The Other Scientism

Paul Copan falls victim to a nowadays unusual error. He realizes clearly that the nature or essence of a human being is fundamentally different from the nature of rock, a merely material object.

Natural sciences have acquired such prestige that they have almost entirely eclipsed the contributions of moral and social sciences. It is considered a manifestation of the philosophical virtue of "tough-mindedness" to be a champion of exact quantitative sciences. Studying man has degenerated into a pissing contest of which philosopher is more thereby tough-minded. Human sciences have all but disappeared; those that have not have tried to imitate physics at least in their methodology if not always conclusions. The fallacy of reducing humans to inanimate nature or plants (in the extreme, humans are "really" "just" bags of chemicals or "just" colonies of fungus) or at best, to animals is known as "scientism."

This is an infelicitous term, to be sure, because economics, ethics are sciences, too -- as in, theoretical edifices, but we're stuck with it, and that's what I'll be using.

Mises, on the contrary, as a preamble to economic reasoning recommends if not metaphysical than at least methodological dualism:

In the present state of our knowledge the fundamental statements of positivism, monism, and panphysicalism are mere metaphysical postulates devoid of any scientific foundation and both meaningless and useless for scientific research. Reason and experience show us two separate realms: the external world of physical, chemical, and physiological phenomena and the internal world of thought, feeling, valuation, and purposeful action. No bridge connects -- as far as we can see today -- these two spheres. (Human Action, 18)

Copan's objections to scientism are different: they center not on what humans beings somewhat obviously are but on how they apparently came to be. Our author keeps hammering on that point throughout his paper:

affirmation of human dignity, rights, and duties is something we would readily expect if God exists -- but not if humans have emerged from valueless, mindless processes. (143)

Why think impersonal/physical, valueless processes will produce valuable, rights-bearing persons? (146)

So anyone can know that humans have rights and dignity and obligations. But, more crucially, how did they come to be that way -- particularly if they are the result of valueless, cause-and-effect physical processes from the big bang until now? Theism offers the requisite foundations. (146)

In the case of morality, we are still left wondering how value and obligation came to be thrust upon a valueless context of unguided matter in motion to have a context for the truth of "Murder is wrong." (148)

How then do we best account for the existence of valuable, morally responsible, self-aware, reasoning, truth-seeking, living human beings who inhabit a finely tuned, beautiful universe that came to exist a finite time ago? Is this best explained naturalistically -- namely, the result of disparate valueless, mindless, lifeless physical processes in a universe that came into existence from nothing? (149)

Thomas Nagel puts it candidly: "There is no room for agency in a world of neural impulses, chemical reactions, and bone and muscle movements." (155)

If humans are simply more developed animals, why think there are moral duties to which they must subscribe -- or that they are even morally responsible? (156)

I think these quotes are sufficient to bring to light Copan's argument. He is obsessed with the problem of "where we came from." Unfortunately, since little is known about it, Copan's case is built upon sand as judged by his own standards. Theism, for him, is little more than inference to best explanation: if man could not have arisen by blind evolution, then he must have been created. Hence, God. QED, apparently.

We shall deal with this line of reasoning shortly; I, at any rate, agree with the atheist philosopher David Stove that "Such questions strike me, in fact, as overwhelmingly uninteresting: like the questions (say) where the Toltecs came from, or the Hittites, and how they came. They came, like our species itself, from somewhere, and they came somehow. The details do not matter, except to specialists. What does matter is, to see our species rightly, as it now is, and as it is known historically to have been: and in particular, not to be imposed upon by the ludicrously false portrayals which Darwinians give of the past, and even of the present, of our species." (Darwinian Fairytales, vii, emphasis mine)

Not only is the question of our origins uninteresting, it is supremely irrelevant for theology.

