The Problem With “Policing”

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The main problem with “policing,” arguably, is that policemen go out in search of “crimes.”  Most of the latter are, of course, no such thing – in terms of anyone having been harmed, their property violated, etc. They are offenses against statutes, things that are “illegal” but not wrong in any moral sense.

Like not wearing a seat belt, for instance. Or doing business without a “license” – i.e., the government’s permission to do business, which it charges for. There are countless such examples and they have become the primary justification for hiring and having police looking for “violations.”

I’m in favor of a Harm Caused standard.

I favor it because it’s objective, inarguable and so, just. A person either did – or did not – cause harm. There’s no gray area, no subjectivity. If he did cause harm, hold him accountable for it. It is very hard to argue that it’s unjust to hold him accountable for it. Only a sociopath would object. A normal person would feel ashamed – or at least, sorry – for having caused harm and want to make it right.

But if he did not cause harm, then leave him be.

This is the core doctrine of libertarian thought, usually styled the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP). I like Harm Caused because it seems to me more of a self-evident proposition that almost anyone can immediately understand. It also very hard to object to it.

He hasn’t harmed you – so you have no right to harm him.

It’s a very strange thing to “hold accountable”a person who has done nothing to be held accountable for – in terms of his having caused any harm. All he has done is violate a statute – which is a way of saying he has affronted the authority of the government. Why should anyone be punished for that? It is the same as saying it’s ok to harm someone else, not because they caused you or anyone else any harm but because they didn’t listen to you.

Is there any better way to describe a bully?

Certainly, there would be instances of a few people acting in ways that could be characterized as very likely to cause harm. Some say that is enough to intervene, to prevent the harm from being caused. The usual example given in reply to a suggestion that perhaps there shouldn’t be (as an example) any enforceable speed limits, as these are regularly used to cause harm to people who’ve caused none and who mostly drive at reasonable speeds, is that absent speed limits (and enforcement) a reckless person might drive 100 MPH through an active school zone.

I understand the sentiment but still maintain that it is preferable to accept the risk – even the certainty – that a few reckless/criminal people will cause harm if not prevented than to accept the certainty of punishing everyone for ever-diminishing (to the point of absurdity) ) “might cause harms.”

Which point we arrived at a long time ago.

The speed limit issue makes the point. Very few people are punished for driving 100 MPH through an active school zone because very few people do that – because very few people are sociopaths, unconcerned about running over kids who might be walking across the road. On the other hand, lots of people are punished for driving 35 MPH in an inactive school zone – because the sign reads “25 MPH.”

And the sociopath who would drive 100 MPH through an active school zone is not deterred by the sign – or the fear of being punished. He’s a sociopath, remember. The same principle applies just as soundly to statutes that make it an “offense” for people who’ve never shot anyone to carry a gun for self-protection – or who have never gypped or poisoned anyone to open and operate a restaurant without the government’s permission. In both of these and myriad other cases, a person can be placed in manacles, prosecuted and jailed for such “offenses,” and his innocence of having harmed anyone or anything is no defense.

How can this be considered “just” by any moral standard?

And there’s the deeper rub.

Law is based largely on legalisms. Has the “defendant” committed a violation of law? If the answer is yes, he is – then he is regarded as “guilty,” even though he may be (and often is) innocent of being the cause of any harm and so not guilty – of anything – in a moral sense.

If we can recover that sense, we might just find our way back to a just society, that being defined as one in which people who have not caused any harm are not themselves harmed. In which only those who have caused harm are held responsible (and accountable) for the harms they’ve caused.

Nothing less – and nothing more.

. . .

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  1. Most people forget there used to not be so many cops in small rural towns and suburbs. My community that was once 25,000 people managed until the 1960’s with a police force of four (and a handful of unpaid reserves). Yes, four, really! Today we have 22,000 residents and 40 cops. They recently celebrated that the crime rate had finally been lowered to the levels of the 1960’s, not noted of course that there were only 4 cops then vs 40 today. On social media, some of the older folks were noting that traffic tickets were rarely issued in those days, that you really had to be doing something really stupid to get one. But those comments vanished pretty quickly…… hmmmm….

    In the 1960’s the police station was a room at town hall, which itself was a former school. Today the police station is a recently built 12 million dollar building with the town’s only underground parking garage.

