All creatures take the world pretty much as they find it, except man. Man alone has the gifts which enable him to entertain an idea and then transform his environment in accordance with it. He is equipped with needs which the world as it is cannot satisfy. Thus he is compelled to alter and rearrange the natural order by employing his energy on raw materials so as to put them into consumable form. Before he can do much of anything else, man must manufacture, grow, and transport. His creaturely needs man shares with the animals, but he alone employs economic means—tools and capital—to satisfy them. This is an enormous leap upward, for by relying on the economic means man becomes so efficient at satisfying his bodily hungers that he gains a measure of independence from them. When they are assuaged, he feels the tug of hungers no animal ever feels: for truth, for beauty, for meaning, for God.
It conveys something like a half truth and a whole error to label man a spiritual being. He is, in fact, a spiritual being who eats, feels the cold, and needs shelter. Whatever may be man’s capacities in the upper reaches of his nature—to think, dream, pray, create—it is certain that he will attain to none of these unless he survives. And he cannot survive for long unless he engages in economic activity. At the lowest level economic action achieves merely economic ends: food, clothing, and shelter. But when these matters are efficiently in hand, economic action is a means to all our ends, not only to more refined economic goods but to the highest goods of the mind and spirit. Add flying buttresses and spires to four walls and a roof, and a mere shelter for the body develops into a cathedral to house the spirit of man.
Why do blacks vent when a white cop shoots a kid but say little about daily black-on-black murder? Black outrage is selective—but rational.
John McWhorter explains:
On Ferguson, the respectable person isn’t supposed to say it, or even think it: that there’s something wrong with the fact that black people start burning things down when one white cop kills one black guy, but seem to think of it as business as usual that black boys and men regularly kill each other.
Michael Brown was, statistically, vastly more likely to be killed by a fellow black man than a single white one. Yet the black-on-black murder rate in Chicago this summer, to the people comparing Ferguson to Gaza, etc., is perhaps “regrettable,” but hardly cause for taking it to the streets.
That observation, typically dismissed as hostile right-wing boilerplate, is actually worthy of an answer, and not the one typically given—including by me.
I have written that actually black communities are quite aggrieved about black-on-black violence. “Stop The Violence” events are routine. Ta-Nehisi Coates did ablog post making the point neatly. There is barely a black community without concerned black ministers and elders trying their best to counter the tide of gun murders.
Yet deep down I cannot genuinely see that answer as enough. Clearly, black communities are much more upset over a Darren Wilson than over a black guy down the street killing one a few blocks over. After a summer during which dozens of black men, and sometimes bystanders including children, are killed by other black men, no one starts looting stores. Black thinkers do not make bone-deep, censoriously indignant statements on CNN.
But is it really that hard to understand why? Take Judson Phillips at Tea Party Nation for a representative statement, calling black people racist for hating on a Darren Wilson rather than the local thugs. Look at the comment section too—this is no lone wolf sentiment. But anyone who really sees “racism” in the matter is being almost willfully blind to perfectly rational human nature.
Namely: In black communities, the thug is not the occasional skulking sociopath, the oddball down the block who always seemed to “have the devil in him” and “went wrong.” The thugs, remember, are numerous; they are one of the local norms, sad to say. Nothing like every guy is a thug, of course. But the thugs are numerous enough to be part of the warp and woof of the community. That, a situation dating only to the ’80s, is why the issue is considered so pressing today.
So, the thugs are your son, your brother, your uncle, your cousin, the boy who grew up next door, your boyfriend, one of your best friends. Maybe the thug even used to be you, until you went straight.
In that light, let’s imagine what it would entail for black communities to truly condemn black thugs, beyond just having marches and using words like “troubling.” Mothers would have to forsake their own boys, for real. Women would refuse to go near any man with thuggish associations, for real—barely a thug could expect to get any action. In communities that already feel as if the mainstream world is an alien realm, ordinary people would have to sneeringly dismiss, for real and for good, every third one of their own male teens and twenty-somethings in the neighborhood, and get out in front of cameras and start howling against them. Thugs, to feel remotely at home, would have to move to different cities and start over—leaving their families (including kids) behind.
