Government “Authority” is a Recipe for Abuse of Power

A few months ago when I was driving down to Florida, I was listening to the radio around Charlotte North Carolina. The hosts were asking for callers to relay their worst boyfriend/ girlfriend experience. One woman called in and said that she had caught her ex-bofriend cheating on her, and broke up with him—a pretty normal response. But apparently this man felt the need to exact revenge on his innocent ex who he had already wronged.

The caller said her ex-boyfriend was a TSA agent, and told her to “have fun next time you try to fly”. She assumed this was a hollow threat, that her ex had said in a moment of anger at being dumped. But a few months later when she went to the airport, she was pulled aside for additional screening. Well that could have just been a coincidence she thought.

A few years later and a handful of flights later, the caller said that every single experience flying is now horrible, because without fail, she is pulled aside for additional screening and interrogation. And this happens at airports that her ex-boyfriend doesn’t even work at. All the hosts of the radio show were laughing and said something like, “Oh man, that is a bad one, what a jerk”.

But I was sitting there horrified. How could we have gotten to the place in our country where we laugh about a psychotic government agent making his ex-girlfriend’s life harder. TSA agents who go through essentially no training nor a selective hiring process, and have ridiculously high numbers of creeps among their ranks, can apparently wield their power to harass and seek revenge on people they know.

I heard it on the radio, so who knows how true it is, but the worst part was the reaction of everyone in the conversation. Even the lady relaying the story was kind of giggling like, “oh that crazy ex of mine”. But this is disgusting! How can we put up with this type of abuse of power.

And that’s not even the worst of it. What could high level federal agents do to someone they don’t like? I’ve read about a police officer who harassed a girl for months with tickets and towing after she denied his request for a date. What happened in the case of General Petraeus? Was that some agent getting extrajudicial revenge?

“I’m a cop,” is now something a criminal can yell in public while attacking someone, to make sure no one intervenes. Or, as in the video linked to, a real cop can yell this while attacking a girl, and get the support of the cameraman.

And then we see it in our everyday lives. From Facebook:

Told this guy to turn around because it was a one way gas station at work, and he comes inside to tell me he’s a “fucking cop and I’m a fucking douchebag” and its not a law. Sorry bro just doing my job. And thanks for helping my opinion of cops.

Trivial? In some ways. But it points to this attitude of law enforcement and those with “authority” that they think rules don’t apply to them. If you are a cop, then follow the rules, set the example. Don’t act like a thug, swearing at the teenager behind the counter because he did his job. I feel like we have all run into police who have acted like this.

The problem isn’t finding good cops—I will admit there are plenty of well intentioned police officers. The problem is keeping bad cops from damaging innocent people they come into contact with. That is the major problem right now. And as I have said before all that needs to be done is apply the proper incentives to keep people in check. Employees of private companies get fired when they sully the name of their employer by acting inappropriately.

Law and order should be a product, sold by private companies, without influence of the government. This would mean we truly choose the laws in our society, and the people who will enforce them.

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