Rebirth of Reason

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Friday, June 26, 2015 - 7:47pmSanction this postReply

Why is law enforcement the most important profession in the United States? Ask yourself this question: What happens if a large group of police officers go on strike? History has answered that for us. In 1919, the Boston police strike lasted only one day. The city of Boston was plunged into civil chaos. President Wilson branded the walkout “a crime against civilization.”


In 1969, Montreal police went on strike, and during the first day, eight banks were robbed, 100 shops were looted, and there were sniper attacks and rioting that resulted in 3 million dollars property damage. In 1974, Baltimore police went on strike, and the results were similar to what happened in Boston and Montreal. When law enforcement ceases, civilized society collapses.


However, as we saw with the recent riots in Ferguson and Baltimore, even with a police presence, widespread crime and looting can still take place, although there would have been less looting and destruction if the police had been allowed to do their job and were more aggressive in responding to the violence.  What is also necessary for a civilized society is a willingness to respect other people's rights and property.


An armed populace is also important. Individual self-defense is sometimes necessary, as the police aren't always around when you need them. For example, Detroit has very strict gun control laws, yet the murder rate there is higher than anywhere else in the country -- 54.6 per 100,000.


The reason is two-fold: First, there is very little respect among the local residents for the lives and property of others. Secondly, law-abiding citizens tend to obey the gun-control laws, while the criminals do not. So the criminals have the guns and know that the law-abiding citizens are less likely to possess them and to resist being robbed and assaulted.


Another important profession is the military. Winston Churchill’s said that the story of the human race is war. History shows us that civilized society crumbles without strong law enforcement and a strong military.


The same problem exists with a ban on nuclear weapons. Who will respect the ban? Iran, Russia and North Korea? If the Western nations respect it and disarm themselves, they become easy targets. Our very survival depends on a strong self-defense and our willingness to use it.

Post 1

Friday, June 26, 2015 - 9:54pmSanction this postReply

I agree Bill.  


I'm sure not going to wait for the anarchists to look at the ensuing chaos and say, "Gee, maybe I was wrong."  And I'm sure not going to count on anarchists or the far-left to come out and restore law and order if the police go on strike.


When a society backs off from defending the rights of peaceful people it is not long till there is no peace.

Post 2

Sunday, June 28, 2015 - 6:01amSanction this postReply

Brazil has become infamous for the deplorable living conditions of abandoned children.  Progressives would point to this infamy as evidence that no decent society can survive without social programs such as compulsory government schools, a generous welfare system, child support services, etc.  Some might even argue in favor of parental licensing.  As this thread has argued against anarchists as essentially "libertarian wet dreamers," so progressives would argue against the Objectivist view of a minimalist "negative rights only" government as a "libertarian wet dream" -- a rationalism based on an idealism detached from reality.  In this case, this means the reality of helpless children struggling to survive and mutating into sociopaths because of their horrifying conditions.


How would you counter that argument beyond just pointing to the checkered history of Brazil and its rampant corruption?


Certainly U.S. history has its own stories of children in absolute poverty for which the Progressives will gladly take credit in rectifying.


(Edited by Luke Setzer on 6/28, 6:30am)

Post 3

Sunday, June 28, 2015 - 11:27amSanction this postReply

...U.S. history has its own stories of children in absolute poverty for which the Progressives will gladly take credit in rectifying.

The progressives rewrote the history you speak of.  The industrial revolution had people flocking to the cities to get work in factories.  Children worked there because it was a significant step up from the alternative.  The beginnings of Industrial Capitalism was the beginnings of raising them out of poverty.  It was Capitalism that stopped people from starving to death.  But the progressives came along and called Capitalism evil, claimed it caused the problems instead of curing them, promptly lied in their rewrite of history and started creating programs which in many cases replaced privately funded programs that were more efficient and didn't take money out of the private economy - an act which only slows down a society's move away from poverty.


Both altruism and the progressives hold that if you can point at anything that is a problem, especially a heart-breaking problem with children, then it is a moral obligation to make some kind of sacrifice to stop it.  It is the call for sacrifice that altruism wants.  And the Progressives have conditioned everyone to think that if there is a problem, then it is government's proper role to fix it.



