Why Paris Hilton Is Not A Libertarian Hero

In this and other posts, Lew Rockwell and several contributors to his blog have bizzarely tried to turn the Paris Hilton saga into some kind of indictment of the American legal system. Ms. Hilton, they, seem to be arguing, was the victim of an out of control legal system. Sort of like how O.J. Simpson was unjustly prosecuted just because he sliced his wife’s throat with a kinfe.

Well, leaving aside the debates about whether DWI is a legitimate crime (personally, I think a libertarian/classical liberal case for such laws can be made), here are the facts that stand unrebutted:

Last January, Hilton got convicted of driving drunk. That killed 18,000 people last year; it’s no joke. Hilton didn’t have to serve a day in jail for it, either. She got 36 months probation and had her license suspended (in November 2006). She was also ordered into an alcohol education program.

Within a month, she had been arrested twice for driving without a license, and still had not entered the program as ordered. The city prosecuted her for violating her probation and the court order, and convicted her last month. Her defense? She blamed everyone but herself, and even at this last court proceeding, wanted to appear only by telephone. The judge had to order her brought to court.

Paris Hilton is no child. She’s twenty-six years old. She has all the money she needs to hire the best lawyers to represent her. For that matter, she had all the money she needed to hire a driver after her license got suspended. Not too many of us have those kinds of resources, but she does, and she decided to flout the law and her probation anyway.

Did her parents bring her up poorly? It seems that way. Does it matter now? No. She’s far past the age for taking responsibility for her own actions. Instead, she has acted with contempt for the laws, for the safety of others on the road, and for the court in which she was called to answer for her actions. Paris Hilton deserves no sympathy for her sentence, nor for the crying jag and histrionics she displayed when she finally figured out that she had pushed her self-centeredness just a little too far.

For lack of a better political label, I am a libertarian. By profession, I’m an attorney. I have a love for liberty and a respect for the law. And that’s why this is so easy for me.

Quite honestly, it’s plain and simple. Paris Hilton broke the law. And it’s a law that I think is legitimate. You drive drunk you endanger me, my family, and everyone else. Unless you’re an Rockwellian anarchist who rejects the idea of any reasonable government regulation, the idea that someone who’s intoxicated should not be driving an automobile is so plain-and-simple obvious that it’s barely worthy of discussion.

And if you’re convicted of doing so, the punishment of losing your license to drive seems entirely reasonable.

She was given a chance to avoid going to jail and she blatantly and publicly flaunted it. I’m not sure what the law in California is, but in my neck of the woods, 45 days in jail would’ve been the least of her worries.

  • http://daveolesen.com Dave Olesen

    A couple friends of mine argued that Paris Hilton isn’t being treated fairly because she is a celebrity. Their argument is that she is being unjustly treated because others have done worse yet have spent less time in jail, etc. In other words, they argue that Paris Hilton is the victim of injustice.

    This argument collapses for a very simple reason – they compare the mercy afforded to one lawbreaker against the mercy afforded to other lawbreakers to establish justice. They confuse two concepts that work together: Mercy and Justice.

    Law KEEPING is the standard, not law BREAKING and law keepers set the standard, not law breakers. The proper comparison should always be between the law keeper versus the law breaker – the “just” versus the “unjust” or the righteous versus the unrighteous – to establish justice. It is the basis upon which western civilization has been built and under which United States exists as a “nation of laws.”

    The “law” is not an impersonal force or an entity unto itself. To the contrary, it is highly personal to each one of us and is a reflection of our moral values. (Yes, I said moral values.) When someone breaks the law, he or she is violating the rights of law keepers who are people just like you and me. This is absolutely paramount to keep in mind. Before the pilgrims got off the Mayflower, they personally and individually agreed to the Mayflower Compact and bound themselves to it for their “better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; …for the general good of the Colony.”

    When Paris Hilton drove under the influence of alcohol, she was violating your right to move about free of the dangers of drunk drivers. When caught, she wasn’t beaten in the streets by a mob. No, in our nation of laws, she was brought before a judge whose role is to uphold the law-keeping standard, dispense mercy and mete out justice on behalf of those whose rights are violated by the offense – you and me.

