To Serve and Protect

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June 4, 2007

The discussion at my office and lunch stop was about who got caught this week in an hours-long traffic snarl on the Washington, D.C. beltway, the circular highway that girds the nation's capital used by hundreds of thousands of commuters. As reported in the 5/31/07 edition of The Washington Post:

"The accident was set in motion about 7 p.m. when a Prince George's police cruiser chasing the motorcycle on the outer loop near the Ritchie Marlboro Road exit slammed into a vehicle after the motorcycle cut in front of the car, police said.

The force of the impact caused the car to go airborne over the median's guardrail and into oncoming traffic on the inner loop. That caused a chain-reaction crash involving five southbound cars.

The motorcycle sped off, and its driver remained at large, police said.

Details about the two dead were unavailable last night. The 15 injured were taken to hospitals; one of them was said to be in critical condition."

The article goes on to report that the police hope to identify the rider with footage from the camera in the police cruiser. From that statement, you're probably correct in guessing that this episode was not a hot pursuit of a violent robber or a spree killer who jumped onto a waiting motorcycle. Instead, it rings of a motorcycle rider who refused to obey an order to stop from a government employee who then gave chase. While the article further reports shock and dismay from the authorities at the carnage that followed, there's no apology or even acknowledgment of a police role in the accident.

While the ending of this police chase was tragic, the chases themselves are common enough to provide hours of television voyeurism. A lot of these incidents end in collisions and some with injury or death of the pursued, pursuers, or bystanders. The point to be made here is that the safety and well being of individual citizens is at best an incidental concern of the state. An institution that actually valued the lives of its citizens would train its officers to not escalate disobedience into a confrontation that endangers the lives and property of hundreds of people. Only when one considers the primary concern of the state -- preservation of its unquestioned power and authority -- does the tragedy make sense. The danger resulting from the chase of a traffic scofflaw is many times worse than any moving violations he may have committed. But to the institution of government, any resistance of its authority is an unforgivable crime punishable, if necessary, by death.

Exposing as fraud the idea that the government is primarily concerned about your safety and well-being is straightforward to anyone willing to take his blinders off. If you can't figure out how you're being made safe as you watch a TSA bureaucrat throw your deodorant and toothpaste in the trash, you are confused as to what the purpose of the spectacle is. When you accept that the projection of government power is the reason you are standing meekly in your bare feet on a dirty airport floor as your key-chain ornaments are seized, there's no mystery. The power motive further explains other state machinations. You may find it impossible to make sense of how waging war against people who've never attacked you serves any security purpose. But when you recognize the motive is about projecting power, then the expended thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and hundreds of billions of dollars of the saved wealth of the world has a sound, if immoral, basis.

"To serve and protect" is the motto on the door of the police cruiser. It's not a lie if you understand it means "to serve and protect the state."

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Bob Jackson is the author of "The Amazing Liberteens."  His libertarian comic book can be viewed online by clicking the SANCTUARY link at