Sunday, October 3, 2010

Regulate the Other Guy!

I watch the legal battles between police and private citizens over surveillance with some amusement.

Understand, this isn't a new war; it's been going on for a while, but the first time it was being fought, it was fought between police and bureaucrats.  The bureaucrats wanted police to install various equipment to monitor police activities, such as dash cameras; the police opposed this.

That particular battle in the war is still being fought across the country.

My immediate reaction, being libertarian, is "Fuck tha po-lice."  They -should- be monitored.

On reconsideration, I understand -exactly- why they oppose it:  They're being regulated by people who do not understand what they do or why they do it.  Or, more specifically, existing regulations are suddenly getting enforced; every action they make can be compared against Policy, and their cases depend upon their rigid adherence to a set of rules which were written by people who don't have to live by them.

This can be very frustrating, as everybody who does anything at all knows.  I just laid a concrete slab; I guarantee I broke five or six city regulations doing so, for example mixing some of the concrete quite literally by hand and in a cardboard box to boot (my fingertips have very mild chemical burns from the lime), but fortunately, those regulations cannot be enforced upon me; I'm too small to notice, and that was unofficial work.  "Fortunately?  You idiot, you have chemical burns!"  I knew I'd get them, and I did so deliberately; I wanted the bottom layer of the concrete (the layer on top of the gravel) to be mixed just right, as I could use some hand tools to mix the rest of the concrete on the spot.  Is it perfect?  God no.  Not every job needs to be up to specification, however; the concrete slab is there to hold about eighty pounds up off the ground, so it doesn't matter if it's not mixed perfectly.  The regulations would have made my job harder without making it any better for what I'm doing it for.

Regulations don't work to resolve issues, because they don't recognize situations in which the rules cause more trouble than they prevent - which is, in fact, most situations you'll actually encounter.  (Regulations as a rule are designed to solve specific problems, and do so by addressing the general case.)  This is true everywhere.  Find somebody who works in a field who doesn't directly benefit from the existence of regulations - the guy whose job it is to enforce them isn't going to say they're stupid - who both believes the regulations in their field are intelligent, and follows them.  It never happens.

So I understand why the cops get angry when regulation starts becoming applicable to them; their routine stop of a car suddenly becomes something which can be challenged with evidence [edit for clarity: evidence of regulatory misconduct, rather than actual misconduct, an important distinction].  Something which to their minds should be as simple as writing up a couple pages of paperwork becomes a serious pain in the ass.

Well, guys, here's the thing: Fuck tha po-lice.  I have absolutely no sympathy for the group of people whose job it is to enforce regulations on the rest of us.  You -should- be monitored.

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