Compulsory government schools are responsible for the horrible state of education we see today.


"Generous welfare system"? It's easy to be "generous" with other peoples money.  And taking money from people according to their ability to produce, to give the money to those people that aren't productive is NOT a good long term program.  It's a plan that will eventually run out of other people's money and then we can see if not having any wealth to share is a good thing.


Child support was a private function till government got involved.  Despite how poor our country was then compared to now, it worked far, far better than what we see today. When I worked for Los Angeles County Department of Family and Children's Services there were about 70,000 kids in the system at a time (that's just in that one county).  I can tell you first hand that the welfare system CREATED most of the poverty through generational dependence - sometimes 3 generations living entirely on welfare - and that the foster care system was hell (there were some good families who took kids in, but mostly, I wouldn't wish that system, particularly its group homes, on an enemy - the system feeds too many of its "clients" right into the Juvenile system and from there too  many roll right into the adult correctional system - like a conveyor belt where innocense is converted to evil).


But the only thing that we need to keep in the forefront of our minds is that the purpose of government is to protect our rights and government doesn't have the right to take people's money and spend it on any other purpose.  If there is an important value in some form of charity (and there is in my opinion) then we organize as private charities and address it.  Protecting children from abuse is squarely in the realm of the state protecting individual rights. It takes a special set of laws and a special agency because children are helpless in the face of abuse from parents or guardians. An adult will make their plight known to the police. A child can be prevented from telling anyone and can't escape the abuser.  But the system we have now is the epitomy of a progressives beauracratic nightmare.  


...progressives would argue against the Objectivist view of a minimalist "negative rights only" government as a "libertarian wet dream" -- a rationalism based on an idealism detached from reality.

I'm sure that progressives would argue that way.  But it would be wishful thinking on their part.  The idealism mentioned gave us this country. The ideals of the founding fathers, to be specific. And they weren't detached from reality. They risked everything they owned - and their lives - to fight the greatest military power on earth. The result was far from perfect, but given the context of those times it was so much closer to the ideal of a minimalist "negative rights only" government that to not take it seriously indicates dishonesty of motives. By the way, the only other kind of "rights" are a claim to take what belongs to others - redistributionist "rights".  Government can't give anyone anything.... without stealing it from someone else first - In the moral world, negative rights are the only rights.  What liberties we still have today, despite the persistent destruction, bit by bit, by the progressives, are a product of men fighting for a "minimalist 'negative rights only' government.  



Luke, I don't know why you would point at Brazil.  It is not a country that protects 'negative rights' and it is not a Capitalist country and those are the sources of its problems.  Some of the situation the author of that article described is more like anarchist tendencies - the murdering the kids.  What else would you call groups of private citizens who act like vigilantees and hire retired or off-duty cops to go kill ghetto kids?  Do you support progressivism?  the welfare state? Anarchy?  I don't understand the purpose of your post.

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Sunday, June 28, 2015 - 12:57pmSanction this postReply

I sometimes try to see things from other perspectives to get a better grasp of my own.  I have seen Brazil raised often enough as an example of rampant, unmanaged population needing "something" to be done by government that it seemed like a decent counter argument.  I can easily imagine if Bill had posted his argument in a global Progressive forum that someone would have made such a counter.


It is important to anticipate our opponents' arguments to strengthen our own.


Thanks for taking the time to answer with arguments that had not crossed my mind, Steve.


(Edited by Luke Setzer on 6/28, 1:22pm)

Post 5

Sunday, June 28, 2015 - 1:43pmSanction this postReply

Ah, now I understand.  Thanks for the quick reply, Luke.

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Post 6

Monday, June 29, 2015 - 4:32pmSanction this postReply

Nothing in the article was untrue, but much was incomplete.  We are forced to be brief. Every work is finite.  That is why Ayn Rand called fiction a selective re-creation of reality.  Every human work is necessarily selective.  I would have selected other facts and made other conclusions, while keeping to the main point: law is fundamental to society.


