The apparent overarching narrative that has emerged from Ferguson - aside from the media and politicians’ general defense of the heavily militarized police state - has been one about racial discrimination against black individuals by cops (and a justice system) who are predominantly white.
There is absolutely no denying a racial component to all of this. One need only look at how the war on drugs disproportionately affects black Americans, from stop-and-frisk policies in New York to imprisonment statistics nationwide, to see the underlying prejudices that permeate the system.
I worked on a “reality” show many years ago that followed around police. Because this show relied on access in order for it to exist, we had strict instructions to never let the cops look bad.
For my first (and only) episode, the producers voiced concerns about potentially interacting with non-English speakers as that posed a problem since the producers only spoke English. The cop looked right at the camera, smiled, and said: “Sorry, we won’t be pulling any white people over tonight.”
During his beat, he made 6 stops. He issued citations to four people (all on absolutely bogus charges) and arrested one person (also completely trumped up: predicated on a fabricated “anonymous witness,” which lead to an illegal search that found an old and clearly broken glass pipe hidden in the spare tire well in his trunk).
He also let one couple go with a warning. Of all the people, they were the only ones who had clearly violated the law (they were smoking, peaceably, in their car). They were also the only ones who weren’t black or hispanic.
The producers asked me to make the cop look credible and competent, and make the guy who was arrested say things he didn’t actually say by reconstructing various pieces of dialog. I quit that show the next day.
But with regards to the problem of institutionalized racism, the danger lies more in the institution than the racism. Without the institution - without the power, without the monopoly on the “legal” initiation of force - racism is but an ugly opinion.
And while the cops may disproportionately target minorities, that doesn’t mean everyone else is safe - as the families of Kelly Thomas and too many others would tell you. No race or gender or age or person is ultimately safe when such force can be wielded.
I’ve long held with regards to corporatism that “so long as there are centers of power, those with means will aim to wield that power or work it in their favor. And there’s no greater power than the state’s monopoly on force.” It’s not a mystery that both politics and police attract the same type of power-hungry people, but government police provide the added incentive of actually being able to physically assault other people while suffering little to no consequences. So, again, it’s no wonder that the types of people who would be attracted to such violence and have a propensity for sociopathy would be attracted to a position that offers such power.
Racism itself is a collectivist idea, as it considers people as parts of a group instead of as individuals. Without the state empowering these collectivists, racists would not be protected from the natural costs and consequences of their behavior.
It’s not black vs white or rich vs poor or red vs blue or young vs old; it’s the state vs us.
The New Deal social insurance mythology of “earned” annuities on “paid-in” premiums that have been accumulated as trust fund “reserves” is thus an unadulterated fiscal scam. In reality, Social Security is really just an intergenerational transfer payment system.
— David Stockman
From Bob Murphy:
I admit it, I was horribly naive. I actually thought that pictures like the following…
…would finally make Americans take people like me seriously when we warn that the U.S. is morphing into an outright police state before our very eyes. I mean the “legal” infrastructure is already in place–the NYT ran a prominent story about the “secret kill list” of the current occupant of the White House. And so, I thought the photos from Ferguson would finally get the average American to realize that libertarians and other vocal groups haven’t been crying wolf all these years.
Well I was wrong. After a few days of genuine shock, most Americans have now managed to place the events unfolding in Ferguson into their familiar compartments. Progressive pundits want police forces to hire more black cops and for the government to provide more job training to eliminate the “root causes” of poverty and crime. The talking heads on Fox News, for their part, are outraged that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are butting in yet again, and trying to tell white guys how racist they are. And while these media figures go back to their normal posturing, Americans have just gotten another taste–after theBoston Marathon lockdown and the Bundy Ranch standoff–of heavily militarized security forces confronting regular citizens on U.S. soil.
