Blame the Libertarians!

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Peyton Thomas has emerged as Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s book-learnin’ alter-ego, working with Arpaio to criminally investigate, indict, and otherwise legally intimidate anyone who dares to question the fearless lawman (as well as, now, anyone who dares to question Thomas). Thomas has gone after members of the Maricopa county council, journalists, even judges. Last month, after two prosecutors in neighboring counties publicly criticized Thomas and Arpaio’s surreal, bumbling attempt at tyranny, Thomas threatened to criminally investigate them, too, calling their comments part of “an orchestrated campaign to pressure law enforcement in Maricopa County to drop charges against influential criminal defendants and suspects.”

As it turns out, before running for county attorney, Thomas was an author and pundit, penning clenched-fist screeds on a variety of hot-button culture war squabbles for the usual roster of conservative outlets, including National Review, AEI, the Weekly Standard, and The Wall Street Journal. My favorite: Thomas once called parents who put their children in daycare “more respectable, less violent versions of Susan Smith.” Smith, you may remember, was the woman who drowned her two sons in a lake in North South Carolina in 1995 . . . then told everyone a black guy did it.

Thomas has also written a couple books, one of which lays out his plan for restoring order to lawless America. Among Thomas’s ideas: conscripted snitches. Per the Phoenix New Times:

“All able-bodied men without a criminal record should once again be subject to obligatory service for community crime surveillance.”

Those men, he said, should patrol neighborhoods, armed with walkie-talkies. “Their sole duty would be to inform police of crimes in progress,” he went on. “Women should not be subject to such conscription for the same reasons that they have traditionally been spared combat duty.”

Then came the kicker: “Properly strong criminal penalties would deter those who might be tempted to dodge this draft [to patrol the neighborhoods] by committing a crime and acquiring a criminal record.”

But Thomas saves the brunt of his ire for . . . well . . . you, Agitator readers. Back in 1997, legal guru Walter Olson wrote a piece for Reason dissecting a particularly smirk-inducing article Thomas published in the Weekly Standard in which Thomas explained why libertarianism keeps him up in a cold sweat at night. Here’s Olson:

The root cause of everything from street muggings and gang delinquency to rudeness at traffic lights to excessive lawsuit filing has finally been found, and it’s…libertarianism. At least that’s the view of Andrew Peyton Thomas, an attorney with the state of Arizona and a frequent contributor to conservative magazines. Writing in the August 26, 1996, Weekly Standard, Mr. Thomas referred to the above woes as “the libertarian-created problems of Southern California and elsewhere.” Readers who hadn’t known that libertarians got to run things in Los Angeles may rub their eyes, but Mr. Thomas isn’t kidding one bit. He blames crime, rudeness, and litigiousness on the “live-and-let-live urban lifestyle” as spawned by “the moral laissez-faire disorder of libertarianism.” Mr. Thomas, author of Crime and the Roots of Order, has made a momentous discovery: “The root of our crime problem,” as he informed Standard readers on March 17 of this year, “is a rights-happy radical individualism.”

Thomas is right. God help us if libertarians ever get any power in this country. Imagine, for example, the irreparable damage to the rule of law if a libertarian were ever elected Maricopa County prosecutor.

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36 Responses to “Blame the Libertarians!”

  1. #1 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I always knew those friggin’ freedom lovin’ libertarians were to blame for the country goin’ down the toilet. It’s always that one or two percent that ruin it for everyone else.

  2. #2 |  Jeff | 

    I need to protect my state’s integrity – Susan Smith was from South Carolina.

  3. #3 |  InMD | 

    I guess blaming libertarians is more creative than blaming Jews or devil worship?

  4. #4 |  ZappaCrappa | 

    “The root of our crime problem,” as he informed Standard readers on March 17 of this year, “is a rights-happy radical individualism.”

    As opposed to what? A totalitarian/dictatorship-happy complacent robotism? While I am SURE that this is what they prefer….ain’t happening. Kiss my constitution hugging ass.

  5. #5 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    “Problem is … a rights-happy radical individualism”

    Er…is this not the Raison d’être of the USA?

  6. #6 |  SJE | 

    I’ll bet he gets a lot of fan mail from LEOs

  7. #7 |  Patrick | 

    I’m not a libertarian!

  8. #8 |  Robert Chambers | 

    Mr. Thomas has either forgotten or does not know that libertarians are only slightly less fringe than the greens, and therefore have no power to do anything, and even if they could, they wouldn’t.

