Police brutality irks you. And rightly so. Once you grasp why it happens (hint: it’s due to the structure and incentives of the policing institution) you can respond not with impotent anger and but with constructive strategies.
When in college and grad school for law enforcement I did not question the underpinning of policing. Sure, some things could be tweaked. The drug war being a prime example — not only is it a gross misallocation of resources, but it is a war against people and on the right of each person to alter their conscience. Also, incidents like Waco and Ruby Ridge, in which killers were not held accountable, didn’t sit well with me.
Still, I believed the proper role of government was the protection of people and property. That one group had the sole right, knowledge and ability to be the ultimate administrators and adjudicators of justice. Insert your favorite Jeffersonian quote here.
Mind you, this was when I was coming off my nationalism phase so the concept of a sole regime securing political borders and the people therein went largely unquestioned. Yet outside of the this sacred trinity — police, military, courts — I concluded that anything and everything else was better provided when choice existed.
But then I was exposed to more ideas — some of which are contained in the resources below. And I started asking questions.
How could an institution, which itself is based on the premise that its agents have the ‘legal’ right to take your money to then protect you — ever succeed in safeguarding rights? Even if it’s agents are well-intentioned, they are incentivized firstly to perpetuate their institution and grow the size and scope of their operations. This can and does lead to all sorts of corruption and rights-violations.
I began to question the consistency of my ideas. By this time I was working in the think tank world of D.C., where I took a deep dive into economics. I began to view the law enforcers not as suprahuman but, like me and you, people who acted and who were responsible for their actions.
After my escape from the cesspool of D.C. I became involved with CopBlock.org through which I advocated transparency, accountability, sousveillance, and investment in self and community. And though I found the frequency and severity of police brutality abhorring I understood that it is not surprising. People that work for an institution that is based on coercion and double-standards will revert in practice to the use of coercion and double-standards. After spending years responding to the latest example of wanton violence committed in the name of the ‘law’ I understood that if I didn’t want to be reactionary other steps needed to be taken.
The right to withhold one’s patronage is one of the most effective means of disciplining any institution, including law enforcement.
What does that mean?
It could mean a lot of things. Certainly patronage can refer to a financial component.
It could also be your allegiance, or the ideas you hold. And aren’t ideas the foundation of action? Perhaps the most powerful step you can take is to jettison the bad ideas that support the police state in favor of those that instead bolster human flourishing.
Withholding one’s patronage could mean that you limit your interactions with police employees. As much as you can, make them and their corrupt institution irrelevant. Don’t approach them with hate or violence, simply don’t seek them out rely on them.
As Etienne de la Boetie stated over 400 years ago:
Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break in pieces.
Use some time today to develop a skill or cultivate a relationship that will help you, should an emergency situation arise. If you’re better-prepared to protect yourself and others, or have a network of people you can turn to, you’re less likely to turn to a stranger who is trained not in compassion but to escalate the use of force to gain compliance. Someone who might slay the very person they were summoned to help, as happens all too often. Someone who the monopolistic courts have said repeatedly have no duty to protect you.
This document will continue to be added to by the author. And please, if you have any suggestions for quality additions that others may derive value from let us know!
- Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces by Radley Balko. Published 2014. | at Amazon.com |
America’s cops have increasingly come to resemble ground troops. The consequences have been dire: the home is no longer a place of sanctuary, the Fourth Amendment has been gutted, and police today have been conditioned to see the citizens they serve as an other — an enemy.
- The Law by Frederic Bastiat. Published 1850. | download .PDF | at Amzon.com |
The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish!
- The Most Dangerous Superstition by Larken Rose. Published 2011. | download .PDF | at Amazon.com |
What you read in this book will, in all likelihood, go directly against what you have been taught by your parents and your teachers, what you have been told by the churches, the media and the government, and much of what you, your family and your friends have always believed. Nonetheless, it is the truth, as you will see if you allow yourself to consider the issue objectively. Not only is it the truth, it also may be the most important truth you will ever hear.
- Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent by Harvey A. Silverglate. Published 2011. | at Amazon.com |
The average professional in this country wakes up in the morning, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner, and then goes to sleep, unaware that he or she has likely committed several federal crimes that day. Why? The answer lies in the very nature of modern federal criminal laws, which have exploded in number but also become impossibly broad and vague.
- Anarchy and the Law: The Political Economy of Choice edited by Ed Stringham. Published 2007. | at GoogleBooks | at Amazon.com |
The state and its police powers are not benign societal forces, but a system of conquest, authoritarianism, and occupation. But whereas limited government libertarians argue in favor of political constraints, anarchist libertarians argue that, to check government against abuse, the state itself must be replaced by a social order of self-government based on contracts. Anarchy and the Law presents the most important essays explaining, debating, and examining historical examples of stateless orders.
- On Polycentric Legal Orders by Randy Barnett. Published 1997. | on Youtube |
This talk presents various methods of constraining state power including federalism and the separation of powers, the power of exit, and existing and theoretical polycentric legal orders. Barnett suggests that two simple rules must be present for polycentric orders to work: a “nonconfiscation principle,” and a “competition principle.”
- No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority by Lysander Spooner. Published 1867. | download .PDF | at Amazon.com |
The Constitution has no inherent authority or obligation… But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain — that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.
- The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without the State by Bruce Benson. Published 1990. | at Amazon.com |
Provides a deep historical understanding on ‘how we got here’ and details on how private sector institutions can support social order, foster cooperation and reduce violent confrontations.
- The Politics of Obedience: Discourse of Voluntary Servitude by Etienne de la Boétie. Published 1576. | download .PDF | at Amazon.com | on Youtube |
Boetie asks one of the most basic questions of political theory: why is it that a minority of rulers can remain in power over a majority of subjects who pay all the taxes. His answer is that most of the subjects willingly submit to rule by a minority.
- The Production of Security by Gustave de Molinari. Published 1849. | download .PDF | at Amazon.com |
Perhaps there was a time when people could regard the government monopoly on police and courts as benign. But the march of the police state has changed that: we are more likely to understand that the state’s “security” services are the gravest threat to liberty we face. In that sense, Molinari is the man of the hour. If free enterprise works well in one sector, it can work well in other sectors too.
- Vices Are Not Crimes: A Vindication Of Moral Liberty by Lysander Spooner. Published 1875. | download .PDF | at Amazon.com |
Vices are those acts by which a man harms himself or his property. Crimes are those acts by which one man harms the person or property of another. Vices are simply the errors which a man makes in his search after his own happiness. Unlike crimes, they imply no malice toward others, and no interference with their persons or property.