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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/10134/scenes-from-the-american-decline/

Scenes From the American Decline

June 14, 2009 by

William Grigg posted this item at LewRockwell.com today:

New Jersey State Trooper Robert Higbee was in hot pursuit of revenue on September 26, 2006 when he ran a stop sign and his cruiser collided with a minivan. At the time Higbee was speeding in pursuit of a speeder, doing at least 65 m.ph. in a 35 m.p.h. zone.

The collision, for which Higbee was entirely to blame, took the lives of two passengers, 19-year-old Christina Becker and 17-year-old Jacqueline Becker.

Had Higbee been a productive private citizen as opposed to a tax-feeder of the enforcer caste, he would almost certainly have been convicted of vehicular homicide.

But thanks in part to the light touch of Superior Court Judge Raymond Batten and Cape May County assistant prosecutor David Meyer, a jury saw fit to acquit the trooper of the charge.

The court then dismissed charges of careless driving and failing to stop or yield at a stop sign, downgrading the offense of a single charge of “unsafe driving.” Fines and court fees totalled $728 — or $364 apiece for the two young women who were killed by Higbee as he tried to apprehend someone whose irresponsible driving didn’t take any lives that evening.

The Philadelphia Inquirer quotes Judge Batten as calling Higbee “a good person otherwise engaged in a lifetime of usefulness and doing good deeds,” and insisting that any term of incarceration “would yield no additional public utility.”

Now, had some mere mundane killed one of the state’s sanctified enforcers by running a stop sign….

Honestly, I’ve lost the will to express outrage at this point. If you review some of the local press coverage of this case, it’s filled with sympathy for the murderer — and yes, Higbee is a murderer by any objective standard of ethics — and relief that police will now be free to murder without being “second guessed” by the courts. It’s the saddest possible commentary on the culture of lawlessness that now pervades almost every facet of American society.

{ 43 comments }

Gil June 14, 2009 at 9:05 pm

Last time I looked murder means to deliberately seek out and kill someone. Manslaughter refers to when actions accidently kill someone else. The difference may be answered by ‘in hot pursuit of revenue’ and what that actually was. If he was in hot pursuit of a speeding criminal I can understand that the tragedy is accidental. Perhaps a similar question is what would happen in Libertopia if a home owner tried to shoot a violent intruder, miss and killed an innocent bystander who was standing outside of the home owner’s poperty?

Justin June 14, 2009 at 9:15 pm

What about when the UK police (falsely) shot a Brazilian man dead on the subway…the “entire force” was found guilty but not a single officer was punished – indeed, all they had to do was pay the legal fees. It’s a good thing they’re funded by the taxpayers!

S.M. Oliva June 14, 2009 at 9:16 pm

Gil —

These were not “accidental” deaths. They were the direct result of the killer’s depraved indifference to human life. Your “Libertopia” example is irrelevant.

Thinker June 14, 2009 at 9:39 pm

Gil is right in the legal specifics-the killings were not premeditated, or even intended by the killer, so “murder” is not the technical term to use. Manslaughter or criminal negligence would be more accurate.

The distinction, however, is meaningless. The policeman killed the two victims, and if the state has any purpose at all it must inflict the same punishment upon the police officer that it would upon anyone else who did the same thing (death, life imprisonment…).

The “Libertopia” example differs from this situation in that the perpetrator is reacting to an imposition of force, whereas the policeman was attempting an imposition of force. Also, the cause of the incident varies-the homeowner is engaging in a legal action (self-defense) that has external consequences, while the police officer took illegal action (disobeying traffic laws). Does this alter the punishment to be given to the killer? Perhaps in aesthetics, but fundamentally No.

newson June 14, 2009 at 9:56 pm

i agree with gil. language shouldn’t be used sloppily, and the charge should have been negligent driving occasioning death. lady justice has her eyes bound that she be judge without regard to the identity of the defendant. in this case the mask has slipped.

Curious June 14, 2009 at 10:03 pm

The ones to blame for this tragedy are the politicians that pass the laws that the police officer was enforcing. Or better yet, those who select those politicians – the voters. Which, ironically, could have been perhaps even those 2 women.

