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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4889/society-in-jail/

Society in Jail

April 9, 2006 by

People who criticize government as nothing but beating, killing, and hanging — to use Mises’s phrase — are sometime accused of using exaggerated and hyperbolic language. Surely government is more than that and is not always that. Something as simple as a stop sign doesn’t beat you or kill you! And yet even that law which appears to be a mere guideline and a help, must ultimately be enforced at the point of a gun. FULL ARTICLE


Manuel Lora April 9, 2006 at 3:52 pm

What a great blog entry. People are treated like dirt even for the smallest of “offenses.” I’m glad that more people are exposing the government for what it is: a bunch of parasitic criminals.

Vedran Vuk April 9, 2006 at 4:31 pm

I don’t think the large majority of people realize how much harassment is committed by law enforcement. I would love to think that it’s just Rodney King. I personally have been illegally searched 3 times in my life. Had drug dogs run on my car, been detained for five hours, and still not having committed one crime. Such is the price of “looking suspicious” All this happened in a small town where I lived. And what am I gonna do sue the people who can repeat their aggressive actions or worse?

Mark Plus April 9, 2006 at 9:01 pm

I can tell Jeffrey Tucker has never worked in the hospitality industry. In my 15-year career of managing motels, I’ve had to call the sheriff numerous times to deal with unruly or destructive guests. Businesses managers like me need the ability to call upon government agents with the power to arrest in order to protect the properties for which he have responsibility.

jeffrey April 9, 2006 at 9:12 pm

I’m not making an argument against the need for law enforcement but rather drawing attention to how the state regards those within its clutches, however they might end up there. Private law enforcement, to the extent it is permitted to exist, is far more humane: at the very least it distinguishes between actual and phoney threats.

Paul D April 9, 2006 at 11:45 pm

Mark, I’m sure that for a small fraction of the property taxes, product and service taxes, corporate taxes, and employee income taxes paid by any hotel you’ve managed, greatly superior private security could have been purchased instead. All the state does amounts to breaking your legs and lending you crutches.

The Crawling Chaos April 9, 2006 at 11:57 pm

“Statistics Canada” recently chose me for a random ‘anonymous’ survey. My first instinct was to ignore it, but after a ‘friendly’ reminder, I decided to look up just how ‘mandatory’ this survey was.

From http://www.statcan.ca/english/about/statact.htm (Statistics Act) sections 31 and 32:

…is, for every refusal or neglect, or false answer or deception, guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to both. 1970-71-72, c. 15, s. 29.

…is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both. 1970-71-72, c. 15, s. 30.

Thomas J. Van Wyk April 10, 2006 at 12:25 am

Vedran Vuk -

Also being from a small town, I can relate, though I’ve never been personally searched or even pulled over (lucky, I guess). I think the police from small towns are so “annoying” (to put it mildly) because they often have nothing to do. Consider the phenomenon the curse of a small town (my hometown was also fairly wealthy).

Little city cops have little more to do than look for half-smoked joints in kids’ lockers during drug searches of lockers. I used to sometimes accidentally forget a pack of smokes in my jacket pocket (instead of leaving them in the car), and I can remember that bit of nervousness that came when they’d bring drug dogs in from a nearby city (quite a bit larger, with real crime) to sniff out kids’ cigarette packs. I always got off luckily.

But these searches usually produced no more than a dozen or so cigarette packs. (And a funny thing: one of the only busts for illegal paraphernalia that happened while I was at high school was, I heard, the stepdaughter of the mayor!) I’ve heard that since I graduated, the town’s constabulary has found need for its very own K-9 unit. From the local gossip pages, the amount of crimes committed in the city were miniscule, but I doubt it was because the amount of cops and squad cars deterred it. Another nearby city of about the same size has no local PD – it is only occasionally patrolled by a state patrol squad, and there is not a single spot in that city in which I feel unsafe.

My hometown, for instance, has 6,000 or so people. I believe the police department has about 12-13 officers (how many hours does each work a week? or are they all working at once so they all get a 40 hour work week [I doubt it]? nobody in town seems to know), 3-4 squad cars, with at least 2 of them on duty at all times, it seemed. I delivered pizzas for a year or so, and they were everywhere. I was only questioned once for “suspicious driving” because one of my deliveries didn’t meet me outside as promised, so I kept circling the block – guess the police officer was concerned I was peddling reefer from my big red pizza bag in the middle of suburbia. The cops in my town had a reputation of being hard***** with quotas to fill, and those in a nearby community (a small, very wealthy community) had cops who were even more notorious.

