The Rise of Private Security and the Decline of Government “Law Enforcement”

Imagine life without the government police. Imagine not having "law enforcement" to keep us safe.  At this point, your average reader might think this to be an insane idea, that only some kind of depraved nihilist or aspiring criminal would be in favor of.  But, the more astute reader would have already caught the conundrum that "law enforcement" possibly keeps anyone safe.  For in fact, what do government police do? Is their primary responsibility to protect us, make communities safer, clean up neighborhoods, and be there when we need them? Of course not. It was even established by a government legal decision that police do NOT have a responsibility to keep us safe.  Their primary responsibility is to "enforce laws."

That might sound benign enough on the surface. We're constantly reminded of the greatness of "law and order." Law is a good thing, right?  People say "we live in a nation of laws"; that we have the "rule of law" to guide society, and so on.  But, what are these "laws?" What are these government law enforcers enforcing? Are they doing everything they can to minimize rape, murder, assault, fraud, and theft of private property? Does government seek to enforce the natural and inherent law that I own myself and my property, and thus, any violation of those things is an actual crime. No, silly; they're not interested in real law.

You see, in the real world, we all understand natural laws. They are not things men decided by majority vote. They are not things that were written down on paper. They were moral ideas that were discovered thousands of years ago. So why, after these thousands of years, don't we have a great utopia where we all understand law, morality, and philosophy. Well, you see, along came this thing called the State, and with it, the destruction of law. Law became legislation, legislation became synonymous with the word law, and the old meaning of law has all but disappeared.

So how does that little story relate back to government police. Well, the laws that state enforcement agents of all sorts (police, DEA, FBI, ATF, etc.) enforce, are not law at all, in the original sense, but they are bits and pieces of state created legislation. Thus, we get the purpose of the "executive" branch of a modern nation state. It is not to protect the individual rights of its customers living within its territory. Its purpose is to enforce the arbitrary commands and edicts of the rulers, upon the subjects. We need to make this point very clear. State-created "laws", even defined, debated, decided through some legal process (where the monopoly of decision making has decided what is and isn't legal), written down, and then carried out by selfless public servants - is not necessarily the moral or objective "rule of law" that we are all taught to believe in.

Any system of government law, created by any government of any size, because of the nature of government and of state created legislation, is not and cannot be objective. As long as it is created and enforced by a monopoly aggressor, you get the opposite of objective standards. You get certain ideas, created by certain men, created with certain agendas, foisted upon a populace that never consented to any of it.

The legislation of a state is not intended to be objective, equal, or a framework to serve people and foster prosperity. If that were truly the case, the only legislated laws of the land would be outlawing rape, murder, theft, assault, and fraud; and before any case were even brought up before a court, we would ask "was there a victim?" In other words, this hypothetical institution would actively fight for and protect the individual rights of people within its territory. There; that could be the entire system of criminal law. Beyond protecting individual rights, let people be to make their own decisions and choices. Let private organizations, businesses, and individuals voluntarily agree to rules of conduct and business.  But, obviously, that is not what legislated law is.

Any piece of law that gets created out of thin air, and written down as the "law of the land", always serves a purpose for someone. It is impossible for it to be objective, fair or just. It would be impossible to have such a thing as a limited government with a laissez-faire attitude, providing legislated law that only protects the rights of the people.  As soon as you start creating law as a government, we know how it will turn out, because every possible thing that is thought to be turned into a law was first thought of by and for certain interests. There is always an intention; something to be accomplished or gained for someone. Every proposed or passed law, no matter if it is promoted as pro-business, anti-business, for the workers, the teachers, the poor, this minority, that group, etc. - it is creating a distortion in the marketplace; it is favoring one group above others; and it is adding another layer to the endless pile of random edicts one must contend with in "civilized" society.

See, the state is not what we are told it is in civics classes across the country. We are told government is this grand, modern, civilized thing we all agree to be a part of; we magically give it "consent", and it looks after us and makes sure we have a level playing field and it protects us from all the bad people around the world. In reality, governments are entities unto themselves. The goals, interests and desires of the people who control governments are not in line with the goals and desires of the individuals who comprise society, but are above and separate from society. They are the state. They seek to further their own goals, grow their own power, and dominate all life on the planet. It sounds nefarious, because it is, and might be hard to believe, but it is true. If it wasn't the case, and these things called governments got together merely to provide some needed service to society; then they wouldn't set up their establishment as a "power-over" organization, always seeking to maintain control, authority and monopoly. A genuine, peaceful service provider sees a need and then tries to fill it. His success or failure is based upon the value of his product or service, the demand in the marketplace, and his comparative advantage over possible competitors. States though, act like the mafia, not like an honest firm providing needed services.  States will create need, fabricate demand through fear, and extract revenue from their customers, all regardless of the value they are providing. Further, states will impose their monopoly right to enforce their laws with the barrel of a gun, if need be.