S.M. Oliva June 14, 2009 at 10:04 pm

“language shouldn’t be used sloppily”

I wasn’t. I used an accurate term to describe a murderer. I don’t give a damn what the government’s fake “laws” say.

S.M. Oliva June 14, 2009 at 10:05 pm

@Curious –

How dare you attempt to smear the victims. This murderer was wholly responsible for his crimes.

newson June 14, 2009 at 10:10 pm

well i can’t accept that manslaughter and murder are one and the same. that’s lexical torture. one implies volition, the other doesn’t. you’d probably find plenty of cop murderers out there, but on the facts presented, this one’s a manslaughterer.

RWW June 14, 2009 at 10:26 pm

I think the best, most accurate term for the police is “enforcers of whims.” They are absolutely serious about issues that a good person could only view with some amusement, and the result is deadly, time and time again.

The old epithet of “pig” will also work.

David Spellman June 14, 2009 at 10:28 pm

James Bond is not the only person with a license to kill.

The message of this case is clear–so long as a government employee is serving the interests of the State, the can kill with impunity.

And this is certainly not an isolated incident. Life is cheap when the government is dealing with its citizens.

Have you ever seen the slogan “To serve and protect” on the back of a police car? The don’t finish the sentence to tell you the truth: “To serve and protect the State!”

Nuke Gray June 14, 2009 at 10:34 pm

My dictionary defines murder as- ‘..The unlawful intentional killing of another human.’ Since the cop did not intend to kill them, it’s not murder. Reckless endangerment leading to death, yes.
And why all that fuss over the cops paying blood-money? Isn’t this close to what Anarcho-Capitalists would have, with everyone covered by insurance with the firm of their choice?

Thinker June 14, 2009 at 10:37 pm

“The ones to blame for this tragedy are the politicians that pass the laws that the police officer was enforcing. Or better yet, those who select those politicians – the voters. Which, ironically, could have been perhaps even those 2 women.”

This is a perfect example of a collectivist and statist notion of justice-extending the responsibility for a given action down the line of causation as far is it can go. This implicates everyone, allowing the state to impose its restrictions upon all people it claims under its jurisdiction based on a single act. It also eliminates the idea of Individual Responsibility, which is what allows for order in all situations other than totalitarianism.

Curious June 14, 2009 at 10:37 pm

S.M. Oliva,

I may be wrong, but who was to blame for the deaths of millions of Germans in WW2? It was the Germans themselves, because they elected Hitler, no?

If I vote for politicians that create more and more laws, who should I blame when I get hurt by police enforcing those laws?

Also, I didn’t blame the women, I just said that it is a possibility.

Thinker June 14, 2009 at 10:49 pm

David Spellman: some interesting news from last summer-the EPA reduced the official value of an American citizen. It had been in the 70-80k range; they bumped it down to about 67k. Of course, that the number existed at all is disturbing, but not terribly surprising.

Tomás June 14, 2009 at 11:06 pm

I agree with the author, but … what does this have to do with economics?

Leave the political stuff to Lew please.

Jack June 14, 2009 at 11:55 pm

@Tomas

Ahhh, who the hell cares anymore. The country’s gone to sh-t. Might as well scream it at the top of every mountain – or at least every website.

And, indirectly, it describes the perverted culture that develops when the people lack any sense of economics or morality.

Gil June 15, 2009 at 12:01 am

“These were not ‘accidental’ deaths. They were the direct result of the killer’s depraved indifference to human life. Your ‘Libertopia’ example is irrelevant.”

Do elaborate S. M. Oliva. The comparison of an innocent bystander getting shot is reasonable, it’s unfortunate ‘collateral damage’. Suppose your car was stolen and a police officer decides NOT to engage in a high speed chase. You’d probably condemn him for letting car thieves get away and presume he’s working with them and get a slice of their profits.

