Monday, May 16, 2011

Private armies, private fiefdoms

One of the things that is so amusing about glibertarians is their insistence upon trying experiments that have already been tried, and failed miserably. One example is their notion that we don't need police forces because the free market would create private police forces. So... how did that work in reality?

Well: See, here's the thing. Power grows from the barrel of a gun. And if you're rich because you managed to camp on top of some critical resource that everybody needs, that money buys a *lot* of guns. What we found, during the heyday of the "company town" from the 1870's to the 1920's, was that the richest man in town basically ruled the town as his private fiefdom using the power of his private police force, which was larger and better armed than any police force the remainder of the citizenry could put together from amongst themselves or via hiring their own policemen. The Pinkertons broke many a strike by the simple expedient of expelling all strikers from town and seizing any property they left behind. Illegal as hell, but who was going to stop them? State governments that themselves were in the pay of the wealthy? The strikers themselves, who were outnumbered and outgunned by the imported thugs? Not hardly!

So what we found was that private police forces basically lead to feudalism, where the richest man in town rules by virtue of being able to hire the most thugs with guns. This irked the majority of the citizenry greatly, because their daily life was dictated by the whim of a local feudal ruler who decided everything about how they should live. Eventually the notion that We The People should have a monopoly on deadly force took hold, and by the mid 1950's the private police forces and company towns basically ceased to exist, replaced by municipal governments elected by the majority of voters and municipal police forces that, while they still tended to favor the wealthy, were still constrained by Federal law regarding limits on what government could do and thus could not do things as blatantly illegal as the Bisbee Deportation.

In short, private police forces proved to be abhorrent to the majority of Americans, who found themselves being on the short end of a bunch of thugs with guns and rightly did away with them for the most part via taking control of the levers of government and using the power of government to do away with the private militias in the pay of feudal lords. And now the Libertarians want to try this *again*? When it didn't work the first time? Of course, the glibertarians believe that *they* will be the rich man in town who rules everybody else in Libertopia. Yeah, good luck with that -- pasty white geeks who get off while stroking guns are no match for real thugs. Real thugs would kill them while they were still trying to draw their pistol from their holster with shaking hands, because real thugs don't care about human life -- they're sociopaths, and kill without thought. And people who kill without thought will *always* win gun battles over people who have to think and decide before making the decision to kill...

-- Badtux the Not-so-glibertarian Penguin


  1. I did some of my graduate research on the mine wars in West Virginia in the 1910-20s. Fascinating stuff it was. The film Matewan is set in this general period. Harlan County USA could be seen as a latter-day example, or maybe the last gasp of the company town.

  2. Worth a read, even if wordy and repetitious: John Dean's book, Conservatives Without Conscience. You may recognize some familiar figures in his personality types. Read a few chapters for the gist of it; you don't need to wade through all that muck.


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