The Larger the Citizen, the Smaller the State
I was looking for some good news after statist politicians won the recent east coast elections. The good news was right in front of me. For years the crazy libertarians have been telling us to get rid of the government. Ordinary people like you and me are doing that every day. Our churches and private charities take care of the needy every day. My community has a vibrant home school movement. Like many people across the United States, we are learning to defend ourselves until help arrives. That sounds like privatizing welfare, privatizing schools and privatizing the police to me. We make government smaller when we take care of our selves and our community, and we don’t need permission to do it.
Why would we want to defend ourselves rather than rely on the police? There are several reasons to augment, limit or replace traditional police departments. Thankfully, a huge majority of police officers are honorable men who support self-defense by armed civilians. That is the good news. The bad news is police misconduct is on the rise. Privately contracted security firms are actually replacing many police services. Finally, citizen self-defense provides benefits the police can not provide.
What do law enforcement officers think of armed civilians? Some law enforcement officers made prominent public statements encouraging citizens to arm themselves until help arrives. (See Sheriffs Clarke, Arpaio, Mims, Conway, Deeds, and Wright.) At first I thought these were political statements designed to promote the particular officer or get more money for their department. A retired peace officer set me straight. He said it was torture to be called to the scene of a violent crime.. and arrive too late. The street officer sees the price paid by disarmed victims, and it is hard to watch. A survey of street officers shows a huge majority support armed citizens. I wish all police officers did. Some law enforcement officers see the armed citizen as a threat.
Are there really more corrupt police officers these days? There are more examples of police abuse in the news. Perhaps this abuse is not new after all. Thinking back on it, the icon of the corrupt southern sheriff is legendary. What has changed is that police abuse is now widely recorded, reported and cataloged for public review. Today it is harder to sweep police misconduct under the rug. Unfortunately there is a great deal of misconduct to report. An average of 18 officers a day were charged in 2010. They cost their law enforcement agencies and taxpayers about a million dollars a day. Police misconduct is one reason we might hire our own police.
Are there really private police patrolling the streets? Libertarians talked about private police as a theoretical possibility. Now we see private security both out of necessity and by choice. We see it in failed cities like Detroit and Oakland. We see it by choice in some areas of Texas and Georgia. One obvious advantage is you don’t have to pay the huge overhead costs for public security when you contract with private firms. Citizens can also dismiss private police forces if they are corrupt or fail to provide the desired level of service.
Rich individuals and affluent communities could always buy the level of security they want. The residents of failing cities like Oakland, Detroit and New Orleans are buying the security they need. In Oakland and San Francisco, TV news crews now bring cameras AND armed private security guards when they go report on a story. Some Detroit business rent off-duty police, and entire Detroit neighborhoods buy private policing. Sharpstown, a Houston neighborhood, buys private security for economic reasons. They buy their security by the hour and avoid the extraordinary costs of police pensions. A second benefit is that private security concentrates on crime prevention rather than on issuing citations to raise revenue for city hall.
Is self-defense effective? Most of us are not rich enough to afford a private security detail and few of us are retired public officials being perpetually protected at taxpayer expense. Most of us can only afford a basic level of protection for our family by locking our doors, installing alarms and learning to protect ourselves. Fortunately, it works. For example, a report sponsored by the US Department of Justice found that sexual assault victims are 10 times less likely to be raped if they are armed and fight back than if they are unarmed and passive. What we do makes a difference, and we bought about 16 million new guns last year.
We’ve heard the saying “the larger the state, the smaller the citizen.” We are standing that phrase on its head: “the larger the citizen, the smaller the state.” Now that sounds more like a plan than a dire warning. I’ll add this, “the larger the citizen, smaller the state the safer the citizen.”
Those crazy libertarians don’t sound so crazy any more. We are making the state smaller simply by taking care of our children’s education, helping the needy people in our communities, and providing a basic level of security for our families. We also achieve greater self-reliance and disaster preparedness by managing our problems privately and locally rather than through a distant government.
The smaller state begins right at home.
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