Tuesday, November 17, 2009

the police market

last year, i wrote a couple of entries about the market alternatives to state-monopolized justice and regional defense. i sort of passed off the police issue because the ideas were so similar to those above and i just didn't feel like spending the time to do it. well, there is widespread confusion about the idea of "final arbiters", or those who would be final deciders of disputes.

i realized that without a discussion of police/dispute resolution, the final arbiter post would be difficult to understand for those who had never heard of such an issue. so, i'll briefly explain the market's vastly superior alternative to state-monopolized (socialist/corporatist) police.

in the current system, the government controls the services of police, or those agents legally authorized to use force against others. if you are naive enough, the supposed reason for state police is to secure the person or property of others. of course, as with any coercive monopolist, state police do anything but this. since they lack any competition and are able to force their "customers (victims?)" to pay for their "services", they need not conform to the desires of the market - after all, who are they going to lose customers to? consequently, law enforcement becomes arbitrary and self-serving, with police routinely violating the person and property of others through the enforcement of drug laws, property maintenance regulations, victimless traffic violation enforcement, licensing schemes, warrant enforcement for victimless crimes, asset forfeiture schemes, etc. not only is this not what the market would demand (would you pay for this if you didn't have to?), but it is the very thing that it is supposedly founded to prevent, i.e. a criminal organization.

left to the market, this type of organization could not exist. there is plenty of demand for the security of person and property and security entrepreneurs recognize this. but because this demand is universal, no agency would be able to maintain a presence in the market that is based on the violation of such security with all other security firms specifically designed to prevent this. in a market, firms have limited resources and must rely on their ability to provide consumers with goods and services that best suit their needs at the best possible price, lest they be overrun by competitors.

unlike government, there are true checks on the power of such firms. one cannot decide to go after the property of its own customers, or the customer will simply refuse to continue to pay for the services of said company and enlist the help of another. it can't go after the property of non-customers, or it risks being targeted by the firms employed by those individuals. in the market environment, reputation is everything and a company that uses its firepower to go after the property of others will quickly find that,not only will it lose the customers directly affected, but others will see the corruption and flee to the greener pastures of other providers.

but what stops a very successful company from amassing the force necessary to simply establish a government? first, isn't it ironic that the scary thing about this is the establishment of government? most who would ask this question are supporters of government in one way or another, which makes the question kind of funny. i'm theorizing here, so it's impossible to say exactly what will or won't happen under such conditions. that said, it would be very difficult for any company, even one that had managed to establish a monopoly in a certain area (which has never been done in any market sector). in order to do this, one would have to amass the resources in soldiers, firepower, infrastructure, etc. this would require massive funding and would be very difficult, if not impossible to hide. on its own, this would be a great disincentive to such an endeavor. obviously, such a company would already be doing very well in its business, so the incentive to do something like this would have to be very high, since the consequences of failure would be enormous.

so, the market is much safer and more effective at providing security to those who demand it than is the government (surprise!) and has many more real safeguards to the abuse of power.

the justice and security markets go hand-in-hand. if a police agency catches a criminal, how will they prosecute them? the justice post linked to above should answer that question, but the question remains for those who have legitimate disputes over property or the violation of it. how does one get people to agree to go to court? couldn't they just refuse to go and never have to answer for their crimes? this is where the question of the final arbiter comes in. who will, ultimately, decide right and wrong, if someone refuses to cooperate with decisions rendered by voluntary dispute resolution firms? i'll address that in the next post.

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