Pelosi: It Was a Setup

By now, most readers will be familiar with Representative Nancy Pelosi’s visit to a hair salon last week, in violation of San Francisco’s pandemic-generated rules prohibiting the operation of indoor salons. Lloyd Billingsley has discussed the situation in a post on The Beacon. Representative Pelosi says it was a setup, and believes she is being unfairly criticized as a result of being set up like this.

I would have more sympathy for Representative Pelosi if setups were not standard operating procedure for governments. At all levels, governments continually set up and entrap citizens into violating the law. They entice disgruntled citizens to join undercover agents in terrorist operations, they have police officers pose as prostitutes to entice people to engage in illegal exchanges, they set up fake drug deals to entice people who want drugs or some extra cash to join their fabricated deals.

While there has been some debate on whether this actually was a setup, how can Representative Pelosi be upset if it was? Enticing people to violate the law is done by governments all the time, and she has no more claim to being a “victim” of a setup than the many people who are enticed into illegal activity by government sting operations. When people fall for government setups, they are labeled as criminals. Why should it be any different in Representative Pelosi’s case?

One more thing: In many government sting operations, the people who are entrapped believed they were intending to violate the law, but were not actually doing so. They may have believed they were hiring a prostitute, or buying illegal drugs, but there was no actual prostitute or actual drugs. In Representative Pelosi’s case, what she did actually did violate the law.

Let’s take her at her word that this was a setup. If we use the same standard to judge her as we use to judge those who fall for government-designed setups, was Representative Pelosi a victim, or a criminal?

Randall G. Holcombe is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, the DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University, and author of the Independent Institute book Liberty in Peril: Democracy and Power in American History.
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