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Don’t Defund the Police, Create Rights Protection

Updated on June 21, 2020
Garry Reed profile image

Garry Reed combined a professional technical writing career and a passion for all things libertarian to become The Libertarian Opinionizer.

Commentary From Your Libertarian Opinionizer

In the midst of a coronavirus pandemic a protest pandemic broke out and a violence pandemic broke out and a vandalism pandemic broke out and a looter pandemic broke out and a DefundThePolice pandemic broke out.

When citizens took to the streets of America—and eventually to streets around the world—in protest against the cops who killed George Floyd in Minneapolis the media talking heads and headline-writers were loath to distinguish between protesters, demonstrators, firebombers, vandals, looters, cops and guardsmen and their gun rights supporters, swaggering nihilistic Alt-Left Antifa ideologues, and hundreds of airhead rowdies going along for the ride taking selfies so they could say “I was there” because they think this is their generation's Woodstock.

What used to be known as the 24-hour news cycle—yesterday’s top news buried by today’s big headline overwhelmed by tomorrow’s attention-grabbing exposé—has been replaced by the 24-day and 24-week ongoing constantly covered, reported, repeated, reconsidered, opinionized, critiqued, studied, detailed, deliberated, debated and endlessly recycled news cycle.

Only gradually were a few more thoughtful commentators able to parse reality and figure out that peacefully demonstrating people and aggressively vandalizing people were and are not the same people.

Yet even those rare pundits took much longer to take notice of and catch up with the “Defund the Police” movement other than to briefly, perfunctorily, extract routine-soundbites from Progressives who advocated it and Conservatives who rejected it.

Modern Technology and Protecting Yourself

In his recent release Abolish the Police: A Stunning Analysis of an Antiquated Law Enforcement System Boston-area Police Sergeant Robert J. Disario doesn’t really want to abolish the police any more than many Defunders demand but rather abolish our “antiquated system of policing” because it’s a brutal, corrupt policing system that has become unnecessary and obsolete. He claims that “By utilizing everyday technology, society can come together to address common behavior or man-made issues without the help from police officers.”

What Disario offers is a “Protect Yourself” philosophy that will deeply satisfy most voluntaryist libertarians but not satisfy the majority of people who won’t or aren’t able to protect themselves for whatever reason.

But as thoughtful and intriguing as that is many libertarians neither advocate defunding the cops nor modernizing them. They advocate this:

Replace Law Enforcement with Rights Protection

All our multitude of laws begin with self-serving power-loving politicians who write them. These laws are then enforced by an enormous legal system that includes lawyers, judges, district attorneys, prosecutors, jailers, prison guards and police officers.

Virtually every American first comes into contact with a uniformed cop who has been trained to blindly, obediently, unquestioningly enforce whatever a given law happens to be. If he or she is enforcing a really stupid law, like a simple human activity that harms no one, it’s little wonder that citizens blame the cop and hate the cop.

As Disario says in Abolish the Police, “The easy answer is to accuse police departments from coast to coast of employing racist, bigoted cops.”

But that’s how law enforcers are trained. Conversely, a rights protector will be required to enforce only those laws that involve initiated force, intimidation or fraud. That would come about by first abolishing every victimless crime law in the United States, by prosecuting any politician who creates one, training everyone in the legal swamp not to recognize the legitimacy of any law that isn’t based on the libertarian non-aggression principle against coercion, intimidation and fraud, and by training rights protectors not to enforce any such illegitimate laws.

And then, of course, all Americans would need to be retrained in the philosophy of freedom that most have long ago forgotten or were never taught in our government schoolhouse brainwashing factories. Hopefully once people learn that someone is there to protect their human rights rather than to enforce the politicians’ laws they’ll begin to respect their Rights Protectors in the way their grandparents once respected their Law Enforcers.

Victimless Crime Laws are Unjust Laws

To repeat, any human activity that has been criminalized but doesn’t involve initiated force, intimidation or fraud is considered by libertarians to be an oxymoron, a “victimless crime.”