OK, right-wingers—is this a scenario any of you can seriously entertain? This would require a contravention of fundamental human bonds of affection and group membership that no human group in the history of humanity has ever been required, or even asked, to pull off. For a black community to seriously hate on black thugs would be to hate on part of itself.
Sad, yes. But the right is perhaps more comfortable than the left with the simple fact that what’s sad is often true. And right or left, anyone who has ever been a parent—or even been a child, which I presume we all have—knows that the solution to the problem is not simply that black mothers need to tell their boys not to be thugs. Who thinks they don’t do that already?
Then let’s pull the camera back. A general sentiment in such communities is that the reason black men kill each other so much is, ultimately, the same societal racism that makes a scared white cop shoot down a black man. Now, to be sure, that argument is weak. Not valueless, but so abstract and so indirect that there is no hope that America will ever internalize it the way writerly types hope. Black boys are shooting each other over sneakers nationwide and we’re supposed to think the reasons for it are Plessy v. Ferguson, old-time housing covenants, and bad schools? Come on; there comes a point when the definition of “reason” is stretched beyond what most will consider useful.
But: Society is indeed responsible for black men killing other black men in a way that should make sense to all. They are killing each other with guns. They don’t have them for sport, but because of turf wars conducted largely by gangs. The gangs’ main activity is selling drugs, which can be sold at a markup because they are illegal. If the drugs were not illegal and available in clinics in moderate doses while rehabilitation was widely available, these men couldn’t sell the drugs on the street. As such, they would have no reason to fight over turf with guns, and therefore would neither be killing each other nor poised to be killed by white cops.
As such, protests like the one in Ferguson, aimed outward instead of inward, can serve a purpose if they heighten awareness of what brings cops into towns like Ferguson so much in the first place. Note that tension between black men and cops over (of course) drugs is a longtime problem there. The war on drugs doesn’t seem much on the minds of the protesters, to be sure—people protest against the immediate more readily than the abstract.
But if anything is to come of Ferguson other than a film-ization in a few years à la “Fruitvale Station” about Oscar Grant, then it is the responsibility of all of us on the sidelines to think more about the drug war. Kate Harding’s piece of counselhas gone viral as to what “concerned” whites should do to indicate serious concern about Ferguson. The upshot is to immerse oneself in a crash course on institutional racism and police brutality.
Yeah, but I suggest a supplement. Memorize and spread this mantra: The War on Drugs Is What Makes Thugs.
When the attorney general had the chance to be tough on police shootings, he did next to nothing.
Think Obama, Holder, and the Feds will bring justice for the people of Ferguson? Don’t make Jim Bovard laugh.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder arrived Wednesday in Ferguson, Mo., in response to the unrest after a local policeman shot 18-year-old Mike Brown. Holder assured the people of Missouri: “Our investigation into this matter will be full, it will be fair, and it will be independent.”
But Holder’s own record belies his lofty promise. As the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia from 1993 to 1997, Holder was in charge of policing the local police. When police violence spiraled out of control, he did little to protect Washington residents from rampaging lawmen.
The number of killings by Washington police doubled between 1988 and 1995, the year 16 civilians died due to police gunfire. Washington police shot and killed people at a higher rate than any other major city police department, as a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post investigation revealed in late 1998. The Post reported that “Holder said he did not detect a pattern of problematic police shootings and could not recall the specifics of cases he personally reviewed.” Holder declared: “I can’t honestly say I saw anything that was excessive.”
There was such a dearth of oversight from Holder’s office that Washington police failed to count almost a third of the people killed by their officers between 1994 and 1997. Even when police review boards ruled that shootings were unjustified or found contradictions in officers’ testimony, police were not prosecuted. In one case, a police officer shot a suspect four times in the back when he was unarmed and lying on the ground. But Holder’s office never bothered interviewing the shooter.