For example, when challenged with an argument that the world must have began and was therefore created by something or someone, a skeptic may reply that for all he knows, the universe has existed forever. Recent empirical evidence from physics is inconclusive and is of little philosophical value. Leave physics to the physicists. The kalam argument, too, is unsatisfactory: it tries to show that it is impossible to traverse an actual infinite year by year or second by second. But, since time is neither infinite multitude (of real objects) nor magnitude -- which I admit cannot exist -- perhaps, the infinitude of time was traversed in some other way. If there was no such way, then unfortunately, Copan (and Craig) would prove too much: that God, who is actually infinite, is also impossible. The argument is that if eternal existence is possible, then a fortiori, something much less amazing and spectacular that it, viz., everlasting existence, is possible, as well. Modus tollens.

That the universe has a beginning is not a deliverance of reason but an article of faith.

Now let's take a further step. I hereby claim (purely philosophically) that humans, too, have existed forever. There is an endless cycle of deaths and rebirths. Each individual upon death goes to some sort of afterlife where he might linger for a few years or a few billion years, until he is reborn unto this world anew. Then Copan's argument is immediately undone. The "impersonal/physical, valueless processes" have gone on forever, but so have the "personal value-laden" processes. Both will perhaps continue to do so.

It can no longer be said that a valueless world has mysteriously yielded values; for according to this particular skeptic, values have always been around, since human souls are naturally immortal and have been subject to this cycle from all eternity. Whence, then, God?

For example, the Nagel quote above assumes in a grotesque reduction that humans are "really" "nothing more than" neural impulses, chemical reactions, and bone and muscle movements. This assumption is false, but theism has no influence on refuting it.

Let's continue to "objective moral values" (OMVs). I would use the term "metaphysical" values, reserving "moral" for virtuous and vicious personal character traits rather than natural law like "You shall not kill." And that's what OMVs are: they are propositions of natural law as elucidated by, say, Rothbard in The Ethics of Liberty.

On the one hand, to say that God, as conceived by classical theism, is the cause of OMVs is to do God injustice: God is the source not only of those fine things but in fact of everything, whether of objective moral values or of subjective metaphysical ideas.

Consider that level 1 creatures such as rocks, have their material and efficient causes deep inside of them. A rock is made of this-and-that and functions so-and-so.

Level 2 creatures, humans especially, have in addition their final cause inside: they live for the sake of their happiness. "What a man is for" is his own happiness. A 1st-level machine, on the other hand, has no purpose of existing other than to serve man in pursuit of this man's happiness. A machine is a perfect slave; a man has no external to him purpose, and ethics rightly recognizes that "using" a person without giving proper consideration to that person's own values is very wrong. A human being is (or has) an (or his) "end in himself."

There are other differences between man and machine, such as than man has unique intelligence and a genuine personality or "traits of character." Mises points out:

It is arbitrary to consider only the satisfaction of the body's physiological needs as "natural" and therefore "rational" and everything else as "artificial" and therefore "irrational." It is the characteristic feature of human nature that man seeks not only food, shelter, and cohabitation like all other animals, but that he aims also at other kinds of satisfaction. Man has specifically human desires and needs which we may call "higher" than those which he has in common with the other mammals. (Human Action, 20)

... reason, man's most characteristic feature, is also a biological phenomenon. It is neither more nor less natural than any other feature of the species Homo sapiens, for instance, the upright gait or the hairless skin. (Human Action, 176)

But an exploration of these would take us too far afield.

As anyone can see, I have figured all this out without engaging in any theological reasoning. If we want, we can continue by saying that level 3 "Goodness" has at last the formal cause inside it, too. God is what He is, and His essence is uncaused. Yet humans are made by God, and God ultimately decides who shall become what. But only if we want.

If moral values are objective, then they must have a ground in something that is objective, too. I have suggested that it is human nature. Moral facts are part of our human nature and are inseparable from it. Hence, there is no "unexplained huge cosmic coincidence between the existence of these moral facts and the eventual emergence of morally responsible agents who are obligated to them." (148) Moral facts come into existence with humans and go out of existence with them. This is a proximate cause. An ultimate cause may well be God, though that's not saying much, because God is the ultimate First cause of everything. Why though go that far? At any rate, having gone that far, Copan produces no interesting attributes of God that his theologizing has revealed.

His output is that "humans have been made in the image of a faithful, truthful, rational, morally excellent, worship-worthy Being." But humans, too, can be faithful, truthful, rational, etc. How does this description differentiate between humans and God?