    With ample legal resources at her disposal, Paris Hilton pleaded “no contest” to drunk driving because she was guilty. Her punishment was a suspended driver’s license. (Parenthetically, a license to drive is a privilege, not a right.) Given her financial resources, she does not need to drive at all since she can easily afford (and often uses) a chauffer. Nevertheless, in contempt of your rights, she drove anyway. When caught, was she was beaten by a mob for violating your rights a second time? No, she was brought before the judge again who could have incarcerated her. However, she was shown mercy – the discretionary power of a judge to pardon or mitigate punishment.

    How did Paris Hilton respond to mercy? She disregarded it and, in violation of the law, drove again. When caught in this third violation, was she beaten by a mob? No, she was brought before a legally appointed or elected judge. Paris had squandered mercy and, in a nation of laws, when mercy is squandered, there can only be justice. For, if there is no justice then all that remains is anarchy and mob rule. Therefore, she was sentenced to 45 days in jail. Yet, under our system of law, mercy was shown to her as the incarceration time was reduced to 23 days (a merciful act) for “good behavior” even before she presented herself to the sheriff.

    Every law keeping, drunk driving victim (dead and alive) testifies against her claim that her sentence is “not right.” They are the ones to whom she must be compared in a just society. Moreover, it’s easy to miss but, throughout this entire episode, Paris Hilton has been the beneficiary of the fruits of hundreds of millions of ordinary people who for hundreds of years have upheld the rule of law so she that would not live in a society where she would be beaten by a mob when caught driving under the influence of alcohol.


  • Magoo Jones

    I think you’re missing the point. She was convicted of reckless driving with alcohol. She was again convicted of what is considered an “administrative sanction” of her license. While I respect the law, the constitution protects against double punishments for the same crime (double jeopardy). Either she shouldn’t have had her license taken away, or she shouldn’t have been convicted of reckless driving. Calling it an “administrative sanction” is another BS way of justifying yet another breach of the constitution. Following that line of reasoning, she shouldn’t have been on probation in the first place for the license violation. Do I like Paris Hilton? No, not at all. Do I think she and others accused of drunk driving or convicted of it deserve due process of law? You bet. And you don’t have to be a “Rockwellian anarchist” to reach this conclusion. You can still feel for the victims of drunk drivers and demand that everyone tried by this system of law be convicted beyond a reasonable doubt, receive due process of law, and not be tried for the same offense twice. Capricious and arbitrary enforcement and execution of laws is nearly as dangerous as no laws at all. I’m willing to bet you’re a prosecutor from your stance, as no reasonable DUI educated defense attorney would take your position.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org Stephen Littau

    Wow! I never whould have imagined I would ever see the words “Paris Hilton” and “Libertarian Hero” in the same paragraph but I agree with your take, Doug.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org Stephen Littau

    oops! I meant to say same sentence.

  • tarran

    Oh Come on Doug! :)

    OJ Simpson was suspected of slashing the throats of two people. Can you find me a single person who were injured or had their property damaged by Paris Hilton?

    She certainly has not violated any of my rights. She has not interfered with the use of my property or injured me in any way.

    The only contempt she has shown is for a legal system that is imposed on us, that claims unilateral right to control us. BTW Mr Olesen, judges do not dispense justice. The cases of Richard Paey, Cory Maye, and Stephen Kubby demonstrate that quite clearly. Rather, judges provide moral cover for the state’s clumsy ham-handed and half-assed provisioning of security and dispute resolution. And as the case of Michael Milken showed, you don’t even have to be guilty of breaking any specific law to have your ass incarcerated.

    Now, of course her contempt arises not out of well reasoned examination of her principles but because she has poor self-discipline and is used to doing whatever the hell she wants to do and hang the consequences.

    The whole thing is bizarre theatre: Much of the attention focused on her is for the pleasure of watching her humiliated. Hundreds of people who have the same rapsheet pass through the CA criminal justice system every year. However, the vast majority of them do not end up being the subject of Nancy Grace diatribes. The attention focused on her is insanely disproportionate to her “crimes”. She is villified because she is a spoiled rich girl, and people hate spoiled rich people. Even Morton Downey Jr received far more sympathetic treatment. The media frenzy reminds me very much of the mentality of a lynch mob. A poorly armed lynch-mob who prefers to have policemen crack skulls on their behalf, and does nto actually plan on hanging anybody.