Everyone is painfully aware that George Floyd was executed by police chokehold even after repeatedly croaking “I can’t breathe” for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes. That isn’t a victimless crime since the store was fraudulently cheated out of “real” money but it wasn’t a crime of violence or intimidation requiring instant execution either.

Currency Counterfeiting is a federal crime. As of 2012 according to one source the US federal government lists 41 capital offenses that are punishable by death. Counterfeiting US currency isn’t one of them.

It does remind us however that cigarettes can kill you even if you don’t inhale them. Tragically this (supposedly) wasn’t the first time an African-American was white-cop-choked to death involving a pack of smokes as a result of violating a victimless crime.

In 2014 Eric Garner appeared to have died by police chokehold in New York City while being arrested on suspicion of selling single cigarettes from packs without tax stamps while repeatedly croaking “I can’t breathe.”

But what if he tore off the tax stamp when he opened the pack? Everyone knows it isn’t illegal for a consumer to remove the “Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law" tag from a mattress after becoming the rightful owner of it. It’s your mattress. Wasn’t that pack of cigarettes his pack of cigarettes?. Didn’t he buy it?

Eric Garner did not initiate force, the threat of force or fraud by selling a “loosie” cigarette.

But let’s face it: When some uniformed cops become Judge Dredd enforcers—judge, prosecutor, jury and executioner—it’s time to abandon Law Enforcement and replace it with Rights Protection.

(An alternative version of this story can be found in a 2019 New York Times report that the chokehold did not kill Garner. The article quotes a medical examiner as saying the chokehold “triggered a fatal cascade of events.” The chokehold triggered an asthma attack that triggered a heart attack that triggered Garner's death which triggered demonstrations against police brutality.” Since Garner officially died of a heart attack the cop was never charged with Garner’s death. Still, who’s rights was Garner violating?)

Eliminate the Enforcers

Combine Rights Protection institutions with Disario’s Protect Yourself philosophy and you're well on your way of creating a free libertarian society of self-ownership based on individual liberty and personal responsibility.

His ideas include:

Modern technology that limit or eliminate police responses

  • More surveillance cameras in commercial buildings, schools and private homes
  • Red light traffic cameras (although many have been removed at public insistence)
  • GPS monitoring of cars for location and driving habits, with safe drivers receiving discounts in exchange for their voluntary privacy invasions
  • Auto services like OnCall that notifies first responders for emergency help.
  • WiFi scanners for fingerprint, tattoos, scars and maybe facial recognition in the future that can quickly identify and eliminate unnecessary arrests of innocent people.
  • Since the majority of arraignments are misdemeanors digital face time interactions can eliminate courtroom appearances for the vast majority of petty offenses

Disirio points out in his book that in the UK portable technology is carried by their bobbies that can search 12 million fingerprint records in ten seconds and asks “Why are United Kingdom police services lightyears ahead of American Law Enforcement?”

Further it’s expensive for highly trained, full-time cops to respond to medical emergencies. The cops may be closer in their Police cruisers to any emergency that pops up but why not put less expensive but highly-trained paramedics into their own marked medical cruisers and have them respond?

And dispatch meter maids, not cops, to investigate parking problems.

Protect Yourself Philosophy

In both Abolish the Police and further detailed In his companion book Protect Yourself: A Practical Guide to Avoid Becoming a Victim Disario offers the many ways that we can all police ourselves.

After all, you’re already protecting yourself. You have security systems on your homes and your cars. Some cars will automatically call for help in an accident. So will some cell phone apps. You should have every right to a concealed carry handgun, especially in your home and car. Or at least carry pepper spray or mace or a Taser. Learn some basic martial arts techniques. And just be aware of your surroundings at all times.

The most common crime in the US is property crime, primarily theft. Disario would eliminate the need for cops to take reports by making it “everybody’s responsibility to submit their own reports through web-based portals” and maybe a phone app in the future.

And then subscribe to every kind of third party privatized security operation or system that you can find and afford as they come along in the future. Like maybe hitting a button that electrifies the door handle of your car during a carjacking attempt?

Just Google “new technology for self-defense” for chrissake!

