Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic contender for the US Senate seat in Massachusetts currently occupied by Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), recently released a statement that’s getting considerable traction around the web that I found somewhat misguided and worth a comment:
There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there–good for you.
But I want to be clear. You moved your roads to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid ot educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory…”
The problem with this statement is that it’s not entirely true. People familiar with asset forfeiture issues know that police forces in the US now directly obtain a substantial amount of money through property taken from people who may never be convicted of a crime in a fair judicial process, and that this money is used to fund the militarization of police forces. If you’ve heard of the FDA raids of Rawesome Dairy in Venice Beach, California, or the raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Gibson Guitars in Tennessee, or the raids by the DEA on marijuana growers and patients in places like Oregon, Montana, and California, or the raids on fishermen around the country by the law enforcement arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration…well, then you know that Americans all around the country (and now even the world) are not “safe” in their factories as they conduct themselves in commerce. Americans who transport cash without documentation face illegal searches and Soviet-style highway robberies by law enforcement operating under the color of law.
Here’s the thing. When law enforcement can directly profit from the enforcement they conduct, they have financial incentives to seize property at will from both people who are poor and politically weak as well as people who are rich and powerful. In a world where the rule of law is enforced by people who “eat what they kill” as one drug task force agent put it, no one is safe from the predations of men with guns who want your stuff.
So what about Elizabeth Warren? I think she is a nice, fairly intelligent person who means well, and may even make a good legislator. But Americans deserve the protection of a robust rule of law from tyrants who cloak themselves as judges, prosecutors, or agency bureaucrats, and her statement falls far short of recognizing that.