It’s the police

April 8, 2014

Last week, one of my sons sent me a link to The New Yorker column mentioned below. I thought it was mildly amusing, though it was a pretty cliched view of libertarians. Yeah, yeah… we have to put a quarter into the two-way radio to use it. (Seriously? You couldn’t even work a good tech angle into the column?)

What it sort of reminded me of was Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash — except that Snow Crash was more interesting to read.

So I was glad to see Conor Friedersdorf’s response to that column in The Atlantic yesterday. His response is just chock full of examples of how not to Serve & Protect. (My emphasis below.)

N.L.P.D.: Non-Libertarian Police Department
Law enforcement in America, brought to you by liberals and conservatives

On March 31, The New Yorker published an item in its humor vertical, Shouts & Murmurs, titled “L.P.D.: Libertarian Police Department.” At least 31,000 people liked it.

I can laugh along with parodies of libertarian ideology. But shouldn’t a reductio ad absurdum start with a belief that the target of the satire actually holds? Tom O’Donnell proceeds as if libertarians object to the state enforcing property rights—that is to say, one of the very few state actions that virtually all libertarians find legitimate! If America’s sheriffs were all summarily replaced by Libertarian Party officials selected at random, I’m sure some ridiculous things would happen. Just not any of the particular things that were described. 

That isn’t to say that there weren’t parts of the article that made me laugh. It got me thinking too. If the non-libertarian approach to policing* was the target instead, would you need hyperbole or reductio ad absurdum? Or could you just write down what actually happens under the officials elected by non-libertarians? It is, of course, hard to make it funny when all the horrific examples are true.

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