Some of the most abusive cases involved police shooting into cars — a practice that is severely discouraged because of the high risk of collateral damage. Holder told the Post: “I do kind of remember more than a few in cars. I don’t know if that’s typical of what you find in police shootings outside Washington” Actually, “more than 50 officers over five years had shot at unarmed drivers in cars,” the Post noted, and Washington police were more than 20 times as likely to shoot at cars than were New York City police. Reports about some of the shootings were tainted by police perjury.
Shortly after Holder became U.S. attorney, a local judge slammed the Washington government for its “deliberate indifference” to police brutality complaints. In 1995, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which purportedly investigated alleged police abuses, was shut down because it was overwhelmed by a backlog of accusations from aggrieved citizens. Despite the collapse of the system’s safeguards, Holder’s office remained asleep at the switch. Even assistant Washington police chief Terrance Gainer admitted: “We shoot too often, and we shoot too much when we do shoot.”
Holder is now trumpeting the need for openness, but in the 1990s he acceded to pervasive secrecy on lawmen’s killings. The Post noted: “The extent and pattern of police shootings have been obscured from public view. Police officials investigate incidents in secret, producing reports that become public only when a judge intercedes.”
While Holder largely ignored killings by police, Holder lobbied the Washington City Council for mandatory prison sentences for anyone convicted of possessing a gun. He also lobbied the Washington City Council to impose mandatory minimum prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, including a prison sentence of up to five years for anyone possessing more than 1.5 ounces of marijuana. The PR bonanza from those initiatives helped Holder snare a promotion to deputy attorney general in 1997.
The Post series sparked an uproar that resulted in the Justice Department Civil Rights Division investigating Washington police shootings from the prior five years. And who did Attorney General Janet Reno put in charge of that effort? Eric Holder. His office denied that any conflict of interest existed, instead insisting that Holder’s “oversight of the review signifies the importance of this endeavor to the Department of Justice.” Local lawyer Michael Morgenstern, who had sued DC police in such cases, scoffed that Holder “had the opportunity to do this when he was there, and now all of a sudden, they’re sending him back to do the same job he didn’t do while he was there.”
As the smoke clears in Ferguson, Americans have no reason to presume that either the local police or the feds have the market cornered on truth or justice. But Eric Holder’s record should raze any presumption that our attorney general deserves the benefit of the doubt on passing judgment on police shootings.
As incredible as it seems, the bourgeoisie seem to be turning against the police. In the wake of Ferguson, polls say that about half of us don’t trust them. Obviously, blacks remain way ahead of the curve on this, having been maltreated by the cops for many decades. But with whites catching up, we are starting to see a consensus developing.
I never thought I would see the day.
Why is this significant? It’s not just about police budgets or the call to reform on the margin. It’s not even about who is going to pay the political price. The status of the police is bound up with the perception of the value of the entire public sector. The police are the “thin blue line,” long perceived as the most essential and irreplaceable function of the state. This perception is now under pressure from public opinion, and this joins a shift in intellectual opinion that has been developing for decades.
What’s at stake is the very foundation of public order as we know it. If government can’t do this right, if the police are accomplishing the very opposite of their claims, if they are undermining our security rather than providing for it, and this is widely understood, we have the making of not only an ideological revolution but an authentic turning point in the history of politics.
The police power has pushed and pushed for decades: more power, more personnel, more weapons. Even as public opinion has turned against many other “services” offered by government, there has been no push back regarding police. Politicians don’t win public office by promising to curb police power; the demand to escalate has traditionally led to cheers. Where’s the limit? No one has yet discovered.
If that changes, the results could be epic.
Step back and ask the fundamental question: why is the state necessary? Why do we have to pay all these taxes? Why must we constantly defer to its power? Why must we adore its leaders and pay homage to those who die for it and raise our children to adore its history and works? What is the point of this gigantic contraption that lives in our midst and at our expense?
These questions are at the heart of the philosophy of politics, economics, and the social order. How they are answered determines what kind of world we live in.