Finally then, it is government legislation, which acts to create the illusion of helping everyone out, keeping order, and making fair rules - that is the instrument of the modern state. In older times, the ruler was simply the ruler.  Their demands were seen exactly for what they were, arbitrary demands of the king to shape and use society however he wanted.  In modern states, where all government actions are laced with propaganda, the arbitrary demands of the rulers are called "laws" and people have become indoctrinated into thinking these laws are there to help them.

police, traffic stop, law enforcement, arbitrary laws

So, coming full circle now; if government laws are the arbitrary demands of the state to better control, use, tax, and grow off of society - then "law enforcement" is not always a good thing. We don't want law enforcement. From a provider of law and security, we want safety, crime deterrence, violence de-escalation, safer streets, and efforts to promote an environment for economic prosperity (the greatest deterrent to violent crime). We want them to be able to adapt and change, and come up with better ways to serve their clients. (Government, on the other hand, always decides to increase their own budgets, even though their service never gets any better.) We would want these service providers to know the real law, and to not make it their primary duty to extract fee and ticket revenue from us.  We would want to see declines in crime and would want to see victims being protected and compensated. In the current government-centered model, when a victimless crime is "committed", well of course the government gains. Society certainly doesn't. When an actual crime is committed, government also gains! - through court fees, fines, bloated budgets, etc, but even worse, they are the one to gain even when the crime is solved and the perpetrator is brought to "justice". The criminal pays fines to the state, not to the victim; they go to state prisons, they pay state court fees, etc. The person who was aggressed against, not only isn't compensated, but is in fact hassled even further by the entire "justice" process. Then, when it's all over, the state pats themselves on the back for a job well done, and the victim goes home hassled and empty-handed, while the only money paid to anyone, went to the state.

So, you might ask, what would the alternative be? How would we have accountable security services and rules that were just, moral, and affordable. Well, I won't answer that entirely right now. But, I will say, the solutions would by wide-ranging, and the possibilities many. Countless philosophers and economists have thought this through, and better yet, we have real world examples, both past and present, of law, security, and defense being provided effectively outside of government. Hopefully, theory and practice will continue to show us more and more how we don't need the coercive monopoly gorilla, going around pounding its chest and taking our bananas.

I don't have all the answers, and neither does anyone else, but the truth is out there, and a great place to start is the video below. This is perhaps the greatest thing going on in the US, in the realm of actual law and order. The man is Dale Brown of the Detroit Threat Management Center. As a libertarian; I don't like to say with definitiveness; "this is the way it's going to be." But, I can say with pretty good assuredness, this is a damn good start. He runs a private business, makes a profit, cleans up neighborhoods and protects his clients. Plus, as both a volunteer service, and as any thinking person will realize, as a way to reduce crime in general and create a better atmosphere for more business and, thus more clients; he also provides his services for free, to people who can't afford them.

This stuff really gets me going.  It's interesting; certain would decry the man for making a profit providing what they think is a "human right" (aka, not really a human right, just something people think government should give to them, paid for by others.) This thing, of course, is the product, security services, which I should be able to subscribe to and buy like any other product. My service provider should not get chosen for me, and they should not first steal from me however much they want, in order to "protect me." And do those same people not understand, government takes in more money than any other entity on the planet? And are these people really so mindlessly indoctrinated to think all that money is used for the "good of society", whatever that is? It is wasted, squandered, handed out, given away, and used to bail out corporations. It's used to fund dictators, to finance terrorists, overthrow foreign governments, and drone bomb families. It's also wasted on bureaucrat's vacations, lavish government buildings, and used to pay government paper pushers doing nothing of any importance for their fellow man. And I would add, those government salaries are on average higher than non-government salaries for similar positions. Not that making money is bad; it's a great thing. But, government does not make money, create wealth or bring value into the world. They extort, tax, steal, bomb, destroy, and control. So what bizarre twisted universe are these people from to think, all of that is moral, but a business making honest wealth is bad? Even the largest of corporations, (which yes, many are crony corporations; but still for illustration's sake) make a few billion dollars a year.  Government in the US; the federal, state, and local revenues combined, brings in around $6.6 TRILLION every year! I said brings in, not makes. They don't produce anything. It is either created by central banks or stolen from the subjects who live within their specific tax farm.

dale brown, detroit threat management centerWhat Dale Brown is doing is real business; that is, seeing the whole market, not just your product, and your clients, and wanting to sit there and make money without thinking or innovating. What Dale Brown is doing is creating an industry. He's creating change in the marketplace. By making safer buildings, blocks, and entire neighborhoods, he's creating an ever-larger customer base, as more people then have opportunities to live peaceful lives, save up, and start businesses - who can then afford to pay for his services in the long run. He's not providing some free services to "give back", the meaningless phrase of the speech giving CEOs out there. He's doing it because his mission is to grow his business, provide the best product of safety and security that he can, and make money in the process.

detroit threat management center

Dale Brown shows us the future. This is the future of what peaceful cities can look like; the future of what cities without government can look like. In the podcast below, he even mentioned how he is trying to spread and franchise his model to other cities. I would love for this to happen. This is one of many things, that if it continues to take off, will eventually cripple the state's ability to function, will out-compete them; and will show the state for what it is; an outdated and obsolete method of protecting people and property.

