Some say community alternatives to policing are practical, through de-escalation, peer pressure, neighborhood coalitions and similar non-force practices. These advocates have noble intentions, and in some ways are right – a lot of the things people rely on police to deal with could better be handled by responsible communities.
So I agree in part with the notion of transferring some of the policing burden to communities. In fact there is nothing to stop communities from taking responsibility for behavior of their members on a social level as advocated by many of the defund the police groups. Actions like social shunning, complaining in person (or with neighbors), and offering safe space to victims of domestic violence are good things.
But there is more to it than that. There are times when force is required to resolve an interpersonal situation. And there is a need to protect property from those who would steal or destroy it.
First let’s look at property. With the notable exception of Communism, modern societies of all political stripes are founded on the notion of property rights. This is rooted in the philosophies of society and the social contract developed during the Scottish Enlightenment nearly three hundred years ago.
Among many bright minds writing on society, economics and humanity was a gent named John Locke, who has been referred to as the father of Liberalism. Locke wrote of many things, including the Theory of Value and Property, and The Self. If you want to understand Western society – a pretty fundamental requirement to having an opinion about how it should be organized and administered – start with reading Locke.
From his writings, I have learned that property rights are THE fundamental basis for all laws in western society. It starts with the notion that you own your Self, mind and body and expands from there to the idea that you also own the products of your mind and body – what we call intellectual property and physical property.
Maybe you don’t buy into the Western tradition of property rights which Locke framed, and that is your right (it’s your mind), and you are free to express your opinion (First Amendment, US Constitution). See how that works? The framework of our laws requires that I respect your property rights and you respect mine.
Once we move past the ethereal notions of intellectual property and freedom of expression, we come to the physical product of our minds and bodies, which includes stuff we acquire through fair trade of our labor and property. In other words the notion that you “own” any thing. Ownership of physical property is a fundamental human right because it is an extension of the rights of the Self.
The problem with owning things is other people may want the things you have, without having the means, wit or will to acquire them through their own labor or trade. They have no right to take property from you, but they want what you have. From time immemorial the “solution” – theft – has been condemned by authorities in every system of society except communism… where the state steals everything from the individual.
So theft, in our society at least, is wrong. And generally most people respect other people’s property rights. But there are those who will take or destroy our property by force. How do we stop them? This is where the basic idea of the need for police aka law enforcement comes from.
Now let’s take a look at the other issue – interpersonal disputes. I agree with anyone who purports the best solution to a dispute is negotiation. But sometimes that fails, when one or both parties escalate the dispute to a contest of force. How do we stop them? Again the answer in our society has been and is Police intervention.
We need and will always need someone with the authority to use force in excess of the perpetrators of property crimes to enforce our fundamental rights to property. In civil society we have elected to craft laws defining property rights and authorized police to enforce those laws on our behalf. Without police enforcement of law, who will protect property? I will venture to speculate on what might happen in major American cities if the defund movement actually makes policing ineffective.
First, Street Gangs will assume the role of policing. They’re already doing it – read about the Latin Kings in Chicago for an early example. With an enfeebled police department, a Chicago gang is actually defending property from rioters. The problem with this, of course, is they are not independent arbiters of justice – they’re a street gang of criminals. Exactly what is their version of the laws they are going to enforce? And how “fair” will they be in the administration of justice? I have a hunch that extortion rackets, sex and drug trafficking and other classic gang crimes will likely be exempt from the “new law enforcement” of the street gang.
So step one is gang control of neighborhoods, which has been largely in effect for decades already, only now it evolves into an actual police force. The next obvious step is the desire to expand power and territory will cause “border wars” amongst the street gangs themselves. Interestingly the problem underlying the border wars is – you guessed it – property rights. In the world of gang-enforced “law” neighborhoods will be protected, at a price no doubt, and organized warfare in border zones will become pervasive.
At that point something has to change. And it will… citizens will not put up with being controlled by gangs forever. The Second Amendment of the US Constitution empowers citizens to bear arms to defend themselves against a corrupt government, and it’s hard to imagine a more corrupt government than street gangs. So what I would expect to see next is the rise of citizen revolt against the gangs, accompanied by much bloodshed and innocent deaths. This will be a slow revolution where the sheer numbers of the citizenry uprising must slowly overtake the organizing capabilities and entrenchment of gang control. It will be a bloodbath spanning years.
And what will the citizens, if they succeed in overcoming the gangs do? They will hire police to enforce the laws and their rights once again, taking us right back to the beginning, with nothing changed except many people’s suffering along the journey.
Locke’s ideas are enshrined in America’s Declaration of Independence and Constitution. In fact Locke’s doctrine that governments need the consent of the governed is central to the Declaration of Independence… it is the social contract that authorizes Government to use force to enforce the rights of the individual. Without that social contract Anarchy is not the likely outcome – people are too smart and greedy for that – rather Gang control followed by a popular revolution is what I forsee.
Comments? go for it. This is one thinking person’s opinion.