Anyway, my point is, small town cops are often the worst – the incentive structure and lack of a profit motive means that there’s no reason to be cost effective or satisfy “customers.” It’s no wonder there are so many cops who nobody in the town seemed to like.

With regard to Mark’s comment about the “need” for the government to “enforce” property rights, Paul took the words right out of my mouth. Lack of government does not equate to lack of order and enforcement of property.

- T

Dan April 10, 2006 at 1:07 am

Jeff, great post. As a person who lives in Auburn I remember the news coverage of the ticket fixing scandal. I’m glad we have a local paper willing to report on local government issues. The response of the department has been outrageous. It’s easy to believe “that doesn’t happen here,” but we all know better.

Jeff Rosano April 10, 2006 at 2:16 am

Great article. It makes me glad to have a prepaid legal plan. Not to make a shameful plug, but the more the state shows it is untrustworthy and uncivil, the more I appreciate the service. As a person who believes ancapism is a lifestyle as well as an ideology, I think it’s a necessary amenity to successful libertarian living.

averros April 10, 2006 at 2:38 am

One of my friends was arrested and held overnight in county jail for forgetting to return a rental video.

Sometimes, US is worse than the Soviet Union was.

profcarlos April 10, 2006 at 8:50 am

The extent of gov’tal control on the life of Americans terrifies me. I always tell my American friends that if they went to live in Brazil they woul feel pretty much like the people who managed to get away from the Soviet Union and entered the States 40-50 years ago.
Not even when we had dictatorships installed down here the gov’t considered itself allowed to arrest someone for not paying a traffic fine.

Robert Higgs April 10, 2006 at 9:35 am

Thank you very, very much for this article, Jeff. I wish that everyone is this blessed country would read it again and again and again. Most people have no understanding whatever of the law and the law enforcers. So long as they stay out of its clutches, they stupidly assume that its terrors come only to low-lifes and that those wretches deserve whatever is dished out to them. As you illustrate so vividly, however, each of us is one small step away from something worse than slavery. Land of the free indeed!

Wonderful article, simply wonderful.

Sue Smart April 10, 2006 at 9:48 am

What concerns me now is the ‘if you haven’t done anything wrong’ comments concerning the new Real ID. It very well could contain a Readable chip in your driver’s license. Homeland security gets to decide what is acceptable and what should be stored: Facial map, retinal scan, medical data, DNA? You don’t have to get this Real ID, or fly, or drive…

And on chat rooms, the mention of these facts illicits ho humms and excuses.

N. Joseph Potts April 10, 2006 at 9:49 am

Much of the key to this abuse lies in the phenomenon of custody – the physical control of your body and physical presence, not to mention ALL of your living circumstances. A book I read about the gulag (Soviet camps) recounted how guards didn’t like allowing their charges to drink water because that increased the prisoners’ excretions, leading to all manner of problems! Undeniable logic, there.

Simple negligence (a.k.a., avoiding work, the goal of every rational person) works VERY well as abuse, thank you, particularly over time.

Yes, you’re right to fear custody, and therefore, to fear the state. And in doing this, you inadvertently play right into the hands of the oppressors.

Vince Daliessio April 10, 2006 at 10:03 am

Beautiful article, Jeff. It shows just how far we have sunk below the founding ideals of this country.

drp April 10, 2006 at 10:22 am

In my checkered career as a sometime forensic expert, I have seen some hair-raising abuses.

E.g., a friend on social security has occasional mild seizures from head-injury suffered in a mugging. He says they do not affect his driving and give him lots of warning. But he pulls over to the side of the road when he feels one coming on, just in case.

Last time, he was busted by the local DUI squad, booked and put in jail. My friend has a prior DUI conviction seven years ago. In retrospect, this may have been due to the same thing.

The judge set bail at $2000 and gave him a court-appointed attorney. She also stated that anybody who can afford bail can afford an attorney. That is, if he bails out, he loses legal representation.

The DA then offers him time-served ( 8 days ) and immediate release for a guilty plea. My friend decides to fight this time. So he stays in the joint.

I look up Texas state law, which specifically states that ability to post bail cannot be used as criteria for a court-appointed attorney. So I bail him, correctly figuring the judge won’t dare press this issue. Meanwhile, he had been in jail for a month.

Meanwhile, the videotape of the arrest disappeared. I or a jury could have determined from this whether my friend was really intoxicated or just having siezures.

From prior experience, I suspect the videotape disappeared because it does not correspond to the arrest report. Further, the documented address from where my friend’s car was towed is about a mile from where the arrest allegedly occurred.

