In the last year, we have seen increasing calls – some perhaps strongly justified – for the abolition of police across the Fifty States. Some local jurisdictions have, at least in essence, done so, or make it their public policy to do so.
But none of these appeals and demands actually get to the root of the problem. No, it is NOT police abuse, it is NOT killing of innocents by police, it is NOT racism or sexism or colonialism or imperialism.
It is “police power.”
That does NOT mean that the police (uniformed, undercover, secret, etc.) have power – or even that they have too much power. It is NOT the power of cop to stop you at any time, demand your identification, arrest and detain you, or even pull out a gun and blow your brains out.
Let me explain.
First, some definitions.
In United States constitutional law[sic] , police power is the capacity of the states to regulate behavior and enforce order within their territory for the betterment of the health, safety, morals, and general welfare of their inhabitants.Definition from Wikipedia
I find this a bit strange, because the ONLY possible reference I can find to anything like this is the Tenth Amendment, which reads:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.Bill of Rights, US Constitution
No, it does NOT clearly identify this “police power.” Whatever (supposedly) that power is, as something that is NOT delegated to “the United States” (the FedGov), the States have. OR the people.
Well, while I have not studied all fifty State constitutions, I have read a few, and I can’t find anything that grants any State government such a power. And I find a great deal of language which seems to limit the powers to a relatively few explicitly listed powers, granted by the people. Which means that it is the people themselves who have the power “to regulate behavior and enforce order” – whatever the jurisdiction and whatever the goal.
And when we get right down to it, that power is NOT in the people as a group, or a mass, or a “body politic” – but in people as individuals. As free men and women.
This doctrine of “fundamental powers” of government is evil. Great evil. And today we see the results of that evil, and see how the extent of that vile evil expands.
What is the police power? As discussed above, it is not the power of the police officer, the sheriff (or their deputy), to use deadly force, to coerce you into obeying them, or to pull you over for speeding. It is much MUCH more than that. In fact, the powers and authority of the Sheriff, the State Patrol or Police, the municipal police force, the criminal investigation division and all the other parts of the uniformed (and plainclothes) occupation force infesting all of North America is just a SMALL part of the police power claimed by government.
That power includes such things as:
- requiring a permit to build a house or an addition, to re-roof a house, to fix an electrical problem
- levying fines for having your grass in your yard too high
- levying fines for leaving your trashcan outside where people can see it
- force you to wear masks – even in the privacy of your home but certainly in public
- registering and putting license plates on your car or truck
- requiring you to beg permission and FORCING you to tell your neighbors (and virtually anyone else) they can come and complain and veto what you do with your own property: run a business, park your truck, dig up sand and gravel, meet for worship, and virtually everything except (maybe) let you and your immediate family live on the property
- set speed limits and create speed traps
- tell you whether you can collect and use the rainwater and snowmelt off your own roof or driveway
- … and hundreds of other things.
(Note: I don’t think that von Mises went far enough in this: I think that the police power IS tyrannical – regardless of how it is exercised.)
Want to read something even MORE disgusting? Consider this little bit of propaganda.
The fundamental right of a government to make all necessary laws. In the United States, state police power comes from the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which gives states the rights and powers “not delegated to the United States.” States are thus granted the power to establish and enforce laws protecting the welfare, safety, and health of the public.Definition from Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary
First, governments nave no fundamental rights: at most they have the POWERS given them by God and the people – usually the inhabitants of the land they serve. Second, the Tenth Amendment (like the rest of the Bill of RIghts) GIVES NO POWERS: it preserves the powers and rights of the people and protected them from the FedGov. The States are GRANTED nothing by the FedGov – any power the States have is granted to the State by the people.
People, I submit, who all too often are stupid, gullible, and woefully unable to reason and understand power and the English language.
More on this topic, especially as it relates to local government, in future commentaries.