In the past, Steve has provided us with links to Sumerian documents preceding the Law of Hammurabi.  We can accept that those codes only formalized what had been customs.  William Graham Sumner referred to folkways, mores, and laws. Textbooks in criminal justice point to Anglo-Saxon traditions of tenths and hundreths and the "hue and cry" as folkways in law enforcement that led to modern policing.  But the truth is that England was often a lawless place - and I refer not to the Dark Ages or Middle Ages but to the 18th century. Highwaymen were common. Coaches were robbed.  The king did nothing. Gentlemen carried weapons as a matter of course.  Yet, trade and commerce flourished. Mobs did not routinely loot the city of London.  (Mobs and riots were periodic events. And that points to a different problem, entirely.)  The Metropolitan Police Service was not founded until 1829.


Antecedent to them, the Bow Street Runners were a private group that took law enforcement upon itself.  A century before that, Sir Isaac Newton had himself sworn as a magistrate so that he could pursue and prosecute counterfeiters.  


Bill's article failed to explain why the city of Boston did not descend in to lawless anarchy before its police force was created in 1838.  New York follwed in 1844, and then Philadelphia in 1854.  After the War Between the States, cities created police forces, relying on popular blue uniforms echoic of the union army.  Why were there not daily riots all across the nation from the founding of Jamestown and Plymouth Plantation until the formation of these police departments?  The answer is that we had other ways to deal with the problems of crimes against property and persons. Generally, people did not turn to government for law enforcement by bureaucratic administration until the middle of the 19th century. It still took two generations (about 60 years) for policing to approach effective professional competence.  


August Vollmer is credited with the invention of professional policing following his appointment to be chief of police in Berkeley, California, in 1909. Eventually, he hired African-Americans; and he hired women. He brought in the polygraph.  He created motorcycle patrols.  He taught his officers to be apart from the community in order to remain objective in service to it. At that time (1909), the best police officers were actually "roving magistrates" who knew the people on their beats and who often administered justice on the street without resorting to courts.  And I do not mean just beating up bad guys without a trial. The constable on patrol mediated disputes between neighbors.  See, "An Officer of the Neighborhood: A Boston Patrolman on the Beat in 1895" by Alexander von Hoffman, in The Journal of Social History, Vol. 26, No. 2 (Winter, 1992), pp. 309-330

In a recent study,A llen Steinberge xamined the transformationo f state powers by investigating Philadelphia's criminal justice system in the nineteenth century. He demonstrated that for much of the nineteenth century, the criminal justice system, characterizedb y private prosecutionsa nd the sitting of local aldermen as magistrates, was localistic, informal, and highly democratic. In the late nineteenth century, reformers replaced the private prosecutors and alderman magistrates with police and elected trial justices. This change, Steinberg concluded, created a centralized and impersonal judicial process which deprived working-class citizens of the immediate access to the legal system which they previously had enjoyed.

That last explains the interplay between public policing and private security beginning with the innovative capitalist of the protection industry, Alan Pinkerton.  The first police were used to keep the "lower classes" in line and to protect the homes of the wealthy.  So, merchants in poor neighborhoods turned to their own resources.  That changed with reform.  The police focussed on patrolling poor neighborhoods as the sources of crime.  That left the rich undefended, so they turned to burglar alarms and private security guards.  The see-saw still oscillates today.


Successful as Vollmer's policies were, they ultimately failed.  His student, O.W. Wilson famously "solved" many of the problems in the Chicago police department - racial prejudice in hiring and promotion, and continued graft and corruption long after the repeal of Prohibition.  Wilson was hired by Richard Daley and worked from 1960 to 1967.  However, Wilson's seeming successes were eclipsed by the 1969 Police Riot at the National Democratic Convention in Chicago.    


The riots in Boston, Baltimore, and Montreal are easy to explain as social panics, akin to mass sightings of flying saucers and the Virgin Mary - or Woodstock.  In fact, Ayn Rand's cogent essay, Apollo and Dionysius, underscores this.  In both events, masses of people came together with minimal interpersonal aggression despite the lack of policing.  In both cases, the seemingly very opposite cultures both accepted an implicit respect for persons and their property.


Without that respect, massive police or military presence is ultimately incapable of controlling the populace. 


Like Bill, I am limited in the time and space that I can expound.  So, I selectively chose my facts.


I present other facts on my blog:

Armies Without Weapons


Peace is More Powerful.


