What are laws actually for? If you’re thinking to prevent crime, think again. While I don’t support anarchy, if there’s no laws to be broken, there’s no crime, right?
The legislature writes laws to set a standard for law-abiding citizens to know what will and won’t land them in jail. It’s the best way to ensure fairness in prosecution.
Some legislators may believe that would-be murderers would pause and think, “I want to kill this person, but Nancy Pelosi says that’s wrong,” but I think most reasonable people know this is simply not true.
Taking it further and speaking in absolutes; a law cannot stop a crime—criminal acts are physical actions. In order to stop a moving object, you need another physical object to interfere. Isaac’s Laws of Motion, remember? But a law is just words on a page and cannot technically prevent anything. A police officer could, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Let me give an example of why this nuance of defining standards is important and what happens when it’s done wrong.
In 1995, after the repeal of the national 55 mph speed limit, Montana passed a daytime “reasonable and prudent” law. In what could be one of the most glorious acts of libertarianism ever enacted, the state entrusted the people of Montana to determine for themselves a safe speed to travel under the conditions at any given time. To many people’s surprise, studies showed that letting people drive as fast as they wanted actually reduced highway fatalities. They got to where they were going faster too.
Then on March 10th, 1996, at a brisk 85 mph, along came Rudy Stanko and his Camaro, when Kenneth Breidenbach, a Montana Highway Patrol officer pulled him over, citing him for unsafe driving in relation to speed. See the legal arguments here.
Stanko was initially convicted, but “Reasonable and prudent” wasn’t properly written, making Stanko the victim of bad law.
Stanko’s attorneys appealed, stating that the “reasonable and prudent” statute was constitutionally vague—they were right. The judge agreed that a person cannot be cited for not driving reasonably and prudently unless the state first defines reasonable and prudent, which it hadn’t. As such, Stanko had no way of knowing if he was doing something that would earn him a ticket, and thus no way to avoid doing it.
Although I hated to see the Montanabahn go, we cannot allow police officers and courts to arbitrarily decide why one person doing 85 is OK, and the other is not. Why? Officer Ken or Justice Joe, for instance, could cite their cheating ex-girlfriends at will for something they let everyone else get away with—I assume you get the point.
As a libertarian (and a Corvette owner), I of course hoped that Montana would have attempted to define reasonable and prudent, which I concede may have been monumentally difficult, but instead, they reverted back to an actual speed limit of 75 mph, and this great bastion of libertarianism died a sad yet preventable death.
So now that I’ve illustrated the purpose of laws and what a good law does, to be fair, I should point out that some laws may serve as a deterrent. However, crimes of a violent nature are also usually crimes of passion, which are usually only preventable with a weapon, not a law.
So do police prevent crime?
Think about all the times you might call the police. More often than not, they are called because either a crime is in progress or has been committed. Also, when police pull someone over, they are doing so because a traffic law has been broken, not because you were about to run a red light—which was clearly still yellow—dammit.
In both instances, the crime is investigated and/or prosecuted, not prevented. It is a very rare occasion you would call the police before a crime is perpetrated and the police would intervene to stop the act before it was able to be carried out.
Again to be fair though, as evidenced by high rates of recidivism, when police arrest someone who committed one crime, they are often preventing the next one on that felon’s “to-do” list.
To all police officers, if you’re one of the many honorable and law-abiding people putting your life at risk for me on a daily basis, I appreciate you immensely—as we all should. So please don’t assume I’m criticizing your sacrifices.
But I believe preventing crime is ultimately a duty of the people. This is one of the many reasons why we have the 2nd amendment and why we all should be more apt to take advantage of it. We should encourage citizen-based crime prevention options, and stand your ground legislation should be nationwide. If a criminal knew most of the neighborhood was armed and would gladly shoot them without repercussion, the innate sense of self-preservation might just override the desire to steal your car stereo—it is not worth dying for.
As far as the police go, I firmly believe that as a nation we should have far less police officers in favor of more police detectives. I don’t blame the officers themselves, they’re just doing a job, but too often the police serve as a means of income for the community via traffic enforcement instead of preventing and solving crime, and this isn’t in the people’s best interests.
So how do we prevent crime then? As you may have imagined, I have some suggestions. Here’s but a few:
- Stop writing unneeded laws: I won’t go deep into the drug debate here, but it is a perfect example. Most violent drug-related crimes occur because recreational drugs are illegal. This idea was proven beyond any doubt during alcohol prohibition and its subsequent repeal approximately 80 years ago. Deep within our nature exists a truism: if you encroach on mankind’s freedom, we will lash out—sometimes quite violently. Don’t believe me, tell your kid not to do something, see what happens.
- Reign in entitlements: As long as we’re paying welfare mothers to have welfare babies that serve more as a source of income than an outlet for an abundance of motherly love, we’re going to have children who grow up with little to no sense of morality. If I feel I’m entitled to your car, I’ll likely just take it? However, if we force people to sink or swim, we’ll have a lot more people who develop a good work ethic. People who work for things appreciate them and don’t feel compelled to take what others worked for due to another innate quality in most humans—empathy.
- Improve education: Get rid of teacher’s unions, public schools, etc., and have proper free market education. If free markets can make a better car, and I think Russia vs. America proved this, then it can build a better school too. Studies have shown private schools routinely outperform their public counterparts. One look at any prison shows that most of the people in there can’t even spell incarceration. Sure there are genius criminal minds, but contrary to Hollywood hype, they’re not as common as you would think. A smarter society is usually a more peaceful one, whereas most criminals are idiots.
- Improve the economy: Some criminals are psychopaths, but some criminals are just desperate. Psychopaths will commit crimes as long as they are free, but with a strong economy, you at least reduce the crimes of desperation.
Ultimately we need to adopt a “No victim, no crime” policy then restore our country’s greatness such that people don’t feel the need to do bad things to survive. but the answer is almost never more laws and more police.