For those who wish to defend the strong-arm tactics of the Ferguson police (which were then supplemented by outside help), the argument that I’ve seen picking up traction is that it is the duty of the State to ensure law & order. If the government didn’t rush in with overwhelming force, then the poor residents of Ferguson would be at the mercy of riots and looting. I’ve seen people drive home the point by linking to YouTube videos of Reginald Denny getting beaten in the 1992 L.A. riots.
First, let me be clear, even though this should go without saying: The people who are using the outrage over Michael Brown’s shooting as cover to steal from stores are acting both criminally and immorally. Whether or not the police officer killed Michael Brown in self-defense, that has nothing to do with other people stealing from local stores.
Yet beyond this concession (which should be obvious to anyone in this discussion), the defense of the police is quite lacking. For one thing, pointing out the Reginald Denny case as an example of what can happen if the State lets “angry blacks” get out of hand is rather odd: The reason the L.A. riots occurred is that after a car chase, a group of LAPD officers had a year earlier stood around Rodney King on the ground as some of them beat him severely. The video of the beating isn’t what sparked the outrage. No, the rioting began after the officers were acquitted of almost all charges (the jury deadlocked on one charge). Thus the defense of the heavy military presence in L.A. and Ferguson boils down to: “We need a brutal State to prevent citizens from hurting innocents when they react violently to prior State brutality.”
But let’s put aside the specific triggers of riots and looting, and take them as given. It still doesn’t follow that we need a strong State to protect innocent lives. No, as I’ve explained elsewhere (try here and here), a free market economy can provide voluntary police and judicial services far more efficiently and peacefully than a monopoly institution. If only the State would get rid of its gun control laws and allow genuine competition in the “industry” of property protection, then the threats to person and property from looters would be minimized.
Finally, let’s step back and look at the big picture: White Americans who are more worried about “young black thugs” than they are about the emerging police state need to reevaluate their situation. Last year I paid a good 40% of my income to criminals, the vast majority of whom were white. They didn’t take my money through looting, instead they won elections.
Platitudes are a poor basis for policy. The reason is that, no matter how melodious they sound, platitudes are practically meaningless. People who utter platitudes often seem to be saying something meaningful when in fact they’re merely stating the obvious.
A good way to test if someone is speaking in platitudes is to ask yourself if you can imagine a normal human adult believing the opposite.
Suppose someone informs you that he favors policies that promote human happiness. Can you imagine, say, your neighbor responding, “I disagree. I favor policies that promote human misery”? Probably not.
If you cannot imagine any normal person disagreeing with some proclamation, then that proclamation is a platitude. It tells you nothing of substance.
Consider today’s fashionable calls for “sustainability.” The academy, media, cyberspace are full of people proclaiming support for policies that promote economic and environmental “sustainability.” So whenever you hear such proclamations, ask if you can envision a sane adult sincerely disagreeing.
You’ll discover, of course, that you can’t imagine anyone seriously supporting “unsustainability.” Therefore, you should conclude that mere expressions of support for “sustainability” are empty. And they can be downright harmful if they mislead people into supporting counterproductive government policies.
Substantive issues involving sustainability invoke questions that have non-obvious answers. For example: At what rate must the supply of a resource fall before we conclude that continued use of that resource is unsustainable? Fifty percent annually? Ten percent? One percent?
Because the correct answer to this question depends (among other factors) on how much humans care about the future — and because there’s no good reason why we humans should care about the world as it might be many years from now as much as we care about the world as it might be a few days from now — policies and activities that will eventually result in the depletion of some resource are not necessarily unsustainable in any sense that really matters to humans today. If the appropriate human time horizon is, say, 500 years, then activities that will cause petroleum supplies to be exhausted in 550 years are “sustainable” within our relevant time horizon.
Economically sophisticated readers will respond, “Not so fast! Even if we won’t completely run out of petroleum until well past the time that is relevant for human beings alive today, falling supplies of petroleum will start to raise the price of petroleum long before 500 years from now.” This claim is true — but it’s a reason to worry less, not more, about “sustainability.”
