informationliberation
The news you're not supposed to know...




An Introduction to Austrian Economics: Understand Economics, Understand Everything
The Century of the Self: The Untold History of Controlling the Masses Through the Manipulation of Unconscious Desires
The Disappearing Male: From Virility to Sterility

The Obama Deception: The Mask Comes Off
Operation Gladio: The Hidden History of U.S. Sponsored False Flag Terrorism in EuropeThe New American Century: The Untold History of The Project for the New American Century
(more)
Article posted Aug 18 2014, 12:51 AM Category: Commentary Source: Ryan McMaken Print

Police States and Inner-City Economics

by Ryan McMaken

The recent civil disobedience, rioting, and police brutality in Ferguson, Missouri reminds us of what happens when police states and bad economics are mixed together.

Devastated by decades of ruinous economic policies, the economies of many inner cities continue to languish as the self-ownership of local residents is treated with contempt by the police and any attempt at building a small business-based or wage-based economy is hobbled by government regulation.

The result is a local economy with chronically-unemployed wage earners coupled with entrepreneurs who lack the capital necessary to deal with government regulations. The social consequences of such a situation are dire and lead to a population that lives in the area, but is not invested in it.

Some conservatives have taken to asking why some of the residents are destroying their own neighborhoods through looting and other forms of violence. But of course, even if we make the obvious distinction between looters (a minority of the population) and the non-violent population, these are not "their" neighborhoods in any meaningful sense: the residents have not been allowed to attempt to build local capital or even have control over their own bodies.

Policing and Self-Ownership

The killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, by Ferguson police is just one of countless stories we see daily in which police use overwhelming force against unarmed citizens. The police, in the aftermath, only receive raises and huge pensions. Indeed, year after year, the cost and scope of police forces grow higher and higher while the quality of service (the percentage of murders solved has dropped from 91 percent to 61 percent since 1963) continues to go down.

This is exactly what we should expect from an organization that enjoys a total monopoly within its jurisdiction and simultaneously is the last word in whether or not it will be held accountable for the cost or quality of its work. The same organization that controls the police, controls the courts, and also has the power to tax. Consequently, as Hans-Hermann Hoppe has noted, the state at all levels is an "agency that unilaterally fixes the price that private citizens must pay for the state's service as ultimate judge and enforcer of law and order."

Murray Rothbard has explored the nature of non-monopolist policing, and how it would much more effectively protect private property. But in today's world, the average citizen, and especially the low-income average citizen, has virtually no influence over policing decisions and, in cases of abuse, he has little hope of assistance from those who control the police.

All citizens of modern nation-states are subject to police forces of this sort, but the aggressiveness of police in American inner cities has been shown to be far greater and with much higher likelihood of arrest of citizens for minor non-violent offenses ranging from smoking a joint to jaywalking.

The expansion of police prerorgatives has accelerated in recent decades, first with the "War on Drugs," and then with the "War on Terrorism," both of which have resulted in what we see today in the form of heavily militarized police forces, asset forfeiture, and an endless list of federal laws that bring long jail sentences, even when no criminal intent is proven.

As the prerogatives and wealth of the police expand, the personal freedoms and self-ownership of citizens continues to shrink, but nowhere is this felt more keenly than in low-income areas.

The War on Drugs has likely been the greatest catalyst for this, since as Ludwig von Mises explained, once it is established that the state can regulate what one puts into one's body, there are no grounds left on which to oppose other intrusions of the state.

Thanks largely to the War on Drugs, the police, in addition to enjoying a total legal monopoly on force, have become essentially unrestrained in questioning and detaining citizens. Once upon a time, the idea of it being a crime to merely possess a non-weapon like marijuana or cocaine would have been considered ludicrous. But today, any citizen at any time can be suspected of carrying an illegal substance, and subject to being questioned and detained.

This ever-present justification for disrupting the daily lives of peaceful private citizens perhaps does more to foster an environment of violence and suspicion than anything else. Not surprisingly, no-knock raids, aggressive questioning, frisking, and pointless arrests provide ample (and totally unnecessary) opportunities for interactions between police and citizens to turn violent.

The Destruction of Inner-City Economies

Naturally, the effects of such a state of affairs on the local economy are not good. Citizens who are constantly in danger of losing wages due to arrest or fines, or who may have their assets seized (without any due process) can hardly be expected to acquire much capital or develop a low time preference in the same way as people who are relatively free of repeated police harassment. Certainly, citizens who develop a criminal record for petty non-violent offenses will see economic opportunities severely limited, and act accordingly.

But even if one manages to escape the frequent harassment of street police, the constraints placed on average citizens by an ever-expanding regime of economic regulations hobble economies everywhere, and are especially damaging in places that already lack capital such as Ferguson.

The narrative among conservatives is that welfare, by distorting the incentive structure, has ruined the economies of the inner cities. This is true to an extent, but the problem is far more fundamental than this. This is not simply a matter of people choosing not to work (although that is often the case), this is a matter of people being excluded -- by law -- from participation in the economic system.

The most notable aspects of this are the minimum wage and the high cost of entry for small business into the economy.

For many residents of inner cities, entering the economy as an entrepreneur or wage earner is out-and-out illegal. In a place like Ferguson, a young person is prevented from working full time during much of his youth thanks to mandatory school attendance laws. If he misses school, he and his parents are harassed by police, and possibly arrested and left to face economic ruin. Upon graduating, the young person, thanks to the public schools, then faces the world with few marketable skills.

