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Power Corrupts

Lord Acton seems to have gotten it right:

...when recently denied free coffee from new management, Garvin allegedly told managers that he could change the police department's response time if they refuse to give him complimentary drinks.

Garvin is accused of saying, "If something happens, either we can respond really fast or we could respond really slow. I've been coming here for years and I've been getting whatever I want. I'm the difference between you getting a two-minute response time, if you needed a little help, or a 15 minutes response time."

Some have more resistance than others, but this should be cautionary for people who want bigger government. Unfortunately, it's the new problem we have in Iraq, now that the war seems to be over.


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Carl Pham wrote:

I don't think Lord Acton's warning is the proper interpretive framework here, honestly. The transaction between the Starbuck's management and the cop is actually a fairly straightforward, albeit illegal, contract. You give me something I want (coffee) and I give you something you want (better protection). If the cop moonlighted as a security guard, and worked, oddly enough, for coffee instead of a salary, it would all be quite honest and legal as Sunday. So I don't think it's quite a case of the cop abusing his authority. He's not threatening to beat the Starbuck's manager with his nightstick or run him in on trumped-up bogus charges if he refuses to give him coffee: he's just not going to give him the "policeman's friend" special protection status.

Of course, the police are not supposed to play favorites this way, and the real victims of the offense are those who can't offer the cop free coffee or blowjobs to get extra protection. These are presumably the people from whom the police will remove their time and effort in order to give it to those (like the Starbucks) who can offer some kind of extra payment. So the cop's real offense is that he is offering to discriminate against people who can't pay him bribes.

Statists will argue the correct solution here is more oversight: we need police to monitor the police, et cetera, presumably right up to the very top, where King Obama, the fount of all that is Good and Right, will oversee everybody.

The other side of the spectrum would argue against fighting human nature, and merely urge that the process be made transparent to all, viz., let the cop earn his entire salary through making deals with businesses and citizens for his protection -- more or less, privatize the police protection function. The sad part of this is that those who have very little earning power will be able to afford very little police protection. That may not matter so much for property protection -- folks who earn little can have little to steal -- but it poses ethical quandaries as far as the protection of life and liberty goes. It seems unpleasant to assert that the lives of the poor should be worth no more than what they can spend to defend them.

Still, as a practical matter, defending your life (as opposed to property) all by yourself does not seem especially expensive, given the cheapness of, say, a handgun. The problem with defending property is mostly that you can't always have it with you. Fortunately, your life is always with you, always under your personal guardianship.

Perhaps the true libertarian-humanitarian solution is to privatize the police function but also subsidize the purchase of personal defensive weaponry by the poor.

Oh, right, except I forgot that the conventional wisdom these days is that if you arm the poor they'll all just murder each other in a blaze of gunfire over nuggets of crack, Reeboks, and MP3 players.

Josh Reiter wrote:

I wonder if this cop has a life size poster of Vick Mackey on his wall?

"Perhaps the true libertarian-humanitarian solution is to privatize the police function but also subsidize the purchase of personal defensive weaponry by the poor."

I am not certain humanitarian is the right descriptor. I would align it under the principle of compatibilism. A person maintains their free will as long as they are not coerced. If someone denies them of their free will through violent coercion then a person should have the means to protect/reclaim their free will through any means necessary.

This is one of the quandaries of the social contract theory. From a logical perspective people benefit through cooperation but there is not nothing to explain the need for true altruism. We have to make a judgment from a morally neutral position in order to objectively state that, yes, society as a whole tends to do better when a police force is provided that sees to the overall protection of the poor/weak.

Larry J wrote:

This is just another in a long line of protection rackets (either by corrupt police or crime gangs) - pay up and be safe, don't pay and bad things will happen. What's rare is that the cop was reported and fired.

memomachine wrote:


1. Starbucks coffee is frankly horrifyingly bad. For some unimaginable reason people like thinking it's strong because it's overly bitter. In fact it's merely over roasted to the point of burning the beans.

2. In case anybody didn't know this: more roasting = darker color = less caffeine.

3. This reminds me of a Monty Python skit.

Then again most things seem to remind me of a Monty Python skit. I don't know if that's because Monty Python was so comprehensive or if I'm merely getting older and turning into a curmudgeon.

Rick C wrote:

In general, the point of places giving cops free coffee is, especially after dark, to get the cops to come by every once in a while. It's a lure. The idea is that it's going to have a deterring effect on potential criminals, especially if the cops come in more or less randomly.

The article says this guy would come in up to 6 times a day. He's clearly gone well beyond that territory into a protection/extortion racket, even if it was a small one.

Of course, that particular Starbucks should've gotten video of him after the first instance of threats, and gone to the police chief. Heck, they should've complained to the department when he started abusing the privilege of free coffee, because he was spoiling it for all the other cops. (I would expect that a word to the other cops partaking of the offer would be sufficient to get the jerk to abusing the system, too.)

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on July 17, 2008 5:38 PM.

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