Hundreds of people rallied and blocked traffic around Harvard Square in Cambridge as they protested two grand jury decisions to not indict white police officers in the killings of unarmed black men.
Demonstrators held up their hands while chanting “hands up, don’t shoot” Friday night. They also marched on streets around Harvard University and lay down in “die-in” protests similar to ones that have occurred across the country. [Associated Press]
Let’s assume that in any dispute between police and citizen, the police are automatically and always wrong — and the motive is certainly racism. (Unless the cop is black, in which case we won’t talk about it.) No, this does not seem like a very objective approach. But it does seem to be the prevailing one according to our media and academic establishment, so let’s just go with it for a moment.
Is America turning into a police state? First, let’s define a police state. A police state is a society where the government has given police unlimited or arbitrary power. A police state is a symptom, not a cause. One of the many problems with these anti-police protesters is that they’re decrying the symptom rather than the underlying cause. Many of them are students at Harvard, and they’re supposed to have insight and knowledge the rest of us don’t have. OK, then. Why are they all in a fury about bad police without looking at the root cause? Aren’t intellectuals and smart people supposed to identify root causes?
You don’t end up with a police state unless you first give government too much power. If we limited government’s power to apprehending and prosecuting violent crooks and frauds, then it would be much easier to contain police. Police would only have the job, in fact, of apprehending known or suspected criminals by this definition.
Unfortunately, our government (federal and local levels) takes on way, way, way more than this task. We have charged the government with all sorts of other responsibilities, including but not limited to: stopping use or sale of drugs; making people buy health insurance; paying taxes under a tax code too complex for even the legislators to figure out; having our property comply with often arbitrary and contradictory EPA requirements, our office spaces comply with similarly arbitrary OSHA requirements, and telling even small company employers what they must do every time they hire or fire any single employee. The list goes on and on.
Maybe if we didn’t have government intimately involved in virtually every activity of daily life, we wouldn’t have so much to fear from the police. Maybe if the police were only empowered to do the minimal — yet highly important — things that a minimal government would permit them to do, we wouldn’t have to worry so much about police brutality, police racism and all the other things which actually or allegedly threaten us.
I find it highly ironic that much of the antipathy and demonstration against police comes from the intellectually progressive “left.” These are the very same people who bring us the expansive government which never seems to be expansive enough, and whose police powers (federal and local) are expanding exponentially almost all the time.
You’d think that a healthy fear or loathing of bad police would come from people who favor a more limited approach to government. (And sometimes it does). But that’s not usually the case.
I want to say that these protesters are more concerned with expanding the reach of government beyond what we even have now, assuming that’s even possible. Of course, when I read the reports coming out of Harvard Square, Tufts University and other campuses sponsoring “die-ins,” I realize I might be giving them too much credit.
Jean, a taxi driver whose cab became stuck during the Harvard Square protest, said he welcomed the inconvenience because he supported the movement.
“Even though I’m working here, I don’t mind,” he said. “You cannot judge.”
Can’t judge? But to be in favor of any particular protest implies a judgment. You can’t favor and approve of something and claim, “I don’t judge” at the same time. It’s an absurd and self-evident contradiction. Yet the world is full of people who feel this way. They have no concept that feelings and emotions arise from certain thoughts, ideas, premises and assumptions.
Jean was one of hundreds of observers who rushed to snap photos and shoot video of the protesters. Johnson reminded marchers, however, that the protest was meant as more than a cool photo opportunity.
“This is not a march that we’re doing so you can take a picture,” she said. “This is a march that we’re doing because black people are dying.”
Which black people are dying, and why? Are they violent criminals police are, in some cases, legitimately trying to restrain? Or did the police cross over the boundaries? These are valid questions in any particular case. But what warrants leaping to the conclusion that just because a black person somewhere died, it’s automatically bad and wrong? Shouldn’t bad black people (along with bad white people, and bad Hispanic people) be apprehended, with “bad” here being defined as an initiator of force?
Here’s a challenge to the protesters. If the police are getting too much power, then let’s agree to roll back the power of government. Let’s allow police to focus on the only thing they should be doing, and doing it better — apprehending violent offenders, regardless of their race. Let’s stop empowering government to do all the things that obviously haven’t helped, and are only making it worse, including by the standards of the protesters themselves.
Keep in mind that most violent crime takes places in urban, less wealthy areas. These areas are the product of two things. One, a public welfare state run by bureaucrats at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other welfare state agencies; and two, an ongoing war on drugs which engages the police in the task of stopping people from using or trading drugs. Either way, the impact of drug abuse is present; but by making it illegal and a crime, the propensity for violence only grows. In short, government has made problems much worse for the citizens the protesters are trying to defend. You can’t blame the police for that.
For decades now the call to arms has been more government programs, more government billions on social insurance, more wealth redistribution, more equalization, more regulation, more government management of the economy, more “wars” against drugs. The “wars” against poverty and drugs have been spectacular, expensive, and dangerous failures, with the urban poor suffering the most. It’s remarkable we don’t have more problems with police than what we see.
If it’s a police state you want to avoid, it’s the state itself that must first be reined in, and restored to its proper limitations.
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