Jay Greathouse June 15, 2009 at 12:17 am

“tax-feeder of the enforcer caste” hits it on the head, the extent to which the slaves grant permission to the master (and all his agents) seems well exemplified here in the comments

too many still think that the theft of your production (taxes, currency debasement, quantitative easing, whatever) to pay for the enforcement of the theft by paying the hometown bullies to keep the slaves in line is somehow in the slaves’ benefit needs to stop drinking the koolaid

meaningful change still a long way off

alan June 15, 2009 at 1:48 am

Well, S.M. Oliva’s posts are of this variety.

Madhusudan Raj June 15, 2009 at 1:51 am

What if the guy who was chased by the trooper killed those two girls while trying to escape from the pursuing police van? I am sure he must have been convicted as a murderer, even when he did not intend to kill those girls.

But similar logic won’t be used by the State judges when it comes to their own buddies i.e., the trooper. Rothbard said that the state is there to protect itself and its buddies only rather than the public who vote them thinking they will protect them!

Artisan June 15, 2009 at 3:18 am

“I may be wrong, but who was to blame for the deaths of millions of Germans in WW2? It was the Germans themselves, because they elected Hitler, no?”

A very old fashioned view IMHO. The USA etc… refrained from imposing a heavy war penalty (like in WW1, because they knew better.

Jewish and German were not in fact, contradictory qualities… so no, Germans were not “responsible”.

And you could ask yourself in what ways you are responsible for hunger dead in the world too…

As I see it Adolf Hitler earned, at the most, 37% of “democratic” German votes as he ran for the presidency elections – and lost thereby to Hindenburg in 1932 (Source:Wikipedia).

Thinker June 15, 2009 at 3:32 am

Artisan: Just a minor historical point-Hitler never ran for the German presidency. In 1932, the Nazi Party, which Hitler headed, initially backed General Ludendorf and switched to Hindenburg after it became clear Ludendorf couldn’t win. The next year, Hindenburg appointed Hitler to the position of Chancellor (basically Prime Minister). Hitler was never elected to any office and yet came to hold absolute power despite the veneer of “democracy” in Germany. Accordingly, the German people could not be responsible for the Holocaust and WWII according to Curious’s deeply flawed logic because they did not ever officially choose him for power.

Gil June 15, 2009 at 6:04 am

“Accordingly, the German people could not be responsible for the Holocaust and WWII according to Curious’s deeply flawed logic because they did not ever officially choose him for power.” – Thinker.

Actually millions of Germans were responsible for the Holocaust and WW2 as they willingly worked for the regime and were happy to pocket the rewards of working for the regime. Such people would be geniunely despicable if they happily supported the regime when the Nazis were doing well then disavowed them when the Nazis were done for. Besides the Italians eventually overthrew Mussolini and Fascists and switched sides. Hence many the average Germans were far from ‘victims’ of the Nazis.

RWW June 15, 2009 at 7:39 am

More details from back when the incident took place:

http://abcnews.go.com/2020/Story?id=2995604&page=1

J Cortez June 15, 2009 at 10:19 am

I become depressed when I read about stories about unwarranted police aggression or in this case, complete and total negligence.

With respect to S.M. Oliva, I think this story is not murder, but manslaughter. Whatever the charge, the officer in question should be in prison, for a long, long time. When I come across the phrase, “to serve and protect,” I think of stories like this. In this case, as in many others, obviously the police didn’t give a damn about that at all.

More and more, you can read about things like this happening somewhere. Go to google, bing, yahoo, youtube, myspace or whatever and you can see story after story, picture after picture and clip after clip of some police officer violating somebody without reason.

The question that repeats in my mind is: “Is this some new phenomenon or is this because of better communication/technology like the internet and video/camera phones?” I’m inclined to think this is not new, but the result of better reporting both citizen and otherwise.

Whatever the reason for the seeming increase in attacks, a story about the police tasering somebody to death or filling an unarmed man full of bullet holes or beating some individual into the hospital without warrant makes me feel horrible for the victims, anger at the police and depressed that the situation exists and is unlikely to change.

The unlikely to change part is the what bothers me the most. The idea that this will go on and more people will be hurt or even die. To me, nothing is worse than seeing most of these police get by in court with only a slap on the wrist, in the form of docked pay, paid leave or some form of written reprimand when termination of employment, heavy fines and extended jail time is what the case requires.