Many people have ideas for what they want the state to do. It should protect the environment, provide for income in old age, go to war against bad guys, stop discrimination, help the consumer, regulate financial markets, improve the moral environment. The state does all these things and there is a constituency for all of them.
But you know what? We must distinguish between essential and luxury functions of the state. All of the above are luxuries, not essentials. The roots of the modern state dating to the era of the Enlightenment — the 18th century — postulate that the whole function of the state is to provide security for person and property. This is the basis of its legitimacy. The most famous summary of this view comes from Thomas Jefferson via Thomas Hobbes and John Locke: “To secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
That’s it. That’s the foundation. It’s supposed to be a “night watchman.” Once it does that, it can and will do other things but this is the reason for its existence.
If you look at politics carefully, you can see political leaders drawing on this “minarchist” sensibility whenever they want to enhance their own power. They can always count on the fact that people believe that protecting us from harm is the reason why we put up with these people running our lives in the first place. The belief has been so entrenched in the Western mind that questions about the limits of such a security power are rarely asked.
This is why 9/11 was such a boon for the federal government. It seemed to demonstrate that we have a serious problem with being secure and that therefore the government is necessary and essential to our lives.
Floods of commentary after that event, in fact, directly attacked libertarianism for being so tough on government. The crimes of 9/11 were used to draw on the widespread belief that the police power of the state cannot be performed by any other means but via the coercive apparatus of the public sector.
It’s a serious issue. Why can’t security be provided in the same way as society provides shoes, software, and sodas? Why can’t the market be the best and most efficient provider of even our security?
There are lots of fancy rationales but they all come down to the idea that we need public sector security provision because the state can do things that the private sector cannot do. This is the reason we must sacrifice our liberty and property. It’s a philosophical and technological necessity.
If you look back over the last 300 years before the middle of the 20th century, you can find only a handful of thinkers who believed that security services could be outsourced from public authority to market entrepreneurs. One of them was Gustave de Molinari, the 19th century French radical who made the core point: we trust the market for most all essential things in life, so why not trust it for the most essential thing of all? If the market has mechanisms that make it superior to the state in nearly every area, what is the mystical feature of security that makes it the great exception?
But even among the French laissez faire school he was alone. The rest of the classical liberal school was united: the state ought to be strictly limited but it absolutely must provide security services. Because the old liberals conceded this one exception, and despite their genuine conviction that society could work on its own without top-down impositions, they inadvertently gave the thugs and despots precisely what they were looking for, a wedge issue that separated the longing for freedom from the administration of public affairs.
Think about politics in your local community over the last twenty years. Anytime the local government needs to raise funds, what is the sure-fire excuse? To add to policing to stop crime. Education is a close second but only the subject of policing can consistently count on majority support. The average person may not believe that he or she is a prisoner of Locke and Jefferson, the great prophets of minarchism, but we are. People have been willing to pay insofar as security is the great excuse.
But something has changed. The federal government has shoveled billions in funding and weaponry to the local police. They have become completely militarized. Instead of helping us and securing our rights, they are threatening us and taking away our rights. Absolutely no one is happy about seeing the blue lights in the rear view mirror. The age of the civilian cop, an extension of who we are and what we desire of public service, is over.
Now we have smartphones and youtube. Anyone can spy on the cops and hold them accountable. We are gradually discovering the great truth. Whether the police abuse on this scale is new or whether we are only now discovering what has always been true is immaterial for discerning the turning point. Once the fog dissipates and we see reality for what it is, there is no going back.
Security is not the most essential function of the state; it is the most dangerous one, the very one that we should never concede lest we lose all our freedom. The night watchman is the biggest threat we face because it is he who holds the gun and he who pulls the trigger should we ever decide to escape.
Allowing the police force as the essential exception to a voluntary social order is like allowing a cancer cell as the single invader in a body. Once it invades, It cannot be contained. It has to be killed for the rest to survive.