  • Ed

    I understand Ms Hilton’ blood alcohol was .08 as measured by an admitttedly inaccurate machine. Even if this reading were accurate, it doesn’t represent drunkenness.

    Lawyers and insurance companies have cooked up a nice little racket nailing “drunk drivers” who aren’t drunk. The public has more to fear from these bastards than from somebody who had a martini or glass of wine with dinner.

    The sadistic pleasure of the public at PH’s misfortune is pure jealousy. Shame, shame.

  • Brian

    Come on Ed. While .o8 may be questionable to some, it is very much drunk for others. I am 6’1″ and 270 pounds.

  • Brian

    The second half of my post seems to have gotten cut off. I stated that .08 to someone like me is probably not drunk, while it would certainly be to a waif of a women like Ms. Hilton.

  • http://thethoughtsofroger.blogspot.com/ Roger Ritthaler

    Today is the seven-year anniversary of the death of Peter McWilliams. I have posted a short photostory of some of his quotes on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGiwEBfyuJM .

    Roger Ritthaler

  • Cathy Flick

    Paris Hilton’s blood alcohol level might have been just at the limit to be illegal, but she was certainly drunk. She attracted attention from police because she was weaving back and forth, a typical drunk pattern. Not surprising, since she is a thin female and probably wasn’t eating much if anything while drinking. If she could really hold her liquor at that level with no impairment, she would have been driving safely and nobody would have stopped her.

    When I was about 16 years old, I was babysitting for a friend of my mother’s. The woman was out partying and insisted on driving me home (several blocks away). I was worried, but got in the car. I honestly thought I would die that night. Like Paris Hilton, she was weaving the car all over the road. She could have killed us both. I managed to get home alive, but wondered what would happen to her two young children (that she left asleep) if she crashed into a tree or a house on her way home. Decades later, I still remember how terrified and helpless I felt.

    So I don’t think drunk drivers are “nonviolent”- they are waving around a very large loaded weapon. The odds are great that any DUI person has done it many times before, and will do it again unless they respond to the wakeup call. If Paris Hilton had simply complied with the terms of her probation, she would have avoided all further trouble with the law. So obviously she was still having trouble waking up. Usually I promote alternatives to jail whenever possible (very few people really need to be kept away from the rest of us), but a forced few weeks away from the usual crowd of family, friends, media hounds, and whatever assorted legal and/or illegal drugs from which she might be now experiencing withdrawal (and in an environment she can’t control, not one of those celebrity resort-like rehab centers) could possibly be her best chance to wake up. Other options didn’t seem likely to have an effect – suspending her license didn’t work, no fine would make a dent in her pocketbook, community service would have turned into a media circus and another episode on her tv show, house arrest would be a joke in her luxurious accommodations — the party would just come to her. I’m sure that’s why the judge was so specific that she had to serve her sentence in the county jail, without more comfortable options.

    And someday, Paris Hilton might have the good sense to thank that judge for giving her such a time-out. At least for the next few weeks, she can’t use her car as a weapon for suicide or homocide or both.

    Paris Hilton was stopped twice while her sentence was suspended because her driving was not safe. Even that violation of probation would have gone unnoticed otherwise. If her parents love her, they should do everything they can to get the keys away from her. Insist on a driver. If she wants to get drunk and/or drugged, that’s between her and her liver. But once she gets behind the wheel of a car – that’s everybody’s business.

  • Ed


    To someone your size .08 might take two or three martinis, but for an average person half of one martini will do it. The standard for drunk driving was determined by medical people to be .15
    in years past. The Government decided to set up a racket and call it Public Safety.

    The Breathalyzer is not accurate according to its manufacturer and the Supreme Court says that’s just dandy. If a cop smells alcohol, you’re guilty automatically, and insurance companies and lawyers will plunder your ass even if it’s Listerine. Try it sometime.

  • http://absurdthoughtsaboutgod.blogspot.com/ USpace

    Paris is a stupid, arrogant and spoiled brat. She doesn’t deserve special treatment in either extreme though. She should just shut up and do her time and make some friends, just like Martha Stewart, it will pay off when she gets out.

