Friday, October 21, 2011


"You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to have your face kicked in by me."

Cash Transaction
Cops have a tough job. It has to be frustrating to need to work within rules and watch lawbreakers get away with crimes simply because of procedure and law. Almost every single cop movie ever made is about how the rogue cop who breaks all the rules is the only one that can catch the bad guy, and that tends to appeal to viewers. Nobody likes to see evil get away with it because of a few rules.

In Louisiana, the state legislature, signed into law by Republican governor Jindal, created a law that states that second hand transactions cannot be paid for with cash. In other words, if you sell a bicycle to your buddy, you have to pay with a check, money order, or some other traceable fund. KLFY News reports:
The law states those who buy or sell second hand goods are prohibited from using cash. State representative Rickey Hardy co-authored the bill.

Hardy says, "they give a check or a cashiers money order, or electronic one of those three mechanisms is used."

Hardy says the bill is targeted at criminals who steal anything from copper to televisions, and sell them for a quick buck. Having a paper trail will make it easier for law enforcement.

"It's a mechanism to be used so the police department has something to go on and have a lead," explains Hardy.
I suppose most can sympathize with the idea behind this. Cops are frustrated by sales of stolen goods and fenced items, and if they can't trace who sold or bought things they know are stolen, they have a harder time catching bad guys. Even if they can't bust someone for theft, they can always nail them for selling or buying something for cash.

And we all want cops to catch the bad guys. Its difficult to quantify, but theives cost us all billions of dollars each year in increased costs for security and losses that stores have to make up in other sales.

The problem is that this is an unreasonable extension of government power. There's nothing immoral or unlawful about paying cash for something secondhand. The only justification for this law is that it makes a cop's job easier. And that's simply not enough justification for limiting liberty.

It would be easier if cops could arrest you and get a conviction on "knowing you're a dirty scumbag" but it would also be unconstitutional and a violation of liberty.

It would be easier if everyone in the USA was forced to wear a GPS tracking chip, but that would be an unconstitutional violation of liberty.

It would be easier if cops had a DNA and fingerprint database from everyone in the country but that would be an unconstitutional violation of liberty.

The fact is, the reason that a cop's job is hard is deliberate, its on purpose. We make the job hard for cops to protect us from abuse by authorities, to protect our liberty, and to prevent a presumption of guilt or suspicion laid on every single person in the world.

This law isn't just wrong, its an awful step further in a long chain of incremental nibbling away on liberty and personal privacy by government. Even if it wasn't going to greatly damage business and interfere with the economy, its a really bad idea in principle.

Like cops demanding no one film them, I do really understand the frustration to some degree, at least. Their job is really hard, but guess what: that's what you signed up for and your entire purpose is to protect our liberty.

*UPDATE: As commenter Anonymous points out, every bill printed by the US treasury has these words on it:
Which seems pretty conclusive.


JoelAT said...

Who in their right mind believes that the criminals, who are already dealing with criminal activity as in selling/buying stolen goods, are going to obey this law?

Jonathan Cook said...

Wow, Bobby Jindal just torpedoed any national aspirations he may have had.

Anonymous said...


That seems pretty straightforward to me.

John Hinds said...

Having worked in LE I can tell you I've never met a greater bunch of slackers. This is a statist tool of a law on par with the asset forfeiture statutes and I hope it is challenged and thrown out.

Anonymous said...

ed in texas
"It would be easier if everyone in the USA was forced to wear a GPS tracking chip..."
Do you have a smart phone? (Iphone, Android, Blackbury, etc.)
You're already carrying one around. They can and do track them; doesn't even require a warrant. And the beauty of it is that you pay for the privledge.