A rising price of petroleum serves as a spur to sustainable practices. First, the rising price prompts consumers voluntarily to cut back on the use of petroleum. Second, this rising price creates incentives for entrepreneurs to find or create petroleum substitutes. And the steeper the price rise, the stronger are these incentives.
Nearly every resource commonly used today likely has potential substitutes — recall that newly discovered petroleum in the 19th century quickly substituted for wood, coal and whale oil. So to focus only on “sustainability” of resources commonly used today is to lose sight of the fact that these resources likely have substitutes that will become available if supplies of today’s resources fall below critical levels.
John Oliver on Ferguson…
h/t Bobby Murph
Lobby groups in Washington get special-interest legislation passed that transfers wealth away from disorganized voters, taxpayers, and future generations. These transfers dwarf criminal activity in the economy. The problem is that the public purse is a commons that invites a feeding frenzy by organized lobbies. The result is collective irresponsibility manifested by federal budget deficits for 53 out of the past 60 years.
— Stephen Magee
"Obey or suffer."
[C]onsider someone making two decisions—what car to buy and what politician to vote for. In either case, the person can improve his decision (make it more likely that he acts in his own interest) by investing time and effort in studying the alternatives. In the case of the car, his decision determines with certainty which car he gets. In the case of the politician, his decision (whom to vote for) changes by one ten-millionth the probability that the candidate he votes for will win. If the candidate would be elected without his vote, he is wasting his time; if the candidate would lose even with his vote, he is also wasting his time. He will rationally choose to invest much more time in the decision of which car to buy—the payoff to him is enormously greater. We expect voting to be characterized by rational ignorance; it is rational to be ignorant when the information costs more than it is worth. This is much less of a problem for a concentrated interest than for a dispersed one. If you, or your company, receives almost all of the benefit from some proposed law, you may well be willing to invest enough resources in supporting that law (and the politician who wrote it) to have a significant effect on the probability that the law will pass. If the cost of the law is spread among many people, no one of them will find it in his interest to discover what is being done to him and oppose it.
[C]onsider someone making two decisions—what car to buy and what politician to vote for. In either case, the person can improve his decision (make it more likely that he acts in his own interest) by investing time and effort in studying the alternatives. In the case of the car, his decision determines with certainty which car he gets. In the case of the politician, his decision (whom to vote for) changes by one ten-millionth the probability that the candidate he votes for will win. If the candidate would be elected without his vote, he is wasting his time; if the candidate would lose even with his vote, he is also wasting his time. He will rationally choose to invest much more time in the decision of which car to buy—the payoff to him is enormously greater. We expect voting to be characterized by rational ignorance; it is rational to be ignorant when the information costs more than it is worth.
This is much less of a problem for a concentrated interest than for a dispersed one. If you, or your company, receives almost all of the benefit from some proposed law, you may well be willing to invest enough resources in supporting that law (and the politician who wrote it) to have a significant effect on the probability that the law will pass. If the cost of the law is spread among many people, no one of them will find it in his interest to discover what is being done to him and oppose it.
— David Friedman, Price Theory
Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?
LAPD officer Sunil Dutta, writing 100% seriously in a WaPo op-ed entitled (I kid you not) “I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me.” (via hipsterlibertarian)
"Stop resisting!" A phrase exclusively said by rapists and police officers.
Most think and act this way, while the rest let them. Which means all cops are assholes. Yes, even your friend or loved one who you think is so great. Every single cop - even those who may be good people in their private lives - puts on the uniform and does three things: (1) collect a paycheck that is forcefully extracted from the populace through threats of violence (mostly taxes, though also through asset forfeiture), (2) enforce bad laws that violate the rights of people who have harmed no one, and (3) uphold the “thin blue line” that protects the particularly sadistic and corrupt among them (who are clearly not the minority).
A “good cop” is a cryptid.
