Like most legitimate movements of public outcry, elements seeking to further their own agenda soon take hold. Take the Tea Party Movement for instance, or Occupy Wall Street.
In what was originally a grass roots resistance against tax increases, bailouts, and Obamacare, the Tea Party movement was quickly subdued by social conservatives like Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz. Attend most any Tea Party event today and you are likely to hear platitudes about the evils of immigration or abortion.
In the case of Occupy Wall Street, what initially was an organized attempt to condemn Cronyism and the relationship between Wall Street and Big Government soon devolved into a radical egalitarian agenda advocating massive wealth redistribution form the dreaded 1 percent as its final goal.
Likewise, the anti-police protests culminating in places like Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore, Maryland and elsewhere around the country have coalesced in much the same way – that is to say out of a perceived and legitimate injustice – and is likewise being undermined in such a manner as to prevent any real reform.
Not only have radical elements carried out the burnings of dozens of businesses, participated in looting, the shooting of officers and various other initiations of force against otherwise peaceful people, but now, cries for greater federal oversight of the police are being heralded as a possible solution to a “racial’ issue – as it has been framed in the media.
This is not the way to fight the police state.
A rational thinking person might conclude that the answer to poor government law enforcement could never be MORE government involvement but that is precisely what we are hearing from protestors and politicians.
The Move Towards Federalization
The agenda to consolidate federal authority over local law enforcement dates back decades, but lets get you up to speed on what has occurred in just the last few years.
In 2011 the consolidation of police departments to regional agencies became commonplace as budget cuts and funding was blamed for the cause of this merging of local forces into one encompassing police enforcement apparatus.
Under the creation of the Unified Police Department (UPD) in Salt Lake City, Utah, for example, jurisdictions and municipalities previously controlled by the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office was reallocated to UPD.
The UPD dissolved the Sheriff’s Office and endowed monopoly enforcement privilege over the area onto a private security firm.
In 2012, a white paper presented to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence outlined an ‘evolving mission’ for Homeland Security that moves away from fighting terrorism and towards growing a vast domestic intelligence network that would expand integration with local/state agencies and private-public partnerships already underway via regional fusion centers.
Crafted by the Aspen Institute Homeland Security Group, co-chaired by former DHS chief Michael Chertoff and composed of a who’s who of national security figures, the report put on paper and into the Congressional record a proposed transition from outwardly dealing with the threats posed by terrorism towards intelligence gathering “focused on more specific homeward-focused areas.”
DHS maintains that “the threat grows more localized” which necessitates the militarization of local police in major cities in the US and the training of staff from local agencies to make sure that oversight is restricted to the federal government.
The creation and implementation of fusion centers in urban areas was to “serve as focal points within the state and local environment for the receipt, analysis, gathering, and sharing of threat-related information between the federal government and state, local, tribal, territorial (SLTT) and private sector partners.”
“As the threat grows more localized,” the report reads, “the federal government’s need to train, and even staff, local agencies, such as major city police departments, will grow.”
As of 2014, 8,000 local law enforcement agencies participate in the Pentagon’s controversial 1033 program.
The program has transferred over $5.1 billion in military hardware including armored personnel carriers built specifically to resist roadside bombs, amphibious tanks, and drones from the Department of Defense to local American law enforcement agencies since 1997.
According to the US Government’s Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services “Law Enforcement Support Office,” material worth $449 million was transferred in 2013 alone.
A study released this year, by the American Civil Liberties Union, confirmed that with the help of equipment and strategies imported directly from the United States military, police have become dangerously and unnecessarily federally militarized.
The report, entitled War Comes Home, looked at 818 Swat incidents from July 2010 to October 2013, that were carried out by more than 20 law enforcement agencies in 11 states. Seven cases were found where civilians died in connection with the deployment of the Swat teams, two of which appeared to be suicides. An additional 46 civilians were injured as a result of officer force.
The study found that not only are people dying and being injured by police teams deploying war-time tactics; there are also many accompanying lesser transgressions. For example, the growing use of battering rams to smash down doors, which routinely causes property damage to homes.