Although he doesn’t say it, with the advent of widespread modern technology and self-protection what’s left of local police departments can then focus their attention where they’re most desperately needed, on the poorest communities that just can’t afford hi-tech or self-help.

And of course that means different policing under different training, which means they will no longer be Law Enforcers but Rights Protectors.

Rights Protectors, unlike law enforcers, will first have to evaluate each situation they encounter with a series of questions. Is there a victim here? Is someone physically attacking someone? Intimidating someone? Defrauding someone? If there is no evidence of any such activity they should withdraw or call in arbitration specialists.

Rights Protection Means Self-Governance

What post-statist voluntaryist libertarians will want beyond that is of course eventually abolishing all coercive governments and replacing them with Self-Governance.

No, none of this will be perfect. It won’t solve all problems. It won’t end every conceivable conflict. It won’t resolve every detail of every disagreement. It won’t even work in some situations. But the same is true of the traditional straight-forward Government Law Enforcement that we have today. And it will put an end to victimless crimes and unjust responses to unjust laws.

Those anti-freedom types opposed to this can easily find many other countries around the world that will gladly offer them the coercion, intimidation and fraud that they so dearly prefer. Good luck to them.

References and Links

Stopping the Violence: Replace Law Enforcement with Rights Protection is a deeper look at the voluntaryist libertarian concept of ending law enforcement as we know it and protecting rights instead.

The Zero Aggression Project Supports Self-Governance by advocating a forward-looking approach, where history has discarded The State in favor of consumer-controlled governance.

The Advocates for Self-Government, founded in 1985, is an independent educational organization that promotes self-ownership, individual liberty, personal responsibility, free markets and world peace.

New to libertarianism and the Zero-Aggression Principle? From “The Basics” to “Morality and Law” to many ideas in between you can jump in and learn about the voluntary post-statist concept of “governance” as opposed to coercive “governments.”

Video View: Your Libertarian Opinionizer Pick:

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    • Garry Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Garry Reed 

      7 months ago from Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas

      Darren thanks for the comment and the link. The only hope for a solution I can see would be a society with a constitution based absolutely on the libertarian non-aggression principle against initiated force, intimidation and fraud while reserving the right of self-defense. It would mean that ALL individuals involved in political, legal, military, civil enforcement and armed organizations could use their "standing armies" solely for self-defense. Of course there would be problems but at least we would stand a chance of keeping our sovereignty while defending those who would attack us.

    • Darren Wolfe profile image

      Darren Wolfe 

      7 months ago

      Nice article Garry. Goes along with the many warnings across the centuries against governments having standing forces. Here's a presentation I did on the subject https://youtu.be/BKTVMjU1D1I

    • Garry Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Garry Reed 

      13 months ago from Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas

      Doris, thanks for the comments. The difference between law enforcement and rights protection would not be a difference in size but a difference in philosophy. Imagine the same "policing force" we have today but with an entirely different approach, training, purpose, attitude and justification for existing along with a whole new set of technological tools at their disposal. Without the multitude of victimless crimes to enforce the same size policing/protecting agency would be free to go after the true criminals, the ones who violate people. No more chasing down sellers of loose cigarettes or tackling jay walkers.

      As for the question of "How do you keep the rights protectors from going the same route" as today's cops it would be through finding more intelligent recruits through better screening, better training, better pay and ultimately a better more intelligent citizenry that cares more about a peaceful society than "solving" problems through violence.

      Helping to spread the libertarian non-aggression principle far and wide would be a good start if you're really interested in solving all of these problems. Note that nobody ever said it would be easy or magical.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      13 months ago from Beautiful South

      Gary, I see your point, but I think this country is too big for just "rights protectors". We have too many bullies that aren't in law enforcement to begin with, and I think they would take advantage of the little guy. But I do agree with my former mother-in-law who made the statement about cops in the small town where my father-in-law was mayor. Speaking of most of them, she said, "If they hadn't become cops they would have been thugs."

      How do you keep the rights protectors from going the same route?

      As to the question of why the Brits are light years ahead of the Americans in their police force methods. That's an easy one to answer. It's in their genes. The Brits dealt with their criminals by deporting them to America and Australia. Many of our police have criminals in their ancestry.

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