A 17-year-old girl in Clairton, Pennsylvania says she was brutally beaten by cops after getting caught outside after curfew. Merceedez Wright says she and her friends were walking home from an ice cream parlor just a few minutes after the 10p.m. curfew when they were approached by police. Wright admits to running away from cops when they exited the car. “I was scared because of how he got out of the car. He didn’t just walk out, he jumped out of the car and started chasing me, so my first instinct was to run,” she told local news station WTAE.
WTAE describes the attack based on Wright’s friends who witnessed it as well as a portion caught on surveillance video:
"(The officer) ran full force at her and she ran from him," said Destiny Hester. "They pounced on her, then started kicking her and pulling her hair."
"I hear her screaming, I run over there and she’s on the ground. They’re over there beating her up, kicking her, pulling her hair," said witness Bryon Clifford.
Surveillance cameras across the street from the scuffle show Wright and an officer run into view, before the officer grabs her, spins her around, and throws her to the ground.
What happened next is not clear because the officers and Wright are behind a car, but two minutes later police appear to stand the teenager up before a new struggle begins.
The video shows one of her arms had come free, not in handcuffs, and she seems to pull away from the officers before they take her to the ground again.
One minute later, they again try to walk her to their car, but she appears to resist and pull in the opposite direction. One officer then uses a forceful move to push her down. She then is moved out of the view of the surveillance camera.
Wright is now recovering in the hospital with injuries to her trachea, esophagus and neck, plus several cuts and bruises.
Wright admits to resisting the police too, saying she tried to free her arms to protect herself after cops knocked her to the ground.
You can watch the surveillance footage included in the WTAE segment here.
Makes perfect sense…
Everything valuable that economics textbooks describe as a “public good” has, at one time or another, been provided on the market by individuals and private firms. Even today, capitalists and entrepreneurs are rebuilding public spaces in Detroit, positive externalitites be damned:
Whether or not they’re expecting to profit, Gilbert and other capitalists — large and small — are trying to rebuild the city, even stepping in and picking up some duties that were once handled by the public sector. Shop owners around the city are cleaning up the blighted storefronts and public spaces around them. Only 35,000 of Detroit’s 88,000 streetlights actually work, so some owners are buying and installing their own. In Gilbert’s downtown, a Rock Ventures security force patrols the city center 24 hours a day, monitoring 300 surveillance cameras from a control center. Gilbert is proposing to pay $50 million for the land beneath the county courthouse and a partly built jail near his center-city casino, with the intention of moving the municipal buildings to a far-off neighborhood; his goal is to clear the way for an entertainment district that flows south, without interruption, from the sports arenas past his casino and into downtown. Detroit’s new mayor, Mike Duggan, told me he had no problem with the private sector doing so much to shape his city: Other metropolises had their entrepreneurs and deep-pocketed magnates who built and bought and financed things. With a state-appointed emergency manager overseeing various aspects of Detroit’s operations, with many civic services inoperable for years and with a dire need for investment, Duggan said he felt lucky that his town was getting its turn.
Reactions to Barack Obama’s statement on Ferguson
I was shaking my head throughout his presser. He made the argument that we need the program that funnels military equipment to local PDs because “some of them didn’t have radios.” This is not about radios. This is about the minuscule likelihood that a police department would need mine resistant armored personnel carriers and the incentive structure in place that turns ostensible “peacekeepers” into a paramilitary occupying force.
That last tweet is the most frightening. Observe the absolute denial: “Barack Obama is either very tired, doesn’t believe a word he’s saying re: Michael Brown, or both.” It leaves no option that Obama is actually every bit like his predecessors, does believe every word he’s saying, and is every bit the power-hungry tyrant libertarians have long called him out to be.
It’s not really about the person in power, it’s about the power they wield - and the voters who grant them this power are not absolved of culpability. And if they go into the next election hoping that the next guy (or gal) is going to be different, they are, in truth, simply offering their approval to the system itself.