Swat teams, a 1960s invention, were initially utilized by officers to help react to perilous situations like riots and hostage takings. In recent years however, they have developed into something entirely different.
The study found that the majority, 62 percent, of Swat team deployments were for drug searches. Likewise, 79 percent involved raids on private residences. In fact, only about 7% were used for incidences the technique was originally developed for.
“Law enforcement agencies are increasingly using paramilitary squads to search people’s homes for drugs,” the study reads, adding that, “Neighborhoods are not war zones and our police officers should not be treating us like wartime enemies.”
National Guard gun confiscation after Katrina in New Orleans, ‘martial law’ after the Boston bombing – there already exists significant federal control in local law enforcement affairs, especially in time of crisis.
Though a rapid transition to a federalized police force is unlikely in the United States, an incremental shift to greater federal control is already underway.
So if further centralization is not the answer to our policing problems, what is? The answer is a private or ‘poly-centric’ law society – a society where law and enforcement of law are provided openly on the market like any other good or service.
I know, just hear me out.
First we must understand that if there exists only one arbitrator of all conflicts, that is even arbitrator in conflicts involving itself, we cannot expect justice. Government(the state) is this sole arbitrator(monopolist).
“If one can only appeal to the state for justice, justice will be perverted in the favor of the state, constitutions and supreme courts notwithstanding,” says Austrian economist Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe.
“These constitutions and courts are state constitutions and courts, and whatever limitations on state action they may set are invariably decided by agents of the very same institution under consideration. Predictably, the definition of property and protection will be continually altered and the range of jurisdiction expanded to the state’s advantage.”
Government allows no appeal above and beyond itself. Also, government is an agency that exercises a territorial monopoly of taxation. That is, it is an agency that unilaterally fixes the price that private citizens must pay for it’s service as ultimate judge and enforcer of law and order.
Every “monopoly” is “bad” from the viewpoint of consumers. Monopoly is here understood in its classic meaning as an exclusive privilege granted to a single producer of a commodity or service, or as the absence of “free entry” into a particular line of production. Only one agency, A, may produce a given good or service, X. Such a monopoly is “bad” for consumers, because, shielded from potential new entrants into a given area of production, the price of the product will be higher and its quality lower than otherwise, under free competition.”
In the absence of a government law enforcement monopoly, private companies would be competing on the open market to provide citizens with the lowest cost, highest quality service available. This would reduce police misconduct because firms that employee violent law enforcers will loose market share as customers flee to their cheaper nonviolent competitors.
By no longer designating law enforcement a public good, private firms would have to foot the bill themselves for the abuses of their employees. This means, to avoid these costly pay-outs, firms would undoubtedly demand rigorous ethical and moral training as outside arbitrators would hold their employees more accountable than the state apparatus they belonged to otherwise would.
This may seem like a radical idea to some but a government monopoly, in any arena, does three things: Restrict personal choice, draw up costs, and drive down quality. Certainly, having the individual liberty to choose whom provides you with law enforcement services in preferable to a forced government monopoly that demands taxpayer money to not only pay for its abuses, but to function at all.
An advantage of private policing is that companies would have a contractual responsibility to protect their customers. In Warren v. District of Columbia, the court found that public police have no such responsibility. Thus, they cannot be sued if they fail to respond to calls for help. This is why the response time of police in some areas is so long and why the percentage of cases successfully pursued against burglars and thieves range in the single digits.
Police have no legal obligation to either serve or protect you.
“If one wanted to summarize in one word the decisive difference and advantage of a competitive security industry as compared to the current [government] practice, it would be this: contract,” says Dr. Hoppe.
“The state, as ultimate decision maker and judge, operates in a contractless legal vacuum. There exists no contract between the state and its citizens. It is not contractually fixed, what is actually owned by whom, and what, accordingly, is to be protected. It is not fixed, what service the state is to provide, what is to happen if the state fails in its duty, nor what the price is that the “customer” of such “service” must pay.”