Again from prior expereince, I suspect that the officers were so used to guilty pleas from similar DUI arrestees put under this pressure that they did not bother to work up the case right. So they got caught caught off-footed when someone actually wanted a trial.

The case is still hanging, though I suspect it will be dismissed. These people aren’t that dumb, though you never know. But it is a classic example of why people who are not guilty will cop a plea.

BTW, for years I had been complaining about fakery in the local crime lab here in Houston. Once, in reply to a direct question from the DA on the wittness stand, I stated that I had seen a frank fakery of crime-lab evidence.

The judge apparently found this incredible. She dismissed the jury and threatened to throw me in jail for contempt if I said anything like this to the jury again. Didn’t care about all my degrees, training, etc. This is what you are fighting when you denounce such abuses. I have to live in this town.

Shortly thereafter, the Houston crime-lab fakery scandal broke, just like I had been saying for years. The difference was that the fakery was systematic, not as I had thought, occasional and rare.

Chris April 10, 2006 at 10:26 am

Re: arrested for failing to return a video. I owned a video store in the 80s and could not get the police nor the county to help me reclaim the movies that had not been returned. They treated me like it was my fault for letting them rent them out in the first place. And the bank would not let me have a merchant number so I could require credit cards to secure the merchandise, told me it was illegal to do that.

And this was back when tapes went wholesale for $70 each fresh off the presses.

Chris April 10, 2006 at 10:32 am

Is there one single country in this world where this is not the case, and people are actually free from the clutches of overzealous or corrupt law enforcement?

Dave Weilacher April 10, 2006 at 10:43 am

This article has gone a long way toward capturing my emotions when I was arrested on a 3rd degree felony charge resulting from an argument with a city employee. I was innocent. Everyone knew it. They attempted coercion and extortion to get me to accept punishment without trial or even arraignment. Even my attorneys. My wife and I took the position that I’d had a fair run at life and I’d rather go to prison than tolerate their crap. In the end, they dismissed charges without ever arraigning me. (They did publicly record the dismissal though. Wonder what that means if I am ever stopped again)

So here is the thing he failed to include as a result. I no longer trust government at any level. My wife and three children have pretty much lost all faith in government. I’m sure that my grandchildren will grow up in an environment tainted against government.

This has been happening since the 1st day the 1st government was invented. There will always be people that are both abused by and dissatisfied with government.

The real concern is when that reaches some critical mass.

billwald April 10, 2006 at 10:56 am

“Is there one single country in this world where this is not the case, and people are actually free from the clutches of overzealous or corrupt law enforcement?”

No, which is why “freedom” is ultimately an internal mental state. As long as one can at least think “screw you,” one is free. The next govt step is to find a way to prevent thinking as in “1984.”

Keith Preston April 10, 2006 at 11:21 am

Excellent, Jeffrey!! It’s unfortunate that so many people give no thought to what a police state the US has degenerated into over the last couple of decades. Indeed, I think the question of the police state (along with imperialism) are the principal issues anti-state radicals need to concern themselves with at this time. If anyone is interested, here are some old articles of mine concerning this question:


quincunx April 10, 2006 at 11:43 am

Reminds me of the time I got two tickets for having an expired inspection sticker (by 3 days) – 5 hours apart. This is kinda funny because in the 6 months I’ve lived in a new apartment, I have never even seen a police car, wagon, or officer – and I’m a balcony-using smoker. So I ended up paying the first ticket (since it was ‘legitimate’), but I appealed the second one. I wrote that I was out of town, and could not get an inspection less than 5 hours before I got the next one. I complained that it was a case of ‘double jeopardy’. The judge was the mental midget I presumed he would be, not only referring to me as a She, but telling me that my defense is invalid since the law states: ‘I can’t park a car on the street with an expired inspection sticker’.

I angrily responded that if that was the case, why didn’t I get a parking ticket? And even if I did, where the hell am I supposed to park the car? On a puffy magical cloud? I then used the argument from morality to explain, how can I pay (through taxes) for his poor judgement, road access, and the police involved in the extorion process. Apparently he was not happy with the response – so he reduced the ticket to 30% of the original – and told me that was it, he didn’t want to hear from me again. I just paid the $30 bucks. For petty crimes like this – they pretty much expect people to plead guilty, the moment you fight back – they do a cost-benefit analysis.

Edward Knapp April 10, 2006 at 11:44 am


About 7 years ago my wife was driving as we were on our way to my son’s soccer game. I was the coach. She was pulled over for speeding. She clearly wasn’t speeding as she switched lanes to get out of the way of a car that was speeding.