If you read or listen to one thing this week, this should be it. Then, if this piques your interest, read on below for further reading on this topic.

Further Reading:

  • Private Police - Bruce Benson on the Tom Woods Show
  • How to Have Law Without Legislation - Murray Rothbard
    • "[In his book Freedom and the Law,] Professor [Bruno] Leoni's major thesis is that even the staunchest free-market economists have unwisely admitted that laws must be created by governmental legislation; this concession, Leoni shows, provides an inevitable gateway for State tyranny over the individual. The other side of the coin to increasing intervention by government in the free market has been the burgeoning of legislation, with its inherent coercion by a majority—or, more often, by an oligarchy of pseudo-"representatives" of a majority—over the rest of the population."
  • Police Forces - chapter from the book Society Without Coercion
    • "Today there is the commonly accepted, but completely fallacious idea that somehow police protection, access to courts, and even legal counsel is a "right" of citizenship in the United States. However, there is no more justification for such services being provided "free" (i.e., through taxation) than there is for color TV sets to be provided for each and every person in America at "public expense." Either a person has a right to his own life, liberty, and property, or he does not. If he does, nothing can justify forcing him to subsidize another person for anypurpose, including for the purpose of police protection"
  • Full Book - Society Without Coercion
  • Chaos Theory - Bob Murphy
    • "Among the most advanced topics in the literature in the Austro-libertarian milieu is that which deals with the workings of the fully free society, that is, the society with no state, or anarcho-capitalism. Robert Murphy deals with this head on, and makes the first full contribution to this literature in the new century. Working within a Rothbardian framework, he takes up the challenge of Hans Hoppe regarding the role of market insurance in property security to extend the analysis to the security of person.His applications are part empirical and part speculative, but unfailingly provocative, rigorous, and thoughtful. The title itself refers to the supposed chaos that results from eliminating the state but Murphy shows that out of chaos grows an ordered liberty. Anyone interested in exploring the farthest reaches of anarchist theory must come to terms with Murphy's account."
  • Order Without Law: Where Will the Anarchists Keep the Madmen?
  • Order Without Law: How Neighbors Settle Disputes
  • Review of Bruce Benson's To Protect and Serve: Privatization and Community in Criminal Justice
    • "This is the most important book on public policy to be published in a long time. Benson takes on the most pervasive government activity, the criminal justice system, and addresses the critical issue of our high crime rate. There are no clear “academic” solutions to this problem, but Benson presents a clear and sensible solution derived from the insights of Austrian economics—the privatization of the criminal justice system."
  • Customary Law With Private Means of Resolving Disputes and Dispensing Justice
    • "It is not actually possible to describe what a system of privately produced law and order would be like in modem society because one cannot describe what does not exist, and, more fundamentally, guesses based on historic privatized systems or current trends in privatization may miss the mark substantially. The sophisticated crime protection and prevention equipment and the level of training and skill possessed by many crime prevention specialists today may be archaic compared to what would emerge as a result of the incentives created by full privatization."
  • Full Book: To Protect and Serve: Privatization and Community in Criminal Justice
  • Private Police: A Note
    • "There are those to whom the question of whether to privatize the nation’s police forces is mere academic whimsy—a question of consequence only to the eggheads and cranks of the Academy, not to those who so solidly inhabit the “real world.” Most of these believe the enforcement of law to be the exclusive province of the state. Such a belief is rooted in an obvious falsehood: the notion that there is a unique and singular commodity called “enforcement of law.” There is, in fact, no such singular commodity."
  • Anarchism and the Public Goods Issue: Law, Courts, and the Police
    • "This paper is an attempt to use what is essentially "public choice" analysis- which assumes that individuals will make "rational" choices based on self-interest- to show how the primary collective good, security, might be provided noncoercively, i.e., in the absence of a state."
  • Edward Stringham: Market Chosen Law
    • "Central planning and state control are often cast aside as inferior replacements to far more efficient and humane voluntary market transactions. Still there is one area that most believe must be run collectively through the state. The realm of law is often the foundation of government, and the suggestion that central control be abandoned shocks most people as something impossible."
  • Justice Entrepreneurship in a Free Market
    • "Modern libertarian thought is essentially deductive in character. Building from a foundation in natural law, libertarians derive the principle of non- aggression; and from this they deduce the standards of a just society. Consistency is the key word: what is permissible in the political sphere must be compatible with the principle of nonaggression."
  • Dale Brown of the Detroit Threat Management Center
  • Call the Anti-Police: Ending the State's "Security" Monopoly
  • The Problem of Political Authority: Youtube Video
  • Anarchy and the Law - Edward Stringham
    • "If you love the idea of free-market anarchism, hate it, or are just intrigued that so many are steeped in the rigor and logic of the prospects of a free society without the state, this is the collection that gives you all you need to find your way around this burgeoning line of thought."
  • The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without the State (video)
  • Full Book: The Machinery of Freedom - David Friedman

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