    Most hopefully, it will humble her some and calm her down a little.

    absurd thought –
    God of the Universe says
    let rich people break the law

  • http://www.no-treason.com Wild Pegasus

    If Paris were really a danger to life and liberty, there is a charge called “reckless driving”. This puritanical drive to have everyone with one drink in them off the roads is beyond ridiculous.

    Think of its effects. If you’re impaired, and get behind the wheel of a car, what’s your natural reaction? Drive more slowly, of course. But if you do that, the cops pull you over, test you, and charge you with drunk driving. So, though impaired, you try to drive like a normal person. The results are predictable: more accidents because of slower reaction time. Take the drunk driving laws off the books and charge people who are actually dangerous with reckless driving.

    Probation is a disgusting scam. The state has no business “licensing” drivers to use the roads they damn well paid for. Jail is for people too dangerous for society, which Paris obviously isn’t.

    In every way, Paris doesn’t belong in jail, and the schadenfreude from right and left alike is worrisome. A nation so consumed with envy that they rejoice when a goofy rich woman goes to prison takes that anger to the polls on Election Day.

    – Josh

  • Aimee


    Try telling the husband and father of 2 little kids that died because of a drunk driver that his rights and the rights of his family were not violated. http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/10298180/detail.html


    You stated:”If you’re impaired, and get behind the wheel of a car, what’s your natural reaction? Drive more slowly, of course.”

    In this same case I was talking about above, if you read the article and others linked to it, you will see that this family was in the crosswalk, had the right of way, and the asshole behind the wheel (who is also an illegal immigrant) was not only speeding, he didn’t even try to brake!!! I think that blows your theory of “Just drive slow of course” out the window.

  • Ed

    Diana and Paris are both overpriviliged airheads who nevertheless have intriguing public personas that bring joy to millions.

    But Diana was worshipped and Paris is vilified. Can anybody
    explain that phenomenon to me?

  • Wild Pegasus


    The plural of “anecdote” is not “argument”.

    – Josh

  • http://www.pubcrawler.blogspot.com/ tkc

    Tarran is right. The problem here is one of malum en se (wrong because it is wrong, like murder, rape, robbery) and malum prohibitum (wrong because it is prohibited, like blue laws, the war on some drugs, and yes drunk driving). The latter, is just an exercise in the state flexing its muscles at the expense of our liberty.

    Certainly drunk driving is reckless but so are all sorts of things. If we want the state to protect us from ourselves then we will end up with a police state. That is where malum prohibitum takes us and celebrating it because one thinks Paris Hilton needs to be taken down a notch is wrong. That said, when reckless behavior actually does harm to someone then it becomes malum en se but I don’t think Ms. Hilton got that far.

    Still, I find myself chuckling at her misfortune, eventhough it is wrong for me to do so.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/ Stephen Littau

    Tarran/TKC/ and others:

    Let me get this straight: if a police officer sees a person driving erratically, swerving, or otherwise drives in a manner which threatens others on the road, the police officer has no moral authority to pull this person over because s/he is only a potential harm? Do you also believe that an individual should be able to stand on a street corner and randomly fire a gun (not taking aim at anyone or anything in-particular) without being arrested provided that s/he doesn’t hit anyone or anyone’s property?

  • http://thedailyburkeman1.blogspot.com/ C Bowen


    Why do you limit your question to a representative of the State? Is the voluntary society so outside your imagination (odd, considering libertarian posturing) you can’t expand the question and answer it yourself?

  • Aimee

    Many people keep stating, “She didn’t do any harm.”

    THIS TIME!!! That’s called being lucky is all. So we should just let people go and keep being lucky until their luck runs out and THEN do something about it?

    “Science Daily — New Haven, Conn. — Imaging studies of the brain when it is under the influence of alcohol reveal that different areas of the brain are impaired under high and low levels of alcohol, according to a Yale study published in Neuropsychopharmacology”.

    “They speeded up, especially on corners, where most people slow down, and crashed more often into other vehicles.”


    “Science Daily — Drivers beware! New research published today in Applied Cognitive Psychology finds that even having just one stiff drink can make you ‘blind drunk.'”


