This is why I advocate for a private police force

Libertarians in general and AnCaps specifically are often caricatured as cold, calculating, uncaring number crunchers who are excited about how much cheaper and more efficient the Post Office would be if it were privatized.

But I’m here to tell you that while this AnCap loves her some efficiency, that’s not enough to devote my entire working life to fighting for freedom and my free time to blogging about it.

On economic issues, I’m motivated by seeing industrial revolutions in the third world lift millions of people out of crippling rural poverty and into world-class universities IN A GENERATION. I’m motivated by the life-extending and enhancing innovations that, as Einstein said, are only created when people can labor in freedom.

And when I tell you that I want to see private property rights enforcement, it isn’t to save money. It’s because I am willing to try ANYTHING to avoid ever seeing this again:

This is the face of Kelly Thomas as he lay dying after he was beaten by police officers. He has died from his injuries, and the officers have not been fired.

One of the officers who beat him to death is on trial for murder right now. This is only after Thomas’ father worked tirelessly to tell his son’s story, Fullerton’s citizenry railed against the police department, and the national news media picked up the story.

Most officers who use excessive force get a slap on the wrist and go right back out onto the streets. Public sector unions make it nearly impossible to fire a police officer.

This is the state of policing in America right now: Police officers in New York trick poor blacks and Latinos into showing their completely-legal-to-own small amounts of cannabis in order to meet their arrest quotas while the statute of limitations expires on thousands of untested rape kits. There’s a stark discrepancy in police response between poor and wealthy neighborhoods. Cops use machine guns murder citizens. When two cops hold down a woman while a third beats her, their boss will say everything was done by the book. A handcuffed, searched, left-handed man can shoot himself in the back of a police car in the right side of his head and the state crime lab will call it a suicide.

None of this is rare. None of this is right.

It’s no coincidence that right now, there is no mechanism to replace a police department. A citizen’s only recourse is protest, which is often met with more violence from police.

How could a private police force be worse? How could a company that can fire its employees at will, that can be replaced by a competing company at any time, possibly do a worse job of protecting property rights?

Look at that picture of Kelly Thomas and tell me it isn’t worth trying anything to keep that from happening to anyone else.


  1. TL Jackson

    I think we should pay the Chinese to supply us with a police force. It’s worth trying anything to prevent police brutality like this. Or maybe we could have a police force made up of everybody doing a shift a week each. Worth trying anything, yeah. What a stupid, shitty blog post.

    • James Doe

      We should strip the police of their precious “radios”, and make them use Twitter instead, like regular people. Up the market!

      • TL Jackson

        There’s not really any substance to critique. You make clear that police brutality is terrible (it is!), posit that this is because we can’t replace a police department (although we can elect police chiefs, sheriffs etc) and then just declare that private police forces would be less brutal.

        I looked through your blog for any reasons why you might think this, but found none, just more assertions that it can’t be worse. While I’m no fan of anarcho-capatalist thinking in the first place, even if we assume a world of private insurers providing policing and such works well at delivering it’s goals (protection of private property, freedom to gain co-operatively, whatever), why on earth would it reduce police brutality? Police who were responsible only to their customers would surely have even less reason to treat suspects humanely than police who are at least in theory responsible to the whole community.

        What is your reason for believing that private police forces would be less brutal than public ones?

        • If you understand that competition produces better results than monopoly then logically it follows that property rights protection will get cheaper and better (less violent, which is what customers want) after breaking the monopoly and allowing the market to provide competition.

          • TL Jackson

            “(less violent, which is what customers want)” What on earth makes you imagine that? Even if a large majority of people want less violent policing (which they do not seem to) some people are going to prefer ultra-violent policing.

          • Most people want to live in less violent societies, and the market gives the majority what they want while still letting the minority live as they want. Violent people will choose to live in violent societies.

          • adamnvillani

            Who’s the customer here? The person being beaten up by private thugs who might appreciate less violent thugs isn’t the one who hired the thugs.

          • TL Jackson

            “Most people want to live in less violent societies” No, most people want to face less violence, and they are willing to employ people to use violence against other people to ensure that.

          • TL Jackson

            “Violent people will choose to live in violent societies” Violent thieves will in fact choose to steal from the non-violent societies. How does anyone misunderstand the world and everything in it as badly as you do?

          • TL Jackson

            Remember also that cheaper always certainly means more violent. It’s far cheaper to beat someone to death than to lock them up in subhuman conditions and torture them, and that’s much cheaper than locking them up and trying to provide rehabilitation. A world of private police is neccesarily a world of immense brutality, with no check on it.

          • TL Jackson

            Umm, we’re talking about police forces. You do get the difference between a police force and a supermarket yeah?

          • TL Jackson

            This isn’t even really a hypothetical situation. Have you heard about policing in the company towns and railroads of the late 19th century? It really wasn’t pretty.

  2. TL Jackson

    Oh I see you’ve written a whole series of posts pointing out problems with policing and asserting that this would all be better with private police. Sub-sub-Tennehill nonsense. What a shitty blog.

  3. adamnvillani

    “It’s no coincidence that right now, there is no mechanism to replace a police department. ” Well, let’s see. In Fullerton, the citizens recalled 3/5 of the City Council, the police chief is out, two of the officers are going to trial, more have been fired, and, oh yeah, the council is considering replacing the police department with sheriff’s deputies. Try getting that kind of public accountability from a private security firm.

  4. adamnvillani

    Plus, of course, there’s the issue that you’ve offered no support for the idea that private security would be less brutal than public police agencies.

      • adamnvillani

        There’s also private prisons, which we use in the U.S., and which have a worse record on brutality and treatment of prisoners than state-owned prisons.

        The point is that private corporations exist to make money. They hire cheap workers and their sense of oversight is “whatever we can minimally get away with.”

        I’m not going to sugar-coat police forces working in the United States today, because I completely agree with you that police brutality is absolutely unacceptable. But police forces at least have to answer to the public. The problem is a lack of public leadership on this issue. If the people demand that their leaders make the police forces accountable (as they’ve done in your example, Fullerton), then the police can be accountable.

        With private security forces, it’s just a bunch of low-paid, poorly-trained guys with guns told that they have the authority to maintain order while staying profitable. If you think that’s going to turn out well, that’s an utter fantasy.

      • Evil_Twin

        “Not a lot of data on a largely untested idea.”

        Which is why we should immediately go with the untested idea. After all, it works so well with…well…let’s face it, as has already been pointed out to you, we’ve had private police forces. They are accountable only to their paymasters and not at all to those they are brutalizing.

        This isn’t a dumb idea. This is a supremely dumb idea.

        Markets work when those who are paying are the ones receiving the services. The people at the shit end of the stick in your fantasy land aren’t the ones paying for it. Which means it’s not amenable to a market solution.

  5. James Doe

    Seriously dude, you missed a fucking trick.

    The police force is not that new an institution. Human civilisation continued for millenia without one, in most parts of the world they’re mere centuries deep. If you’d said “Well perhaps we don’t require a police force” or whatever, that’d have been one story.

    But to say we should just hand them over to private investors? I.e. to say tiny groups of rich people should get that sort of direct sway over law & justice?

    It’s as if you’d literally never heard of the Pinkertons.

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