With visions of the military marching through the streets of the U. S., we read stories about how America is becoming a police-state; about how the police have become “militarized”.
What does this mean, though?
Are they” militarized” because they are using equipment that was originally created for the military and subsequently purchased by the police?
If so, why is this necessarily a bad thing?
In the past, police were armed with night sticks (or “billy clubs”) but as criminals became more organized and better armed, the police also increased their own arms and self defense equipment. Criminals today have access to firearms well beyond the “midnight specials” of the past and, in order to protect us, and themselves, the police must also increase their firepower and protective equipment, accordingly.
“But, ” you may say,” they are using this equipment against us and enforcing bad laws!”
I will address this valid point briefly in a moment.
What I wish to focus on in this article is the validity of “militarization” as a concept.
As human beings, we think in terms of concepts and, because we do, there are times when an “anti-concept” is able to creep into our language.
“An anti-concept is an unnecessary and rationally unusable term designed to replace and obliterate some legitimate concept. The use of anti-concepts gives the listeners a sense of approximate understanding. But in the realm of cognition, nothing is as bad as the approximate .. . .
One of today’s fashionable anti-concepts is “polarization.” Its meaning is not very clear, except that it is something bad—undesirable, socially destructive, evil—something that would split the country into irreconcilable camps and conflicts. It is used mainly in political issues and serves as a kind of “argument from intimidation”: it replaces a discussion of the merits (the truth or falsehood) of a given idea by the menacing accusation that such an idea would “polarize” the country—which is supposed to make one’s opponents retreat, protesting that they didn’t mean it.”
“Credibility and Polarization,” The Ayn Rand Letter
I view the term “militarization” as one such anti-concept because :
1) “its meaning is not very clear”
– When does the level of weaponry become” militarized”, and why is this level necessarily bad?
2) It is “something that would split the country into irreconcilable camps and conflicts”
– The populace vs the police.
3) It “serves as a kind of” argument from intimidation “.
– If one does not agree that they are” militarized “, one is naive because” everyone knows they are! ”
4)” It replaces a discussion of the merits… by the menacing accusation that ”
– if you disagree, you are enabling the police to use their weapons against the populace for their own ends which will lead to a police-state.
For these reasons, I believe that, as a valid concept,” militarization” falls short.
Returning to the point of the police using the weaponry against us, I will grant you that there are bad police officers, just as there are the bad in any profession. I, in no way, agree with any illegal and/or immoral use of force by the police, such as the anti-drug laws, anti-gambling laws, anti-prostitution laws, (or virtually any laws that fall under “vice”) that they enforce, but I believe that these two issues (the police and their equipment vs the government and the immoral laws they impose) should be kept separate and clearly defined.
Instead of “f¿¢|< the police", we should focus on "f¿¢|< bad laws".