Garry Reed combined a professional technical writing career and a passion for all things libertarian to become The Libertarian Opinionizer.
Protesting police violence
Point 1: There are no such things as group rights; only individuals have rights.
Point 2: Individuals are always individuals no matter how deeply they hide themselves in groupism.
Point 3: Individuals are not well served by institutions that create manmade laws conjured up by a Political Ruling Class for its own benefit and blindly imposed on them by an Enforcer Class.
Point 4: Violence can never be stopped entirely but it can be diminished, not by the left's "social justice" of mandatory redistribution of some people's rights but with libertarianism's respect for individual freedom and personal responsibility.
Dallas. Baton Rouge. St. Paul. Baltimore. Ferguson. The list keeps growing. Cops killing people and people killing cops. As libertarians see it the cause is the tribal groupthink mentality and the cure is to stop enforcing laws.
Yes that's a purposely inflammatory statement, meant to provoke thinking outside the typical Us-Against-Them brain cages that we all tend to live within. So let's look at one at a time.
Tribalism came about when people joined together as families, then as extended families and clans, and then as wider groupings for mutual survival needs. It became an Us-Against-Them mechanism that metastasized into ethnic communities and regions and territories and nation-states and empires and global spheres of influence.
Tribes persist today but they're seldom called by that name. Whether grouping together on the basis of race, religion, nationality, gender, philosophical, ideological, professional, political or any other kinds of groups it still comes down to the Us-Against-Them mentality.
Cops are a Tribe. All cops are bad, all cops are good. Street protesters become a tribe. All protesters are good, all protesters are bad. Us-Against-Them. But in the real world it isn't true because there are only individuals: Good and bad cops, Good and bad protesters, Good and bad people. Libertarians too are frequently treated like a single monolithic group: "Libertarians believe..." Libertarians think..." Libertarians are..." Even "libertarians can't work together because libertarians are individualists."
But libertarians aren't against groups, they're against coercion. Joining and unjoining groups should always be voluntary with no recriminations involved. If you join a group that demands that you surrender your individuality get the hell out of that group immediately. People should never become nameless, faceless interchangeable ants in a hill, bees in a hive, sheep in a pen.
And that's the segue into part two: "Stop enforcing laws."
Libertarians are just as varied in their beliefs as every other group of individuals in the world. So-called "radical" voluntaryist libertarians want to move beyond government and The State into a "post-statist" free society. Others want to return to strict Constitutionalism. Another strain of libertarianism wants neither a non-state nor a constitutionally defined state but a minimal "night watchman" state consisting only of police, law courts and a military. The contention is that the sole justification of government is to protect individual human rights. Repeat: individual human rights, because there are no other kinds of rights.
Since that approach is the moderate libertarian position between the "non-state" and the "Constitutionally regulated state" that the majority of libertarians and non-libertarians can most easily relate to let's take that as the basis for the idea of replacing "law enforcement" with "rights protection."
It seems like a majority of cop shootings begin as trivial "victimless crime" rules-breaking encounters that escalate into an excessive use of force by the cop that leads to an utterly unnecessary fatal outcome. A minor traffic stop, an unprovoked confrontation; a misunderstood movement, a cell phone misidentified as a gun. The Cop Block website created by voluntaryist libertarians Pete Eyre and Ademo Freeman began as a place for everyone to submit stories about police brutality and misconduct.
The fundamental problem is that the vast majority of the laws on the books today are not there to protect our rights; they are there to regulate people for the benefit of the Governing Class. All principles against coercion, intimidation and fraud have been clearly identified and applied long ago. Without an individual's right to life, liberty and property no other rights are possible. They have been identified as human rights based on the "laws" of nature. All other kinds of "laws" that don't address crimes against people's individual human rights – meaning human-against-human crimes – are illegitimate manmade "victimless crime" laws.
All libertarians from moderates to radicals believe that justice can never be accomplished until "law enforcement" is abolished and replaced by "rights Protection," whether in a minimal, Constitutional or post-statist society. That's the very meaning of the libertarian non-aggression principle against coercion, intimidation and fraud. It means that today, for starters, police departments all over the country must treat enforcement of "victimless crimes" as "unlawful orders" and refuse to enforce them.
If a cop sees a person robbing, beating, threatening, carjacking, raping, mugging, swindling, scamming or otherwise coercing, intimidating or defrauding others that cop – that Rights Protector – should intervene on behalf of the victim. If there's a victim there's a crime. That's Rights Protection.
If a cop sees a person smoking marijuana, jay-walking, gambling, engaging in prostitution, openly wearing a gun, taking photos of cops, or engaging in any mutual interaction without a government-issued license, permit, certificate or other permission slip, and no one is coercing, intimidating or defrauding anyone, that cop – that Rights Protector – should leave them alone! There can be no crime if there is no victim. That's Rights Protection.
It will take a major paradigm shift – a libertarian shift – to stop enforcing victimless crime laws and switch to rights protection. It will take re-training, re-thinking, re-understanding.
To make that happen it will take one determined police force in one determined town to implement it. Cops who will consistently refuse to obey unlawful orders; a police union or association with the backbone to support them all the way. Even better a command structure that will stand up to their citycrats. Or better still, a mayor and city council that will defy their state's political bosses, and a state that will defy the feds. And then spread from there.
This idea isn't new. Oath Keepers has been advocating something very similar for years. Their position is that police officers are bound by a pledge to "defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic" They are not bound by any pledge to any politician, and will therefore refuse to obey unconstitutional orders. They clearly spell out their position in their "Declaration of Orders We Will NOT Obey."
Clearly Oath Keepers are rightwing patriotic conservative Constitutionalists. But why would that be a problem for true liberals? Don't they want their rights, their freedoms, their liberties protected from authoritarian thugs as well? This doesn't go quite as far as the abolition of all victimless crimes as advocated under the libertarian Rights Protection concept but it's definitely a good start.
Conservatives, liberals and libertarians should all embrace Rights Protection as a far better alternative than the mindless, amoral, unthinking, robotic, knee-jerk "just doing my job" attitude of "law enforcement" that leads to and justifies one violent shooting after another after another after another that we're infected with today.
After all, we're talking human rights here, not cop rights or protester rights or race rights or ethnic rights or political rights or ideological rights or any other kinds of rights. Group rights don't exist. The only rights humans have are individual rights. There are no other kinds.
A Final Note:
The worst excuse coercive people can offer after coercing others is the modern version of "Just following orders" which is "Just doing my job." It's a self-indictment. At the end of World War II the Allies executed Germans who tried to justify their crimes with that excuse.
Garry Reed (author) from Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas on June 23, 2020:
So this comment from Robert was posted 3 years ago but I only just recently accidentally ran across it and approved it, so I guess that makes it a current comment.
My only response is that libertarians don't promote violent revolutions. We advocate education that will lead to ever more people accepting the non-aggression principle as the core value for society which will then result in a natural voluntary evolution to a free society. Yeah, it will take time and maybe never happen in our time. That's life.
Robert Farrior on July 20, 2016:
Only a freedom revolution will accomplish this!