We libertarians and anarchists often times like to hypothesize about what protection and policing services might look like in a completely free society. I think it’s important when trying to win people over in our arguments against the current statist paradigm and police state that we need to make both moral and utilitarian arguments in favor of freedom and private protection. To help people understand our positions, we absolutely need to make the economic case, but firstly we need to make a moral case for helping people understand what’s wrong with the current situation, order following, and how the caliber of people hired under private protection could be completely different with a completely different economic incentive structure.
So what’s the difference between a “Law enforcement agent” and a “peace officer” ?
The archetype of a law enforcement agent:
First and foremost, he views members of his community as possible criminals and is suspect of most citizens he interacts with. He has an “us versus them” mentality. He works for politicians, and does not take into consideration the moral climate of each individual situation, but rather is more concerned with following orders and enforcing laws that violate liberty and property. The law enforcement agent Is a revenue collector and gets exhilaration from the idea of being an authority figure with the power to issue commands that control the behavior of other citizens. His first instinct is to quickly escalate and incriminate with as much force as he deems necessary. He is enamored with militarized equipment and looking intimidating and believes that it is okay to break laws in order to enforce laws.
The archetype of a peace officer:
First and foremost he is a member of the community with the reputation that he upholds of being just and fair. He works for the people and knows his job is to protect life, liberty and property, and apprehend only those who aggress against life, liberty and property. Has a moral compass and puts morality above legality. He realizes that man’s nonviolent vices are not crimes and that natural law is superior to laws politicians write. He tries to use reason and logic and deescalate potentially volatile situations. He does not see himself as a tool to control other citizens. He thinks through situations and is level headed. He provides a quality service to the customer.
I think we all know these services aren’t going to be privatized anytime soon. But in the meantime, I think the best thing we can do to move forward is educate people and change their minds on the current state of laws and law enforcement, and say enough is enough – we want less law-enforcement agents and more peace officers.