Defund the Police?

To tell the truth, I favor that… in the long run. The problem is that you can’t get there from here. You have to go somewhere else first.

Back when I was still trying to write science fiction, the subject of how to maintain public order — “policing” — was one of my main themes. In my fictional universe, several options existed.

My characters arrived at those options by getting away from “here” in a few ways. Runaway inflation and heavy-handed policing (sound familiar?) led to more disorder. Civil disobedience on a large scale, followed by piecemeal rebellion. That was followed by actual deployment of military troops — including a attempted airstrike on US civilians. Full rebellion resulted from that, and the nation balkanized.

What was left of the United States was basically the northeastern seaboard states. The US went full totalitarian welfare/police state, with anything getting done through graft and bribes. One of my main — and possibly favorite — characters escaped from there, financing her way as a high-end teen escort. (This is where we’re currently headed.)

Macon, Georgia was pretty much cop-business as usual, with even more incompetence and inaction. What can you expect of a department that actually asks who your political and family connections are on the official job application? (I walked out without so much as putting my name on the app.)

Columbus, Ohio still had a police department, but its duties were limited to taking reports, collecting forensic evidence and witness statements, and running the jail. Actual investigations, and most apprehensions, were done by private parties; people involved or hired investigators. The police would sell case information to investigators. Exclusive access could be had for a higher price. (Probably the best model for the US, and what “policing” largely was until the nineteenth century.)

Most of my stories took place in space, where people generally left policing behind completely. They restarted with a clean slate, and opted for a civil process. Mostly; every habitat had its own ways, there was even a enforced people’s communist collective.

But overall, there were no laws. If someone was harmed, she worked it out with the offender, or filed a civil suit with an independent arbitrator, who is just a private person, not a government agent. If both offender and victim participate in arbitration, it’s binding. But if the alleged offender chooses not to play, so be it. The arbitrator may rule against him, but really can’t do much about it except make the offense very, very public with a notation that offender declined to make restitution. Ostracism is a big deal. One guy gets ostracized right out the airlock. Damn shame he’d pawned his pressure suit.

Dueling is rare, but happens. Security is personal, or hired security companies. Yes, some of them have nukes. Do not fuck with Ivan’s clients. Or, in the case of some clients, you might want to hope Ivan and family get to you first.

Of course, there were the aliens… whose ex-government had nuked its own citizens. They are not enamored of governments these days (take notes, Swalwell). There’s an unfinished story of the UN trying to deal with them…

At any rate, even at my most anarchocapitalistic phase, I never assumed humans are angels, and we could simply “defund the police” without a lot of trouble. If we do that now, we’ll get violent chaos.

But the totalitarian direction in which the government is headed will also force a violently chaotic reaction eventually. I don’t know what outcome we would arrive at. In my fiction, I could pick and choose events that drove society in the way I wanted it. Real life doesn’t work like that, no matter what our would-be social engineers think. They cannot impose their belief system on 328 million individuals. Whatever happens will be the averaged result of 328 million independent beliefs and actions; an unpredictable chaotic system.

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