When the officer came to the car, my wife stated, “It was the car that passed us, not me that was speeding.” Of course, the police are never wrong, so the argument went for naught. My wife did ask the officer to hurry as we were on the way to a soccer game and I was the coach.

Well 15 minutes later, we have no ticket. I get out of the car and start walking away from the officer to the soccer game. The next thing I know the cop is chasing me down and dragging me back to the car. I was arrested for resisting arrest and attacking a peace officer, even though I used no violence or defensive measures.

A few days later when I talked to my lawyer, he told me to plead it out. I was insistent that I had done nothing wrong. Then he told me the cop would tell the judge that when I walked across the street it was his judgment that I was doing that for a possible sneak attack. The judge will buy this story.

I replied, “Basically you are telling me we live in a police state. As long as we are subdued, we won’t notice the power, but once we challenge it we have no chance.”

The lawyer replied, “Now you understand.”

Ed Knapp

RHU April 10, 2006 at 11:54 am

Hi Austrian folks,

Jeff’s text is pure Kafka!

If this kind of thing does happen in a so-called “free” country, can you imagine what actually occurs in most other countries, ruled by totalitarian (or semi-) governments?

Is this then what governments call “LAW” and “JUSTICE”???

RHU from Brazil

steve April 10, 2006 at 12:07 pm

“Businesses managers like me need the ability to call upon government agents with the power to arrest in order to protect the properties for which he have responsibility.”

It is too bad Mark that you can’t call them to protect you from the tax theives. How can someone, who is supposed to protect you, steal from you at the same time?

Nice post Jeffrey

domenic April 10, 2006 at 12:13 pm

It is quite easy to simplify the issue and blanketly claim that the state is a front for bullies totally engrossed in the captivation and humiliation of the citizen.

Is the assumption that without the state, everyone would coexist in peaceful harmony, making transactions based on “mutual value” in a sort of neo-barter economy?

No… This is not the case. Without the state, those same criminals who decide to take their nefarious natures to government positions would be free to exercise their greed in the open, with no social check. Without the state, the same bullies would further take advantage of the weak, as is the case with the tribal anarchy of Somalia.

While it is certainly true that these bullies exist in government positions, there are also many other government officials who chose to work for the state in the hope that they could prevent the kind of unchecked aggression that would indubitably exist in lieu of a state.

So who is at fault? The state, as it allows for corruption? Or humans, for taking advantage of the system?

If we actually acted the part of the responsible citizen, those bullies would be out of the government, and in the very same jail that your victimized citizen landed.

Yancey Ward April 10, 2006 at 12:26 pm

Such articles always remind me of the movie Brazil rather than 1984.

V Harris April 10, 2006 at 12:46 pm

There is no ‘solution’ to the problems Mr. Tucker describes. Perhaps less onerous enforcement — but no solution. Let’s suppose the same ‘rules’ and circumstances exist except that the road is privately owned. The driver on the private road had committed the same previous ‘infraction’ that had not yet been resolved. Then in rolling through a stop sign, he has committed another violation. Presumably the owner of the ‘private’ road would have the right to stop and detain the driver until both matters were resolved, just as does the State, the ‘owner’ of the public road.

One difference is that the private road owner would have had an incentive to pursue the ‘financial resolution’ on the first infraction, so it would not be so easily overlooked by the driver. Also, the private road owner has an incentive to allow the driver ample ability to resolve the second infraction (e.g., a telephone that works). The individual State actors lack these financial incentives to allow the offender to more easily resolve these infractions.

Nonetheless, the overall problem of the forcible detention of individuals for the resolution of disputes over the alleged wrongful use of property — whether public or private — remain. That is, given the same rules, the driver is rightfully detained by the private road owner until these matters are resolved.

And let us be clear here, when the private road owner detains the driver for the resolution of a dipute,it is ultimately at the end of a gun — same as government.

Mr. Tucker’s criticisms of the State are valid, but as is so typical of advocates with an agenda, he presents only half the issue. If he has a libertarian solution to the mediation between actors for the wrongful use of property, he ought to present it and explain why it would be more beneficial for the ‘violator’ than is the extant ‘public’ ownership system.

Manuel Lora April 10, 2006 at 1:09 pm

There is no ‘solution’ to the problems Mr. Tucker describes. Perhaps less onerous enforcement — but no solution. Let’s suppose the same ‘rules’ and circumstances exist except that the road is privately owned. The driver on the private road had committed the same previous ‘infraction’ that had not yet been resolved. Then in rolling through a stop sign, he has committed another violation. Presumably the owner of the ‘private’ road would have the right to stop and detain the driver until both matters were resolved, just as does the State, the ‘owner’ of the public road.