He is employable at some level, but as a low-productivity worker, the only entry-level wage he can command is at a level below the minimum wage. In this situation, federal law dictates that he shall remain unemployed indefinitely. Consequently, unemployment among black teenagers is over 20 percent. Common sense tells us that the best way a new public-school grad can attain any marketable skills is by working at a job. And yet, these jobs are all closed to him by law.

If our public-school grad then attempts to turn to legal self-employment, he will find himself similarly out of luck because the cost of entry into the economy as a small business owner has been raised to a largely-unattainable level by government regulation. Licensing, and compliance with OSHA, EEOC, forced "tolerance," and a bevy of other regulations render the small business avenue closed for someone in such a community. Even if such a person manages to somehow acquire an automobile in spite of all the licenses, taxes, and certifications required, he can't even rent out the car or drive customers for money without special permission from the government. Certainly some people are able to come from within the community and succeed under these conditions, but if your economy requires near-heroic levels of perseverance and luck just to open a burger stand, there is something deeply wrong with your economy.

How can we be the least surprised, then, when people in these communities simply give up or turn to black markets (i.e., illegal entrepreneurship such as drug dealing) to make a living?

Further complicating the situation is the fact that wage earners and entrepreneurs face a community stripped of capital in recent decades by damaging federal laws. During the 1970s and 1980s, federal "anti-segregation" mandates such as forced busing meant that the middle classes fled the cities, and took their capital with them, leaving workers behind, but not capital. Both racial and economic segregation became worse, and worker productivity plummeted. The government's solution of course, was not to deregulate, but to distribute welfare funds in amounts too low to provide a decent standard of living, but just high enough to prevent widespread revolt against the political system.

Conclusion

Naturally, this economic gutting of the inner cities, fostered by federal, state, and local laws, led to crime. But what has the response of both national policy makers and local "leaders" been? It most certainly has not been to call for the legalization of low-skill labor (lowering the minimum wage) or the empowerment of local entrepreneurs (by lowering taxes and eliminating regulations). No, the answer is always more police, more government, more regulation, and more welfare. Michael Brown and many like him have paid the price for this dead-end strategy. Freeing inner cities from militarized police forces is a good start, but government is destroying these communities in many ways, and police brutality is just one of them.
_
Ryan W. McMaken is the editor of Mises Daily and The Free Market Send him mail. See Ryan McMaken's article archives.





Latest Commentary
- Who Trusts This Government to Regulate the Internet?
- Too Dumb for Democracy?
- Political Relativity and the Infinite Cynicism of Prohibitionists
- One-Dimensional Thinking on Drug Legalization
- Social Pressure Triumphs Again
- Worship the Veterans Day
- The Political Sterility of Jon Stewart
- Surprise: The Drug War Isn't About Drugs









No Comments Posted Add Comment


Add Comment
Name
Comment

* No HTML


Verification *
Please Enter the Verification Code Seen Below
 


PLEASE NOTE
Please see our About Page, our Disclaimer, and our Comments Policy.


FAIR USE NOTICE
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which in some cases has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available for the purposes of news reporting, education, research, comment, and criticism, which constitutes a 'fair use' of such copyrighted material in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. It is our policy to respond to notices of alleged infringement that comply with the DMCA and other applicable intellectual property laws. It is our policy to remove material from public view that we believe in good faith to be copyrighted material that has been illegally copied and distributed by any of our members or users.

About Us - Disclaimer - Privacy Policy



Advanced Search
Username:

Password:

Remember Me
Forgot Password?
Register

This One Police Department Shot 92 Dogs in Three Years. One of the Officers Has Killed 25 By Himself - 11/19Cops Assault And Arrest Woman for No Reason, Leave Her Cuffed and Naked in Public for 30 Minutes - 11/19Self-Described "Dirty" Deputy Yanks Woman Out of Car for Recording him Illegally Searching her Car - 11/19New Jersey Cops Pepper Spray Student for "Obstruction of Identification" - 11/1880-Year-Old Army Vet and Cancer Survivor, Mercilessly Beaten By Police Who "Feared For Their Lives" - 11/18Police Raid Home Of 90-Year-Old Georgia Woman For Unsanctioned Gambling - 11/19How Car Insurance Just Inadvertently Provided a Revolutionary New Way to Fight Speeding Tickets - 11/18Despite Compelling Video, Violent Past, And Multiple Lawsuits, Dept Stands Behind this "Decorated" Cop - 11/18

Rialto, CA Police Made to Wear Cameras, Use of Force Drops by Over Two-ThirdsCop Who Karate Chopped NY Judge In Throat Gets Off Scot-FreeFlorida Cop Smashes Compliant Woman's Face Into Car -- "Maybe Now You Can Understand Simple Instructions"VIDEO: Lapel Cam Reveals A Day In The Life Of A U.S. Police Officer (Tasing, Beating, Breaking & Entering, Stomping On Heads... and Laughing About It)Caught On Tape: Officer Sucker Punches Inmate In Face, Files Report Claiming 'Self Defense'Insult Person On Twitter, Go To JailSWAT Team Brings TV Crew To Film Raid Against Threatening Internet Critic -- Raids Innocent Grandma InsteadCop Karate Chops NY Judge In The Throat
(more)

 
Top