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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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