No so fast. You are forgetting that in a libertarian world, there would be (unless you explicitly contracted otherwise) greater respect for proportionality in punishment. If I have not agreed to be arrested at gunpoint for not paying a fine to the private owner, I would say that you would be justified to call in your own defenses (or resist yourself).
Collection agencies don’t usually come in with cops unless it has been quite a long time and they’ve tried through many different means. The State rarely respects any concept of escalation and, in this case, used more force than necessary first.

Curt Howland April 10, 2006 at 1:09 pm

Mr. Plus, that is why more, ah, “immediate” service industries employ what are called “Bouncers”. As Paul D. points out, such individuals and even services are far less expensive than the taxes used partially to pay for police.

On another tack, I resent my tax money being used to subsidize your business. Pay for your own bouncer and keep your hands out of my pocket.

Lastly, you have no need of “police” with “arrest” power. Since you are not initiating the action, it is always in response to belligerent acts on the part of someone else, you retain full powers of eviction and even arrest so long as *then* you act to contact a magistrate.

As lawful firearms owners have known for a very long time, the “police” have no duty what so ever to protect you. They cannot be sued for failure to do so, being part of the state bureaucracy means they have only one customer: The bureaucrats who pay their bills with your tax money.

These facts in hand, it is very clear why private security is both cheaper and more effective.

andy April 10, 2006 at 1:10 pm

V Harris,

the main difference between state and private road owner is, that the ‘violator’ is his potential future customer. Arresting customers for breaking such rules (which is often result of a mistake) is not a good business strategy. Except for the case where the ‘customer’ does real damage, I do not know any business that would arrest it’s customers.

Manuel Lora April 10, 2006 at 1:16 pm

Curt said,

As lawful firearms owners have known for a very long time, the “police” have no duty what so ever to protect you. They cannot be sued for failure to do so, being part of the state bureaucracy means they have only one customer: The bureaucrats who pay their bills with your tax money.

Very true. And this is the basis of Marc Stevens’ argument that there is no legal state, just people pretending, and using force (more here).

Curt Howland April 10, 2006 at 1:21 pm

I once saw a friend of mine tackled to the floor, handcuffed, searched, harassed and questioned for about an hour at traffic court for trying to leave with a single piece of paper which was a photocopy of a page from the MotorVehical Department rule book, which said they could refuse to accept payment of a ticket in coin. ($127 in nickles, dimes and pennies).

I had carefully divested myself of all paperwork, wallet, keys, etc., before going with him to traffic court. I stood perfectly still, but refused to leave. This earned me a very tight grip on my arm by an armed and uniformed thug for the duration of the incident, and a lesson in how to take my hands out of my pockets very slowly and carefully before being searched myself. Searched for standing still in a “public” room with about a hundred witnesses.

Luckily this happened before 9/11/2001, because while they did try to tell him his Swiss Army knife was a weapon, even the soldiers in the squad harassing us couldn’t keep straight faces at that idea and gave it back at the end.

Jim Waddell April 10, 2006 at 1:28 pm

Yes, the Land of the Free locks up more people (in absolute numbers, not just on a percentage basis) than any other country. Even China pales by comparison.

steve April 10, 2006 at 1:31 pm

I find when any critique of government behavior is made, it is often met with the response “oh everyone does it”, or “it has always been done like that” etc. Yet no one will stand up and defend the government’s behavior as just and proper. They just rationalise the existing situation however repulsive. They seem to personally identify with the government. An attack on the state is an attack on them. They want to believe they are a part of something that is just and not something that is exploitive in spite of the numerous facts to the contrary.

Ken Zahringer April 10, 2006 at 1:36 pm

Mr. Harris,

Presumably the owner of the ‘private’ road would have the right to stop and detain the driver until both matters were resolved, just as does the State, the ‘owner’ of the public road.

No, I would not presume that at all. If someone on my property commits a crime against my property or person (assault, theft, etc), of course I have the right to detain him. However, if their behavior is simply contrary to the standards I demand (eg, talking too loudly in my library or rolling through my stop sign) then I would only presume my right to evict him and bar him from future use. Of course, my business interests would influence how I exercise those rights. But detain or even jail him for running a stop sign? You’ld be looking at a kidnapping charge if you showed up in my courtroom!

