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)