Is God "really" "just" an unusually saintly person, according to Copan?

In a strange diversion, Copan shifts away from physics to psychology, declaring even it beyond the pale! A psychologist, he argues, would say that "Hitler, being bitter and angry, held many false beliefs about the Jews (for example, that they were responsible for Germany’s defeat in WWI). Hitler sought to destroy the Jews as a way of releasing his hostilities." (156) Doesn't he see that this explanation, though not involving OMVs, is already human, not material? Hitler's bitterness is not the bitterness of caffeine. Anger is an immaterial subjective mental state. Moreover, this explanation actually seems enlightening. "Hitler was morally depraved" merely condemns Hitler without understanding him, though I'm sure there is room for both of these.

Even if humans are not "simply more developed animals," and even if we properly reject scientism, I still do not see any reason in order to do ethics to wax theological. I might want to at some point, but the human and divine sciences are separate and distinct. Contributing to one science need not involve using the other.

Copan concludes: "If, however, we have been created in the image of a good, supremely valuable, and free being and have been endowed with moral value and 'certain unalienable rights,' then the theist is able to offer a much more plausible context for affirming human dignity, rights, and responsibility than the naturalist who wants to be a realist but doesn't quite know how." (157) That we are so created needs to be proven not just asserted as self-evident. "The idea that God could be evil or command evil is utterly contrary to the very definition of God (who is intrinsically morally excellent, maximally great, and worthy of worship)." (160) But we are not supposed to define God but to unfold His attributes one adequate argument after another and in such a way as to draw undeniable conclusions about the difference between Creator and creatures.

God is as much above me as I am above rocks. Nothing like this follows from Copan's flawed theology and "reverse scientism," wherein he confuses ethics with theology.

Sick Leave, 2

The bill is clearly premised on the idea that entrepreneurs and workers are enemies of each other, with entrepreneurs being evil and cruel and just itching to fire people for even insignificant transgressions. "What's that, you got sick for 2 days?" our exploiting capitalist pig would be saying over and over to different people. "You're fired, motherfucker! You have one hour to clear your desk. Then get out of here."

There is no realization that the employment contract benefits both the employer and employee, and a businessman with such a preposterous firing policy will very soon find himself without workers at all and therefore, out of business. It does not pay any business owner casually, randomly, and on a whim to fire people.

Given that, it is obvious that the bill mandates that part of the remuneration to workers shall be given in the form of sick days. But why? Why insist on a particular form of compensation? Some workers might indeed prefer a lower wage yet more sick days; different workers, however, will prefer otherwise; why the one-size-fits-all law?

There may be businesses, moreover, where a worker's presence on the premises is essential at all times; for example, technicians monitoring mission-critical infrastructure. This necessity would be specified in the employment contract, and only the healthiest people would apply. The unraveling discipline will now be causing such businesses under the new law to suffer and become less efficient at serving the consumers.

Of course, another unintended consequence is that companies may refuse to hire people who are prone to illness altogether. Moreover, they might start trying to find excuses to fire people who get sick more than average just so they don't have to pay them money for doing nothing. If a person could take an unpaid leave, he might keep his job; if his boss sees him taking advantage of the law and not pulling his own weight, this boss may end up deciding to get rid of him even under false pretenses. Which are easy enough to invent.

Contra Gov. Brown, then, the bill guarantees that lots of workers -- "from Eureka to San Diego" -- will lose their jobs if they show themselves sickly enough. No wonder the unions supported this bill: they will benefit from decreased worker competition.

Then there is the matter of business efficiency in general. Not only employees but companies will feel the burden of the law. California businesses that serve the rest of the world will be put at a competitive disadvantage; businesses that serve California will be similarly disadvantaged relative to businesses located out of state that serve California. The "sick leave" law will sicken the local companies, and the consumers will not pay the entrepreneurs for taking days off or for slackening their efforts.

The bill is not only anti-worker then but anti-consumer, as well, and the vast majority of the consumers are the workers themselves!

