Monday, July 26, 2004

California's Lost Rights

I just got back from the IHS seminar in Los Angeles and it’s good to be home (sort of). As most of my fellow libertarians groped their way home, I spent another day with an old friend of mine, Seth, who lives in Pasadena. He had some interesting insights.

Los Angeles has state laws against cutting and saving places in line. You know they’re state laws because in every theme park there are big signs citing the legislation. Seth downplayed the laws, saying that you usually just get warnings but the practiced enforcement isn’t the core issue; it’s the potential enforcement. If there’s a law against something as harmless as cutting in line, that’s a gateway for police to abuse your rights. What happens when the public demands that the police “start doing more” to enforce crime? Cutting in line is something pretty easy to catch and issuing more fines and less warnings are not only good for the state budget but for state politics.

But that’s not the worst case scenario. Bureaucrats, police and judges are always under pressure to be hard on drugs. It’s pretty easy to claim people who cut in line tend to be the rebel rousers that are more likely to shoot up. A cavity search may not be standard procedure for the line lawless now, but that very real potential exists.
 California doesn’t just set the foundation for interfering with people’s civil rights; it likes screwing with economic ones, too. According to California State law, if a movie theater is in danger of going out of business, it gains exclusive rights to show certain movies, movies the theater gets to pick. This artificial market entity’s purpose is to try to prevent theaters from failing and it certainly works. LA is lousy with movie theaters. Personally, I’d like to see another Starbucks.

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