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The Cigarette Police (update)
Posted by: McQ on Thursday, September 27, 2007

You've got to love this twist on an old theme:
Starting today, state Department of Revenue agents will begin stopping Tennessee motorists spotted buying large quantities of cigarettes in border states, then charging them with a crime and, in some cases, seizing their cars.
Why?
Tennessee’s cigarette tax went from 20 cents per pack to 62 cents per pack effective July 1. All eight states that border Tennessee have lower tax rates, meaning smokers can save up to 45 cents per pack — $4.50 for a 10-pack carton — by purchasing out of state.
Now, of course, knowing that all these other states had lower taxes than Tennessee, it was important that Tennessee insure its smokers remained revenue loyal to the state, so it decided it would restrict the ability, by law, for smokers to buy the product elsewhere:
Under state law, bringing more than two cartons of cigarettes into the state without paying Tennessee taxes is a “Class B” misdemeanor, carrying punishment of up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine. Bringing 25 or more cartons is a “Class E” felony, with minimum penalty of one year in prison and a maximum of six years plus a fine of up to $3,000.

In addition, the specific state statute dealing with untaxed cigarettes provides that vehicles used to transport more than two cartons “are considered contraband and are subject to seizure,” says a Department of Revenue statement.
Oh, and you'll love this:
Agents have already been watching out-of-state stores that sell cigarettes near the Tennessee border to “get a feel where problem areas are,” Farr said.

While declining to be specific, the commissioner said “problem areas” are generally along interstate highways with exits near the Tennessee border.

The idea is for the monitoring agent to spot a person buying cigarettes in volume at an out-of-state market, then departing in a vehicle with Tennessee license tags. Starting today, monitoring agents spotting such a suspect will call an arresting agent who will stop the car when it enters Tennessee, he said.

The agents will work “in roving teams at random times,” he said.
Wonderful. Tennessee now has 'foreign agents'.

Says a critic:
“This shows once again that Reagan Farr and the Department of Revenue are more interested in turning Tennessee into a police state than doing their job of collecting taxes,” said Drew Johnson, president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research.
Yup, sounds right. And Farr's response:
Farr said the program is partly an “education initiative” to make people aware of tobacco tax provisions in state law and a response to complaints from Tennessee tobacco retailers about “streams of Tennessee license plates crossing the border” from out-of-state retailers.
Ah, of course, he's protecting the rights of the tobacco retailers in Tennessee. Screw the smoker's rights.

Well, at least he didn't say it was "for the children". Can't wait for the court challenge on this one.

UPDATE: Welcome Balloon Juice readers. Cole's nonsense answered here.
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
As dumb as this all is, can the agency really be blamed for enforcing the actual law? Would we expect them to ignore it selectively? Wouldn’t that be worse? Rule of law and all...
 
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
its quite easy to legally fight a law like this as a cop. if you catch someone, you charge them, so basically you dont go out of your way to catch someone. as in, dont go checking for trouble spots.
 
Written By: josh b
URL: http://
...can the agency really be blamed for enforcing the actual law?
I suppose not.

 
Written By: Richard Nikoley
URL: http://www.uncsense.com
I’m confused. Is there a post at the border to pay the tax?
monitoring agents spotting such a suspect will call an arresting agent who will stop the car when it enters Tennessee, he said.
Don’t they get a chance to pay the tax first. For all the revenue agents know they were driving to the ATM to head on down and pay up.

I’m amazed this sticks in court.
 
Written By: Ryan
URL: http://
Nice equivalence Richard. I guess all bad laws are the same. Maybe you should just lay out for us all which laws should be ignored and which shouldn’t? End all the confusion and so forth.


 
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
PA some years ago sent investigators into MD to do the dame thing with liquor sales. It was stopped quite easily; the out of state investigators were arrested by MD State Police. The border states should try this method of discouraging such activities.
 
Written By: AMR
URL: http://
"its quite easy to legally fight a law like this as a cop. if you catch someone, you charge them, so basically you dont go out of your way to catch someone. as in, dont go checking for trouble spots."
Fine Josh, is that way all law enforcement should work, or only for these self-evident bad laws?