The lawmakers will not learn basic economics, until the people who elect them do. Until that happens, their stupidity will result in justly deserved worsening of economic conditions.

Re: Passage of ‘Historic’ Sick Leave Bill

Says the article:

The bill would require employers to provide at least three days of annual paid sick leave to workers, who would accrue the time off at a rate of one hour per 30 hours worked.

If Brown signs the measure into law, California will join Connecticut as the only states mandating paid sick leave, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

"Tonight, the Legislature took historic action to help hardworking Californians," Brown said in a statement. "This bill guarantees that millions of workers -- from Eureka to San Diego -- won’t lose their jobs or pay just because they get sick."

Just out of curiosity: are there ever any good news?

You know, like, "A law that grants California workers mandatory sick leave has been repealed. Tonight, the Legislature took historic action to retrench the state and undo this immoral and uneconomic legislation. It is now up to individual businesses and job applicants to negotiate the terms of employment as they themselves find these terms advantageous to both. No longer will the state intervene into these private business arrangements."

The regressives must be cheering: they've advanced yet another mile down the road to serfdom.

No Justice Among Politicians

Says Paul Craig Roberts.

I mean, these guys battle for power with which they, once they have obtained it, hurt society. What did Roberts expect?

Torture Bites Back

An article in Washington Post reveals:

At least four hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State, including an American journalist who was recently executed by the group, were waterboarded in the early part of their captivity, according to people familiar with the treatment of the kidnapped Westerners.

I immediately upon reading this wondered whether the waterboarding was an act of revenge against "America" for waterboarding terrorist suspects in the past.

I was reassured and relieved to read further on:

"ISIL is a group that routinely crucifies and beheads people," [said] a U.S. official, using one of the acronyms for the militant group. "To suggest that there is any correlation between ISIL's brutality and past U.S. actions is ridiculous and feeds into their twisted propaganda."

The suggestion is that it is my fault for thinking the two torturing nations are competing for the "most brutal" award. Could it be instead that it is the US government's own waterboarding of people, as well as its endlessly criminal wars, that have fed into the Islamic State's "twisted propaganda"? I am just a citizen trying to make connections. Don't blame me for your foolishness and crimes, Washington.

You, politicians, do realize that war produces more evil people than it destroys, right? If you hadn't until now, this is your chance to learn this maxim.

Or is it that you do realize this but are convinced that war is the health of the state? I shouldn't be surprised: stupidity and evil go well together.

Re: The Black Population Feels Forgotten

So says Megyn Kelly in an interview with Bill O'Reilly.

You know how you work all your life and may end up in a relatively high-powered position within a company and lots of projects and people depend on you... and then you retire, and it hits you that you were in no way indispensable. Someone takes over, the company adapts, and the show goes on. As all shows must.

You are in a real sense forgotten.

Why is that? Because before you retired, you were useful to your fellow men. You contributed to society (and were compensated accordingly).

As Eric Hoffer put it, you were "taking part in the world's work."

As soon as you stop being useful, you stop being noticed. People don't call you or "do lunches" with you. Quitting productive work means slinking back into darkness and preparing to die.

Could it be that the "black population feels forgotten," because they are useless to the rest of us?

On Apparent Racial Injustices

It is often said that blacks are given harsher sentence than whites for the same crimes. But few people have sought an explanation for this phenomenon.

I have one in this post.

Juries and judges tend to treat blacks with greater rigor, because blacks are less deterrable than whites.

First, blacks are more amoral than whites; are more like wolves; they care less about morality. A white person to whom a thought of killing has occurred might simply say, "It is evil to commit murder" and abstain from it. A black person is less likely to engage in this sort of reasoning; hence, society depends more on the threat of punishment to deter him.

There is a related point: too many blacks go through life full of dull hatred for their fellow men. This lack of basic charity contributes to the blacks' unusual criminality.

Here is the second difference: blacks are more impulsive and less in control of themselves than whites. Their time preferences are higher. Hence, they imbue possible future punishment with less displeasure as compared to the immediate gratification of a present crime.

