Murray Rothbard had many great ideological, as well as practical, insights throughout his work, none so clear and powerful, in my mind, as the positions outlined in War, Peace, and the State.
Hidden in one of the footnotes of the essay is a little gem I think many libertarians have forgotten:
“There is another consideration which applies rather to “domestic” defense within a State’s territory: the less the State can successfully defend the inhabitants of its area against attack by criminals, the more these inhabitants may come to learn the inefficiency of state operations, and the more they will turn to non-State methods of defense. Failure by the State to defend, therefore, has educative value for the public.”
Rothbard seems to have found a counter intuitive silver lining in the operations of the state; as long as the state is failing at something, we have a practical case against its existence.
A seemingly hidden failure of the state can be found in the effectiveness of the U.S. police force.
I say hidden failure because I only uncovered this statistic after following a wiki of links strung through several articles published by Pew Research Center. I have never read about it in popular publications or seen a report on it by other news media.
(See graph below)
According to Pew, in 2015 only 46.5% of violent crimes were reported to the police. The rate decreased to 42% in 2016. Property crime is even more abysmal at 34.6% in 2015 and was at 36% in 2016.
Pew cites one of the possible reasons for this phenomenon as “a feeling that police would not or could not do anything to help, or that the crime is a personal issue or too trivial to report.”
In other words, Americans feel their police force is incompetent and doesn’t care.
Not that it would matter if more crime was reported to police, because they only solve 46% of reported violent crime and 19.4% of reported property crime! These are damning figures and should be repeated ad nauseam.
Trying to be an optimist, I see this as good news for libertarians. It confirms everything we always say about the state.
“Protect and serve”? More like fleece the populace with speeding and parking tickets, hoping the rape cases, murders, and thefts are dropped on your door step, then flipping a coin to decide whether or not you’re going to solve any particular case. You would think, that after 20 years, cops would get better at solving crime.
I’ll take Rothbard’s foot note one step further. We as libertarians must not solely highlight, repeat, and scrutinize the failures of the state, but we must also make clear and concise arguments for the replacement of the state, and its failing arms, with a private system.
If we do not, intellectually lazy statists will continue to believe that the solution lies in something along the lines of throwing more money at the problem.
They may agree that a 46% clearing rate is terrible, but, inevitably, their next logical step will be to want higher paid cops, or more cops. My point is proven by the sentiment surrounding public schools. Public schools have been floundering for years, and all the citizenry has done is resort to voting harder and call for more money to be allocated to the education system.
Instead of outsourcing public services to private companies, we should make the case for privatizing the entire system. We should not call for the privatization of the TSA, that would only make an unethical, and annoying, institution more efficient. Outsourcing is not the solution. No, we should call for the removal of the government from the system entirely, whatever system it may be.
Tom Woods and Scott Horton address this issue well in their podcast on the subject (linked here)
So, next time your friend or coworker complains about the latest example of police brutality, kindly agree with them and suggest that a private force could do a much better job.
* Clay Huston is a recent college graduate, business professional, political enthusiast, and freelance writer. Follow his parody account on twitter @mothbard.
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