Crime

Now that we have made the police redundant, how will we deal with crime? “Crime” in the legal sense would not exist in a free society, because people would be constrained by their consciencesand not uniformed thugs. But of course there would still be the initiation of violence against innocent people; it just would not carry any legitimacy. As such, it might be easier to reduce. The state, as it is now, encourages crime.

First, when something for which there is still demand is made illegal, the market goes underground and it becomes more valuable—so valuable, in fact, people will kill for it. People kill each other on the streets because of drugs every day, and the police sometimes kill innocent people they suspect of selling drugs as well. Sex slavery is enabled by the criminalisation of prostitution, and as a result, women from all over the world are bought and sold, and violence against them is routine. Human trafficking, similar in effect to sex trafficking, is the result of closed borders. Any law prohibiting something is a potentially lucrative black market, with the accompanying violence.

Second, to the extent that one is not allowed to defend oneself and must wait for the police to show up, criminals can take advantage of their weakness. The recent riots in the UK are an excellent example of a disarmed populace waiting to be victimised, held to ransom by the state, their protector. The more dependent we are on people who do not care about us, the weaker we are in the face of aggression.

I tend to agree with Murray Rothbard that if there were just one law, it should be that of ownership. That means ownership of everything you have created (though “ownership” over one’s children is somewhat different, as they too are humans who own themselves) or acquired through consensual transactions, plus the right to the protection of your body, which is your possession as well. Property must not be violated, which means that harming others or destroying their property, forcibly taking money or other things legitimately acquired is theft (including taxation). Beyond that, there should be no crimes. But this position is not universally held.

I remember watching Ann Coulter on Youtube saying liberals want to force you to do what they think is right. I wish I had been there to say “Yeah, liberals suck that way. By the way Ann, what’s your stance on gay marriage?” Statists of all points on the spectrum want to gain power in order to use government to force their opinions of what is right and wrong on others.

As such, anything a special interest group do not like or would benefit from the criminalisation of can be illegal. Anything that makes people squirm can be illegal. Policing victimless crimes create victims. The banning of veils in public seems unnecessary and incompatible with a free society. But we do not want to give others freedom; we want conformity. Raw milk is illegal in the US; and laws and regulations, pushed by big farms to destroy little ones, are punishing Americans farmers like crazy. Law is great for that. Kids almost get fined $500 for a lemonade stand, the funds from which would have gone to charity; Orlando police lock up a bunch of people for feeding the homeless. I guess they deserved it. If you want to use public space to help people, you’d better have a license!

Police have the power to read your emails, instant messages and the location of your mobile phone.  Is privacy a crime now? But I guess privacy is a luxury that we, in this age of really scary things, just can’t afford anymore. Sad, really, because not only do we have to follow whatever laws the government decides on, whether we agree with them or not, but because the government appropriates the tools created in the private sector for its own purposes, now we can be tracked electronically in case we break one of them.

Power, by definition, is unaccountable. The police are somewhat accountable, but they also have power, which means to an extent they are unaccountable. The courts are much the same. The purpose of the courts was always said to be the dispensation of justice, but when one juxtaposes headlines that say “Ex-Mortgage CEO Sentenced to Prison [for 40 months] for $3B Fraud” and “Homeless man gets 15 years for stealing $100”, you need to question this purpose. Either the courts are staggeringly inconsistent, or the system is rigged toward the powerful.

Prisons have an enormous amount of power. Once someone is deemed unfit for society, whether because they killed 10 children or stole and returned $100, their lives come under the complete control of the state. But while in prisons one can see the greatest concentration of government power, prisons are riddled with violence and drugs. The state claims to protect against crime but turns the other way when crimes are committed against criminals. Prisons are notorious hotbeds of rape. No one is safe in prison.

The rate of incarceration in the US is 743 per 100,000 people. That is the highest rate in the world. One in every hundred Americans is imprisoned during his or her lifetime, many of them for victimless crimes like drug possession. We tend to look at prisons as inherently good, an unquestioned net benefit for society, but we should pay attention to their costs. More prisons is not a way to reduce crime: it is a way to benefit the prison lobby. If there were no government, we could still have prisons, as there will still be people who are unrelentingly violent, but we would do more careful cost-benefit analyses of how our money was spent on them.

Prisons do not seem to work very well. As the “justice system” has evolved, it has gradually separated the victim and the perpetrator. Now, criminals are expected to “repay their debt to society” instead of repaying it to the only person they have wronged, by going through a court and prison system that costs the victim and all other taxpayers billions of dollars a year; and the victim may not even get compensation. It is not up to him. Prisons seem to be the only solution we can think of to crime: someone kills? Throw him in jail. Someone steals a candy bar? Throw him in jail too, at huge cost to society regardless of the magnitude of the crime.

There should only be two parties in criminal punishment: the one who aggressed against someone’s property, and the victim of that aggression. If the victim wants to forgive the aggressor, it should be done. If the victim orders the aggressor to pay the victim proportionally, it is fair. Not everyone has to go to jail.

How will we deal with other crimes? Stefan Molyneux makes a great case, so I will farm this one out to him. Read his excellent case for dealing with crime here. In the end, the logic of dismissing governments from “protecting” us, to whatever extent they ever have, is airtight.

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  1. July 19, 2011 at 10:11 pm

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