157. Influence (III)
The police and the military do not amount to the same thing, nor do they deserve our esteem in equal measure. The military always deserve the highest esteem; the warrior, as I have said before, is the epitome of manhood—further, there have always been armies, even if these were small warrior bands. The police, by contrast, are a recent innovation that only really finds its origin, certainly in Anglo-Saxon countries, in the 19th century. When Walter Bagehot considered the English Constitution in 1867, he reported that old people he knew still talked about the police—established in 1829—with fear and resentment; they saw the police, correctly, as an impingement on liberty, a French idea—the word even comes from the French “policier”. The institution of a police force was associated with tyranny, with a passport system—on the Russian model—to control movement and spy upon the citizenry.
The advent of British policing coincided with the downturn of Britain; the country entered its silver age in about 1830, from then on the institutions of the aristocracy, patriarchy, and the Church of England entered terminal decline at the expense of democracy. Although introduced by the Conservatives, the police represented a move to the left: democratisation and policing go together. The more natural solution to crime—at least in Anglo-Saxon countries—is a sheriff with his posse; this approach, relying on an armed citizenry somewhat on the Swiss model, has to be combined with a criminal justice system that makes use of execution and banishment on a generous basis. The best way to prevent crime is the noose, the cane or, failing that, banishment to the outlands—Australia in Britain’s case. The consistent application of capital and corporal punishment is the real answer to crime, not a vast bureaucratic apparatus that slowly incarcerates criminals—an incarceration that offers little deterrent. Indeed, given that most citizens, especially in Britain, are unarmed, the ordinary citizen today is at the mercy of the police bureaucracy—a bureaucracy which, like any bureaucracy, pursues perverse incentives, prosecuting people for dank memes but letting murderers roam free.
It used to be said that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality; usually, this is taken to mean a literal mugging—a ’68 liberal wandering into a black ghetto in New York in 1978, getting mugged, and radically revising his political beliefs. There is, however, a subset of liberals who used to be conservatives: these are often people who were mugged, not by a black thug, but by the police—sometimes due an inadvertent encounter with the bureaucratic police machinery. They are right to be sceptical; as usual, the leftists tell half the truth when they say “all coppers is bastards”; the left’s solution, abolishing the police, is not a real solution because they merely imagine a new type of police—a quasi-militia organisation that would liquidate the middle class more directly than the current police.
The policeman is not like the soldier; he almost always turns up after the crime to begin a bureaucratic investigation—the police rarely prevent a crime. The soldier always risks death—the policeman sometimes risks death, they are mostly a bureaucrat in uniform. From my own life, the truth is easy to know: the school bully became a policeman, but the handsome school athlete became a Royal Marine—this tells you the difference in the type of person found in each service. None of this is to say that criminals are good; they are worse than the police—nor is it to say all soldiers are wonderful, the things they do in war are worse than anything the police does. My point is that the police, as an institution, are and always will be an attack on liberty; it is a failed way to deal with crime—and, once it becomes a bureaucracy, perverted by misaligned incentives, it becomes tyrannous and, in the main, exists to harass the lawful citizen and protect the criminal.