I don’t know what else to say except that the situation is terrible and my heart goes out to the victims.

Mike B June 15, 2009 at 11:18 am

I’m siding with S.M. Oliva on this one. The officer’s lack of intention to kill in no way eliminates his responsibility.

I Hate Psychiatrists June 15, 2009 at 11:24 am

Gil,

“Last time I looked murder means to deliberately seek
out and kill someone.”

Your definition of murder is incomplete and conveniently leaves out “deadly negligence”.

Under the criminal code, murder also includes negligence when such negligence causes avoidable death.

Therefore, this police officer, by neglecting to obey traffic regulations, caused death by negligence to innocent drivers and therefore this qualifies as murder.

But you are right to point out that the police officer in this case did not intent on killing those passengers. Therefore he should be charged with involuntary manslaughter, not murder one of course.

We all agree that this was not murder one, never the less it is still murder.

Your worshipping of government officials and government agents is really frightening.

I can see in the violent and aggressive tone of your comments that you are a wannabe despot. You think citizens should be commanded and ordered by force and humiliated and of course by associating yourself with brutal agents of the state, this gives your pathetic life the impression that you too are belittling and subduing others. Your life must really suck when you look yourself at the mirror and you realize you’re not the all powerful and brutal authority you wish to be.

I Hate Psychiatrists June 15, 2009 at 11:28 am

Gil,

You can stand outside my home anytime you want, LOL !

“Perhaps a similar question is what would happen in Libertopia if a home owner tried to shoot a violent intruder, miss and killed an innocent bystander who was standing outside of the home owner’s poperty?”

kevin June 15, 2009 at 11:34 am

the verdict is BS.

At a minimum, this officer should have had his red lights on and his siren wailing loud if he wants to be driving like this. At least he would have given those two poor 19 year old girls a chance.

total negligence on his part and i am sure some kind of violation of his own police practices. this guy should be in jail and thrown off the police force.

Lee June 15, 2009 at 11:35 am

Common police protocol is that when an officer reaches an intersection, the officer is supposed to slow down as to not harm anyone, nor damage anyone’s property. It is their sworn duty to protect the lives and property of citizens. This officer clearly failed to uphold this duty. In my opinion, this was gross negligence on the part of the officer, to the degree where he SHOULD be tried personally for criminal negligence. This negligence is self evident in the sense that had he been proceeding with caution, and with due diligence those two young girls would still be alive.

A court system that just dismissively waves through abysmally poor police performance whenever it should arise, is in fact, police brutality. Police indemnity just reinforces the mindset that “the state can never be wrong.” Not because the state is always correct, but because the state is the state and therefore inscrutable.

I agree, S.M. Oliva, this man is a murderer. He’d never be tried as such as I’m sure you already know, but he did knowingly and willingly endanger the lives of others by abandoning his appointed duty. He alone was ultimately responsible for the premature deaths of those two girls, and he should not have the impenetrable shroud of state indemnity protecting him.

I Hate Psychiatrists June 15, 2009 at 11:37 am

Gil,

I can’t believe it but I completely agree with you.

“Actually millions of Germans were responsible for the Holocaust and WW2 as they willingly worked for the regime and were happy to pocket the rewards of working for the regime. Such people would be geniunely despicable if they happily supported the regime when the Nazis were doing well then disavowed them when the Nazis were done for. Besides the Italians eventually overthrew Mussolini and Fascists and switched sides. Hence many the average Germans were far from ‘victims’ of the Nazis.”

Michael A. Clem June 15, 2009 at 11:40 am

I agree that it sounds more like manslaughter than murder. However, I think we should hold the police to a higher standard than your average citizen, not a lower standard, since it is their express job to go after criminals, and they have been extensively trained for that purpose. So, as kevin suggests, if the officer was traveling at high-speed without lights or siren, that would indeed be negligence on his part, for who can expect an ordinary citizen to be on the lookout for a “ninja cop car”?

Snoop-Diggity-DANG-Dawg June 15, 2009 at 11:56 am

I respectfully submit the Ludwig von Mises Institute should rise above this kind of commentary. It sounds dangerously close to an Al Gore, moonbat, rant festival.

