Are BLM actually Libertarian? Is it time to defund the Australian Police?
One finds both joy and sorrow in that there may well be a pulsating Libertarian vibration within the fulminations of the #BLM movement. The anarchistic push to Defund the Police or at the very least scrutinise their role may engender sympathy for more Libertarian outcomes than previously thought.
It would be difficult to imagine Mao, Stalin or Castro without their armed watchmen, and there is no doubt that at the revolutionary Zenith of the ‘Class Struggle’ Marx foresaw the employment of the Armed Guard as pivotal in the violent acquisition of the means of production.
Contrastingly, the strength of the Libertarian principle, and where it is superior in ethic and practice to that of the Statist, is that it naturally acknowledges the proclivity of the ordinary person towards acts of great cruelty and malevolence.
It is a luxury of the affluent to deign others as born ‘good’ or ‘evil’ and to pretend that had one been amongst the Ottoman’s in their Campaign against the Greek Christians in the early 1900’s, or been a German in the late 1930’s, or a Rwanadan Hutu or a Bosnian Serb of the 1990’s, one would have acted with nobility and resisted the ethical vacuum which swallowed you. Interpersonal Violence and rapine is the historical rule, not the exception.
The Guiding libertarian principle is not that we should seek to find those who are the best and the worst among us to lead, but to at all times limit the extent an external actor can dictate the terms of our own existence. This is in fact the greatest and most pressing libertarian critique of both Democracy and Tyrannical Rule, being that irrespective of the structure of the State, it should bare such little consequence to the fabric of society and the liberties of the individual that one should not feel at all compelled nor obligated to cast a vote. That in Australia citizens are so partisan, and the rhetoric so barbarous, is testament not to the failures of the individual politicians or the parties which they represent, but the system which renders their role so crucial.
We understand That the Police enforce the law, and are endowed with privileges which supersede the Liberties of the individual has long been argued to be the price of civilisation. We take for granted that on a cost-benefit analysis, the benefits of a State-employed armed force outweigh the potential harm caused by the ‘bad eggs’ within their ranks.
However, We only have to look at the Stanford Prison Experiment & the treatment of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Graib to recognise the Devil within all of us. It is where power is unchallengeable that those who seek to satisfy desires for dominance manifest themselves most fervently. Ordinary people, you and I, are just as liable as those Germans in the 1930’s to exercise great power to the detriment of innocent individuals in particular circumstances.
Whilst Freud may suggest that the Societal suppression of sexual impulses, leads to extreme outbreaks of Violence, I would assert that it is also where our natural means of dispute resolution, being the freedom of speech, movement & trade, are restricted, that we see the rapidly rising tensions.
This is not to say that individuals will not act violently towards Police without existing restrictions, however one cannot escape the fact that outbursts will become more intense and more frequent when the laws enforced are perceived as unjust. As the proletariat will protest with elevating anger and outrage, so too the police elevate their means of repression in the hope of stability, creating an increasingly volatile feedback loop.
It is also true that Where the restrictions on civil liberties are greatest, the gradient of the Power Hierarchy necessarily increases. The more severe the restrictions, the more power rests in the hands of those who make & enforce the laws.
“The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle […] That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. “(Liberty, XVIII: 223)” – John Stewart Mill
(John Stewart Mill)
It is here where we must remember that the true role of the Police is not to enforce the law, only to protect those who cannot defend themselves. It is not to restrict the freedom of movement of peaceful individuals, nor to harangue a business owner engaging in consensual trade, but to provide a thin filament of security to those who are without.
If we acknowledge both the tendency of Legislators to serve their own interest, and the proclivity of those with the power to enforce the law to abuse it, then we should at all points restrict both of these dangerous funnels. This is the moral essence of the Libertarian lense.
We provide Police requiem from enforcing an unjust law, and in almost all circumstances allow for them to exercise discretion. It is precisely so that we can mitigate the risk of imposing strictures where it is deemed immoral or unjust to do so. The very notion of discretion relies on an understanding that in most instances, an ordinary person exercising their judgement will come to a more satisfactory conclusion than what would be the case had the letter of the law been followed. J. S Mill’s supplementary observation that social dogma can be as influential and powerful as a repellent or incentive solidifies the claim that legislation and strict enforcement is seldom the most productive means of changing behaviour, and Police intervention typically does more damage than good.
The purpose here is not to discredit the Police, nor suggest we remove them, but to refine our expectation of their role in Society. Few professions are more challenging, dangerous and essential as that of the Police. However, we should remember that their scope, and the applications of their powers should be limited to only that which is absolutely necessary.