In closing, and without going into detail now, let me suggested that no profession or occupation or service is "most important" in a complex market society. Who is more important: garbage collectors, or doctors?  When you need a doctor, a million garbage collectors are no help.  But without garbage collectors, a million doctors would not be enough to keep a city healthy.

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Monday, June 29, 2015 - 5:40pmSanction this postReply

What we want, and need, is to go about our life in a successful fashion. In social/political terms this means we will be able to make choices and take actions towards furthering our lives and pursuing our happiness.


Well, that's pretty obvious. But let's drill down to what that requires. If our society contains people who would, for whatever reason, take what is ours or attack us, then we need a way to prevent or at least minimize that. The only alternative to structuring a mechanism of some sort that does this for us is:
1. To defend ourselves against any threats or attacks - kind of a life in the jungle and never knowing if the arms-race between the thugs and ourselves was leaving us in a bad spot.
2. Trust that the anarchists aren't totally off in la-la land when they posit a system where the free market, even if it is totally NOT free of force, will provide an acceptable degree of safety and justice.
3. Have laws that define prohibited actions; have them be a monopoly for a given juridiction; have them arise as close as we can to individual rights; and have them enforced by a government.

So, the only other issue to cover is somewhat like how large must our military force be. The simple answer is as large as it needs to be and no larger - and that depends upon the size of the threat posed by foriegn forces.


The same is true of police forces. It is the crime rate, the size of the area and its population, the effectiveness of the policies and procedures and law enforcement officials on one side balanced against the current stress levels that are effecting crime, the current attitudes toward the laws in the sub-cultures and areas that are in question.  It would be a rather silly mistake to think that either exteme (no police, or massive over-policing) could be one-size-fits-all.


These are all very simple observations - intended to point more to the general principles than to address any specific time or place.


There is alway a benefit from having clearly defined laws that arise out individual rights, and that govern a just resolution of civil squabbles.  Just as it makes sense to have clear policies that govern the use of military force - policies that arise out of the right of the nation to defend itself against initiation of significant levels of force and believable threats of such force. With these two things in place, the decision on the size of the protective forces needed can be undertaken - but for obvious reasons, not before.


Bill stated that law enforcement is the most important profession in the United States. He is correct. Many of our individual rights are already encoded in law (prohibiting murder, rape, assault, robbery, burglary, etc.)  If there were no individual rights, there would be no objective way do define laws.  


And if they aren't enforced then it is like not having those laws, which devolves to living as if we had no rights.  In a different context I could make an argument that philosophers are the most important because of the importance of ideas, or inventors because of the contribution of technology to our lives, and so forth. Different contexts, different answers. But this context is clearly about the growing negative attitude towards law enforcement that we see in many inner-cities and from the far left in general, and from Progressives.


If it was the garbage collectors going on strike we could find ways to engage in the organization of private collection efforts and if the striking garbage collectors tried to either bully us or bully the people we hired, the police could stop the initiation of violence. But if the police are on strike who will stop anyone that chooses to use force or theft as the means to their ends? If there are no police then each thug and each gang will go after any victim that hasn't found a way to defend themselves adequately.


If the doctors go on strike, we will make adjustments, use nurses, doctor's assistants, and muddle through as best we can. There will be a much higher mortality rate. But if the police go on strike our attempt to muddle through will rapidly take us to the place where the initiation of force is a legitimate competitor in the marketplace and the most effective dispenser of violence will win and rule the most territory.  


No matter how many times I read Marotta's post, I can't find any principle to hang a hat on.


"Important" implies important to who (and by what standard)? And it implies a purpose. If we are talking about all people who want to pursue their own happiness and are willing to eschew initiation of force, then it is "important" to them that something make that possible. If we take government's purpose as a man-made institution is the enforcement of laws that support the pursuit of happiness by those individuals, then we can say that the police and military are more important professions than others. Context and Purpose - don't leave home without them!

Post 8

Tuesday, June 30, 2015 - 9:03amSanction this postReply

Thanks, Steve.  You made a point that I intended to: "In a different context I could make an argument that philosophers are the most important because of the importance of ideas, or inventors because of the contribution of technology to our lives, ... "  That said, Ayn Rand began with metaphysics and epistemology.  You know her famous quote, "I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism..." See also, "... on one foot." http://aynrandlexicon.com/ayn-rand-ideas/introducing-objectivism.html  If the active majority of people accept the principles even implicitly, then society as a whole is moral, ethical, and safe.  


