Thursday, July 11, 2013

Protection Rackets, 2013 A.D.

“When Sir Robert Peel proposed to organize the police force of London, Englishmen said openly that half a dozen throats cut in Whitechapel every year would be a cheap price to pay for keeping such an instrument of tyranny out of the State’s hands....We are all beginning to realize now that there is a great deal to be said for that view of the matter.” -- Albert Jay Nock, Our Enemy, The State

I've been upbraided, in other fora, for contending that American police are rapidly becoming thuggish, militarized forces that regard anyone not toting a badge as an obstacle at best, "the enemy" at worst. The evidence seems ample enough to me:

  • The number of no-knock raids that mysteriously and inexplicably get the address wrong;
  • The nationwide expansion of S.W.A.T. teams and the acceleration of their deployments;
  • The attestations of various cops that they'd immediately "prone" anyone they saw carrying a handgun, even in jurisdictions where open carry is legal;
  • Cops' overwhelming hostility to being videorecorded while in action in a public place;
  • The use of "obstructing" and "disobeying a lawful order" charges to intimidate persons going about their lawful affairs;
  • Recent cases of police tyranny, such as the quasi-military occupation of Boston, or this peaceful homeowner having his home commandeered at gunpoint, in blatant violation of the Third and Fourth Amendments.

Most horrifyingly, the doctrine of sovereign immunity, once used to protect kings from the wrath of their subjects, has been extended to shield police from retribution for the wrongs they commit. Indeed, the Supreme Court recently ruled that a private citizen has no right to resist an unlawful search or seizure. The police can kill him where he stands, without legal repercussions.

Makes "To Serve and Protect" ring a bit hollow, doesn't it? But protesters upbraid me for arguing that this makes the police the enemy, de facto, of the peaceable private citizen. I've heard all the common rationalizations:

  • "They have families, too."
  • "They're there to protect you."
  • "They're in mortal danger every moment on the job."
  • "What would you do if you needed a cop and none came?"

...and so on.

I have little doubt that there are still policemen who take the rights of Americans seriously, and would go well out of their way, even into great danger, to see that those rights are respected. But the incentives that govern their trade today militate toward their steady diminution and eventual elimination. Just as with any other institution, incentives and penalties will ultimately determine everything.

Those incentives will operate on the citizenry as well. One consequence will be a citizenry that consciously views the police as a poorly organized and operated protection racket, and resists them in all practical ways. Another will be a sharp increase in private security forces of all kinds, from the sort of forces-for-hire that corporations employ to protect their campuses and personnel to the "neighborhood watch" groups that homeowners operate to reduce the probability of crimes against their property.

I wouldn't expect the police to receive the routine cooperation of those forces, would you?

In this light, the George Zimmerman / Trayvon Martin affair acquires an extra dimension. Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch captain. It's clear that he took the responsibility seriously; had it been otherwise, he wouldn't be in the dock today for shooting Martin. Martin, a typical product of the "gangsta" culture that's run amok among young American Negroes, plainly saw Zimmerman as having no business challenging him. I'd bet heavily that had Zimmerman been wearing a police uniform and a visible badge, the lethal incident would not have occurred.

But the neighborhood watches will proliferate -- and ever more of their volunteers will go armed.

The painful paradox here is that protection is catnip to the predator. It alerts him that there's something valuable around, something he'd take if he could do so. The magnitude and seriousness of the protection, measured by the number of bodies and the state of their arms, is a good gauge of the value of what's being protected. The predator knows that, too.

Only a security force that's visibly impenetrable will absolutely deter the predator. Few forces, now or ever, will qualify; that degree of security is just too expensive.

Now shift a single entry from one side of the ledger to the other: Reclassify the police, just for the sake of argument, as a predatory force rather than a deterrent to predation. What happens then?

I contend that we're closing in on just that correlation of forces.

Present trends, the voracity of the State and its ever more intrusive penetration of our affairs, and the slowly stiffening resistance of private persons to being preyed upon suggest that the police will soon become an instrument no longer aimed at the lawbreaker, but solely at the law-abider: the man who wants only to be left alone in the peaceable enjoyment of what's rightfully his. The State wants total control of what he has and does; as violence and intimidation are its methods, the police -- ever more thuggish, ever more militarized, ever less mindful of rights or justice -- will be its means.

There's not a lot, in these Cheyne-Stokes days for individual rights, that anyone can do to reverse the trends. Politics has proved to be impotent at best, utterly toxic at worst. No public official has much of an interest in restraining the police. Sovereign immunity renders threats of legal recourse pointless. And like the Red Death, the enabling spectre of terrorism holds dominion over all.

Still, private persons will do all they can to protect their own. Accelerating clashes with the "official police" must ensue. More and more blood will be spilled. Justice will be seen as something citizens must contrive for themselves.

What, then, must we do?


Bill C said...

We must seek natural justice.
When the law itself is corrupt, no point in obeying. Shoot first and forget the questions later.

Pascal said...

Didn't you once demonstrate the institutional extension of Gresham's Law (Bad money drives out good)?

In police forces in particular it puts an expiration date on "I have little doubt that there are still policemen who take the rights of Americans seriously, and would go well out of their way, even into great danger, to see that those rights are respected. " For the same reason, but much sooner, that you conclude later "...the police will soon become an instrument no longer aimed at the lawbreaker, but solely at the law-abider...."

Might be worth finding that earlier essay so readers have a stark reminder of how all our institutions run by man have driven out the good.

lelnet said...

I'll hold off on "must", but we _ought to_ celebrate.

The state of affairs you describe was ever thus, with only one prior times, most people didn't believe it. The more obvious it becomes, the fewer will continue to bury their heads in the sand and blindly trust self-appointed "guardians" with absolute power.

I count that as a win.

F.J. Dagg said...

Regarding, "Present trends...suggest that the police will soon become an instrument no longer aimed at the lawbreaker, but solely at the law-abider..."

So frighteningly apparent. So clearly foreseen by Sam Francis that he coined the term "anarcho-tyranny" to describe it.


Pascal said...

lelnet, from your mouth to God's ears.

Unfortunately I have witnessed the exact opposite. People with whom I once could engage in intelligent conversation despite our different perspectives have begun almost every encounter with "as long as you don't bring up politics." Of course, when they bring in their politics is okay, but they are militant to the point of farce to spot any hint by me.

IOW I've been subjected to the exact opposite of your assertion. I wish it would be true because it should, but indoctrination by relentless propaganda from SSM has made it nearly impossible. It's like that info cloud of the Internet. The blue and red regions have hardly even a neutral zone, let alone any sign of interchange.

Horatio said...

Most of the times that I have "needed" a cop, it's been because a more efficient course of action has been legislated or regulated into their hands and out of mine. Most if not all such problems I could have handled myself with no more harm and much less aggravation to everyone concerned.

AFAIC, the police are the historians and archaeologists of crimes that took place in their absence, and that's all-- indeed, more than-- I need them to be.

A Reader said...

One potential end to the police situation is that, at least locally, they run out of money and are forced to close up shop. I think has happened a few times in recent years. The outgoing cops, if decent, will encourage citizens to look out for themselves. The good ones who aren't out of money, faced with a serious crisis like La Narcoguerra, will also openly encourage self-defense. Death by budget won't happen any time soon for major metro departments, or those which can fund themselves by asset forfeiture, but the smaller departments may eventually have to choose between patrols now and pensions later.

Pascal said...

I could not find your ~9 years old version Fran. Here's my own, quite short, attempt.

Gresham's Law Applied to American Institutions

Bad actors have driven out good.

What is to be done?