  • http://www.indiancowboy.net Nick

    I’m really torn on the whole drunk driving thing. Yes driving drunk impairs your driving ability. But there are definitely people out there who while ‘drunk’ drive considerably better than many.

    I have friends and acquaintances who have been in wreck after wreck. One acquaintance was in her 4th car by the time she graduated high school…all caused by her.

    Such people, though driving unimpaired by alcohol, are nonetheless more reckless and less able to respond to emergency situations than others.

    Should they have their driver’s licenses revoked too?

  • http://www.pubcrawler.blogspot.com/ tkc

    Stephen Littau: the short answer is sort of. The government doesn’t have the authority to act on probabilities. As Mr. Rockwell points out, “The law should deal in actions and actions alone, and only insofar as they damage person or property. Probabilities are something for insurance companies to assess on a competitive and voluntary basis.”
    Rockwell goes on to say, “A sizeable number of people leaving a bar or a restaurant would probably qualify as DUI. But there is no way for the police to know unless they are tipped off by a swerving car or reckless driving in general. But the question becomes: why not ticket the swerving or recklessness and leave the alcohol out of it?”


    I think he is right. So it is not so much the BAC, it is what it leads to. If it leads to actual (not probable) reckless driving then action can be taken. The same can be applied to the guy randomly shooting. He can be punished for that but in the context of this point should he be arrested for carrying a gun because there is a probability that he might shoot it off randomly? Of course not.

    The precautionary principle is a bad idea in government. That something bad might happen is not a reason to enact prohibitions. Global warming and gun control are fine examples of this. The problem is that the precautionary principle could be used to justify not getting out of bed in the morning (because something bad might happen) while at the same time justifying not staying in bed (such a sedentary lifestyle might be bad for you). It is rubbish and a bad way of going about legislating things or punishing people.

  • http://www.pubcrawler.blogspot.com/ tkc

    Nick says, “I’m really torn on the whole drunk driving thing. Yes driving drunk impairs your driving ability. But there are definitely people out there who while ‘drunk’ drive considerably better than many.” I agree. All sorts of people drive poorly. Some because they are too old, some because they are inexperienced, other because they are sleepy, and yet others who have screaming kids in the back seat.
    Shall we prohibit them all? Shall we have the police pulling people over for the possibility of any of these? Of course not. That would be a police state.

  • Aimee


    “Should they have their driver’s licenses revoked too?”

    I would say yes to that question. In the case of your friend, it was stupid on her parent’s part to keep giving her a car. 4 cars and 4 crashes before graduating, you would think that by then she wouldn’t even have enough points left on her license to have one.

  • Aimee

    I should add that while I believe they should have their licenses either suspended or taken away, as Paris has proven, twice, that just because you are suspended, it wont keep people from driving. There was a story here in Denver where they followed people out of court that had had their license suspended. These same people went straight to their cars and drove off. Just suspending a license though isn’t good enough. Other measures would need to be taken.

  • http://www.indiancowboy.net Nick

    Aimee, she was an extreme example, but what I’m saying is that .08% is not honestly ‘that much’ impairment, and pulling an all nighter can cause a similar or greater impairment.

    And the difference between the top 20% of drivers and bottom 20% of drivers in terms of ability to drive skillfully and safely is even greater than the difference between your average person ‘sober’ and ‘drunk’.

    So if this is really about impairment, ability, and safety, we’re looking at telling a LOT of currently licensed drivers that they have no business being on the road.

  • Aimee


    “So if this is really about impairment, ability, and safety, we’re looking at telling a LOT of currently licensed drivers that they have no business being on the road”.

    Exactly! : )

    I think a license is too easy to get and at certain ages, people should have to have driving tests if they want to be renewed.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/ Stephen Littau


    “I think he is right. So it is not so much the BAC, it is what it leads to. If it leads to actual (not probable) reckless driving then action can be taken. The same can be applied to the guy randomly shooting. He can be punished for that but in the context of this point should he be arrested for carrying a gun because there is a probability that he might shoot it off randomly? Of course not.”

