Is the role of the municipal police to protect citizens against dangerous criminals? Or, is it or enforce bylaws to meet tickets quotas and increase revenues for their city? A man in Brookline, Mass. would answer the later. He got arrested on Tuesday after refusing to identify himself to the police looking to ticket him for violating local laws prohibiting the use of gasoline-powered tools before 9 a.m.
Understandably, it's annoying to wake up to leaf blowers in the morning. However, must we waste the time of our elected officials with such petty things that could be negotiated among neighbors? This is an appropriate course of action to take for parties, but not for day-to-day life occurrences.
Some might plead that we live in a democracy, so the will of the majority rules. Therefore, if the a city council decides that leaf blowers are forbidden during certain periods, so be it. However, democracy and majority rule are totally different. In the first instance, government is limited in its scope of intervention and protects individual rights (since the smallest minority is the individual). This is close to a Republican form of government.
Majority rule encompasses the idea that the greatest percentage of votes on an issue decides what happens. This could likely cause mob rule, as Jefferson once stated. Lysander Spooner said that any group of men calling themselves government can do as they please at gunpoint. This is exactly how Brookline is acting with leaf blowers. The story wouldn't have made headlines if the landscapers had been good, obedient citizens and simply paid the fine for that arbitrary rule.
Do we want to live in a society where policemen patrol the streets to fine hard-working people doing their jobs, charge citizens for using the wrong kind of trash bag, or throw away recycling? Do we want "a majority" of citizens to decide, via referendum or their representatives, on the faith of a particular group of people people by criminalizing homosexuality, forbidding same-sex marriage, or enacting Jim Crow laws? Should standing up for your rights, as the Brookline man did by refusing to identify himself did, be a criminal act?
Unfortunately, most government officials will have answered yes. So unless you have an excellent lawyer of lobbyist, be ready to comply to every little rule your city puts on you.