Police Corruption

jlitchwark's picture
Submitted by jlitchwark on Fri, 2008-03-07 07:43

In a libertarian society, the government would still need to have the
right to protect individuals, by maintaining a police force.
Maintaining a suitable force, however, would require funding. The two
obvious means of obtaining funds are taxation, or voluntary donations
from individuals. The second of these options is most in line with
libertarian principles. Those with the most wealth, having the most to
protect, would desire the protection that the police could offer them,
and so would happily make donations to a force that protects them.
However, I can see a problem with this theory. Firstly, what is to stop
the wealthy employing a private security force, instead of donating to
a public one? Secondly, a "public" security force in such a situation
would still be dependent on the funding of certain individuals, and
would therfore function very similarly to a private security force.
Such a situation would rapidly appproach anarchy, as any security force
that depends on certain wealthy members of society for it's survival is
likely to put the rights of those wealthy individuals above the rights
of everyone else. This leaves the police force wide open to corruption,
as the threat of lost funding would prevent the police from prosecuting
their benefactors.

This problem could be partially mitigated by giving the government
the right to charge criminals for the cost of prosecuting them. Would
this violate libertarian principles? Even with this system in place,
the police would still be partially dependent on donations (and
therefore on some individuals), as some criminals would not be able to
pay the prosecution costs.


Bear in mind also, that entities such as businesses control large
amounts of wealth, yet lack the ability to act selflessly. How would
property rights relate to property owned by a business (or a group of
shareholders) rather than by an individual? It seems logical that
would be the same, as the business is still run by individuals, however
individuals who control a share of a business do not have absolute
control (unless they hold a controlling share) over the wealth held by
the business, so that the fair application of the wealth is subject to
group mentality, rather than individual benevolence.

Removing the power of the government to tax individuals essentially
privatises it, so that the government would become akin to a business
(with all citizens as shareholders). In this situation, what is to stop
another business ousting the government through competition, and so
installing itself as government. This would change little, except that
the ability to elect government officials (akin to business directors)
would then lie only with the shareholders of the new business, instead
of with all citizens.


James Litchwark

( categories: )


Leonid's picture

Basically your question is: how to reconcile government funding with the principle of non-initiating of force?
This question has been discussed by Objectivists and Libertarians. Ayn Rand suggested government lottery and voluntary charge for contractual agreement. Libertarians suggested to discard the State altogether and to privatize its functions (courts, police, military). So far none of these solutions have been found feasible. I suggest another solution which I'd preliminary call necessary payments or payments for unavoidable consumption of good and services. To elaborate what I mean I give short example: suppose you are living on private space station. You consume breathing air which is produced by private company. You have no choice about the fact that you have to consume this product. If you refuse to pay for it you actually initiate physical force against this company by withholding money which belongs to the air's producers. Therefore company has the right to use force against you in order to recover the money. This analogy is applicable to every citizen who enjoys safe living due to fact that government removes criminals, protects borders and ensures validity of contracts. He has no choice about not to use these services; his only choice is to leave the country. But as long as he stays, he unavoidably uses government services and has to pay for them. If he doesn't-government has right to retaliate against him in order to recover payments for its services which have been consumed.That could be sound basis for government funding. Please note that I'm discussing free society with minimal government functions,not today Big Nany State,which services most of the people don't use but pay for them. The similar situation Ayn Rand described in "Atlas Shrugged" when Dagny Taggart had to stay in Galt valley and couldn't pay for her keeping. She has been explained that part of her gold deposit in the bank would be turned to Galt as payment-without her consent. She opted for another solution and became Galt's maid, but this is different story.

Mark, as a non-NZ-er ...

mvardoulis's picture

For what it is worth, I completely agree with you here:

"To fund this I would be for... a complete abolition of income tax... thus financing this very small [s]tate by a flat, indirect tax, probably on sales, such as the GST we have here. But financing only these basic functions (police, military, courts) nothing else."

A goverment of this size is much more managable for those being governed to watch and change as needed, made even more so by having different 'levels' of government from local to national. Arguably, this could be considered a 'minarchist' position. My guess is there may be anarchists of many (though not all - those who call themselves anarcho-socialists or anarcho-communists or even left-anarchists would probably be turned away by the LibertariaNZ devotion to capitalism) stripes supporting the minarchism of the the LibertariaNZ while viewing that minarchism as an incrimental step toward their anarchist world view. Ideally, the LibertariaNZ can gather the support they need to make an ever-increasing impact on NZ elections from freedom lovers in a large range of political and philosophical beleifs who can at the least agree that Nanny State needs to be beaten off with a stick and only the Libz are going to do it!


Lindsay Perigo's picture

Please supply a photo, not a blur! Smiling

You need to look at the history of policing in weastern

Big Ben's picture

nations. Its based on the idea that the police have few or no special rights over the normal citizen. There is no special right for the police to arrest, tackle, or in extreme cases shoot some one they, for the most part use the same laws that would allow a none police member commit such acts. So what does a state police force do that a private one couldn't? There are a few thing that those who would be wanting to fund a private security force would want done so they would still have an incentive to fund the state police. It would still be the sole job of the police to under take independent investigations to convict people if they didn't it hard to have fair trials so no convictions criminals still on street (and no one likes that).

