Is there good news for liberty these days?
I was looking for some good news, any good news, after statist politicians won the recent east coast elections. It turns out the good news was right in front of me. You see, the crazy libertarians have been telling us to get rid of the government for years. It turns out we are doing exactly that. Our churches and private charities are involved with taking care of the needy more than ever. My community has a vibrant home school movement. Like many people across the US, we’ve also learned to defend ourselves until help arrives, if it arrives. That sounds like privatizing welfare, privatizing schools and privatizing the police to me.
I wrote about charity and home school so let’s focus on the police this time.
Why would we want to defend ourselves rather than rely on the police?
There are several reasons to augment, limit or replace traditional police departments. Thankfully, a huge majority of police officers support armed civilian self-defense. That is the good news. Unfortunately police misconduct is on the rise. Privately contracted security firms are actually replacing many police services. And citizen self-defense provides many benefits.
What do law enforcement officers think of armed civilians?
Some law enforcement officers made prominent public statements encouraging citizens to arm themselves until help arrives. (This isn’t Wikipedia so you can search the web for Sheriffs Clarke, Arpaio, Mims, Conway, Deeds and Wright.) At first I thought these were only political statements designed to promote the particular officer or get more money for their department. But a retired peace officer set me straight. He said it was torture to be called to the scene of a violent crime, and arrive too late. The street officer sees the price paid by disarmed victims, and it is hard to watch. A survey of street officers shows that a huge majority support armed citizens. I wish all police officers did. Some do not. Some law enforcement officers see the armed citizen as a threat.
Are there really more corrupt police officers?
There are many examples of police abuse in the news. Perhaps this abuse is not new. Thinking back on it, the icon of the corrupt southern sheriff is legendary. What has changed is that police abuse is now widely recorded, reported and cataloged for public review. It is harder to sweep police misconduct under the rug. Unfortunately there is a great deal of misconduct to report. An average of 18 officers a day were charged in 2010. They cost their law enforcement agencies and taxpayers about a million dollars each day. Police misconduct is one reason to hire our own police.
Are there really private police patrolling the streets?
Libertarians used to talk about private police as a theoretical possibility. Now we see private security out of necessity and by choice. We see it in failed cities like Detroit and Oakland. We see it by choice in some areas of Texas and Georgia. One obvious advantage is you don’t have to pay the huge overhead costs for public security when you contract with private firms. Citizens can also dismiss private police forces if they are corrupt or fail to provide the desired level of service.
The rich and affluent communities could always buy the level of security they wanted. Failing cities like Oakland, Detroit and New Orleans have residents who buy the security they need. Some Detroit business rent off-duty police and entire Detroit neighborhoods buy private policing. Sharpstown, a Houston neighborhood, buys private security for economic reasons as well. They buy their security by the hour and avoid the extraordinary costs of police pensions. A second benefit is that private security concentrates on crime prevention rather than on issuing citations to raise revenue for city hall.
Is self-defense effective?
Most of us are not rich enough to afford a private security detail and few of us are retired public officials protected at taxpayer expense. We can only afford to provide a basic level of protection for our family by locking our doors, installing alarms and taking self-defense training. Fortunately, it works. For example, a report sponsored by the US Department of Justice found that sexual assault victims are 10 times less likely to be raped if they are armed and fight back than if they are unarmed and passive. What we do makes a difference.
Why would you bother?
We’ve heard the saying “the larger the state, the smaller the citizen.” Let’s stand that phrase on its head: “The larger the citizen, the smaller the state.” Now that sounds more like a plan than a dire warning. I’ll add this, “The smaller the state the safer the citizen.”
Those crazy libertarians don’t sound crazy to me anymore. We are making the state smaller simply by taking care of ourselves, our families and our communities. The smaller state begins right at home.