Eric April 10, 2006 at 1:36 pm

V Harris:

It is true that when a road is private, that it’s security is enforced with a gun. But the difference is that when a private owner makes a mistake using force, he can be sued. With government, they can choose to permit you to sue or not. And most important, with a private road, if you don’t use it, you don’t pay for it. And the road owners will lose business if they act carelessly and the bottom line is they might have to sell it to a better owner who will treat his customers better. With one government, you can’t fire it or hire another to protect you from the first one.

This is a complicated system to describe, esp. how I don’t know of any that exist, but I believe Rothbard has analysed it as follows:

With a free market of courts and protective services, if a private owner’s protective company violates you, then you can hire your own protective service to go after the other company. No, this won’t lead to wars, because that is too expensive for private companies, who still have to compete and make a profit and above all cannot extort money as taxes against your will. So, the private security companies will have agreements to save costs. It’s like having several governments and you can fire one and hire another (but won’t have to move to a new state/country etc.). But these governments can’t tax people against their will and so will not be able to start wars using tax (stolen) money. Eventually, all the protective companies with have agreements.

Would this just degenerate to what we have now? I don’t know. But as Harry Browne wrote in “Government doesn’t work”, about the accusation that these sorts of things are utopean and will never last: even if we only gain freedom for 30 or 40 years, it would be worth the effort to get there.

Curt Howland April 10, 2006 at 1:36 pm

Domenic, without state-granted immunity, such individuals would be liable for their actions. Beating up a little old lady, or 5 police beating a drunk man nearly to death, might get those police repremanded or fired. If not for the state, such actions could get them killed.

You are very correct that anti-social individuals exist and will always exist. It is therefore the height of stupidity to create a structure where such individuals can abuse others with immunity.

Also, don’t go nay-saying Somalia’s clan rule without at least reading the recent article posted here on the subject, and whatever you do don’t equate anarchy with chaos. That error will get some folks ’round here riled up good.

V Haris April 10, 2006 at 1:56 pm

Manuel and Andy, what basis do you have to assert that in a libertarian world, property owners or business owners would refrain from the use of more force than necessary to resolve disputes? While such *might* be the case, it might just as well not. Citing the current behavior of collection agencies or businesses, which operate with only the power granted to them from a force-monopolistic State, can hardly illustrate what we might expect under a self-defined and self-provided enforcement regime. We might, in fact, argue that the organized-crime model of enforcement of our ‘business agreements’ has more historical credibility — excessively violent enforcement as deterrent. No?

Curt Howland April 10, 2006 at 2:01 pm

Mr. Haris, that’s easy: Because as private individuals, we ourselves are liable for our actions. The Mafia itself, like government, acts with immunity. Its individual members, if “following orders”, are not liable for murder or other crimes except if chosen for selective enforcement by other Mafia-like organizations such as Government.

That’s why the Rodney King 5 were found “not guilty” in their first trial. If you read the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department Handbook, you will find that they were in fact following procedures and therefore not liable as individuals for the excessiveness of those procedures.

Private individuals have no such protection from liability.

V Harris April 10, 2006 at 2:32 pm

Mr. Zahringer, if we start from the presumption, as does the State, that the first violation was a ‘crime,’ the failure to respond to the ticket was another ‘crime,’ and rolling through a stop sign was a third ‘crime,’ then we have already met, as per your criteria, committing a crime against your person or property. This, in and of itself, legitimizes ones use of force to both detain and settle matters with the violator. If you propose different rules — which you might well do if you own the road — then you can choose to define violations of your rules any way you please.

But why would I presume that you would define the rules less stringently than does the State? If it is your road, what would prohibit you from defining the rules more stringently and enforcing them more violently? In fact, we might argue that evicting and barring him from future access might well be substantially more onerous that the actions of the State (a simple fine but with detention for failure to pay the fine — the ‘crime’ for which the driver was being held). With due respect, I believe you’re holding an overly optimistic view of the reaction of private owners with respect to repeated violations of their rules on their property — and who have the power of enforcement.

mike casper April 10, 2006 at 2:34 pm

Cheer up! Modern technology is giving us bar-less jails now. Electronic bracelets will soon segue to easily implanted ‘chips’ that will track the released arrestee’s every move. Just as fingerprints are taken of each new arrival at the jail, innocent or not and never removed from the system even when innocence is proven (notice I did not say guilt ‘not proven’) The tracking chips will not be removed except by some insane court process. Oddly enough people rush to embrace this technology as being so much more humane. They evidently are unable to see the crushing of the human spirit as our world evolves once more to serfdom. We see it and can do nothing but wait for our turn. Mike Casper, Tucson, Az.