One of the main jobs of the police would be to investigate the actions of the private security force thus they would have to act in accordance with the law (so no anarchy). Its easy to see a situation were a private security force would fund the police in order to control there competitions behaviour. Yours views on this are unfounded as private security companies work with the police now.   

Better clarify something.

Mark Hubbard's picture

I said: For myself, and one area I disagree with Nick (but he might be right), is that there are anarchists in the Libertarian movement, or at least in NZ.

I can't actually say that, for other than the fact I'll be voting for Libz, I know nothing of their composition.

Is there an 'anarchist' faction?

Although I suspect talking of 'factions' is speaking to more organisation than it would be fair to; that is, a broad band of freedom lovers would be voting for Libz, and to speak of factions would be to misrepresent the case.

Interesting post James.

Mark Hubbard's picture

Interesting post James. Nick's answer goes some way toward answering it.

For myself, and one area I disagree with Nick (but he might be right), is that there are anarchists in the Libertarian movement, or at least in NZ. I have no truck at all with anarchists given, in my albeit limited dealings with them, they seem to support an overall position of complete pacifism, to the extent they would not be able to defend themselves. The non-initiation of force principles that I attach to Objectivism, thus 'my' Libertarianism, not only does not preclude defending yourself, but from the point of view of rational self-interest, demands that you do.

But I wander. Where I also part with the anarchists, who believe they will be able to achieve Heaven on Earth (it's not looking like it at the moment, but I am going to answer your question), is that an anarchist system relies on inter-group (rather than inter-individual, note) cooperation almost to the point, it seems to me, of a form of socialism, just without the apparatus of State. In getting to this point, I may have taken a wrong turn, as my very last sentence would seem to be oxymoronic, but what I mean is from what I know of an anarchist system, it would actually boil down to the most inefficient form of rule by committee, and would probably end them back up in a tyranny of the majority ... it is entirely possible I have read too much Ursula K. Le Guin.

... I'm such a long winded git. Try again.

My 'libertarianism', (and given this is an election year in NZ, I would find it interesting to see the view of the NZ Lib's to this question, on this thread), encompasses a very small state founded on a constitution that enshrines the individual (the NZ Lib's have a great written constitution), but that then provides the minimum apparatus to protect the individual from force (so police and army), a criminal system (for same), and a civil legal system to enforce contract so that a laissez-faire capitalist system can operate.

To fund this I would be for (note I'm not speaking for NZ Lib's now) a complete abolition of income tax (because that's where all the complexity and game playing comes to pass, and partly why we have such huge bureaucracies in Western systems, plus is just so retrogressive as it punishes wealth creation via productivity, thus financing this very small [s]tate by a flat, indirect tax, probably on sales, such as the GST we have here. But financing only these basic functions, nothing else.

What do others think?


[By the way, SOLO seems to have gained some superb new members lately.]

My little response:

NickOtani's picture

Hello, jlitchwark. Welcome to the dissent forum.

I am more interested in the epistemological and metaphysical aspects of Objectivism than I am in the political and economic aspects, and I am not an Objectivist. I do not have easy answers to all problems, and in some cases, I may raise more problems. However, I will give you a small response to your post here.

First, there are Objectivists who do not wish to be equated with Libertarians, even if their platforms sound similar. Although there is a faction of Objectivists in the Libertarian party, they do not get along with the other faction, a faction some would call anarchists. Rand has denounced libertarians and accused them of plagiarizing the Objectivist position. Rand does support government as a monopoly on the use of physical force for retaliation against those who would initiate its use or violate individual rights. She has suggested that lotteries and other forms of non-coercive ways of raising money could be sources of funding for such a government. She has endorsed organization of workers such as unions, and she denounces complete anarchy.

Second, yes, there are public concerns which could be problems if left in the hands of individuals. Police protection and fire protection can be such examples. If my house is near another man’s home, I know that the fire department will come to my house to put out a fire if the other man has paid for fire insurance. The fire in my home would threaten his home, so I don’t have to pay for fire protection. As a rational egoist, it wouldn’t be rational for me to do so, at first glance. We may get together, though, and decide to chip in on the protection, for both our interests. There could be a prisoner’s dilemma here.

Third, there may still be a need for arbitration and court systems to determine what happens when a river runs across more than one property. Complete capitalisms may be fine in the model, but some people will claim the only fresh water source and charge others to get to it. He will have a much greater advantage than others, and it won’t necessarily be because of his productability. How do we deal with this?

Fourth, however, if a government protects people’s rights, it is in the rational self-interest of individual to support that government. Objectivists should agree with me here. If another competes with it and does a better job of appealing to the self-interests of individuals, then it would be rational for individuals to choose that other government. Even the Declaration of Independence advocates this right. I don’t see a problem with it. I do see a problem with a government which is not responsive to market demands.

Bis bald,


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