Seriously, this just blew me away.
William Norman Grigg writes:
According to the most recent available statistics regarding incarceration, however, people convicted of actual crimes compose a very small minority of America’s vast and growing federal prison population. As of 2009, crimes of violence accounted for roughly eight percent of that total, and property crimes contributed a bit less than six percent. More than half of all inmates were convicted of non-violent drug offenses, and thirty-five percent were caged for what are called “public order” offenses.
Libertarian activist Michael Suede points out that eighty-six percent of all federal inmates were punished for what are called “victimless crimes” – that is to say, offenses not properly described as crimes at all. It is reasonable to assume that similar trends exist at the state and local level as well.
There are instances in which police act in defense of persons and property. Those are genuinely exceptional, because rendering that service is not part of their formal job description: The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that police have no enforceable duty to protect individual rights. This helps explain why, as economist Robert Higgs pointed out roughly a decade ago, “there are three times as many private policemen as there are public ones.”
In choosing to pay for private security assistance, Americans freely spend more than twice the amount stolen from us each year to pay for the government’s armed enforcement caste. This is because the government that takes our money fails to provide the promised social good – protection of life and property.
Often when I talk to people about privatizing law enforcement, they stare at me with blank faces wondering what planet I’m coming from. People don’t seem to realize that almost all real security is dealt with by private agencies already.
Just think for a moment about the following:
Who is responsible for protecting you at most major shopping centers? Ever see a private mall cop? I bet you have.
How about casinos? Almost all casinos have private armed security.
What about at the dance club? Ever see a bouncer throw out a belligerent drunk?
What about at the university? You’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between a public safety officer and a cop. Many universities have private police forces.
How about warehouses, ports and apartment complexes? It is not uncommon to have private security guards protecting all of those. My apartment complex has its own security.
Airports used to be entirely protected by private security – and guess what? No one was complaining about being molested. Further, after 9/11, it was the airlines who made real improvements to security by putting in steel cockpit doors and arming the pilots.
Banks? – Almost all bank cash transfers are dealt with by way of private armored car, and many banks have private armed security as well.
Personally, I’m a former military service man (who served endless hours of shore patrol and guard duty), I’m a former public safety officer for a major university and I’m a former night club security guard. When I worked as a PSO, I wore a badge and all the other typical police accouterments. You couldn’t tell the difference between me and a cop unless you read my arm badge.
The beautiful thing about all of those positions was that I NEVER had to assault someone for a victimless crime. Drunk in public? I didn’t care as long as you weren’t bothering others. Smoking a doobie out back? Big deal. As long as whatever you were doing wasn’t harming the business in some way, I WANTED you to have a good time. I WANTED the business that was paying me to make more money. I WANTED to make sure everyone was safe around me. The last thing I wanted to do was piss off a customer. I could be fired instantly if I provoked or caused a disturbance with someone who clearly didn’t deserve it, and my bosses would investigate any physical altercations thoroughly.
I should note that when I was a bouncer, I got into a few scraps on the job, but we never called the police. The business did not want to be associated with a public crime report. Further, consider that most of the kids starting problems were simply just being dumb drunk kids. Calling the police and filing assault charges against them would have been massive overkill. It was enough simply to throw them off the property with a stern kick in the pants. The mothers of those kids should thank me for not calling the po-po and involving their family in costly legal problems.
The police don’t give a flying rip about you, your family or your friends. They hate you and look at you as the enemy. As Grigg points out, they are not obligated under the law to offer you any protection what-so-ever. They are only obligated to protect the State, which obviously does not include protecting you from anything.
The police could be fully privatized and you wouldn’t be any less safe for it. The reduction in taxes created by eliminating the police would allow most businesses who need security to be able to hire their own. Further, insurance companies have a strong incentive to make sure the property and people under their protection are adequately secured in the absence of police. Thus, it stands to reason that most cities would have private security forces that worked in conjunction with insurance agencies to ensure public safety.
To understand better how a fully privatized police force might operate, watch this lecture by Austrian economist Hans Hoppe on private law.