti-establishment, anti-busybody decoy! That's why we live there!

One day a local, Doug, pulled up to the post office at the same time as our Constable. The Constable, a long-time veteran in law enforcement, automatically noted Doug's expired license plate on the clapped-out old pickup.

"Your license plate's expired."
"Yeah, and I don't have any insurance or inspection sticker, either, but don't tell the law."
"Doug, I AM the law."
"Oh. Yeah. Well, forget I said anything."
"Okay."

And they entered the post office together.

It's a Terlingua thing. We have the occasional busybody who's gonna make our world "all better", but the spontaneous shunning that arises sorta discourages them and after a few months or a year at most they leave...

Peaceful and quiet, just the way we like it.

:), 'Rat

zimv20
Oct 1, 2003, 02:35 PM
Originally posted by Desertrat


It's a Terlingua thing. We have the occasional busybody who's gonna make our world "all better"

it's a small community thing. i maintain that almost any kind of social structure (e.g. communism) can be maintained in a healthy fashion where everyone knows each other.

once the community is so large there are strangers, a more disciplined (and neutral) structure is required.

Desertrat
Oct 1, 2003, 06:15 PM
"i maintain that almost any kind of social structure (e.g. communism) can be maintained in a healthy fashion where everyone knows each other."

Well, yeah, if there's a way to get rid of those who are professionally sick, lame or lazy. The Hippie communes of the '60s/70s commonly suffered the fatal flaw of trying to endure the presence of drones.

"once the community is so large there are strangers, a more disciplined (and neutral) structure is required.'

Care to take a rough stab at about how large a number this might be?

'Rat

pseudobrit
Oct 1, 2003, 06:37 PM
A policeman parks his car outside a bar shortly before closing time, certain that the exodus of drinkers will provide him with a tipsy driver or two toward his arrest quota.

First of all, police who stake-out bars will sit a bit down the road and wait until you drive down the road a bit before picking you off. They can usually tell by your driving if you've had too many, and usually are too far away to see you stumbling to your car.

The idea of people working together to defeat enforcement of a law they dislike draws from a deep-rooted tradition of healthy disrespect for authority in a country founded in revolution.

I don't think that people dislike the laws against drunk driving at all. Quite the contrary. Even this allegory simply attacks the methods by which the law is enforced. I hate drunk drivers almost as much as I hate roadblock checkpoints.

To be honest, the story of modern American democracy isn't just a litany of rights violations. Voters - particularly in the West - have also gone to the polls to legalize the medical use of marijuana, reform asset-forfeiture laws and defeat restrictions on firearms ownership. But the fact that people who want to be left alone have to win their victories at the ballot box demonstrates that individual rights - on which even a democratic government can't legitimately trample - have taken a back seat to the "will of the people."

Now he's destroyed his own point. The referenda are supported by the majority of the public and usually overturn unpopular laws. A minority ignores the referendum and violates the will of the people. The medical marijuana referenda and how the federal government ignored them are an excellent point, and I'm glad he brought them up.

They totally invalidate the thesis of his argument.

wwworry
Oct 1, 2003, 06:59 PM
yes, I would say we admire the cleverness of the bar patrons but not that they are drunk driving.

mactastic
Oct 1, 2003, 07:57 PM
Must be nice to be a local in your town 'Rat. Wonder how they'd treat someone who wasn't local... and if it's fair that people are treated differently 'cuz of where they're from. I mean, if the cop don't care about the law, then he cares about hassling outsiders.

Desertrat
Oct 1, 2003, 09:02 PM
It's pretty easy to fit in, in Terlingua. Just don't go spouting off about how they "do it back there" and life is pretty easy. People generally are judged by what's in their hearts, not their billfolds. Bad-hearted folks don't last, 'cause nobody will talk to them.

Overall, it's more like a cluster of extended families. We have enough folks around, now, that we expanded from the original "just one" extended family. :) Since everybody pretty much knows everybody else, there are few social problems. No bar-fight violence, little crime, good schools with few ornery kids. The Mexican dope-smuigglers don't bother anybody, so nobody pays much attention to them...

'Rat

zimv20
Oct 2, 2003, 01:01 AM
Originally posted by Desertrat

Care to take a rough stab at about how large a number this might be?


83

Desertrat
Oct 2, 2003, 08:31 AM
:) We must be doing pretty good, then. Scattered around the area, we're right at about a thousand or so.

There was a mountain-movie (Redford?) wherein a couple of guys were talking about a friend who'd wintered in a cave with a mountain lion. "Yeah, and, you know? That lion never did get used to him."

We got a lot of folks like that.

:D, 'Rat