A Tankless Job

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A reader has taken issue with me over my use of the word “tank” to describe the vehicle the Concord, N.H. chief of police wants his city to buy to help resist the threat allegedly posed by libertarians. The reader accused me of being “hyperbolic to the point of being misleading” in my characterization of this machine. ”The vehicle is called a Bearcat,” the critic informs me, “and is intended to replace a seriously aging ‘Peacekeeper.’” That “tank” was used by “Mother Jones” in the headline of its story is no defense if, indeed, that word exaggerates the nature of the vehicle. So, I went to the Internet – to the link the reader provided – to see what the manufacturer (Lenco) has to say. The first image I saw was of a heavily-armored vehicle, with at least six SWAT team troops aboard, each wearing a battle helmet, an apparent bullet-proof uniform, and carrying a machine-gun.  A link to a company video showed one of these vehicles driving through various terrains, and with a fixed machine-gun at its top. The machine seemed well suited to the purposes of the state’s Special Operations Unit to which it would be assigned. The police chief defended the vehicle as something that would be useful for “rescue” purposes, although it is unclear from what Concordians would need “rescue” when confronting the specter of libertarians! Would the townsfolk be “terrorized” by listening to libertarians talk about “marginal utility theory,” or the “sanctity of life,” or “transaction costs”?  It seems to me that the best “protection” anyone has against those who ask questions, or advocate philosophically-based opinions, would be to energize their own minds and respond in what used to be called “the marketplace of ideas.”

The aforesaid reader has fallen into the same anti-intellectual trap of which George Orwell warned: one does not change the fundamental nature of something by giving it a different name. Is it a ‘tank,” or just a cuddly little “Bearcat”?  Who cares? The question is what does the machine do, and to whom, and what are the implications it has for living peacefully with one another in a free society? The Strategic Air Command’s motto “peace is our profession,” or the police cars emblazoned with the slogan “to protect and to serve,” reflect the self-contradictory messages Orwell provided in talking about ”war is peace,” “freedom is slavery,” and “ignorance is strength.” Perhaps the reader – who is apparently from New Hampshire – might contemplate this proposal by the city for more weapons to be used against its residents in light of the motto contained on New Hampshire license plates: “Live Free or Die.”

11:24 pm on August 14, 2013