There was a time when I used to believe that the police had a duty to serve and protect, to care for our property and to keep criminals away. Over the years, however, I have come to realize that though real crime exists in society, it is the cops who commit most of it.
This was not a very easy decision to make. Whenever I saw injustice and brutality, I would brush it off as a sporadic episode and move on. Having seen (and this is another reason why it’s very important to keep the internet free) video after video of people being tasered, shot, beaten, executed, roughed up, fined, ticketed, jailed, harassed, insulted, and being subjected to an infinite number of abuses, it’s hard to stay optimistic about the police and the system that runs it.
Government police is subject to the same ethical and economic analysis that is applicable to other government functions. Given that the state has no incentive to protect; that it can always count on taxes; that it is institutionalized aggression; that it legislates and therefore steals and plunders — given all these things, I had to change my tune. What I had thought to be random incidents of abuse were nothing but the normal, symptomatic function of the government at work: a series of inefficient and unethical monstrosities committed against society, allegedly for its own good.
I understood, then, that police departments are just another government program. Government programs, because they rely on taxation and legislation, are not wanted by society. And we know this is true because by resorting to taxation and regulation we have eliminated competitors who in the market would otherwise be free to meet the demand for security with a supply of such a service. Therefore, it is impossible to know that the quality and quantity of defense that is offered by the government reflects what people want. We cannot express our preference.
So far I have talked mostly from an economics perspective and determined that since there is no choice, there is no real efficiency to speak of for one cannot decide how to best spend money and allocate scarce resources for defense. Now I shall continue to develop the idea that started this short essay: most crimes are carried out by the police.
When I refer to "crime" I don’t mean crime as defined by state legislature but seen as the violation of property rights. Things like taxation and eminent domain are clearly theft. And so are conscription and minimum wage laws because the former constitutes theft of the use of one’s body while the latter violates the right to contract freely.
We are now in a position to recognize that most crimes are committed by cops. Since cops are the enforcement arm of the state, they are the ones who must physically interact with citizens. And what do they do? Well, it’s business as usual: raids, searches and seizure, the war on drugs, on immigrants, on various "inequalities" and the list goes on and on.
The amount of "public crime," crime carried out by the government is overwhelmingly larger than "private crime." Indeed, there are probably not many people alive who have not been forced to pay some sort of tax or been subjected to regulation. And taxation and regulations are ultimately enforced by the police or another police-like executive authority. The existence of the state (even a minimal one) guarantees that the amount of public crime will always exceed the amount of private crime because while one can chose not to be a criminal, the state is nothing but a criminal entity.
There is one last point that remains to be said, and that is whether the police can respect your rights and act legitimately in the occasion where they prevent a true crime from occurring. At first it would seem that this would be an exception of the criminality and inefficiency of the police. But let’s not forget that state-based defense is essentially socialist — you pay for it regardless of your need and often the cost is the same no matter how much you use it. Thus, one can be glad that in some instances the police do protect you against private criminals, but it would be unlibertarian to forget that your defense was financed by aggressing against everyone else. Sounds a little bit like welfare doesn’t it?
And what about the rights of the pacifist? To the extent that pacifists are taxed to support the police, they are being forced to support something they don’t believe: any kind of violence, aggressive and defensive. Here, too, we see inefficiency and unjustness (this is similar to the vegetarian who must still pay for government-mandated meat inspections and regulations). Finally, even the Supreme Court has ruled that the police do not have a duty to protect you.
Unlike juries and judges and unlike legislators and prosecutors, the cops are the ones ultimately doing the dirty deeds. The judicial and legislative branches must count on someone to carry out their edicts. Of course, that implies that they are also guilty in the causal chain of criminality and are not exempt of guilt. The reason why I am picking on cops is because they are the most visible branch. Almost every interaction between the state and serf occurs through the executive branch — police officers, tax collectors, the various inspectors, regulators, confiscators and so forth.
Police officers technically must enforce all laws. Given the number of laws out there, let’s be thankful that they are incapable of doing that. Let’s also be thankful that we don’t get all the government we pay for. If the state is institutionalized aggression, then the last thing we want is an efficient government, or, for that matter, efficient cops.