    Mr. Balko is committing the “If the right people were in power” fallacy. If a libertarian were in office he would fuck up, too. That is what people do. They fuck up, because people are fucking stupid.

    “Including you, Mr. Chambers?”
    Including me. Including yourself. Don’t like this fact? Go fuck yourself, stupid.

  9. #9 |  fishbane | 

    Why, I bet they’re even responsible for that gawdawful mustache on his face.

    Someone quick, corral the women and get the horses inside, something must be done!

  10. #10 |  JP | 

    I’m not a doctrinaire Libertarian by any stretch of the imagination (although I have some strong libertarian leanings), but I believe that in Radley’s ideal world, the power of the State is restricted to the point where people in power “fucking up” doesn’t have quite the sweeping consequences it does today. I don’t think he believes that if the right people were in power, all our problems would suddenly go away. I would say that he probably thinks that we should try to build a society where the people “in power” have very little of it, so their inevitable human foibles do not cause us such grief.

  11. #11 |  M | 

    Just because I enjoy your criminal justice coverage doesn’t mean I’m a libertarian.

  12. #12 |  Toastrider | 

    Actually, I’m more conservative than libertarian…

    I do believe Mr. Thomas has racked up an Assclown of the Month award though. :D

  13. #13 |  Carl Drega | 

    “Mr. Balko is committing the “If the right people were in power” fallacy. If a libertarian were in office he would fuck up, too. That is what people do. They fuck up, because people are fucking stupid.”

    No. He’s not. He doesn’t say and surely doesn’t believe if libertarians were in power that they would not screw up. He does know that they wouldn’t shoot people and their pets on pre-dawn paramilitary raids looking for forbidden plants though.

    He also knows sick, dying people wouldn’t be denied medicine to make them feel better in their last few months on earth because physicians are too scared to prescribe perfectly safe, cheap, easily available medicine for fear of losing their licenses to practice medicine.

    He might know too that the poor bastard innocent bystanders or kids walking home from school will not be murdered in a turf war between rival gangs challenging each other over who gets to sell on a certain corner.

    Do you know why fireplace insert dealers don’t shoot each other and the neighborhood, or have their homes or businesses raided, or those people who have addresses similar to fireplace insert dealers? It’s because fireplace inserts are legal. If/when currently illegal drugs are decriminalized, all these current murders that happen because of criminalization will shortly disappear.

    There will surely be mistakes/malfeasance by politicians, but the idea that it would be more of the same if pro-liberty people are elected and institute libertarian policies is total bullshit.

  14. #14 |  freedomfan | 

    I tend to agree with the expression of libertarianism which holds that our best defense against the inevitability of flawed politicians is to minimize the authority government has over the peaceful individual. In other words, any animal in the zoo may escape its cage and turn against the people, but there’s less danger from a hamster than from a grizzly.

    That said, I can’t help looking at that picture of Mr. Thomas and wonder if maybe Dave Foley hasn’t invented a screwball fascist character for some reincarnation of Kids in the Hall

  15. #15 |  Steve Verdon | 

    Odds on when he’ll be caught in a motel room with a male prostitute and a copy of Road to Serfdom?

  16. #16 |  Reggie Hubbard | 

    You write better final sentences than any other writer I know.

    Amazingly and more importantly you’re also one of the best journalists.

    Just feeling like a compliment Radley moment.

  17. #17 |  Mattocracy | 

    Southern Cal is infested with libertarians? Since fucking when? I love how people who want to force draconian law and order manage to find a way to blame the audacity of individual freedom on crime.

  18. #18 |  Radley Balko | 

    Just feeling like a compliment Radley moment.

    I think we should make this a national holiday.

    And thanks!

  19. #19 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Andrew Peyton Thomas is peaking too early! No way he keeps his lead for 2010 Ass Hat of the Year. But he can dream.

  20. #20 |  Andrew Williams | 

    Has anyone ever seen Mr Thomas and Dave Foley in the same room at the same time?

  21. #21 |  qwints | 

    Libertarians knows that people in power will fuck up. Power corrupts. That’s why you give people as little power over others as possible.

  22. #22 |  hamburglar007 | 

    That actually isn’t a mustache. Thomas has had his nose up Arpaio’s ass for so long that it has left a permanent mark.

  23. #23 |  BamBam | 

    #22, it’s a permanent lighter colored Dirty Sanchez.

  24. #24 |  Cynical in CA | 

    “Mr. Thomas, author of Crime and the Roots of Order, has made a momentous discovery: “The root of our crime problem,” as he informed Standard readers on March 17 of this year, “is a rights-happy radical individualism.””

