Communist hero, Vladimir Lenin, was famously quoted as saying, “The goal of socialism is communism.” This is going to raise some angry eyebrows, but the truth is that most conservatives do not truly believe in the free market. While conservatives generally agree to the merit of capitalism over socialism, they make exceptions to this notion without substantiating a reason why exceptions are to be assumed.
The primary characteristic of the free market is that it cultivates an environment which incentivizes lower costs, higher quality of production, and increased competition. This principle function of the free market, as a result of competition, is universal. Assuming a market has a perceived value from the consumer’s perspective, we will generally see costs decrease and quality increase if subjected to a free market. If conservatives concede this principle –in rhetoric they do – then they must substantiate any claim to the contrary as to why particular markets contain special features absolving it from this economic law. That is to say, if conservatives wish to suggest that markets are generally better off produced via the free market, but that some of these special markets would not be produced at a better quality/lower cost, they require the burden of proof to substantiate such a counter intuitive claim.
So what markets do conservatives deviate from free market principles, thereby suggesting the need for a coercive, monopolistic means of production? We can look no further than domestic security. Despite the outrage directed at the quality of our police system, conservatives seem intent to turning a blind eye to the obvious lack of accountability resulting in a market that is produced exclusively via coercion. While progressive activists certainly are no proponents of a free market approach to domestic security, conservatives find themselves fighting back against progressives on the subject, yet simultaneously agreeing with the notion that government is required to produce police forces.
Let’s be direct about this. As it stands now, domestic security in America is produced through socialistic means. According to The Hill, from 1998 to 2012, “The federal government has issued more than $10 billion in justice assistance grants for equipment procurement, training, research and salary support; an average of nearly $687 million per year. These grants are in addition to local and state taxes in support of law enforcement activities” (Cohen). Despite the out of control spending being thrown at the industry, we have witnessed growing resentment from the public towards those in the industry. It can no longer be ignored that the reason for the increased costs associated with the police system and the depreciation of quality is the natural result of an inefficient/ineffective means of production.
It should be noted once again that the conservatives are in agreement with progressives that supplanting the socialistic means of production of domestic security in favor of a free market approach is inapplicable. This notion alone should give pause to any conservative who prides themselves on advocating for freedom and prosperity; but beyond that, the most troubling aspect is that conservatives seem to take the same empty lines of logic used by progressives to justify government producing other things which are better left to the free market.
Conservatives tend to suggest that people would not be able to afford police forces if there was a monopoly on the industry. This contention is the exact same used by progressives, and completely ignores the time proven fact that competition lowers costs, as opposed to increasing them. The next contention is generally based on the premise that under a free market system, police forces would run rampant with corruption; conveniently ignoring the already corrupt system which slaps officers on the wrist for offenses the average civilian would be lucky to not spend a decade in prison for. Consider further, if stringent gun laws were put in place tomorrow, how many conservatives would wish there were private police forces who would be independent enough to resist such oppressive Federal laws?
None of the aforementioned contentions address the underlying principle though; the notion that police forces being produced through monopolistic compulsion – as opposed to competitive voluntary exchange – will somehow defy economic law and produce higher quality at lower costs. This extraordinary claim cannot go unchallenged. The inability for conservatives to substantiate their claim must draw into question their resolve for truth, logic and reason. If we agree that the domestic security market is indeed produced by a socialistic means (of course we must), and it is conceded that as Lenin suggests, the goal of socialism is communism; it follows logically and necessarily that conservatives who support this monopolistic socialized means of production for policing are in fact in favor of communism. It must be said that this lack of consistency has empowered progressives and communists alike, to the largely unanswered contention that it is hypocritical for conservatives to demonize socialism for healthcare and education, when it’s so steadfastly embraced in the policing market.
Some will suggest this “radical” idea of applying free market principles to domestic security may have some merits, but that it is uncontrollable and theoretical in nature. The uncontrollable contention is one which I find odd. While I don’t specifically disagree that the amount of control that can be had on the practices of the police forces would be lessened, it must be asked, lessened for who? The influence that would be lessened is not in regard to the influence the people have over their police forces, but the influence politicians have over police forces.
