Defunding the police

This is Joseph.

I am a big fan of reading history. While I admit I have a Western European and Classical period bias in my reading, it isn't limited to just these periods. Every once in a while you hear an argument that really has no good analogue in how societies have tried things in the past. It doesn't mean that the past is a prison, but that I would like to consider ideas about how to use past ideas as a starting point for current problems.

Whenever I hear about "Defund the Police", I have questions. Now, the same slogan covers a wide range of policies, some of which are extremely good ideas. Militarized police is a step backwards to when the main peacekeepers were military, and that was definitely helped by a town guard that was less violent. You didn't want the same soldiers who sack cities to be keeping the peace in a town or city that you really care about. 

But if it means abolish the police, which occasionally it does, then I want to bring up my favorite example of a society without police: medieval Iceland. It is a very good example and has actually been brought up as a possible model by Libertarians from time to time (see the linked David Friedman article for an example). But it does raise a serious concern for a large society like the United States or Canada -- even in a small and highly interdependent society (Read more...)