December 2, 2014

CHARLES C.W. COOKE: In Defense of ‘Antigovernment Militias.’

In the United States, police forces exist as a public service, not as a replacement for civil society. As the Supreme Court has made clear, police are under no obligation to help or to protect you. They can choose to, certainly. But they do not have to. And, even if they did have to, it would still be the case that they could not possibly be everywhere at once.

Nor are they intended to be. For much of American history, there was no serious distinction drawn between the citizenry, the militia, the military, and the police. Instead, there were a few elected or appointed roles — watchmen, constables, sheriffs, etc. — and then there was the people at large. Those people were expected to bandy together and to help one another, to be responsible for their own protection, and to help to keep the peace — both under the control of authorities and of their own volition. When standing police forces came into being, Americans did not give up this system; they added to it.

Which is to say that there is no reason whatsoever for us to abandon either our penchant for self-reliance or our preference for volunteerism simply because we have a series of professional police forces running in parallel to civil society. Nor, for that matter, should our out-of-control licensing systems and incomplete self-defense protections be permitted to become an impediment to our security. I’m no great fan of Oathkeepers as an outfit. But if they wish to help out during a protest, so be it. If a collection of black Ferguson residents wishes to protect a white-owned gas station from looters, so be it. If the Huey P. Newton Gun Club wants to march around Dallas protecting black citizens, so be it. If a spontaneous, unlicensed group of Korean Los Angelenos wishes to take up arms and protect their property from rioters, so be it. The United States represents a collection of free people who elect to have police forces — not the other way around. So some of our actors don’t much like the government. Who cares?

What has the government done to make itself likable, lately?

Plus, more from Jesse Walker:

A member told The New York Times that there were “more than five, less than 500.” He also said that he had been vetting prospective volunteers to weed out any racists, and that about 10 percent of the group’s guards were black. I’ve seen some worries in the press that the Oath Keepers’ presence “could inflame tensions further,” but I have not seen any reports of violence either by or against the group’s St. Louis patrols. The locals quoted in the Times and Post-Dispatch pieces seem to think their presence served as a deterrant. . . . (The Oath Keepers’ basic position on the situation is that the government has trampled the rights of peaceful protesters while neglecting their duty to protect lives and property.)

Better your home or business should burn than that the police should face competition. How about a federal civil rights law protecting citizens forced to resort to self-help from interference by local authorities?

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