Jeffrey A. Tucker — What Bastiat Had to Say about Police Abuse
"The Law" makes readers confront the question of justice and police power.
(Foundation for Economic Education)
When it comes to being employed by the government, membership has its privileges. How far do these privileges extend? It’s a question that is central to political philosophy. It is most poignantly addressed by one of my favorite pieces of writing, Frédéric Bastiat’s The Law (1850).
The same question is being debated on the streets in every US city today. Videos of citizen abuse at the hands of the police are everywhere. It seems the cops have been empowered to do to us what we would never be allowed to do to each other. Some cases have made it to grand juries and trial juries. People are asking pointed questions regarding the relationship between the state and its citizens.
From the mainstream media to the courts, disagreement usually revolves around questions of the motivation, the character, and the behavior of police officers. Are they following the regulations? Abusing their authority? Motivated at some level by racism? Some would like to confront the related question: What level of citizen noncompliance justly prompts the police to use extreme force?