Evans Munyemesha April 10, 2006 at 2:38 pm

I am working on a chapter on law enforcement by the State in my upcoming book and Jeffrey’s article buttresses my principal argument that any society under a central political government(or the State) is nothing but a giant penal system with individuals enjoying different degrees of freedom.

V Harris April 10, 2006 at 3:26 pm

Mr. Howland, when you state that private individuals would be liable for their actions do you mean to imply that the State, in the detention and bailment of the instant driver, did something for which a private owner of a private road would be liable — given the exact same ‘rules?’ The driver on public roads either knows, or should know, the consequences of violating the ‘rules’ of the road. As petty as the rules might be, the possible consequences of his initial violation, then the violation of failure to pay the fine for the first, combined with the third violation are all proscribed in advance. When he drives he agrees by implication to those terms. The same could be true for a private road. And while the consequences for violations *could* be less, they just as well might be greater — possibly much greater. BTW, I assumed the discussion was libertarian based and only meant to imply the ‘enforcement’ aspect of organized criminal behavior (harsh enforcement brings high compliance) and not their wrongful coercive expropriation of property.

The argument I make is that private enforcement of ‘private’ property rights can lead to greater, more disproportionate, wrongs than do State enforced ‘public’ property rights. Purely from the point of view of the ‘repeat violator,’ jail and bail penalties levied by leviathan might be light compared to that of those of aggrieved private owners.

Eric April 10, 2006 at 4:13 pm

V Harris:

You are missing this point: Unless and until there are private roads, there is no way to really know what a free market would create to administer them. Same for private security firms sans a government (or a Mafia: just government w/o flags). But we know that government monopolies seldem improve.

Case in point: TV was regulated and we have had one improvement in resolution in 50-60 years. Computers are privately “regulated” by the market, and we have improvements all the time, and I can choose to have many different resolutions and there is no chaos here.

I like to think of myself as pretty sharp on computer technology, but 25 years ago I laughed at my collegues that were using expensive computer graphics gear to create interactive menus on screen. Then I saw a smalltalk system and it became obvious where we were headed. I also never saw the internet coming, and thought hyperlinks were a waste because you would have to build them by hand. So, just because I can’t tell you what fabulous ideas will surface from a free market in roads, doesn’t mean they won’t arise.

But I can tell you what achievements you’ll get from government: bigger and bigger failures.

tz April 10, 2006 at 4:14 pm

So if McArbitration agency (as per http://www.lewrockwell.com/lora/m.lora16.html) found for the road owner and sent the security personnel to do exactly the same thing it would be OK? I don’t think so.

Injustice won’t disappear just because one corrupt system fails. We call free enterprise in the current system “bribery” – I missed the praise for the following:

The local newspapers ran a series that claimed to unearth ticket-fixing going on in the Auburn city government. It seems that some friends of powerful people were getting their tickets dismissed.

So if instead of paying a fine, I pay someone in the system to make it disappear – a free market approach – there is no problem?

As to the arbitration, instead of going to McCourt, I can go to McMafia which would settle our dispute, though you might not like the broken bones, the hacker-emptied bank accounts, nor the property returned to my possession. Why bother with courts when you can get aid in self-help? Why should I seek justice when revenge is so much more efficient (and remember the market favors efficiency over virtue).

Two wrongs don’t make a right, nor is there any reason to believe a market system will be more just or less corrupt than a “state” system. When the market provides force, it will do so to the highest bidder. When a market arbitrates, the independent judge’s gavel becomes that of an auctioneer.

That will not correct the problem of imprisoning people for trivia. If people ought not to be put through such a process, it means that they should not whether those doing it are working for the government or for private security (think Blackwater mercenaries).

And another thing missed in the discussion is that there is an appeal to higher authority in the very article. The whole point is that an injustice is being committed. But who defines justice? You don’t like their definition. But are you not then saying they should be enforcing a CORRECT definition – not merely one from a market? You are claiming a higher authority negates that of the (in this case corrupt) state. Yet would you subject your market solutions to this same higher authority or not? If not, why shouldn’t they be just as wrong or corrupt. If so, then it isn’t a market in the same sense that we don’t buy different calculators because your idea of what 2+2 should display when = is hit cannot be different from mine.

(hey – Mises.org should sell the anarchist calculator, so that when you hit =, you can type in whatever answer you want instead of accepting some arbitrary authority to tell you what it should be).

And I would note in sum, the matter of the stop sign, or anything else requires both the defendant and the plaintiff to accept a mutual higher authority. I have no reason to accept your authority, nor you to accept mine. There is a place for an independent authority superior to both, though it cannot be purchased.