    A town more rural than mine, south of me managed to keep theirs at four into the 1980’s. That was ruined by a “mass” shooter that killed 3 at a Kmart. Among the injured was one of the four cops, who then killed the gunman by returning fire. So the fact that a quarter of the force was injured by a shooter (that by the way, hasn’t happened there again) that the town needed more officers. Now the town is known as a huge speed trap, as the cops have little to do in a town with a very low crime rate. Even though that town is quite a bit bigger than it was in the 1980’s, it’s a place where they could go with a very tiny police force. But yeah, never gonna happen.

  2. When a policeman gives you an order, do you have to obey? Are you his slave? The myth that slavery is gone for good is not true.

    The BIGGEST Lie Most People Still Believe
    by Mac Slavo | Jan 24, 2023

    “Government is slavery. It can be nothing else.”

    Link to audio book:
    Slavery Gone For Good: Modern Abolitionism by Cory Edmund Endrulat – Full Audiobook

  3. I tend to agree with you, Eric.

    No victim, No crime.

    Unfortunately, for those of us hopeful that any progress was going to be made in realms of liberty, the GOP is trending, along with frontrunner “leaders” such as Orange Man and DeSantis, towards “Law and Order!” policies. This will ultimately translate into police-state expansion, of course.

    Crackdown! Background Check!

    No one seems to understand that the fentanyl “crisis” is the direct result of the “War on Drugs”, and if people could buy their Percocets and hydrocodones from behind the counter at Walgreens, there would be no “crisis”.

    And no, you don’t have to let people shit on the sidewalk.

  4. I’m glad you made the distinction there EP, punishment culture is super disturbing.. boo’s sheepish slow-driving parents like to cheer like hyenas whenever someone on the TV is reportedly caged for their non-compliance or disobedience (would also say “here’s your anti-law enforcement magazine” whenever the latest NMA member mag arrived in the mail 😂)

    It’s remarkable we managed to shake the indoctrination and snap out of it young, but they sadly never will. I’d say I don’t know how they reconcile it with reality, but they don’t even try to do that lol. It’s insane.

  5. All sin is sin, and often that same standard is applied to illegal activity. So you driving 40 in a 30 zone is just as illegal as shooting a man in cold blood. Difference between sin and breaking the law is that justice will be served by a perfect God, and because of the binary nature of sin you are easily forgiven. When flawed men are the judicators there’s the chance that they might be mistaken, so for minor illegal activity the punishment for guilt isn’t death, just annoyance.

    The other problem with comparing breaking the law with sin is intent. That speed trap where the PSL dropps to 25 at the bottom of the hill vs swerving through rush hour traffic, or performing an Italian tuneup on Sunday Morning. God knows your heart, the beat cop has to speculate.

    But speculation leads to guilty men walking free, and DAs don’t like that. So they force cops to follow the book, with the effect of dragnetting the population. But they can’t pull over everyone, so if the highway is moving along at 80 in a 75 zone they’re not going to do anything, who’s got time for all that paperwork. Now with network cameras and AI we have a new jurist-god, one with an unblinking eye and encyclopedic knowlege of the law (ChatGPT just earned a C+ on a law school test). Will we permit the government to use these tools? They’ll be sold to the voting public as an efficient and fair way to dispense justice, but is that what society wants (or needs)? Will you be able to apeal the ruling, even if the camera evidence is sound?

  6. Speaking of policing, a bodycam video of San Francisco police showing up at the Pelosi residence confirms what the SF cops said. DePape and Paul Pelosi, standing together, open the front door and greet the cops: “Guys.” Bare-legged Pelosi is wearing boxer shorts and a long-sleeved shirt.

    Asked what is going on, DePape says “Everything’s good.” Pelosi says “Hi.” Then cops order DePape to drop the hammer. “Nope,” says DePape, then attacks Pelosi, who is saying “Hey, hey, hey, hey” before getting hit.

    Bottom line: the original statements from SF cops, recounted by a local reporter who was then suspended, were accurate. The Pelosi family and the FBI confabulated to deflect attention from what appeared to be a consensual encounter until DePape went a little nuts.

    But the Lügenpresse focused on an FBI agent’s distorted affidavit as received truth, using it as a cudgel to beat down ‘right-wing conspiracy theorists’ … who we now know were onto something.

    A lot of fedgov apparatchiks, starting with Nancy Pelosi, should resign right now.

    • Jim,
      To my knowledge, the FBI will not video tape any interview. All they do is take notes, which of course can be “modified” to produce the desired result.