This is why skepticism of the police, even fundamental opposition, is so important. If doubt spreads, the ground shifts beneath our feet. If the conviction that the state cannot even perform its most “essential” functions at net benefit to us evaporates, the rest of the great services that the state provides comes into question too.
We live in times of radical disenchantment with the state. Its welfare state, its drug war, its educational institutions, its energy and transportation infrastructure, its monetary policy, its wars and regulations, its courts and jails — none of it lives up to its promise. The costs exceed the benefits for all of us. And now the police too are a net drain, even a threat? True enough.
If anyone thinks this is not a paradigm shifting moment, he or she is not paying attention. Once people realize that those who we trusted to protect us are actually the biggest threat we face, the theory and the age of minarchism comes to an end.
“If Messrs. Obama and Cuomo want to be high-technology investors, there are plenty of well-paid opportunities awaiting them in the private sector following their stints in public service. Right now, they are investing while in office, using money that we taxpayers could be investing better on our own. If I want to invest in GE or Cree or IBM or John Deere, I’d rather do it through a stockbroker than through President Obama or Governor Cuomo. America and New York have enough problems to solve without the president and the governor taking on side jobs as high-tech speculators.”—Ira Stoll
“How did a country pushed into a revolution by protest and political speech become one where protests are met with flash grenades, pepper spray, and platoons of riot teams dressed like Robocops? How did we go from a system in which laws were enforced by the citizens, often with non-coercive methods, to one in which order is preserved by armed government agents too often conditioned to see streets and neighborhoods as battlefields and the citizens they serve as the enemy?”—Rise of the Warrior Cop ; Radley Balko
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.
“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.
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.
Hot off of the heels of Eric Holder telling people it’d basically be better for the Federal Government to have more control over state and local police departments to “prevent another Ferguson”- Adam Winkler, a reporter at the Huffington post, who’s also a UCLA law professor, wrote a piece for Huffpo blaming police militarization and brutality on the fact that there are too many gun owners in the US.
"The problems of racial harassment and police militarization are exacerbated by the fact that America has a heavily-armed civilian population."
If you were wondering how Ferguson could possibly be used by the American left as a soapbox for gun control and further support of the police state, here it is.
"Well if we just give up our guns, the police won’t feel the need to drive APC down your street, throw flash bangs at infants, and react so harshly to protestors."
I cannot even begin to discuss the detachment from reality and shameless boot licking Huffpo is supporting by publishing this washed-up fascist-apologist fuck’s writing.
On top of the fact that the majority of police officers favor civilian gun ownership by a wide margin, the American left’s constant erasing of the identities of minority gun owners and painting gun ownership as some sort of white blight on the nation is fucking disgusting.
With U.S. crime at record lows how is this argument justifiable? For some people no matter what the state does it can always be blamed on civilians having too much freedom, these people have contorted their thought process to the only good weapon is one wielded by a state sanctioned authority.
The only defensible gun control is anything that takes firearms away from the state, and I’m not talking about the fast and furious either.
“Rand Paul is a bad politician. He stakes out good positions, such as on restoring the right to bear arms for felons, that are not just sound but somewhat courageous, and I don’t see the political benefit it gets him—and so I conclude it must be from some kind of fundamental principle. But then he stakes out truly egregious positions on deporting kids or on keeping pot illegal—the latter issue on which nearly 6/10 Americans now take the libertarian view—that seem to also yield no benefit, and seem to point to a principle not of freedom but of crappy outdated conservatism.
He of course has no chance of the presidency or even the nomination. He is too good for the Republican Party and not good enough for anywhere else. Sure, many Democrats are worse on many issues, but those issues resonate with some people somewhere. If I’m wrong and the GOP gives him the nod, it will be a placeholder candidacy, a concession as in 1964.
It’s kind of a shame. As a libertarian, I am a lot harder on him than if I were a moderate, who might find his idiosyncrasies refreshing and interesting. But the way he combines the good and the bad ruins it for me. Like a Star Wars prequel.”—Anthony Gregory