As the Lockdown Rebellion (against the COVID-19 Pandemic Panic) morphed into the Twenty-Dollar Revolt (the current madness triggered by the murder of George Floyd), a key meme emerged: Abolish the Police!!! (Expressed in many ways, of course.)
Many libertarians immediately jumped on the bandwagon. As if libertarians (especially free market, true, anarchists) have not been preaching and promoting this for decades. Libertarians have long argued that a root of tyranny is granting governments police powers, and urged privatizing such social functions.
“All of the sudden” millions of people seem to be screaming for the same thing. But they are not really proposing anything different.
The vast police establishment in the Fifty States is condemned as being racist. But the problem is NOT (or at least not ONLY) racism in the police forces. (Or even in their supervising “civilian” leadership.) Many serious problems exist in most police forces in the Fifty States. Including federal, state, local, tribal, and even private entities: exempt from following many laws, with little (or no) accountability to elected officials, much less the people they supposedly serve.
Which in turn makes them arrogant: obeying laws is for “civilians” – the peons. The special privileges and usual respect given to police leads to more problems. To incredible pride, we can often add sadistic and cruel, excessive loyalty to other police and to their leaders. NOT things that mesh with their supposedly sacred oaths.
Traditional, government-run policing functions – even the most basic and seemingly essential – lead directly to corruption and abuse with little restraint. Police forces are parasites on their communities even when they do carry out their assigned duties honorably. They can be a cancer.
Yet at the same time, we, as communities, worry about maintaining order. (Most of us, not so much “enforcing law.”) We want peace and quiet.
The challenge is enormous: what can replace them?
Here is one thought.
Military (warrior) societies.
A key part of the societies of the Plains Tribes, until the early 1900s at least. As far as I know, all the Plains nations – including the Comanche, Kiowa, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Lakota, Crow, and others, had these organizations. They were essential parts of their communities, law, moral code, and daily life. Because these nations were nomadic, the warrior societies not only protected the people as they moved from place to place, but organized the establishment and breakdown of the camps and maintained order in the villages.And because these tribal societies were violent, militaristic, and more, the societies were military in nature. We are not talking Kiwanis or Knights of Columbus or Oddfellows.
(For anyone really seriously into studying such things, there is an interesting book available on the military societies of several of the Southern Plains nations here, and the introduction is free to read and fascinating – both about the AmerInd and even the present Fifty States.)
The best known military society historicaly is the Dog Soldiers (which do still exist, albeit in altered form) of the Cheyenne people (now of Oklahoma and Montana).
These groups were voluntary membership organizations – and highly organized, which took young men at a very early age to train them in the skills AND responsibilities needed to serve and protect their people – and to fight. But unlike what was once the valuable and useful Boy Scouts of America (and Girl Scouts USA), this membership and fellowship – and accountability – continued on into adulthood and old age.
These were not like the modern American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, or the British Legion. They were social organizations that cared for one another, but they were more. Much more.
The key features are:
(1) They were “of the people” – they had no special privileges, no exemptions from the laws and customs of the community. They were, and were treated as peers, not superiors or servants.
(2) They were RESPONSIBLE to the community – to the people. The societies and their individual members were held to account for what they did/did not by other societies and the community as a whole. The accountability was public and could include ejection from the community, fines (up to all their possessions), loss of rank and privileges, and in extreme cases, trial by combat to the death. This included abusing their position as well as failing to carry out their responsibilities.
(3) There was NO monopoly (legally or theoretically) on force. They were no better (or worse) armed than other people in the community. They could initiate force, but only under what we would today call strict rules of engagement.
(4) They almost always rotated their duties to the community, so that there was not a single power. Different warrior societies would take turns, and even within the warrior society different members would take turns in the actual service provided. The rest of the time, they were working and living like everyone else.
(5) They crossed family and clan and band lines: they were not “set apart” in all ways. Although there were obvious ties of brotherhood among them, the warrior society members’ first responsibility was to the standards and ethics of their band (community) and society.
(6) They were NOT “professional” in the sense of getting paid to do their work – indeed, they usually paid their own way. It was volunteer work, in rotation. When they were tied up in their service work, they and their families would usually receive voluntary gifts of food, shared by others in the community. No “hazard” pay or the like.
(7) They were nearly universal: almost every adult male belonged to one. However, the warrior societies chose their own members (and usually tested them harshly). And you were not forced to join one. But the community expected you to do so, if you were capable of doing the job.
Clearly, what I am presenting is a very idealized view of such an alternative. And just as clearly, there were many times when reality did NOT match these points. But this model is certainly one to consider. Even (or especially) in our modern, complex society.