Although Wilt Alston has written a piece good enough to be the Last Word on the unjust imprisonment of Plaxico Burress, nonetheless, I figure I will do mop-up duty, as well as second his excellent commentary. Indeed, I believe that Burress is a political prisoner who is being disguised by the press as a felon. Given that the mainstream media today is little more than a mouthpiece for the political classes, I think it is safe to say that the press does not “get it,” nor ever will.
I was struck by the quote by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg that Wilt used at the beginning of the article, and I will present it again:
“If we don’t prosecute [him] to the fullest extent of the law, I don’t know who on Earth we would. It makes a sham, a mockery of the law. And it’s pretty hard to argue the guy didn’t have a gun and it wasn’t loaded.”
Usually, anything that takes Bloomberg’s mind off wanting to establish the anti-smoking policies of Adolph Hitler (as well as Bloomberg wanting to tell the rest of us what we can and cannot eat) is a good thing, but not in this case, as I would rather hear him lecture against Twinkies than hear his flawed reasoning for locking someone in a government cage. Hizzoner’s quote does not tell me that, somehow, the judicial apparatus in the Large Malus Domestica is geared up to give "justice for all." Instead, it seems to me that the government of the city has engaged in selective prosecution — all in the name of "blind justice."
Once upon a time, the authorities would have seen Burress’s wound as being substantial punishment for not having his equivalent of a firearms hall pass, and he would have received a legal slap on the wrist — which would have been less unjust than throwing him into the can for two years. I seem to remember that 40 years ago, Ted Kennedy managed to kill someone, a small detail that the authorities on the Kennedy payroll in Massachusetts seemed to forget when they charged him with a misdemeanor for "leaving the scene of an accident."
That Kennedy received a recent near-million-dollar burial of which the extravagance exceeded that of someone from an actual royal family tells us that the political classes are being held to much different standards than someone who actually is a valuable member of society. (Catching the winning touchdown pass in the Super Bowl is a much greater and more socially-useful feat than ramrodding God-awful bills like "No Child Left Behind" and worse into law and tom-catting with Christopher Dodd through the District, and having sex with a bimbo on a sailboat in full view of the rest of the world.)
No, Plaxico Burress managed to violate a "law" that really should not be a law, period. This is a statute that declares that people in NYC are not permitted to engage in self-defense without permission, while city employees wearing blue uniforms and badges are entitled to empty the clips of their handguns into unarmed people and not go to jail.
New Yorkers were not always so squeamish about firearms. John Lott writes that a few decades ago high school students who were on rifle teams would carry their rifles on the subway and into their schools, where the guns were put into safe keeping until the students went to practice at a shooting range. Unfortunately, New York has political leadership that no longer realizes that just because a person is carrying a private firearm does not mean the person is going to shoot other people.
Bloomberg is fond of saying, "I don’t know why people carry guns. Guns kill people." No doubt, Hizzoner demands that the police that tend to his entourage be disarmed. Oh, I forgot; only privately-owned guns "kill people." Cops never shoot anyone, and they certainly never kill people and certainly not unarmed people.
The imprisonment of Plaxico Burress reveals a real smugness with the New York political classes, as though a Great Deed of Justice has been carried out. In the name of "justice for all," the authorities in New York have carried out selective prosecution, making sure that a high-profile person who has offended the mayor’s worldview goes to prison.
The political classes — and especially the New York City political classes — protect their own. When the city collapsed financially in 1975, it turned out that city officials were selling municipal bonds to pay off previously-issued municipal bonds, an act that clearly broke a host of fraud statutes. However, no one went to jail despite the fact that the city officials clearly were engaged in a financial swindle that would dwarf even what Bernie Madoff did 30 years later.
Far more people were harmed by New York’s financial fraud than were hurt by Plaxico Burress carrying a loaded handgun. New York cops each year kill innocent people, yet they pay no price. Burress is in jail, while city employees who are guilty of far greater crimes go free. That is the lesson of the imprisonment of Plaxico Burress and none other.
September 28, 2009
William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He also is a consultant with American Economic Services. Visit his blog.