The Canadian Independent

UK: 66 y/o Woman forced to wear ankle bracelet for selling goldfish to 14 year old

Posted in Fuzzy Philosophical or Moral Issues, Politics, Role of Government, UK by dave on April 1, 2010

Another egregious case of British decline into a heavily-managed society:

SALE, England, March 30 (UPI) — A 66-year-old British woman was fined and ordered to wear an ankle monitor as punishment for selling a goldfish to a 14-year-old.

Joan Higgins, 66, owner of Majors Pet Shop in Sale, England, was fined $1,506, ordered to wear an ankle monitor and given a seven-week curfew as punishment for selling a goldfish to a 14-year-old boy sent into the store by police on a test buy, the Daily Mail reported Tuesday.

A 2006 law prohibits the sale of live fish to children under the age of 16.

I think this is an important case because it really speaks to a whole range of other larger and more important questions. Its a good case of the government going way overboard to enforce a law which really shouldn’t be a law to begin with.

And this shouldn’t be a law. I can’t imagine what the reasoning behind a law which prohibits the sale of live fish to people under the age of 16, but I don’t think it makes a lot of sense. From my point of view, one of the essential ingredients to a tolerant and prosperous society is acknowledging that individuals should have the right to make arrangements and exchanges with other people on terms that they set out between them. Freedom of exchange, in other words. And I think to infringe upon this freedom you should need a really strong case, such as the case for prohibiting minors from purchasing alcohol. I don’t think there is any case for banning 14 year olds from buying goldfish, and as such the restriction of freedom of exchange here is totally inappropriate.

Spurious laws like these divert police resources away from solving real crimes and protecting people, to trying to manage the voluntary transactions of private people who aren’t hurting anybody. For every officer investigating violations of these kinds of laws, laws which do nothing but to try to manage the affairs of otherwise law abiding private citizens, there is one less officer that COULD be investigating murderers, rapists, thieves and other criminals. Real criminals. Selling a goldfish to a 14 year old doesn’t count.

The penalties in this case are also ridiculous. They fined her $1506, gave her 7 weeks of “curfew”, and have forced her to wear an electronic ankle bracelet so they can monitor her whereabouts. All this because she sold a goldfish to a 14 year old boy. When the penalties for crime don’t fit the crime, the rule of law is diminished because people trust the authorities less and avoid the official channels when they have a problem. When governments write laws which stand in the way of the general will of the society, the rule of law is undermined because people simply break the law, and the level of respect for all laws of the state in the society is diminished.

The Anatomy of the State

So what should the standard for government involvement be? Well in my mind its a simple ethical proposition. The proper job of the government is to act in defense of our rights. To prevent others from violating them, and adjudicating disputes between private individuals. People’s rights are violated when another person initiates violence, or the threat of violence, against their person or property. People have the right to defend themselves and their rights from being violated. The only legitimate job of government is to protect people rights violations as an extension of this principle.

Alright, why? Well, I’m sure most people would agree that the initiation of violence against an otherwise innocent person is wrong. Threatening violence to gain the compliance of an otherwise innocent person is wrong too. Coercion. The issue here is: All functions of the government rely necessarily on the threat of violence, or violence itself to operate. So, when the government acts beyond its only function, protecting people from rights violations, it is no longer acting defensively. It is acting aggressively, violating peoples individual rights and becoming the very same as the criminals and rights violators that the government is set up to protect us from in the first place.

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