    I don’t disagree with any of that. You seemed to have clarified your position by stating that reckless driving is reason enough for action to be taken. It seems that others who have commented here believe that even reckless driving is okay as long as no one gets hurt.

    I want to also point out that I was very specific in my examples. I did not mention anything about a BAC level or about an armed citizen carrying a gun (which I whole heartedly support). My examples were not dealing with probabilities but actions (reckless driving and recklessly shooting a firearm)which would be clear and present dangers to the life, liberty, and property of others.

    I generally agree that the precautionary principle is a very dangerous one. If taken to an extreme, no one could do anything at anytime without the government’s permission. But if we go too far to the other extreme, anarchy, everyone can do what they want when they want regardless of if the life, liberty, and/or property of others is threatened, this is just as dangerous an extreme.

  • tarran


    The person who killed that family is guilty of murder (or manslaughter perhaps). The drunk driver who pulverized my father’s vertebrae was guilty of assault.

    My point is that a drunk driver who has not injured anyone is no different than a tired driver who hasn’t hurt anyone, or a driver eating a burger who hasn’t hurt anyone, or a driver talking on a cell-phone who hasn’t hurt anyone.

    I am not a big fan of preventative laws…


    You’ll note that I consider Paris Hilton to have been guilty of tresspassing since the road-owners, in this case an organization calling itself the State of California have a rule that people are not permitted to drive on theipr property with more than a certain amount of alcohol in their veins.

    If an agent of a road owner sees someone driving recklessly and hazarding his bosses customers, certainly it is appropriate for him to intervene. Again, in my perfect world this would be handled by fines, perhaps even confiscation of the offending vehicle for serial tresspassers.

    You’ll note that while I explained Lew Rockwell’s postion, I extended his analysis to come up with very different conclusions.

    As to the street corner randomly firing a gun, it depends. Where are the bullets going, who owns the patch of ground he’s standing on?

    So long as the bullets are landing on his own property and are coming nowhere near another person, then yeah, let him plink away. If he’s shooting close enough to people that they feel concerned for their safety, then no, I don’t think he should be permitted to do it. If he does not own the land where his bullets are landing, then of course not, unless he has the owners’ permission. Ditto if he doesn’t own the patch of land he’s standing on.

    With that being said, if someone was firing a gun randomly in my neighborhood, and I had the means to stop him, I would, simply because he’s probably violating all three limitations simultaneously. Realistically, I probably would lack the means to stop him and would follow Sir Robin’s brave example.

  • http://www.indiancowboy.net Nick

    Alright, Tarran I understand your position a lot better now.

    You’re saying that BAC is arbitrary but recklessness is recklessness (if I read you right). That I agree with.

    I’ve always thought the BAC was a stupid way of determining whether someone’s driving drunk or not.

    And if anyone didn’t smell a rat when legal limit was lowered from .1 to .08…

  • http://www.pubcrawler.blogspot.com/ tkc

    Two more points I’d like to make.
    1) Paris Hilton is a celebrity. A snotty rich celebrity but that is not a crime. Part of what worries me is that the state is trying to make an example of her because of her celebrity status. If so then the state is making a show trial because they know people are watching. This is not what governments are for so it is wrong if this is what is going on. Witch trials are barbaric.
    2) Paris Hilton is not a libertarian hero. One of the oft-heard slogans of libertarianism is, “With freedom comes responsibility.” I use the saying myself. If Ms. Hilton’s BAC was .08 but she wasn’t driving recklessly then she is still acting irresponsibly. She is playing right into the hands of those who love nanny state policies. She is not doing libertarians any favors by being a snotty high profile screw-up. Thus she is certainly no hero. She is only making the cause of liberty that much harder to champion becasue she so easily dimisses responsiblity for her own actions.

  • http://poplife.biz/?p=171 PopLife

    Most people felt that she was getting special treatment because she was a wealthy celebrity. Others felt, because they were her fans, that they didn’t want her in prison because, after all, she was their idol – Paris Hilton. They felt she was being treated unfairly. There is a third view. If Paris Hilton had been Mary Smith, anonymous, would she have been released to do home incarceration? According to Sheriff Baca (the sheriff in Paris’ case), she would have. It is because of her celebrity status, that she is not having the same consideration as a “commoner”.