When a disgusted citizen tells an abusive police officer that he pays the officer’s salary, the victim is committing a category error. Those of us who constitute the productive sector don’t pay the police; they are paid by the people who plunder our property at gunpoint. Once it is understood that police [are] employed by the people who commit aggression against our property, we shouldn’t be surprised that police are of practically no value in terms of protecting property against criminal aggression. Police are properly seen as retail-level distributors of violence on behalf of the coercion cartel.
Law enforcement is a “product” we are forced to buy, and severely punished – through summary application of torture, or even by death – if we refuse. Since law enforcement operates as a monopoly, rather than through the market, there is no legitimate pricing mechanism to guide rational allocation of resources, and no way to measure “customer” satisfaction – although using the term “customer” in this context is a bit like using the term “girlfriend” to describe a rape victim.Indeed, the institutional response of law enforcement to public dissatisfaction is to expand and escalate the behavior that inspired the discontent, and treat persistent criticism as evidence of criminal intent. …
Beginning in the 1970s, the official rhetoric of law enforcement became overtly martial, a tendency that has grown in crescendo. However, by most measures, violent crime has been in decline for five decades. A similar trend is visible regarding on-the-jo b police fatalities. Joseph McNamara, former NYPD Deputy Inspector, points out that police “work” is actually much safer today than it has been in a half-century or more. Law enforcement is not found in the top ten “most dangerous occupations” in the annual list compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Yet police insist that the United States “has become a war zone,” in the words of Sheriff Michael Gayer of Indiana’s Pulaski County. This is entirely true – but only in the sense that the police consider themselves at war with the public, and have fully embraced a mindset compatible with their role as an occupying army. …
Just a few weeks ago, the House of Representatives recently rejected, by a dramatic margin, an amendment to a military spending bill proposed by Florida Democratic Representative Alan Grayson that would have placed theoretical limits on the transfer of war-fighting assets to local police departments. Mind you, that measure would not have shut down the Pentagon’s pipeline to the police; it would have forbidden future transfers of high-capacity weaponry, including armed drones, armored vehicles, grenade launchers, “toxicological agents,… guided missiles, ballistic missiles, rockets, torpedoes, bombs, mines, or nuclear weapons.”
The amendment was rejected by a vote of 355 to 62 – which means that 355 members of the House of Representatives, the branch of the federal legislature supposedly most accountable to the people, are on record refusing to rule out the transfer of nuclear weapons to your “local” police agency. Some of the most outspoken critics of Grayson’s amendment waxed indignant in condemning critics of the ongoing militarization of the police.
“This is absolutely ludicrous to think that the equipment that is utilized by law enforcement is utilized for any reason except for public safety interests, and it happens across this nation every day in a responsible way,” harrumphed Florida Republican Representative Rich Nugent, a former sheriff. Nugent is correct about one thing: Military-grade hardware and war-fighting tactics are used by police “every day”: On average, there are 124 SWAT deployments every day, nearly all of them carried out as drug enforcement raids or to enforce routine search warrants. Many, if not most, of those raids are carried out after sunset or before the dawn.
There is no country on earth where citizens are more likely to experience the “midnight knock” than the United States of America. That fact surely reflects the interests of those who want to monopolize power, rather than a market demand for “security.”
As part of the Obama administration’s “stimulus” package in 2009, the Justice Department increased spending on its Byrne grant and COPS programs – two major conduits for local law enforcement subsidies –by more than $4 billion. At the same time, the Pentagon expanded its 1033 program, through which military-grade hardware and vehicles are provided, on concessionary terms, to local police. The predictable, and subsequently observed, impact of this example of police state Keynesianism was a dramatic escalation in police militancy toward the public. But these federally created distortions in the “security” market have created other, less visible burdens on the public as well. …
If government law enforcement agencies performed the advertised function of “protecting and serving” property rights, it wouldn’t be necessary for property owners to pay for their own security services. It has been known for decades – specifically, since the Police Foundation’s year-long study of the impact of “preventive patrols” on crime rates in the early 1970s — that government lawenforcement patrols do nothing to reduce or deter property crimes, such as “burglaries, auto thefts, larcenies … robberies, or vandalism.” Private security services, such as Detroit’s Threat Management Center, provide much better protection – as do armed citizens, as Detroit’s Police Chief James Craig has admitted.