I hasten to add that to explain something is not the same as to justify it. It is still open to anyone to say, "Yes, those factual propositions are true," yet to insist that law ought to be color-blind.

Civil Associations, 2

Suppose you are deciding whether to buy a house in a gated community. If you do, you'll have to sign an agreement to follow all the present rules of the community in exchange perhaps for a vote in the governing body, i.e., some influence over changing the rules.

(Notice how the community's government, M, and the city government, C, are alike. M can impose a monthly tax on each resident, and so can C. If you stop liking the tax and fail to persuade the government of either M or C that the tax should be abolished or lowered, then you have no choice other than selling your property and moving away.

It's true, however, that M cannot on its own enforce the law.)

Each of these rules -- positive laws -- take away one or more of your freedoms. But they also take away similar freedoms from other members of the community. Thus, you may be thinking:

Con: I cannot paint my house pink.
Pro: Other people also cannot paint their houses pink.

If the reason pro outweighs the reason con in your estimation, then it makes sense to buy the house and restrict yourself in this manner.

Why not extend this kind of deliberation to all positive law?

There is still a need to partition the earth between "states." I have argued that these states should be no bigger in size than what know as "local" governments. If it is expedient to unite these governments into a weak confederation whose only mandate is to enforce the freedom of trade and migration between the localities, then this can be done, as well. These territorial local governments need not even have a full-fledged legislature. The job of their city councils may be exclusive to monitoring the executive branch.

By default, each person will obey natural law only wherever he goes, though the enforcer of this law will differ from one city to another. These default natural-law states ensure that no one will fall through the cracks. I take this to be the spirit and implementation of Rothbard's wonderful dictum: "Universal laws, locally enforced."

We can build on Rothbard, however.

Thus, at the same time, each person will be free to enter into all manner of restrictive covenants, i.e., civil associations, that will restrict his natural liberty in exchange for restricting the exact same natural liberties of other members.

Suppose you think that politeness is a cardinal virtue. You and other like-minded people form an association that prohibits to all its members, yourself included, to curse in public. Let Smith and Jones be members of this association, and Robinson, not. If Jones hears Smith cussing, then he can sue and punish him according to the positive law of their civil association. At the same time, Robinson will not be able to sue Smith; nor Smith, Robinson.

The executive branch used by each association will be that set up by the default state. It will be shared among the associations. This seems like the only feasible option.

Of course, the cops will be obedient to the (private) judiciary, such that Jones would have to prove Smith guilty according to the very private law that Smith has consented to obey!

The justice and efficiency advantages of this system are staggering.

Everyone is equal before the natural law, you know, do not kill, steal, etc. It will be up to the judges to discover and clarify natural law in hard cases.

At the same time, no one shall be forced to obey any positive law that he that finds repugnant or even simply dislikes. Mutually beneficial exchanges like:

What I pay: I cannot curse in public.
What I get: My fellow associates cannot curse in public either.

can contribute to human happiness tremendously.

Concealed Carry, 2

It's probably the case that a person who went to the trouble to obtain a license to carry a concealed weapon is sufficiently "law-abiding" and self-disciplined not to attack a cop.

But self-defense is permitted not only against a private criminal but against anyone working for the government, too, if the situation calls for it.

Now to be sure, "resisting arrest" is a bad idea all around. Again, the cops very properly have the power to crush any individual within a community. Resisting only makes things worse, as cops will overwhelm the resister eventually. But sometimes a cop would use force so excessive and deadly (such a dangerous choke hold), for whatever reason, that unless the victim resists, he will die. Then killing the wicked cop would seem to be justified.

In short, if the police are afraid of such people, then they should be.

Mises on Crony Capitalism

In his view:

Now it is true that under the conditions brought about by interventionism many people can acquire wealth by graft and bribery. In many countries interventionism has so undermined the supremacy of the market that it is more advantageous for a businessman to rely upon the aid of those in political office than upon the best satisfaction of the needs of the consumers. (Human Action, 314)

How many businessmen in America are like that? The numbers matter. How far exactly has the market economy been undermined and sabotaged?

I have already linked to Robert Higgs's opinion that out of the richest 1% of entrepreneurs and workers, only perhaps 10% are attached to the state.