That was more the case in the early 19th century than it became later.  Back then, people controlled themselves as a matter of personal custom.  


Other controls were in place as well.  After transporting London's petty criminals first to Georgia and then to Australia, London became safe enough that the police could patrol without weapons (or at least without guns).  The London Metropolitan finally had to arm itself in our time as foreign gangs not acculturated to British folkways did not limit their own use of force.  Before that, London's criminals did.  


Allow me to venture that most of us here are agreed that if the govenrment makes an objective set of laws, that the actual provision of protection could be (almost) completely privatized.  Even if we started with police, since it would be wrong to prevent private security, eventually, the market would surpass the government sector.  Indeed, it is a fact that private security out-paces public policing two-to-one or three-to-one, both for manpower and for capital investment.  


In fact, with a minor shift in technologies and pricing, it might be possible to reduce patrols almost completely.  Jim Halperin is one of the owners of Heritage Auctions.  He wrote two science fiction novels, The Truth Machine and The First Immortal.  He imagined those changes in the 1970s.  Now think about today with Google Glasses and Apple Watches -- imbedded as nano-chips...  You cannot lie.  You cannot cheat. You cannot steal.  You cannot harm another person.  On my blog, I have an article on non-lethal weapons for the police.  (Just search for batshield.)  Everyone could have these like Spiderman's integral web slinger...


But as long as we think only of shooting people who steal television sets, we are not going to make much progress.


You got close to half of an answer when you wrote: "But this context is clearly about the growing negative attitude towards law enforcement that we see in many inner-cities and from the far left in general, and from Progressives."  You know that many political conservatives are also anti-cop.  Right wing patriots see the county sheriff as an elected official with powers defined by the state constitution, whereas the police are armed bureaucrats, placed above the people, and above the law. 


As for the military, this, too is an old argument because conservatives and liberals alike start from the same philosophical premises.  If the goal of the military is to prevent invasion, why do they have infantry troops?  Would the infantry not have been severely scaled back during the nuclear showdowns of the Cold War when they were proved to be largely ineffective.  Saddam Hussein had the fifth largest army in the world.  Unfortunately for him, he had about the 100th largest air force and the 200th largest space force.  I beleive that given a free market in military defense -- subject of course to a single objective legal code -- many "star wars" alternatives could have been deployed.  


Many cities operate their own electrical utilities.  Those could be used to power giant lasers guided by radars and similar systems.  Different cities would have different systems, but overall, one or a few would dominate.  Instead, we left it up to Congress to not deploy any of several "star wars" systems.  Of course, such systems might have vaporized the 9/11 passenger jets.... which, of course, the most powerful military in the world failed to prevent.


The most powerful military in the world has impressive string of failures.  Its most visible success, the killing of Ussama bin Ladin, was carried out by a handful of highly skilled operators.  That fact speaks to more fruitful lines of thought in military defense.


Allow me, also to come back to that earlier quote: "But this context is clearly about the growing negative attitude towards law enforcement that we see in many inner-cities ... " I assure you that working in security, I get far more resistance from those who think of themselves as "upper" class or "middle" class.  They think that they are above the rules, above the law, that their social capital buys them exclusion from the common controls. 


For instance, one time I was working a horse show.  The owners did not want spectators down in the central corral.  The only violators were management types.  Another time, I was assigned to the swimming pool of a resort. They gave me a standard "class A" police-type uniform.  "Wouldn't a suit be more appropriate?" I asked.  My boss said, "These people argue with suits all day long. You'll get better compliance with the uniform.  And I did: better, but not perfect.  


I don't get that much noise from what you call "inner city" people.  They don't want trouble because they cannot afford it and they know that "the rich get richer and the poor get prison."  Any poor person whom I ask to move along calls me "boss" and moves along.  It is the self-styled "middle" and "upper" classes who are habitually disreprectful of authority.  At least, that is my professional experience.  