“Rather, the state unilaterally fixes the rules of the game and can change them, per legislation, during the game. Obviously, such behavior is inconceivable for freely financed security providers. Just imagine a security provider, whether police, insurer, or arbitrator, whose offer consisted of something like this:”
I will not contractually guarantee you anything. I will not tell you what specific things I will regard as your to-be-protected property, nor will I tell you what I oblige myself to do if, according to your opinion, I do not fulfill my service to you — but in any case, I reserve the right to unilaterally determine the price that you must pay me for such undefined service.
“Any such security provider would immediately disappear from the market due to a complete lack of customers. Each private, freely financed security producer instead must offer its prospective clients a contract. And these contracts must, in order to appear acceptable to voluntarily paying consumers, contain clear property descriptions as well as clearly defined mutual services and obligations. Moreover, each party to a contract, for the duration or until the fulfillment of the contract, would be bound by its terms and conditions; and every change of terms or conditions would require the unanimous consent of all parties concerned.”
Specifically, in order to appear acceptable to security buyers, these contracts must contain provisions about what will be done in the case of a conflict or dispute between the protector or insurer and his own protected or insured clients as well as in the case of a conflict between different protectors or insurers and their respective clients. And in this regard only one mutually agreeable solution exists: in these cases the conflicting parties contractually agree to arbitration by a mutually trusted but independent third party.
And as for this third party, it too is freely financed and stands in competition with other arbitrators or arbitration agencies. Its clients, i.e., the insurers and the insured, expect of it that it come up with a verdict that is recognized as fair and just by all sides. Only arbitrators capable of forming such judgments will succeed in the arbitration market. Arbitrators incapable of this and viewed as biased or partial will disappear from the market.
From this fundamental advantage of a private-law society all other advantages follow.
First, competition among police, insurers, and arbitrators for paying clients would bring about a tendency toward a continuous fall in the price of protection (per insured value), thus rendering protection increasingly more affordable, whereas under monopolistic conditions the price of protection will steadily rise and become increasingly unaffordable.
Furthermore, as already indicated, protection and security are goods and services that compete with others. If more resources are allocated to protection, fewer can be expended on cars, vacations, food, or drink, for example. Also, resources allocated to the protection of group A (people living along the Pacific, for instance), compete with resources expended on the protection of group B (people living along the Atlantic).
The state, as a tax-funded protection monopolist, will necessarily allocate resources arbitrarily. There will be overproduction (or underproduction) of security as compared to other competing goods and services, and there will be overprotection of some individuals, groups, or regions and underprotection of others.
In distinct contrast, in a system of freely competing protection agencies all arbitrariness of allocation (all over- and underproduction) would disappear. Protection would be accorded the relative importance that is has in the eyes of voluntarily paying consumers, and no person, group, or region would receive protection at the expense of any other one. Each and every one would receive protection in accordance with his own payments.
The most important advantage of a private, contract-based production of law and order, however, is of a qualitative nature.
First, there is the fight against crime. The state is notoriously inefficient in this regard, because the state agents entrusted with this task are paid out of taxes, i.e., independent of their productivity.
It can thence be expected that state agents will have an interest in maintaining a moderately high crime rate, because this way they can justify ever-increased funding. This is why the drug war is so pervasive. There is a vested financial interest.
Worse, for state agents the victims of crime and the indemnification and compensation of such victims play an at best negligible role. The state does not indemnify the victims of crime. To the contrary, the harmed victims are still further insulted in making them, the taxpayers, pay for the incarceration and “rehabilitation” of the criminal.
The situation in a private-law society is entirely different. Security providers, insurers in particular, have to indemnify their clients in the case of actual damage (otherwise they would find no clients) and hence, they must operate efficiently. They must be efficient in the prevention of crime, for unless they can prevent a crime, they would have to pay up. Further, even if a criminal act could not be prevented, they must be efficient in detecting and recovering stolen loot, because otherwise they must pay to replace these goods. In particular, they must be efficient in the detection and apprehension of the criminal, for only if the criminal is apprehended is it possible for them to make him pay for the compensation owed to the victim and thus reduce their costs.