Hence, the people whose wealth fails to signify prior service to society through the market process are only 0.1% of the population rather than the 1%.

Is that an accurate estimate? If so, then things are better than we may imagine, and there is cause for optimism. Mises might actually have agreed:

The unsurpassed efficiency of capitalism never before manifested itself in a more beneficial way than in this age of heinous anti-capitalism.

While governments, political parties, and labor unions are sabotaging all business operations, the spirit of enterprise still succeeds in increasing the quantity and improving the quality of products and in rendering them more easily accessible to the consumers.

In the countries that have not yet entirely abandoned the capitalistic system the common man enjoys today a standard of living for which the princes and nabobs of ages gone by would have envied him. (Human Action, 859)

The system works -- more or less.

Price of Power, 2

Mises writes in regard to bureaucratic management:

Things are different in public administration, in the conduct of government affairs. In this field the discretion of the officeholders and their subaltern aids is not restricted by consideration of profit and loss.

If their supreme boss -- no matter whether he is the sovereign people or a sovereign despot -- were to leave them a free hand, he would renounce his own supremacy in their favor. These officers would become irresponsible agents, and their power would supersede that of the people or the despot. They would do what pleased them, not what their bosses wanted them to do.

To prevent this outcome and to make them subservient to the will of their bosses it is necessary to give them detailed instructions regulating their conduct of affairs in every respect. Then it becomes their duty to handle all affairs in strict compliance with these rules and regulations. Their freedom to adjust their acts to what seems to them the most appropriate solution of a concrete problem is limited by these norms. They are bureaucrats, i.e., men who in every instance must observe a set of inflexible regulations.

Bureaucratic conduct of affairs is conduct bound to comply with detailed rules and regulations fixed by the authority of a superior body. (Human Action, 310)

It should never be forgotten that a cop is just another bureaucrat.

Another Price of Power

As put by Glenn Greenwald:

Transparency is for those who carry out public duties and exercise public power. Privacy is for everyone else.

A 100% solid distinction between the citizen and the state.

HT: The Independent Institute

Concealed Carry

I wonder if concealed carry laws (that stipulate objective criteria that, if met, must result in the issuance of a permit state-wide) can deter not only private criminals but bad cops, as well, from arbitrary aggression or cop-initiated escalation?

If a cop does not know who among those he plans on assaulting on any given day is packing heat, he will have an incentive to be extra "gentle" with everybody.

On the other hand, it is possible that the police will respond to this uncertainty by ratcheting up their shows of force, with SWAT raids and suchlike ultra-violence, to overwhelm a person "just in case" he is carrying a concealed weapon.

Not sure which effect is stronger here.

A “Gentle Giant” vs. a “Nice, Respectable, Well-Mannered Gentleman”

That is, this guy vs. this one.

I want to know who'll win, but I need more information on who was more gentle.

Honigman the Rapist

Brian Honigman pens an article in Huffington Post entitled "Encourage Women's Involvement in Tech at an Early Age":

As the future of work moves inexorably towards tech, it is shocking and troubling to see just how underrepresented women are in the tech world. Mirroring trends present pretty much industry-wide, Apple's recently released diversity report shows that women represent just 30 percent of its employees. This is (depressingly) 10 percent better than the tech sector as a whole.

Why is this depressing? Doesn't Honigman understand that if women are underrepresented in tech, they are by that very fact overrepresented in other professions?

And what does "underrepresented" mean in this context, anyway? Is the tech world like the US Congress into which people get elected to represent their constituents? Even if it were so, why can't male programmers adequately "represent" the consumers of their labor and work?

Is it that Honigman is enamored with a particularly farcical notion of equality which states that men and women are so interchangeable that every profession should have an equal number of men and women in it? Are there too many women nurses in hospitals? Why, the inevitable conclusion is that this, too, must be "depressing" for Honigman! Or is it that programming pays well, and has an aspect of programmers having a certain power over nature, as they command computers what to do? Then the fact that women fail to find this power exciting and prefer, indeed, nursing vexes Honigman.

