” Gary, I’m confused. How is the car registration mix-up an example of trickle down politics? Don’t you like cops because they are ” in a position of power over you?” or from bad experiences?”


Be confused no more…

by Gary L. Fincher, September 2004

(after being arrested in N.D. for unwittingly having license plates on “incorrectly” while passing through the state en route to Wisconsin for registration)


The “laws” that deal with car registration are passed by (primarily, anyway) state legislatures, comprised predominately of democrats and republicans (humans all, and no one is without his or her own biases).  So it begins and ends with politics, and everyone in their respective states are affected, especially those who drive, and especially those who unwittingly drive while running afoul of the arbitrary edicts passed and signed by those in power – none of whom happen to belong to my own party, incidentally.  It’s not like the car registration is a case of “the market has spoken”; the decisions are made politically, in state legislatures, driven by lobbyists, special interests, and the legislator’s own personal bias.   And lest you think these policies are somehow reflective of a universal, common-sense, will of all of the people (how could that even occur, given the above dynamics?), consider that we have a chaotic hodgepodge of varying rules on car registration as we look from state to state.  For example, just from the little bit I personally am aware of: Texas requires an applicant for plates to show proof of insurance, while Wisconsin could care less, and Arizona just dropped that requirement after several years on the books; In Texas, the plates remain with the car, possibly through dozens of owners, while in Maine & Wisconsin, the plates stay with the owner;  In Pennsylvania, an erroneous placement of a plate will simply result in its getting removed, while in North Dakota (evidently), it will result in an arrest; many states require inspection stickers as a condition of ongoing registration, while others do not.  I mean, who can keep up with it all?!


No, I don’t, in fact, appreciate cops being in a position of power over me, nor do I appreciate anyone at all being in a position of power over me.  This is especially true because I take a couple of things to heart – first, the clause from the Declaration of Independence that asserts that all men are created equal and second, the standard of probable cause cited in the Bill of Rights should be utilized when determining the appropriateness of an arrest.   But, to talk about bad experiences, I’ve been arrested so many times simply because the cop (usually in the context of front-line activism, of course) had gotten angry at me, usually for making an excellent point he wished instead to ignore, and wanted to “get my goat”, so to speak.  This is so far removed from how I feel it should be that it’s not amusing at all.


We should not overlook historical context, when it comes to cops and the roles they have played and are playing, in society.  Traditionally, cops were seen as peace officers.  Whenever there was a breach of the peace, the cops were called in to “break it up”, whatever it took to restore the peace.  They played a role similar to that of a referee, with the bottom line being peace was paramount.  Somewhere along the line – and keep fresh in mind what I pointed out about how “laws” get passed and who passes them – cops ceased to be “peace officers” and instead assumed a new role of “law enforcement”, embarking on a crazy odyssey to enforce every single arbitrary and capricious mandate passed by political government, whether by a vote of the legislature or bureaucratic decree.


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