    As a radical individualist, I am quite impressed that Mr. Thomas is familiar with the term “radical individualist.”

    Blame it all on Lysander Spooner. Whodathunkit?

  25. #25 |  Cynical in CA | 

    #10 | JP — “I would say that he probably thinks that we should try to build a society where the people “in power” have very little of it, so their inevitable human foibles do not cause us such grief.”

    Rather than try to guess what’s in Radley’s mind, let’s attribute the above to you JP.

    The problem with your statement is that it’s impossible. Who will protect us from our protectors?

    /navel gazing

  26. #26 |  Cynical in CA | 

    #13 | Carl Drega — “There will surely be mistakes/malfeasance by politicians, but the idea that it would be more of the same if pro-liberty people are elected and institute libertarian policies is total bullshit.”

    Not necessarily Carl. You have not disproved the hypothesis, one that is proved positive every day — that power is corrupt and tends toward absolutes. The reason “we” can’t get the “right people” in office is because the system is rotten and based entirely on violence.

    Whether this is humanity’s inescapable fate is another matter, but as long as the system is coercive, the “right people,” once found, will become as rotten (or ineffectual, s’il vous plait) as any “wrong people” who were elected as is.

    I guarantee it.

  27. #27 |  Lubey | 

    That’s not a moostache, that’s a douchetache!

  28. #28 |  the friendly grizzly | 

    @ #15: there goes THAT keyboard…

  29. #29 |  JThompson | 

    @Cynical: Even if you allow for the usual incompetence and malfeasance from elected officials, from a civil liberties perspective libertarians would still be far better to have. At least they wouldn’t be working backwards from a screwed up authoritarian mindset from the word go. We can just elect a fiery new defender of civil rights/liberties each time and they’d never get a chance to build a large enough Rolodex to be properly corrupt.

    It’s even possible that once people got a feel for what not living in constant dread of what well-polished boot might be placed on their neck this week they’d develop a taste for it and start resisting authoritarianism in the future.

  30. #30 |  Kirsten | 

    This is particularly ironic given that one of his attorneys, Rachel Alexander, used to be a member of the Libertarian Students at the University of Arizona when we were students there and refers to herself as a conservative libertarian.

  31. #31 |  bobzbob | 

    “All able-bodied men without a criminal record should once again be subject to obligatory service for community crime surveillance.”

    Suddenly the libertarians aren’t so hot on the idea of a “well-regulated militia” that just last week they were telling me was necessary to the security of a free state.

  32. #32 |  paranoiastrksdp | 

    Is he talking small l libertarianism or big L Libertarianism?

    Either way it makes him a douche but some clarification would be nice. Does he have it in for a particular political movement or for rights in general?

  33. #33 |  Cynical in CA | 

    #29 | JThompson — “We can just elect a fiery new defender of civil rights/liberties each time…”

    The problem with elections (aside from their basis in violence) is that someone has to do the electing. Those someones are notorious for not voting for libertarians. But they do like voting for candidates that promise them loot. Think public employee unions and such. Not to mention that the ruling class only presents candidates who will cater to their interest first ahead of everyone else. So, electoral politics is obviously no solution to the problem of statism.

    It gets even worse. Even if electoral politics could be tamed by elected libertarian officials, there is still the problem (identified by Mencius Moldbug of Unqualified Reservations) of the permanent bureaucratic government, which can impede any elected official. In short, the game is hopelessy rigged against liberty.

    “It’s even possible that once people got a feel for what not living in constant dread of what well-polished boot might be placed on their neck this week they’d develop a taste for it and start resisting authoritarianism in the future.”

    I agree that it’s possible. In theory, but not in practice.

    Sorry to be such a downer, but I call it like I see it.

  34. #34 |  Enyap | 

    This is particularly ironic given that one of his attorneys, Rachel Alexander, used to be a member of the Libertarian Students at the University of Arizona when we were students there and refers to herself as a conservative libertarian.

    We should hook her up with Dondero.

  35. #35 |  Enyap | 

    Crap, screwed up the bolding.

  36. #36 |  nemo | 

    Like ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’, the word value of ‘libertarian’ is changing…and in part this is deliberate.

    Libertarianism of the lower-case sort is ideologically derived from what used to be called ‘classic liberalism’, such as found in the writings of John Locke. Such writings extolled personal liberty as being the foundation of a free republic. That modern day liberals – with mouths clamped tightly on the teats of The State – would deride the very philosophy that was the original reason for their – and this country’s! – existence shows just how weird things have gotten in America.

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