Libertarians Are Not Anti-Cops; We’re Anti-State and Pro-Decentralization

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AP Photo / Nick Ut

Often in libertarian circles, whenever the cops are mentioned, the general response is that they are corrupt and antithetical to liberty.

Sites like copblock.org have promoted the idea of libertarianism being an anti-police ideology and mainstream libertarian sources like Reason have done the same.

This is a huge mistake, as the police hold important purposes in a libertarian society such as protecting private property.

I’m not claiming that police brutality isn’t a bad thing or that police brutality doesn’t exist. What I’m saying is libertarians aren’t anti-police; we are anti-state and pro-decentralization.

In this article, I will attempt to distinguish the current state of the police as opposed to the police in a libertarian society as well as providing some private solutions to crime.

On Protecting Private Property

It should be obvious to any libertarian that current law enforcement is an enemy to the property rights of the citizens it is entrusted to protect; with the state giving police the power to take a citizen’s property whether or not they are convicted of a crime, or the power to invade an individual’s house if he or she owns a plant or substance that the state considers dangerous.

It is ironic that the ones who are entrusted with protecting us from home invasions are the ones invading our homes.

In a libertarian society, the police would have the role of protecting you and your property from acts of coercion.

For example, if someone was to break your fence, then that person would be violating the law, thus they would be arrested. The same would be true for breaking and entering, egging a house, or any similar act.

They would also be tasked with investigating crimes such as homicides.

On “Helping”

The common defense of centralized law enforcement is that they are actually “helping” society by preventing people from making the “wrong” decisions.

For example, owning a weapon that you intend to use for defense purposes can be considered dangerous thus by statist logic, it is ok for law enforcement to take that weapon because “the government knows best.”

It should be noted again that the problem is not the police themselves but rather the expansion of the role of law enforcement, thus police brutality is a problem caused by big government.

In a libertarian society, there would be no need for law enforcement in this regard. However, if an individual were to be armed on a lawn that wasn’t his or hers and the owner of that lawn doesn’t want that individual on his or her lawn and the individual wouldn’t budge then law enforcement would have to meet the demands of the property owner.

Private Solutions to Crime

  • Private Communities are one method in which crime can be better managed. In a private community, strict rules on property rights would be enforced to ensure that the customers (fee payers) of that community are satisfied. Any violation of those rules would result in the violator being excluded from the said community. The book “Art of Community,” written by Spencer Heath MacCallum, is a great resource that explores this concept in greater detail.
  • Private Dispute Resolution Organizations are another great way to prevent disputes from turning into brawls, as well as figuring out solutions to those disputes via mediation.
  • Rights Enforcement Agencies are agencies committed to protecting customers from theft and coercion. The idea was created by David D. Friedman in his book “Machinery and Freedom”.

* Bhavin Patel is a student in high school as well as a geolibertarian (Georgist libertarian). He plans to major in computer science and minor in economics when he gets into college.

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