The thing that strikes me as most important about the Garner case is how stupid the reason was for arresting this guy: he was being busted for selling single, “loose” cigarettes in order to evade heavy taxes on tobacco products. Basically, he was arrested for doing something that, in a previous era, thousands of people would have been doing in New York on any given day: selling goods on the streets of the city without any particular permission. It’s a low-grade form of entrepreneurialism.
But not in the nanny-state New York of today. In a city where everything is taxed and regulated and you can’t put trans-fats in your food or buy a soda that’s too large, it makes perfect sense that they would harass a guy for selling cigarettes on the streets without permission. After all, they’re bad for people. Somebody might die.
This case is a reminder that, as Twitter user Bill Hobbs put it, government is force, and more government equals more force. Government is not a benevolent authority working bloodlessly behind the scenes to ensure seamless social harmony. Government is a guy giving you orders about what you can’t do—with a gun on his hip, handcuffs at the ready, and a muscular arm to wrap around your neck if you resist.