I consider myself a libertarian, but maybe I need to rethink this. Are libertarians for rule of law or not? Do libertarians (excluding the anarchist sort) think there should be some orderly process for the creation and removal of laws, including those they don’t like?

You know, I routinely exceed the speed limit on interstates but I’m not pissed off at the cop for stopping me when I’m caught, even though I disagree with the posted limit.



 
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
Grimshaw:
Maybe you should just lay out for us all which laws should be ignored and which shouldn’t?
Uh, maybe you should? After all, it was you who claimed it’s fine to enforce a law simply because it’s a law.

I have no such problem, since all I care about is initiating violence against others; so by this principle, the state and cops are the thugs, the bad guys. The law is irrelevant. I’m fine, I suppose, with laws that prohibit the initiation of coercion or violence against others (rape, murder, robbery, fraud, etc.) but I consider them superfluous. They’re unnecessary for honest people, bad people ignore such laws anyway, and they’ll get taken care of one way or the other whether there are laws or not.

The purpose of law is to keep the good people fooled. It does a very fine job.
 
Written By: Richard Nikoley
URL: http://www.uncsense.com
The implications of this are staggering.

Tennessee is going to contract with out of state spy’s, to surveil the movements
and actions of it’s residents, then, I assume, will follow them back into Tennessee and report them to local authorities. On what probable cause grounds will the Tennessee police be able to stop these cars and search them?
 
Written By: Radical Centrist
URL: http://
Okay Richard, thanks for the response. I think this (in italics):

"bad people ignore such laws anyway, and they’ll get taken care of one way or the other whether there are laws or not."

is straight out of utopian fantasyland since there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
 
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
What if the Tennessee resident gets to his house before the police can intercept him, by what authority can they knock on his door and ask to search his car or house?
 
Written By: Radical Centrist
URL: http://
"...overwhelming evidence to the contrary."
Really?

Cite some.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
What if the out of state store is actually closer to your house than an in-state store? You should have to drive out of your way just to make sure you pay the correct tax?
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
""...overwhelming evidence to the contrary."
Really?

Cite some"

Most of sub-Saharan Africa?
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
is straight out of utopian fantasyland since there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
First of all, I’m not proposing to impose anything on anyone (unlike most of the rest of you), so that "utopia" crap doesn’t apply to me.

Second, I’m an individual. My statement that the bad guys will get taken care of one way or the other relates to me, mine, and those upon which I have some influence, such as a family, company, friends, small community.

This is because I’m not a "utopian" who seeks to engineer a social system. The only thing that makes most of you not utopians is that you wish to impose a system on all, and it sucks.

timactual asks:
Most of sub-Saharan Africa?
Aside from the fact that I don’t really care about Africans (if they don’t why should I?), my argument presumes the existence of a reasonably rational culture and civilization. I understand that savages behave like savages.

But unless you’re arguing that America has such a percentage of bad people that we can be considered a country of savages, then I don’t really see your point.

 
Written By: Richard Nikoley
URL: http://www.uncsense.com
" so that "utopia" crap doesn’t apply to me."

Perhaps, but the ’fantasyland’ part sure does.

"my argument presumes the existence of a reasonably rational culture and civilization."

Without laws. Right. But not savage or like Africa. And not Utopian.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Perhaps, but the ’fantasyland’ part sure does.
No sir. That applies to you all. I make no presumptions about "law & order," nor "safety," nor "effectiveness" either at the hand of the state or without the state. I’m simply willing to take my chances: for one, I don’t think it’s much of a risk; and two, I wouldn’t think to try to impose a state on you or anyone else.

It’s you all who beg the question; that is, presume your conclusion every time you assert that the state is needed because [__________]. The state doesn’t deliver law & order. Good people are what make for a rational civilization and culture, and there’s no getting around that.
Without laws. Right. But not savage or like Africa. And not Utopian.
So tell me, timactual: were there no laws, who would you rob, rape, and murder? What’s stopping you?
 
Written By: Richard Nikoley
URL: http://www.uncsense.com
Let me ask a few question regarding this law and the enforcement proposed, which includes felony convictions for the purchas of 25 cartons or more.