Suppose that through Herculean effort society indeed starts encouraging girls to go into tech. Yet despite the pestering, they still choose -- entirely of their own volition -- not to. Would that still be depressing? If so, then to lift Honigman out of his depression, girls must be forced to go into tech jobs, whether they like it or not. Here the lack of conscience of a liberal becomes manifest. Honigman is a coercive authoritarian. He likes to push people around to realize his vision of an "equal" world. In short, he hates womenfolk for what they are and wants to remake women according to his own (crazy) design. This casual alacrity to use force makes Honigman, indeed, a rapist of women. For shame.

Police’s Functions, 2

The regressives, David Weigel says, "still reject, as insane, the idea that a heavily armed citizenry might be safer than a country where the cops have the guns." He means, "where only the cops have the guns."

We have seen, as described in the previous post, the nature of the function of government police. I admit that this function sometimes necessitates that the cops be armed.

However, we must also admit that the areas of life where individual effort and private enterprise are superior often also require people to use guns.

Employees of private security firms, private detectives, bounty hunters, and most important, all private citizens whose moral duty it is to defend themselves and neighbors, too, need weapons.

Therefore, the jobs of the cops and those of the citizens, though forming their "non-overlapping magisteria," nevertheless both require that both groups be armed, even "heavily."

What the Police Are Good For

We do not need public police for any of the following functions:

  • Patrolling private properties and providing on-the-spot deterrence.
  • Investigating crimes.
  • Finding criminals on the lam.
  • Personal protection, security guarding, or bodyguarding services.

All these are much better performed by the market.

Patrolling public properties such as roads by highway patrol and parks by rangers is not really "policing" as we tend to use this term. These areas are government property, at least for now, and the government simply enforces the rules it has previously set for their use, just as private property owners enforce the rules for their own properties.

The spectacularly narrow function of the public police is to enforce judicial verdicts by forcing a person to pay restitution or damages or simply by transporting him to prison.

(Just as God the Father and the Son love each other through the Holy Spirit, so the legislature and the executive branch communicate via the mediation of the judiciary.)

Regarding the latter function, the cops are glorified delivery boys, grabbing condemned criminals (or taking custody of them when they are caught by private bounty hunters) and driving them to jail.

That's it! There is absolutely nothing else that the city police force is useful for.

Militarization of the Police

It has at least three problems associated with it.

First, it's a "waste of taxpayer money." To be sure, the military toys have already been produced by the feds before they are sent to local governments, and the money therefore spent; but if this practice (i.e., of the feds' subsidizing cities) were forbidden in the first place, then perhaps spending on the federal military might decrease overall.

Second, the police should be powerful enough to crush any individual or subgroup with a community but no more than that. (By "subgroup" I mean chiefly organized crime.) The military hardware and weapons encourage excessive and sometimes lethal use of force against an individual where softer and safer methods would entirely suffice.

The police might "search for an excuse" to use the overpowered weaponry and hurt people if they find one, however specious.

Third, despite its strength, the police should be weak enough to be subordinated to (1) the people as a whole or their representatives and to (2) the judicial branch. Commonplace military-style weapons and tactics threaten to make the police tyrannical, such that not even the city council or judges can command them. For example, the police chiefs may refuse to let a cop in their department be investigated or punished, if he is accused or convicted of a crime. And "what are you going to do about that?"

In short, it's dangerous and ugly stuff.

Wilson, Cont.

In reply to Kibbitzer: You've convinced me to give your post another read.

Best I can tell, you are saying that presumption of innocence (PoI) does not kick in until an actual trial.

Next, however, you add another function to PoI which is to prevent "random" arrests, that is, arrests where the arrester cannot demonstrate probable cause. There is no point of making an arrest if the judge, as per habeas, will order the arrestee released the next day.

So, PoI requires (1) probable cause in the initial arrest and (2) a high standard of proof in a subsequent trial.

Now we need to switch hats from lawyer to political philosopher.

Why presume people innocent? That is the puzzle I am trying to solve. My answer is that in a free society, the scope of permitted individual actions is vast, and the prohibited things are few. If this were otherwise, arresting people randomly would net a huge number of actually guilty individuals and only a small number of innocents, making such arrests an exceedingly efficient from the social point of view practice.

