Before Brigham City doctor Dewey MacKay had even been criminally charged with illegally prescribing pain killers, federal prosecutors began seizing his assets, including his truck, SUV, and over $1 million of his retirement savings. That is because civil asset forfeiture legislation enables prosecutors and police to seize property without ever charging the owner with a crime. They simply must suspect that the property was used in illegal activity.
Now prosecutors are seeking a hearing with a judge to seek seizure of the doctor’s business property and assets. No one should be surprised by this. The “war on drugs” actually has little to do with drugs and more to do with plunder. It has given legislators and government agents strong incentive to criminalize and ruthlessly prosecute as many drugs and drug-related acts as possible.
In a document prepared by the ironically named U.S. Department of Justice as a guide to police officers, the real motivation behind the drug war is spelled out quite plainly under the heading, “The Need for Forfeiture”:
“For many years, law enforcement agencies around the nation have faced shrinking budgets. Police administrators have been forced to develop creative budgeting strategies, such as securing federal grants and partnering with community foundations. Though it is an enforcement tool, asset forfeiture can assist in the budgeting realm by helping to offset the costs associated with fighting crime. Doing what it takes to undermine the illicit drug trade is expensive and time-consuming. Forfeiture can help agencies target these difficult problems, sometimes without the need to seek additional outside resources to offset their costs.”
As usual, the “justice” imposed upon individuals by the State is focused not on retribution to the victim, but on funding State concerns. Indeed, the State’s actions cannot award damages to the victim when there is no victim. Drug use, production, and exchange by and between consenting adults are not criminal activities precisely because there is no victim. There is no harm in these activities to which consent is not given, and the actual crimes normally associated with these activities (gang violence, theft, etc.) are largely the results of drug prohibition, not drug use.
The State’s function is to benefit itself. This always has been its function and always will be. To pretend otherwise is intellectually dishonest at worst and naive at best, but always counterproductive to the pursuit of mankind’s welfare. The real criminal is the State as it uses force to prevent voluntary relations and transactions, seizes property from non-criminals, and seeks the lengthiest prison time possible as an example to others and as a source of revenue to the private prison companies that are so generous in their political donations.
Voluntaryists assert that the State’s monopoly on crime is illegitimate, that the use of violence against non-violent people is the true crime here. While voluntary transactions between two parties necessarily result in both parties being better off, the State’s system of coercion can only operate at someone else’s expense, and the costs can be dear.
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