I Hate Policemen And Psychiatrists June 15, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Gil,

Car safety is the duty of the car owner, therefore it is my duty as a car owner to put an alarm system, anti-starting system, tracking system etc. to make sure my car won’t be stolen.

The last thing I want is having to thank a police officer. I’d rather let the crook cash in on my car than having thank the worse slime in all human history, a police officer, YUCK !

“Suppose your car was stolen and a police officer decides NOT to engage in a high speed chase. You’d probably condemn him for letting car thieves get away and presume he’s working with them and get a slice of their profits.”

I Hate Policemen And Psychiatrists June 15, 2009 at 12:18 pm

“I respectfully submit the Ludwig von Mises Institute should rise above this kind of commentary. It sounds dangerously close to an Al Gore, moonbat, rant festival.”

That from someone who calls him or herself:
“Snoop-Diggity-DANG-Dawg ”

I Hate The Police June 15, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Michael A. Chem,

“since it is their express job to go after criminals,”

Then they should go after themselves !!!

Caveman June 15, 2009 at 5:05 pm

I don’t understand all the arguing over the definition of “murder” versus “manslaughter.” It’s the state that defines these terms. I thought we all agreed the state has no real authority to define anything. Moreover, what the officer was doing wasn’t even legal or acceptable by the state’s standards. He willfully ignored the law, his sworn duty and his basic civil responsibility by recklessly endangering the lives of others and 2 innocent persons died as a result. That’s murder as far as I’m concerned.

Intent, frankly, shouldn’t be a consideration. For one, it’s impossible to determine with certainty. Moreover, it doesn’t alter the outcome of the act. If we allow for intent, why have laws at all? A criminal can always claim his intent was something other than murder, theft, rape, et al and there is no sure way to prove otherwise. Behavior, not intent, is what should be punished.

Gil June 15, 2009 at 11:36 pm

“Your definition of murder is incomplete and conveniently leaves out ‘deadly negligence’.”

Fellow Aussies who saw the Aussie 60 Minutes may remember a story between Australia’s law versus U.S. law. A U.S. drunken speedster who accidently kills others got charged with murder whilst the Aussie equivalent got manslaughter. An Aussie lawyer pointed out that the Australia requires ‘intent to kill’ for the charge to be murder.

BTW: ‘I Hate’ if you dont’ care what the Guvmint thinks why not track down the police officer, gun him down, and get back to Canada before getting caught by U.S. authorities. Think of the street cred you get for it!

Entire Story June 16, 2009 at 12:06 pm

The only credibility you, or anyone would have, is if you actually sat thru the 7 weeks of testimony by all parties…and actually heard all the details and understood the charges. There was so much more to it, and limiting yourself to internet and press accounts is simply showing your ignorance.
Accident vs Reckless. Look up the legal definitions and educate yourselves to the case if you are going to comment on it. It’s you who actually requests “intelligent & civil” comments…should start with moderator

RWW June 16, 2009 at 8:11 pm

Please enlighten us, Entire Story. The fact that you spent so much time on insults when you could have filled us in on the supposed missing details strongly indicates that there really are none, and you’re just blowing smoke.

Andy von Guerard June 16, 2009 at 8:53 pm

I think that police officers must be at least held to the same standards as “civilians” are. I was a pizza delivery driver for a time and if, while doing my job, I murdered two young girls like this I would be charged with a whole host of crimes. Start with Endangering a Minor, Vehicular Homicide, etc.. not to mention all of the traffic laws I would have broken and been charged for. Why is it while this man was doing his job he is exempt from concern for others lives? Is catching someone for committing a non-crime (traffic violations are not criminal offenses) really important enough to warrant this kind of reckless and murderous behavior. I think it is clear that it does not and in any rational and just society this man would be treated just like any other common murderer.

Gil June 16, 2009 at 9:57 pm

“I think it is clear that it does not and in any rational and just society this man would be treated just like any other common murderer.” – Andy von Guerard.

Well Andy, if you read the Philly.com article, you would have read the officer was charged with vehicular homicide. A jury, a jury found him not guilty. I bet juries and jury nullification aren’t so hot now?

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