1) Is this material illegal?
2) Can this material be purchased on either side of the border? Legally?
3) Is there a physical difference between Tennessee cigarettes and cigarettes purchased from other states? (Besides the tax)

For simplicity sake, here are the answers. The material is not illegal. It can be purchased on either side of the border. And there is no physical difference between Tennessee cigarettes and cigarettes purchased from other states. So, how can such a law stand up to constitutional scrutiny? It can’t.

Even someone who purchases 40 cartons would have to be shown to be actively bootlegging, i.e. purchasing for resale within the state. Now there you could have a case - a person going from Nashville to Lexington KY, buying 250 cartons, and then reselling them in Tennessee for a profit without paying the additional tax.

Similar laws existed in other states some years ago regarding Coors beer. At the time Coors only shipped to 11 states. I lived in Arkansas and Coors beer did not ship there. People would go across the state line to Oklahoma to buy Coors and bring it back over the state line. Two cases of beer was "acceptable" - more than that was conficated and a "per can" fine assessed over the two case limit. Why? Intent to resale with no state tax assessed - bootlegging. The difference? The "material" was not sold on both sides of the border. Once Coors became available nationwide, the law was struck down even though there was still a tax difference between the states, although the tax difference was negligible.

I predict there will be legal challenges to the law and one of two things will happen. Either the 62 cent tax will be reduced or the law will be changed to criminalize bootlegging cigarettes.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
Billy Beck -

You need cites that prove all the bad guys are not taken care of one way or the other? I’ll assume for now that we are not talking about the same thing here. Every unsolved crime means the bad guys are not taken care of, right?

Richard, your statement was unclear at first. Since you jsut mean the bad guys that effect you personally, I can believe that.
 
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
From your link;
"To draw such a conclusion one will have to embrace the thesis that man is inherently bad,..."

I only needed to go as far as this, since the nonsense only continues. It is NOT necessary to believe that man is inherently bad, only that some bad people exist, for whatever reason. If there is no law, what is to stop them? The Guardian Angels?

" The state doesn’t deliver law & order. Good people are what make for a rational civilization and culture, and there’s no getting around that"

Good people deliver law and order? How, exactly?


"So tell me, timactual: were there no laws, who would you rob, rape, and murder? What’s stopping you?"

Anyone I wanted to. And you left out crimes like theft, fraud, robbery, etc. And what of commercial law? And how will contracts be enforced? One of the elements of contracts is a meeting of the minds.

"What’s stopping you?"
What stopped Manson, Bundy, Dahmer, Gacy, etc.?

 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
timctual:
If there is no law, what is to stop them?
Nothing, including the law. Do you see how you assume your conclusion when you say this (don’t sweat it; every apologist for the state does)? Obviously, the law does not stop the bad guys. Why would it? They’re bad people who don’t care about hurting others, so why should they care about the law? It’s like locks on doors: to keep the honest people out.

Some can be stopped by locking them up, killing them, or banishing them, but one doesn’t require the state and an impossibly complex network of overlapping and contradictory laws.

Such could be carried out by other bad people, which is fine. Rapists, murderers, and thieves ought to be permitted to rape, murder, and steal from each other.

Such can also be carried out by good people, and in such case, why should the state matter? Do good people of conscious require state power to deliver justice?

Which leaves us with a final scenario: bad people drawn to state power, who prey on good people. Happens all the time and every day. And though bad would sometimes prey on good in the absence of the state, at least it would be seen for what it isAnyone I wanted to.You didn’t answer the question: what’s stopping you?

And by the way, I did include robbery ("rob, rape, murder"). Fraud and whatnot are subsumed. Fraud is simply theft by cleverness.

As a non-judicial dispute resolution specialist going back 15 years, I can tell you that most commercial disputes are settled without resort to state power. That’s simply a non-issue. International contracts, for example, are notoriously difficult to enforce, should it come to that, yet international commerce marches full steam ahead. There’s hundreds of reasons why that’s so, in complete absence of a gun-backed monopoly authority, if you spend a few hours thinking about it real hard.
 
Written By: Richard Nikoley
URL: http://www.uncsense.com

 
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