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Law enforcement is a scarce resource; use it wisely

I’m glad to see that I have stirred up some dissension in this forum with my post on drunk-driving laws.

Props to Dan Calabrese for giving the Randy Balko article I linked to a more complete summary than I did.

Since I’m not a staunch libertarian, it’s easy for me to admit that some libertarians can veer off into libertopia. Then again, it’s useful to consider bizarre ideas now and then, if no other reason than to sort through what you think and why.

I very much doubt that Balko advocates that people who actually harm others should not be punished or have to pay restitution. Instead, he’s questioning our having one too many as if it were the only form of impaired driving.

Now I may hear you thinking, “Well that’s just crazy talk. Restitution won’t replace a mother who was killed by a drunk driver. The law should prevent bad stuff from happening in the first place, which is what drunk driving laws do.”

But the effectiveness of law enforcement generally depends on how scarce resources are deployed. “Zero tolerance” approaches divert scarce resources and bring about their own problems. (Remember Prohibition?)

I’m unimpressed with the rejoiner, “If you don’t want to stop at a checkpoint, you don’t need to drive.” The zeal to stop drunk driving has gotten to the point where the Fourth Amendment has become suspended–no probably cause needed. We see the same logic applied to TSA screenings.

The defense against suspending the Fourth Amendment’s protection against searches without probable cause is that government needs to protect citizens against harm.

If that’s the case, why not have naked-body scanners at shopping malls, the better to deter someone planting a bomb?