(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 6/30, 9:11am)

Post 9

Tuesday, June 30, 2015 - 9:29amSanction this postReply

Steve, your rejoinded here was not up to your usual standards. "If it was the garbage collectors going on strike we could find ways to engage in the organization of private collection efforts...    If the doctors go on strike, we will make adjustments, use nurses, doctor's assistants, and muddle through as best we can. ...  " 


So, (1) in the complete absence of government police would we never ever come up with any alternative except chaos? Why were the first police departments not instituted until after the great age of capitalism was at its peak and then waning into progressivism.  (Of course, it was the progressives who wanted public policing but that it is a different story.)  


(2) How many nurses does it take to replace a doctor?  In Atlas Shrugged, Dr. Hendricks was not replaced by nurses and assistants, any more than the industrialists were replaced by their foremen.  I am sure that you know that that was the point.


My point here is that your arguments were strawmen, easy to defeat. You could do no better than that because you had no argument.  We can only agree that in any society - certainly in any market-based society - every job is necessary or it would not exist.  And we do agree that if there is a "most" important, it must be the philosophers.  


PS: It is easier to give a gun to a philosopher with which she can defend herself than to give a workable philosophy to a police officer who chooses not to think.


(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 6/30, 9:31am)

Post 10

Tuesday, June 30, 2015 - 10:16amSanction this postReply

Marotta, I wrote: "But this context is clearly about the growing negative attitude towards law enforcement that we see in many inner-cities ... " and I was saying that this thread appears to have grown out of current events - what we are seeing more and more of on the news since Feguson.... the progressive cry that "Young black men are being killed by white cops, we need to federalize local law enforcement."  What we have seen is rioting, looting, protests, Talking-Heads on the left joining with Race-Baiters to ratchet up the rhetoric, and the number of inner-city shootings and murders are sharply increasing.  That is the context I was speaking of.  You chose a completely different understanding and went off into a science fiction rant about embedded nano-tecnology and privatized armies and if people just had the right understanding of metaphysics and epistemology all would be well.



Some well-known rapp artist gave a concert where along with the rapp lyrics the theme of the concert itself was anti-police.  On stage they had a cop car with graffiti on it, and the rapper jumped around on top of the car, caving in the top, while 'singing' his anti-cop 'song' - all I could think was that it was too bad the police in that town couldn't have broadcast over all the different news channels, about a day in advance, that due to the anti-law-enforcement theme, they would not be providing any security or answering any calls to that location.  Everything might have gone well.  It might have been as peaceful as McCarthy Park love-In.  Or, the news the next day might have been about the concession stands that were robbed, the fights that turned into near riots, the people that were mugged, the vandalism and so on.

Post 11

Tuesday, June 30, 2015 - 10:48amSanction this postReply

Why were the first police departments not instituted until after the great age of capitalism was at its peak and then waning into progressivism.

First of all, we are talking about now... not the 1800s. Have you noticed that you look at problems in the present then leap of to some point in distant history to imply an answer?

...in the complete absence of government police would we never ever come up with any alternative except chaos?

In the absence of any government police would we avoid chaos?  Only if there was an active execution of the job of making arrests where crimes had been committed and the arrests made, and evidence gathered, such that there were successful prosecutions.  And this would need to be done under the existing set of criminal statutes.


It is the purpose that is important, and that is to effectively carry out police functions. The issue isn't about what we call the people or the department that employs them.  It is possible to imagine other ways of doing this.... but to this day I've only found anarchists who were deeply committed to exploring and arguing this issue. Others have different focuses that are important to them.

How many nurses does it take to replace a doctor?

That isn't what I said. I said, "If the doctors go on strike, we will make adjustments, use nurses, doctor's assistants, and muddle through as best we can." Please note: "adjustments" not "replace" and that theme is reinforced when I say "muddle through."


You totally misquote me and then claim I'm making a strawman argument. then you say I had "no argument," but it is your misquote, which you manufactured, called mine, and then disparaged.


Since you are really only arguing against your own words, and not mine, you don't need me and I'd prefer you left me out all together.

We can only agree that in any society - certainly in any market-based society - every job is necessary or it would not exist.

No, we can't agree.  Every job exists because the person providing it believes it will achieve it's goal (which is usually to generate a profit). That isn't the same as "necessary" - and when you say "in any society" it becomes nonsense. Necessary to who, by what standard?

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