THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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Too Many Laws?

Too Many Laws: Why Police Encounters Escalate | Mises Wire.

The linked article from the Mises Institute blog contains interesting statistics on police activity in the USA. 
Dealing with violent crime constitutes only a small minority of what police deal with on a daily basis. For example, in 2014, out of 11,205,833 arrests made nationwide (in the US), 498,666 arrests were for violent crimes and 1,553,980 arrests were for property crime. That means 82 percent of arrests were made for something other than violent crime or property crime [my emphasis]
I wonder what those numbers are in the UK? Most of us think of "real crime" as involving violence, theft, fraud or at least property damage. On reflection however, perhaps it's not surprising that 82% of police activity in the US relates to other matters. For all the fairy dust it blows in our eyes, the state is just another organisation shaped from the crooked timber of mankind. The people working for it – including police officers – have their own agenda, just like the rest of us. Unlike us however they face no competitive pressures to subordinate it to that of their customers.
Public servants in Britain earn more on average than those of us in the productive sector who pay their wages precisely because those operating the state's monopoly of force are not our moral superiors. Who among us, if we could set our own prices, fees or wages without jeopardising the demand for our services, would not earn more? 
The earnings hierarchy of public servants reflects neither their merits nor the demand for their particular "service". Rather it is the product of a mathematical formula that factors in their power and their remoteness from public accountability. Once the importance of this second factor is grasped, it's no longer surprising how many public servants are "paid more than the Prime Minister". She has more power than them, but she's also more accountable. An increase in her pay would dominate tomorrow's news. The pay rises of local authority panjandrums, fake charity chairmen or civil service specialists however will usually pass unnoticed; lost in budget numbers so astronomical as to be incomprehensible to most. 
More laws create more job opportunities in the public sector. We humans being no better than we should be, that is undoubtedly a factor both in the rate at which they are created and the rarity of their repeal. I suspect that many of the activities occupying 82% of the time of law enforcement officers in the USA involve – one way or another – maximising both the demand for their services and the resources from which public servants' wages are paid. As the article says
Contrary to un-serious and absurd claims that the police "enforce all laws," police use their discretion all the time as to what laws to enforce and which to not enforce. Those laws that are enforced are often laws that can lead to profit for the police department — such as drug laws which lead to asset forfeiture — or laws that can make for easy arrests — such as loitering and other small time laws — which improve a police officers' arrest record.
"Asset forfeiture" is a euphemism you may not be aware of. It began with laws permitting the confiscation of the proceeds of crime. These days it often involves confiscating assets merely suspected as such. In 2014, the cops stole more than the robbers in the good old liberty-loving, property rights-respecting US of A. I would love to know the corresponding figures in the liberty-despising, all-hail-the-Bitch-Goddess-State United Kingdom.
Reflecting on the current crisis in US identity politics the article concludes
If we want to be serious about scaling back the degree to which police interactions with the public can lead to violent escalations, we must first scale back the number of offenses that can lead to serious fines and imprisonment for members of the public, while shifting the concentration of police efforts to violent crime and property crime. The emphasis must return to crimes that have actual victims and which are reported by citizens looking for stolen property and violent criminals. Not only will this increase the value of policing, but will also improve relations with most of the public while reducing the footprint of the state in the lives of ordinary people. 
People often ask how much law there would be in a libertarian state. Given that a libertarian US state would only prohibit the initiation of force or fraud, these statistics suggest it could manage with about 20% of its current criminal laws. Imagine how well they would be enforced if all current police officers diverted their efforts to them! The "War on Drugs" is is the most obvious example of how de-criminalisation would reduce crime, both directly and indirectly (by removing the incentive to commit crime to fund a drugs habit). I suspect it's just one example among thousands however. If we reverted to the model of a "fire service" police that only responded to public calls for assistance, we would also acquire a useful measure of whether a law was necessary. Any "crime" for which the police were never called out could be safely abolished!


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The blog exists to facilitate your rant. No apology needed. The Nottingham Police policies have been reported mainly in terms of "wolf whistling" but also cover taking photos of girls without consent. This is outrageous. If upheld (and I see no legal basis for it) it makes street photography — an important art form and way of documenting history — into harassment. My charming photo yesterday of a young lady punting her family along the Cam would expose me to charges of sexual harassment. Public is the opposite of private. If in public anyone who can look at you can photograph you. Whether or not s/he enjoys the subsequent photo or not.


I feel sure the problem you write about will get worse. Crime seems to be falling--more secure cars and houses help. So the Police need to generate more work to keep themselves in the manner to which they feel absolutely entitled. Apart from the ludicrous over-egging of any unimportant motor accident and the competition between forces to see who can close a motorway for the longest we have the invention of new crimes. Like wolf-whistling. Shortly to be extended to just looking in the direction of a female at any time or in any way. After all if a woman says a man looked at her "funny", as we know "she must be believed" when she says she was devastated ( whatever that means)or probably raped.
I suspect in the USA as here most crime is what I call crime against the paperwork. Expired or non-existent licences, permits, credentials.God help us.
And of course whenever there is a crime there has to be plenty of blue and white tape strewn around. And every inch of it needs to be guarded by a boy or girl in yellow. They are essential background dressing for any filmed news report. It does not impress or reassure me. The opposite in fact. I really do think the Police in the UK need to be brought into some sort of control. They are running amok.Don't mention ACPO or other trade unions.For the sake of my blood pressure.
Please forgive me for this rant.

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