Thus, sometimes libertarians say that these days there are so many minute rules and regulations of every aspect of life that everyone is perpetually guilty of something. If all these rules were just or efficient or both, then perhaps I'd be forced to advocate an end to the presumption is innocence. Such a presumption would impede justice.

For government agents the situation is reversed. Hence, the different approach to allegations of official misconduct that I suggest.

Look, a cop is essentially a robot, an automaton, allowed to behave according to a limited and precise set of laws.

It is for that reason that government work is basically unnatural to a human being. Only a special kind of person can be a police officer.

That is the essence of the idea of "rule of law": the law is made by the legislature (if positive) or judges (if natural) and is addressed to the police, strictly governing their behavior.

Rule of law is about subordination of the executive branch of government to the other two branches and how such subordination is to be achieved.

Our robot-cop is always and forever -- very properly -- under suspicion that he is indulging in something that is not compulsory and that therefore is forbidden. If such suspicion becomes too serious, as I expect would happen frequently in a free society, then the cop must be relieved from duty and thoroughly investigated. There would be no presumption of innocence for him for reasons already stated.

As a result, (1) the probable cause for relief from duty would be a simple accusation of wrongdoing. And (2) a trial under a tribunal would be much harsher on a cop than a normal trial is presently on a private citizen.

These are yet another part of what I call the "sorrow of authority." They're the price of power.

Brown and Wilson: Guilt and Innocence

William Norman Grigg has proposed a "Tom Joad Test" for one's political sensibilities: "When you see a police officer beating or shooting a citizen, is your first impulse to sympathize with the uniformed assailant, or the victim? If the former is the case, you're a natural authoritarian; it the latter is true, you're an instinctive libertarian."

Let us first dispose of one argument in favor of "authoritarianism": the officer is punishing the criminal who richly deserves the beating or death.

A person who thinks that does not fully appreciate our system of government. For the main duty of cops is to enforce judicial verdicts. Therefore,

  1. The "punishment" is inflicted before a person is found guilty by the jury;
  2. It's extrajudicial, going beyond the punishment authorized by the judge; and
  3. It is cruel and unusual and hence, unconstitutional.

Now let's put together a couple of strands of thought. As I have written,

For the citizen, the law books aver: Whatever is not explicitly forbidden (and very few things are forbidden), is permitted.

For the state and its officials and bureaucrats, the law looks very differently. It says rather: Whatever is not compulsory, is implicitly forbidden (and almost everything is forbidden).


If the cop enjoyed presumption of innocence, then the person he arrested or hurt would precisely lack such a presumption, contrary to our understanding. An individual is presumed innocent before the people and must be proven guilty by them beyond a reasonable doubt; a cop is presumed guilty before any individual and must prove himself innocent beyond a reasonable doubt. He does so by scrupulously adhering to the "book," the police procedures.

The difference may also be understood as follows. Consider an arbitrary or randomly selected action of a citizen. In a free society, it's almost certain that it will be permissible and lawful. Therefore, the citizen is presumed innocent. Now consider an arbitrary action of an agent of the state (acting in an official capacity). Again, there is a high probability that it will be forbidden and unlawful. Hence, it is convenient to presume the agent guilty.

Regarding the Brown case, Grigg goes on: "Because the Ferguson PD didn’t install a dashcam aboard Wilson's patrol vehicle (officer accountability is not a priority for that department), no objective record of the encounter exists." This is most unwise for Wilson, the cop who shot Brown, because he can't use the recording in order to exonerate himself in the eyes of citizens who presume Wilson guilty or ought to.

Recording devices in police cars are in the interest of the police, unless a department is full of self-consciously out-of-control crooks.

What should then happen to Wilson? For one, if he cannot demonstrate that he is innocent, then he must be considered to have violated the terms of his employment with the government and possibly be fired from his job.

Secondly, he should be tried, though not in a regular court but by a some kind of tribunal where the standard of proof of guilt is lower that normal.