Moreover, a private, competitive, and contract-based security industry has a general peace-promoting effect. States are by nature aggressive. They can cause or provoke conflict in order to then “solve” it to their own advantage.
Or, to put it differently, as tax-funded monopolists of ultimate decision making, states can externalize the costs associated with aggressive behavior onto others, i.e., the hapless taxpayers, and accordingly will tend to be more aggressive vis-à-vis their own population as well as “foreigners.”
In distinct contrast, competing private insurers are by nature defensive and peaceful. On the one hand this is because every act of aggression is costly, and an insurance company engaged in aggressive conduct would require comparatively higher premiums, involving the loss of clients to cheaper nonaggressive competitors.
In a private law society, law enforcement wouldn’t be the only thing produced on the open market – the law itself would be as well. This means crimes not directly harming another individuals person or property would for the most part be eliminated.
While states as tax-funded agencies can engage in the large-scale prosecution of victimless crimes such as “illegal-drug” use, prostitution, or gambling, these “crimes” would tend to be of little or no concern within a system of freely funded protection agencies. “Protection” against such “crimes” would require higher insurance premiums, but since these “crimes” — unlike genuine crimes against persons and property — do not create victims, very few people would be willing to spend money on such “protection.”
In the absence of a government law monopoly, and the tax burden associated with paying for it, consumers can afford their own security services. Also, it isn’t hard to imagine firms ran by voluntary donation or churches operating to provide security to those too poor to afford it. Much like in any other industry, however, where the market is allowed to operate there exists the lowest cost and most abundance for all.
Around 85 percent of Americans own a personal computer. Who cant afford a McDonald’s double cheeseburger? Who doesn’t at least have a smartphone with 3G capability? Very few people. The security industry would be no exception.
Take the restaurant industry. In the restaurant market their exists competing firms offering products at different economic tiers. On the bottom you have fast food restaurants. I think its safe to assume everyone can procure access to $1 worth of capital to afford a McDonalds cheeseburger, right?
Next there is fast-casual restaurants. These includes brands like Panera Bread and IHOP. These companies offer a higher quality product for a little more money.
Then there are casual restaurants. These might include the likes of Chilies or Red Lobster. These restaurants offer a yet higher quality product for a higher cost. Then there are fine dining restaurants. Like that french place I cant afford. Again, higher quality higher price.
The market provides a wide array of products and services tailored to meet our every need. Contrary to popular belief, business owners actually make alot more money, not by providing high cost products to few people, but by providing low cost products to the most people. This is why McDonald’s, as a company is worth much more than that snazzy little French place or any of the casual or fast casual restaurants.
Perhaps I cant afford that fancy french place but Ill hit up IHOP in the morning, am I right? And even if I was homeless and penniless, I could still collect 20 cans to buy a cheeseburger at McDonalds.
I am not promising utopia, there is no such thing – But a voluntary market always provides better than a coercive government monopoly. Why should we all have to eat at McDonalds? We shouldn’t. In the same way we should have choice as to who provides us with law enforcement and security services.
In the words of Dr. David Friedman, “If we dont trust government to be the sole producer of cars and food, why do we trust the government to be the sole producer of the law that the rest of us produce the cars and the food in?”
I know for many of our readers, this may be the first time you have entertained the idea of a private law society. That’s OK. You probably have lots of questions and objections. Allow me to lead you in the right direction if you wish to learn more.
To understand how private law has worked in the past, throughout history, check out this excellent article by Dr, David Friedman entitled: PRIVATE CREATION AND ENFORCEMENT OF LAW: A HISTORICAL CASE
For the most part the last section of this article was adapted from a talk given by Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe. You can watch that full presentation here: STATE OR PRIVATE LAW SOCIETY?
Also, check out Chapter 12 in Dr. Murray Rothbard’s work For A New Liberty entitled: THE PUBLIC SECTOR, III: POLICE, LAW, & THE COURTS.