Once again, this isn’t surprising: Government-employed police have no enforceable duty to protect persons and property, even those to whom they have made explicit promises of individual protection. In fact, citizens are expected to protect the police – and some have found themselves being sued by officers who accused them of failing to provide that protection.New York City was the first jurisdiction to adopt Peel’s model of paramilitary policing. Three years ago, NYPD officer Terrance Howell, who had been sent to find a deranged slasher-killer named Maxim Gelman, who had murdered three people, watched from the operator’s booth of a subway car while a martial arts expert named Joseph Lozito tackled and subdued the suspect. As Gelman slashed at the back of Lozito’s head, the desperate, bleeding man pleaded for help from Officer Howell, who did nothing to intervene. It was not until after Lozito had pinned Gelman to the floor and disarmed him that Howell emerged from his secure location and told Lozito, “You can get up now.”
Howell, the “hero cop” who was photographed triumphantly escorting Gelman in handcuffs, admitted to a member of a grand jury that he had hid from the suspect out of fear for his safety. After Lozito filed a tort claim for negligence, city attorney David Santoro explained that “Under well-established law, the police are not liable for such incidents” because police have “no special duty” to protect any individual citizen – even one who is literally bleeding to death a few feet away as he heroically subdues a psychotic murderer.
“Next time you hear people call cops trigger-happy or complain about their overtime and pensions, think of Police Officer Terrance Howell,”pontificated the New York Daily News in a reflexive paean to the police after Gelman’s arrest.
Ironically, that is a very good suggestion. Here is a better one: Next time you are told that police protect the public, remember Joseph Lozito.
Where protection of property is concerned, police are much worse than useless. Their job is to enforce the will of the predatory class that employs them, which is why we would be safer without them.
People are upset at police right now, and rightfully so. Many of us have been railing against the institution for years, and our anger is sourced from more than the recent headlines.
Unfortunately, many of these same people don’t recognize the problem as merely the natural extension of the state expansions they have championed.
Michael Brown, a teenager who was killed by a police officer last weekend in Ferguson, Missouri, sparking a wave of protests, was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, according to newly released autopsy details reported by The New York Times. All of the shots entered in the front of Brown’s body.
The new information comes from a preliminary autopsy report by former New York medical examiner Dr. Michael Baden conducted at the request of Brown’s family.
Police in Ferguson have not yet released a complete account of the incident that resulted in Brown’s death.
One of the bullets entered the top of Mr. Brown’s skull, suggesting his head was bent forward when it struck him and caused a fatal injury, according to Dr. Michael M. Baden, the former chief medical examiner for the City of New York, who flew to Missouri on Sunday at the family’s request to conduct the separate autopsy. It was likely the last of bullets to hit him, he said.
Mr. Brown, 18, was also shot four times in the right arm, he said, adding that all the bullets were fired into his front. The bullets did not appear to have been shot from very close range because no gunpowder was present on his body.
Baden had access to the body for several hours, but according to the Times did not see X-rays or statements by witness or police. Local authorities conducted a separate autopsy, and the Department of Justice has also indicated that it will conduct its own examination.
Protests continued tonight, resulting in tension and violent clashes with the police. Multiple news reports and live Twitter accounts from reporters on the ground in Ferguson indicate that some shots may have been fired earlier in the evening (although there are now other reports suggesting that the shots may have just been fireworks) and police responded by firing tear gas into the crowd while pushing them to disperse.