      • John,

        That’s correct — Form FD-302. What’s so outrageous in the ‘Pelosi matter’ is that the FBI wasn’t present in the initial encounter at the front door.

        But the FBI seized control of the investigation and filed an affidavit in support of DePape’s federal indictment which meaningfully twisted the facts.

  7. Hi Eric

    As I’ve stated countless times, government is simply a gang of thieves and murderers writ large. Look at the origins of government, Then follow it up to the current day. It went from brute force to the Divine Right of Kings. After that it became the Will Of The People (they just don’t tell you which people…). Through it all those wearing the Funny Hat™ backed up their dictates by the clubs/spears/swords/guns of the enforcer class. The enforcer class is the foundation of the State at all levels. But they are also considered expendable by those wearing the Funny Hats™. Add in the public “education” systems, and the Ministry of Truth (mass/social media) and you have the control system that allows them to rob so much from the current and future populations.

  8. “Harm” needs to be better spelled out.

    If I build a house that blocks my neighbor’s spectacular view, it may well harm him to the tune of tens or hundreds of thousands of loss in property value, though I don’t believe I would have committed a crime.

    Maybe something more like “violate his natural rights”?

    • Hi Steve,

      Maybe. But – in the case you state – your neighbor doesn’t own the view. He owns his land. His ownership ends at the end of his property line. Certainly, it isn’t a happy thing for him to lose the view he had – but have you violated his rights? I don’t see how.

      My case is similar. When I moved here 20 years ago, the area was more rural and there was less traffic. Now there are more houses, fewer farms and more traffic. It is an unhappy thing for me, of course. But these other people own their land and I haven’t got any right to tell them not to build on it, etc.

    • Steve,
      I would assume that the property you might build on was recently for sale. If that neighbor was so concerned about their view, nothing stopped them from buying it instead of you. Decades ago, I was working on a new home, and a neighbor gal was literally in tears over all the trees being pushed over to build it. She accosted me. A grave mistake. I informed her that the lot was only recently sold, and if she valued those trees so highly, she should have bought them some time ago.

      • Agreed. I’m just saying that setting the bar at “harm”, as in eric’s second to last sentence, “In which only those who have caused harm are held responsible (and accountable) for the harms they’ve caused” is setting yourself up for people claiming a “harm” in the fact you hurt “rix” feelings by not using the “proper” pronouns. Which is where we are today.

        “Harm” alone is not sufficient. Maybe Jefferson’s “picks my pocket or breaks my leg” standard?

  9. ‘Law is based largely on legalisms.’ — eric

    A close relative ended up going to law school, then serving on the council of a town the same size as my own unincorporated town (governed solely by the county).

    Regularly I hear about the new statutes, permits, zoning decisions, paperwork, nuisance taxes (e.g., $2 a day for a campsite), and revenue collection campaigns they initiate.

    Yet no evidence shows that the quality of life in their comprehensively micromanaged town is any better than my hands-off, laissez-faire ‘census-designated place’ where volunteers step up to take care of tasks that otherwise would be executed and regimented by local government, at enormous cost.

    Government is a self-licking ice cream cone. At the federal level, the result after 234 years is horrific and unfixable.

    One Republican is trying to nullify the income tax and substitute a national sales tax. But so metastasized is the US welfare-warfare state, that it would take a 30% consumption tax to fund it.

    We must burn it to the ground and start from scratch.

    • Jim,
      A few decades ago, I was working on my tractor and a politician showed up, with all the grand policies he would implement if elected to the county commission. One of which was building codes and zoning. I informed him that the lack of those was why I moved here, and if they showed up I would move again.
      “We must burn it to the ground and start from scratch.” Which is exactly what Thomas Jefferson recommended, every 200 years, or less.

      • Ahh building codes and zoning, shameless revenue collection in the name of safety.

        That reminds me of when my old man and his friends were building his several hundred sqft, two-story garage in the backyard. I imagine he figured he was only doing his due diligence to stay outta trouble with the township when he applied for the building permit. But then they wanted to know how many electrical outlets would be wired..cuz they charge a fee per outlet.. you know, for safety. So he told them, “2” 🙂

  10. “Policing” these days mostly consists of revenue whores who go after the easy targets and have no problem letting property crimes and assaults go to the back burner.

