The Mean Streets and Private Police
By Matthew Barnes, originally published on Liberty.me.
A community fires its police force for private security. Is this a manifestation of freedom?
When considering this question, I asked myself a different query than I think most libertarians might: How well might this work out in South Central Los Angeles? It is a tough place full of racial tension and strife. For fans of trivia it may interest you to know that Los Angeles is the 10th most segregated city in the US.
The blue dots are South Central.
In South Central one ethic group, the majority of the residents, rent their homes and apartments and do not find a lot of local jobs. All of the stores in the area are run by another exclusive ethnic group (green dots) that treats the residents like they are less than human. They hire only family and treat their captive customer base like dog shit.
Yet another ethnic group (pink dots) owns nearly all of the property and manages it through companies. Off in the distance, a mega-city city council manages all of the services, including police that treat the neighborhood as a training ground. Every couple of decades the locals raze the place in defiance to oppression, some injustice sparking the ever drying tinder. Like the chaparral in the Hollywood hills, South Central has to burn when the dead wood stacks too high. People ask, “how can they burn their own homes? How can they rob the stores they shop in?” They have never lived in South Central or in a rent only neighborhood. They have never shopped in stores that transact with you only though an inch of Plexiglas.
How does a neighborhood like this do a damn thing about private security? That is the real problem we are dealing with. I think that the fact that these people are used as an anti-paragon, held up as the dregs of society is really profitable for a lot of people. These people have no political influence. Who is going to give them the clout to determine their own policing?
Private Police on the Mean Streets
I thought about the effects. If private policing could take hold in South Central, it would be tremendous. If local residents hired security for the neighborhood there would be a major challenge at least at first. I believe the real challenge would be to keep neighborhoods from seeking to hire a company affiliated with one group of “local entrepreneurs” and then used as a tool against rival “business interests”.
I think that it could be possible. If the neighborhoods were small enough, and the security firms held to the law, I think that graft or aggression would balance out very quickly. Perhaps the role for government police would be oversight of the actions of the firms. That might be a huge savings all around but I still think we miss the point.
Even if this libertarian utopia could exist in South Central, who would let them? I think that there is a multi-headed powerful interest for keeping the area, oppressed, pissed off, poor and consuming massive quantities of bad ideas in a bottle or bag. I think that there is a powerful political interest in keeping the area dangerous and the residents frightened and the HUD dollars flowing. I think that there is also an unfortunate and shameful racially biased feeling of self righteousness derived from the situation perpetuated by ethnic groups that identify the residents as less than human. They exploit their misery with a relish of satisfaction.
Privatization does not Equate to Freedom
While these wealthy folk in a gated community have the pleasure of tossing off their local police; and certainly enjoying a freer lifestyle than most, how could our brothers and sisters in a place like South Central ever hope to be able to secede from the city of Los Angeles? Self determination? Not for these people, forget it.
In autocratic nations the privileged always have their own protection. This private police force is not an ideal of Capitalism, it isn’t a manifestation of freedom either, freedom that has to be bought isn’t freedom, it is Fascism.