After the spate of shootings involving police (as both alleged perpetrators and victims) last summer, I suggested limiting the role of the police to responding to emergency calls and serving warrants. A year later, the article is being widely circulated again following a tragically similar series of events.
If the comments or e-mail responses are any indication, this seems to horrify most conservatives in the so-called “land of the free,” even though limiting the government to reactive (rather than proactive) power is the whole idea behind the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments.
But while the White House regurgitates its gun control talking points and conservatives predictably line up with the police, hardcore libertarian ideas are coming from some unlikely sources.
Diamond Reynolds, the grieving partner of Philando Castile, who died after being shot during a routine traffic stop, didn’t demand a government solution for blacks being disproportionately stopped and/or shot by police. She said “the powers of those whose job it is to protect the people need to be curtailed.”
At least one prominent member of the police forces agrees. In the aftermath of the Dallas tragedy, in which five cops and two civilians were killed, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said cops are trying to do too much.
“We’re asking cops to do too much in this country,” Brown said at a briefing Monday. “We are. Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the cops handle it. Here in Dallas we got a loose dog problem; let’s have the cops chase loose dogs. Schools fail, let’s give it to the cops. That’s too much to ask. Policing was never meant to solve all those problems.”
Just a few weeks back, The Atlantic ran a story in which Yale Law professor Stephen L. Carter acknowledged a reality libertarians are often ridiculed for pointing out:
“Every law is violent. We try not to think about this, but we should. On the first day of law school, I tell my Contracts students never to argue for invoking the power of law except in a cause for which they are willing to kill. They are suitably astonished, and often annoyed. But I point out that even a breach of contract requires a judicial remedy; and if the breacher will not pay damages, the sheriff will sequester his house and goods; and if he resists the forced sale of his property, the sheriff might have to shoot him.”
But the most strikingly libertarian view came from none other than Black Lives Matter activist Jessica Drisu:
“Here are the solutions. We need to abolish the police, period. Demilitarize the police, disarm the police, and we need to come up with community solutions for transformative justice,” said Jessica Disu, drawing some shocked reactions.”
Murray Rothbard smiled in his grave.
Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly displayed typical establishment tone deafness in response, asking, “How do we protect the community if we abolish the police?”
Disu had just told her how she proposed to protect the community. But Kelly, though highly intelligent and trained in the law, just couldn’t muster enough imagination to even consider that perhaps securing life and property could be handled privately.
For all of the twentieth century, Americans led by establishment media turned to the government during times of crisis. But after several generations of government failure in the wars on drugs, poverty and terrorism, better informed Americans seem to be thinking out of the box. And libertarian ideas are beginning to blossom in the most unlikely places.
It’s no accident that a libertarian presidential candidate is polling in double digits for the first time in the party’s 40-year history. Imagine what would happen if he were allowed into the presidential debates.
Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.