Two sovereigns cannot be defendants and plantiffs – they can only be at war or at peace. If the (natural) law itself is not sovereign, then sovereignity can only mean that I can use force to get my will. If you question the legitimacy (and note the root of that word is “law”) of my using force, you question my sovereignity.

But if the law itself is sovereign, then we are all subject to it. You may point out the state does a bad job of interpreting and enforcing (natural) law, but that is no proof that a market system will be any better. I’ve said before, prove to me (and not just assert) that the Ancap security and Arbitration will produce justice – the cardinal virtue – better than a minarchy or state and I will become an anarchist/Ancap.

Eric April 10, 2006 at 4:20 pm


you too don’t understand that a free market creates new ideas that 99.99% of us cannot ever envision. Just because nobody here can answer an issue you bring up, only means there are no entrepeurs willing to invest their time and money on a solution – because there is NO free market in roads for them to work in.

mike casper April 10, 2006 at 4:29 pm

When the tremendous, unbearable weight of laws, local, state and federal, give prosecutors unlimited power to arrest anyone, anytime because simply being alive and present is tantamount of breaking some law, then the people are no longer masters of their own destiny but mere pawns to be tormented at will. Jurists such as Andrew Nepolitano write of police using the power of their office to ‘create’ a crime where none exists. Overzealous police and catch-all laws are not new. During the great depression of the thirties and up through the sixties in some areas, in this land of the free, many thousands and perhaps millions of desperately poor of all colors were arrested and served sentences on the local ‘pea farms’ for the crime of not having any money. At one time there were over a hundred vagrancy laws in the small town in which I grew up. Laws that could catch up the casual, poorly dressed stranger. Such things as walking around the block more than once, standing still in public for more than a few seconds, scratching, spitting, coughing, laughing too loud, winking, moping, leering; a male looking into the eyes of of an unescorted woman; having your hands in your pockets. And on and on. Now it is against the law in most jurisdictions to raise one’s voice in public. Yell at the line jumper that cuts in front of you at WalMart and go to jail, charged with disorderly conduct. Claim freedom of speech and be threatened with having the misdemeanor charge being raised to a felony and possibly a hate crime charge thrown in for good measure. Be a good boy or girl, doff your cap, pay your fines fellow serfs and join the ranks of the newly aware. Nothing is the same and friends, it never was! Mike Casper

Sione April 10, 2006 at 4:59 pm


I am aware of several instances where young men have been sent to jail for low level law infringements; things that should have been dealt with in an administrative manner. They were each raped, in one case by multiple parties. To claim, as the authorities did and continue to do, that they have no control over this sort of thing is disingenuous. Especially galling was the jovial follow up comment that, in the six weeks following the rape and suicide of one of the young men, many out-standing parking and speeding tickets were swiftly paid. Ha ha ha. Good one. Great joke.

Where were the guards while this crime was happening? The victims screamed in agony and they certainly cried for help. Certainly they were audible. Where were the guards? And yet no-one is responsible.

The trouble with the prison system is the complete dehumanisation of ALL the people involved. This goes from the accused prisoner right up the line to the judges and legislators and even the general public at large. It is well known that prisons are brutal places where terrible crimes against persons are committed. There are even movies, songs, books and other entertainment products, not to mention news stories, web sites and political commentary, which disclose and even celebrate the terrifying situation that is a prisoner’s life. It seems what goes on in prisons is accepted and acceptable, until it occurs to you.

An interesting occurrence was how the media reacted to the abuses the military and intelligence agencies committed upon Iraqi prisoners. Amazing! People professed to be shocked and out-raged! But what about what is happening just down the road? Silence. It must be OK to abuse people locally but not OK to export such practices too far off-shore. Certain aspects Western culture are just so embarrassing.

Is anyone going to make a big deal about the treatment of domestic prisoners? Or is that too much to expect?


Thomas J. Van Wyk April 10, 2006 at 6:11 pm

Re Sione’s comments -

I find the fact that prison rape is rarely if ever prosecuted (only if severe medical consequences result, usually) to be proof that almost everybody involved in the criminal justice system views prisoners to be worth little more than dogs.

And, as far as the conduct of the soldiers in this nation’s “honorable” army at Abu Ghraib is concerned, I do indeed agree that it is distressing that the Abu Ghraib “incident” was considered such an outrage (rightfully so, of course), while the treatment of U.S. nationals in U.S. prisons, by fellow prisoners and guards alike is of no concern to the majority of Americans, including those in the state’s “justice” system.

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