Certainly I think the left and the right can agree politicians generally make for poor moral leaders; but more significantly is that the less influence Washington has over local police forces, the more influence the local populace has over the standards of those who enforce the laws. That is to say, if you live in a more conservative area, the local police would be held accountable by the local culture, as opposed to D.C.’s perceived impression of the culture of 330 million people as a whole. The options are not one of “control” vs “chaos”, but of local control vs unrestrained federal power. While particular security agencies may find itself susceptible to corruption, it would likely be short lived as communities demand higher quality by funding their competition. This process is clearly preferable to the current one where police forces are supported by the federal monopoly on violence, resulting in little to no accountability for any degree of corruption throughout the entire nation.
The second contention listed above is in regard to applicability. Many scratch their head wondering how a police system tied to the free market would work in practice. While I dare not claim to have the “ultimate” answer to this, I feel comfortable proposing a few potential solutions. It should be stated first that there is no exact answer to the best means to production in the free market, the beauty of the free market is that there is no one correct method for production and that new and more efficient/effective techniques will be developed to meet the needs and demands of the consumer.
While many of my An-Cap friends may be a bit dismayed at my first suggestion, I feel it to be a strong transitional solution to applying the free market to the police system. Many libertarians are aware of the work put forth by Nobel Prize winning economist, Milton Friedman, in regard to school vouchers. Briefly put, the voucher system is a means to instill free market principles to a public system. Because of the unquantifiable short term effects of transitioning from a purely socialistic system to a pure privatized system (not to mention the probable resistance from the general public) I believe it wise to consider applying Milton’s principle to domestic security, not as an ends in itself (if the goal is lower costs & higher quality, a pure free market should always remain the ultimate goal), but as a means to the ultimate goal.
A voucher system in essence is a system in which the money which is taken to funding a particular service or product is distributed to the consumer – in the form of a voucher – as opposed to directly to the producer. Each family in a community would receive a voucher of equal value, which is designed to be redeemed at the local security system of your choosing. With this method of production you still run into the issue of a coerced means of funding (one of the main reasons this proposal is not an ends itself) but you also find a system which cultivates a greater degree of choice, and with that, a greater degree of accountability due to competition. Local security forces would compete with each other for vouchers as a means to fund their business. This competition leads to police forces having to hold themselves to higher standards. In instances where a particular police force use an unjust system of security, we would see local activism have a greater impact on swaying local public opinion. Swayed public opinion in a voucher system would result in defunding the corrupt police force. The big picture here is that domestic security agencies would have to construct themselves in a manner which conformed to the demands of the local consumer. Assuming the society is in a state of greater peace and prosperity, the demand will likely be for agencies that find ways to resolve altercations through nonviolent means.
An option that applies a more pure free-market approach is the ultimate goal of a society that values the attainment of the greatest level of peace and prosperity. Whether the means to that end are met instantly or of a more gradual nature (such as the aforementioned voucher system), the final goal must remain the same; pragmatism is only beneficial in so far as it is a net positive towards the ultimate goal.
A free market approach would result in the lowest possible costs of security at the highest possible quality for as many people as possible. As evident with programs such as the “Detroit Threat Management Center”, private police forces are even viable in markets that are already subjected to public subsidies. Not only are these private systems able to fund themselves in markets that are already controlled by government, but they are able to turn such a profit that the surpluses are used to give back charity to the local community, including free security services to the most poor areas. This kind of giving back to the community would be a huge benefit, not only for those receiving the services, but also for the security company who needs the support of the local industry in order to sustain its business.
Many companies would likely provide different price points based on different security needs. Just as a small house may need only a few security cameras (whereas a mansion needs many), a middle class family is less likely to have the kind of valuables to justify paying for 50 S.W.A.T. caliber officers, whereas someone who has priceless paintings may feel justified paying the excessive price. Individuals would be free to weigh the level of security necessary based on their personal preferences. This process – as expanded on above – will result in the natural process by which the standard of living for all increase, while the cost of living drops dramatically.
The question I’d like to leave conservatives with is this; do you believe in the free market’s principle ability to produce at a greater level of efficiency and effectiveness, or do you believe there are exceptions to this economic law? If indeed you stick to the unsubstantiated ladder contention, where do you draw that line to exceptions? Policing? Education? Healthcare? Housing…Food?
I propose that you either believe in the free market or you do not, anything in between gives leverage to the communists’ arguments in favor of utilitarian redistribution, as opposed to free market competition. The ultimate goal should be to provide the conditions which cultivates the greatest degree of peace and prosperity for as many people as possible. If that falls in line with our interest, I propose the best means to actualizing this desire is by rejecting communism in principle, thereby rejecting all forms of socialism, in favor of the free market.