Why We Must Police our Own

‎I know first hand some people who were friended by [redacted] and were then attacked for saying the wrong thing. Now I’m not talking about George’s run in or my own. I’m talking about non-activists, lets say those who are at the starting point of walking down the road to where we are. In two cases this happened with women, one was my wife. My wife loves liberty as much as I do, but (thankfully) she is not as hard core in absolutes as a black and white guy like [redacted] is. That, plus she is often talking to friends that are no where close to where she is politically. Along comes [redacted] or someone like him to beat her and her friends up and what has our side gained? Noooothing. In fact, if anything we have lost ground as we are all going to be labeled as jerks, or worse, and these newer people are going to look at what we are saying even less than they would have. This is why we have to police our own, and no one should ever defend someone just because they are on the same team. If they are wrong they are wrong and should be called out on it. – Rich Piotrowski

“Police our own.” This combination of words will provoke an immediate visceral reaction in many libertarians I know. But it’s not such a crazy idea. Even in a stateless society, a policing function will be needed. The market itself is a policing function. People inevitably break rules, some inevitably find harmful shortcuts. No one is perfect. In a stateless society, I don’t think cops will be like they are now in the US.

I expect they will be voluntary cops, voluntarily-funded and enforcing rules we voluntarily agreed to. I also don’t see them using a lot of excessive force or being jerks. That will only lead to large arbitration settlements, lost jobs and ruined reputations.

So, when I talk about policing our own, I’m talking about market action. I’m not talking about anything even remotely like what the state does.

Why is there a need to police our own? Maybe you object to the words ‘our’ and ‘own.’ Other people in the liberty community don’t belong to me. They’re not “ours” to do with as we please. Absolutely correct. But the impression they make on outsiders is ours to keep, whether they like us or not. People generalize. It’s an intellectual shortcut of questionable value that people often use. The actions of one of us can, and do, reflect on the rest of us.

There’s a surprising amount of cliquishness in the liberty community. Long ago, I suppose, we reached that magic number after which cliques are required in order for stable social relationships to proceed.

But there is a feature of cliques that needs to be resisted. “I know him so he’s ok, no matter what he does.” The thought may not be as explicit as that, but it is certainly the result.

Lying is a form of fraud, which is a form of aggression. Lying is a violation of the non-aggression principle (NAP). Rich is right. And if we can’t call out a liar in our midst, I don’t know what this libertarian project is all about. If this is just another movement that uses principle as convenient wallpaper, then it’s all a lie and we’re all hypocrites.

I’m no hypocrite. What about you?

2 August 2011
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