    Example: We had a project in a bad neighborhood in the jobsite had been broken into, and vandalized multiple times, the builder had tried getting metro police to patrol the area and at least show a presence. He was told they didn’t have the resources for that but he could pay $30.00 an hour to pay for officers overtime to park an officer in a cruiser as security. (Not joking).

    The jobsite ended up burglarized my company lost about $12,000.00 worh of tools and equipment. Thankfully I had god insurance. LMPD shows up to scribble on paper and explain to me “If I want to visit some local pawn shops to try and locate some of my items the may be able to help recover them if I can provide serial numbers.” Yes you read that right, I, as in ME can do their job for them and they (may be able to help.)
    Police are worse than usless in most any case I can imagine.

    • I had a similar experience Sicilianswitchblade. Seems some people were making the rounds through the neighborhood and discovered my unlocked window (my fault, apparently). I live near several sheriff deputies, EMTs and a state trooper, so when I called in the crime (at 4:00pm) about 5 deputies and a detective showed up. The detective was really excited because they found a shoeprint on my floor and broke out the new gadget that could vacuum up the print into a mylar foil plate. It took three people to figure out how to get the thing to work properly while two others started looking around for the suspect(s), just in case they were still nearby after seeing all the squad cars show up. They handed me an official form to list all the loot and lifted a few finger prints, then left. Later they asked me for my fingerprints so that they could make sure the ones collected weren’t mine. All that went into a filing cabinet and was promptly forgotten. The stuff stolen wasn’t worth filing an insurance claim on, and so life went on. I did install a security system, and I think the most useful part of it is the sticker telling the world that I have a security system.

  11. This goes to the fundamental question: why do we have governments?

    Pan to the declaration of independence – to protect life, liberty & pursuit of happiness [read: property].

    In short, to provide a framework to protect our rights. There is no other valid function that was ever agreed to. Any time government steps outside this boundary, it is usurping authority not granted, and has no effect.

    Whose rights are violated by traffic “crimes”? No one’s.
    The government is there to provide a vehicle to seek recompense for damage caused by accident or injury. It may also punish egregious violations of rights with criminal penalties.

    Nothing further is valid

  12. In Oregon, California, Canada, and other states and countries around the world, “law enforcement” or health bureaucracies were sicced on people and businesses who didn’t comply with draconian COVID measures such as mask mandates, “social distancing”, mandatory closing of businesses and churches, and fined them accordingly for it despite these decrees being arbitrary and not even being LAW. Canada’s petty tyrant, Justin Trudeau, even sicced the police on truckers and ordinary citizens who peacefully protested his vaxx mandates, and froze their bank accounts without any legal basis for that either. And now, the Biden Thing has dreams of rolling out CBDCs, which would give the federal government total control of our money. Didn’t get the latest mRNA vaccine or buy an EV, or did you say something critical of Joe Biden or the WEF? The Biden Thing could shut your digital money OFF.

  13. Mala en se: Bad in and of itself. Morally Wrong
    Mala Prohibita: bad because it is forbidden. Due to Government decree.

    “We had grasped the great truth that it was not rifles, not tanks, and not atom
    bombs that created power, nor upon them that power rested. Power depended
    upon public obedience, upon a willingness to submit. Therefore each individual
    who refused to submit to force reduced that force by one 250-millionth of its
    sum. We had been schooled by our participation in the civil-rights movement,
    we had received an excellent education in the camps, and we knew of the
    implacable force of one man’s refusal to submit. The authorities knew it too.
    They had long since abandoned any idea of basing their calculations on
    Communist dogma. They no longer demanded of people a belief in the radiant
    future—all they needed was submission. And when they tried to starve us into it
    in the camps, or threw us into the punishment cells to rot, they were demanding
    not a belief in communism but simply submission, or at least a willingness to
    ~ Vladimir Bukovsky, To Build a Castle: My Life as a Dissenter

  14. But Eric, where would the Psychopaths In Charge get their graft and bribery payoff? How could they collect on the avalanche of “fees” and “permits”? What do you expect them to do, inflate our “money” to finance killing people around the world? There is no such thing as “good” government, never has been, never will be. Holding a gun to people’s heads and threatening to use it if they disobey has no relationship with “good”. The only time government has even approached good has been a benevolent monarch, which will only last until that monarch’s demise. If you accept any government, what we have will be the result. Power grows until it’s stopped. Hence Jefferson’s warning that any government must be destroyed at most every 200 years, and replaced by a new one. If we insist on having such an immoral organization, with no ethical standards.


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