For a lot of us, it’s easy to assume that the world is filled with bad characters waiting to harm us because we see so much evidence that danger is all around us.  From petty theft to mass shootings, not a day goes by when such wrongs are perpetrated on a massive scale across the globe.  Yet, the reality is that the overwhelmingly majority of interactions of our human interactions are either positive or neutral.  We just take them for granted.

Walter Williams made a similar observation last week:

Examples of honesty and trust abound, but imagine the cost and inconvenience if we couldn’t trust anyone. We would have to lug around measuring instruments to make sure that it was in fact 10 gallons of gas and 1 pound of steak that we purchased. Imagine the hassle of having to count out the number of pills in a bottle. If we couldn’t trust, we’d have to bear the costly burden of writing contracts instead of relying on a buyer’s or a seller’s word. We’d have to bear the monitoring costs to ensure compliance in the simplest of transactions.

But for most people it goes way beyond this.

Unless you are truly defensively minded, which most of us aren’t, when you drive down the road, you trust that people will generally observe the rules of the road, (e.g. stop at red lights, not swerve into oncoming traffic, etc.).  When you walk down a crowded street, you trust that no one is going to pull a knife out and stab you as you walk by.  Or, when you go to a restaurant, you trust that the cooking staff won’t try to poison your meal.

In short, most of us operate as though no one will intentionally try to harm us on any given day even if we acknowledge that it’s an absolute possibility.  That understanding is the basis of community life.  Absent that generally positive outlook on daily will lead one to either become a hermit or wind up in a mental institution.

Essentially, much of our lives consist of voluntary interactions with others that are either mutually beneficial or neutral, and it is rare that we have to appeal to an outside party to protect us from harm.  As a result, most people just assume, without evidence, that they can count on the one institution that has been set up to protect them when a threat does arise: the State.  Yet, more and more people are discovering that this assumption is tragically wrong.

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the police did not have a constitutional duty to protect a person from harm, even a woman who had obtained a court-issued protective order against a violent husband making an arrest mandatory for a violation.

For hours on the night of June 22, 1999, Jessica Gonzales tried to get the Castle Rock police to find and arrest her estranged husband, Simon Gonzales, who was under a court order to stay 100 yards away from the house. He had taken the children, ages 7, 9 and 10, as they played outside, and he later called his wife to tell her that he had the girls at an amusement park in Denver.

Ms. Gonzales conveyed the information to the police, but they failed to act before Mr. Gonzales arrived at the police station hours later, firing a gun, with the bodies of the girls in the back of his truck. The police killed him at the scene.

This is not just a case where a police department was negligent in fulfilling its duties to protect one of its constituents.  This is a case where the lack of response from the police department on behalf of a woman who’s daughters were in immediate danger was vindicated by the highest judicial court in the land.  This is the institution that most people believe will be there for them when they are most in need of protection.  It’s a false hope.  It’s a misplaced trust that government bureaucrats with guns will spring into action at a moments notice whenever a civilian is in danger, (i.e. the mistaken notion of the cop as a superhero).

As a result of this misplaced trust, we are all infinitely more in danger than we would be if it were commonly understood that the ultimate responsibility for our personal security lies with us as individuals.  Instead of waiting for local crime historian, (i.e. cop), to come and write a report about the harm that has already been done to us – or worse, to decorate our house with the lovely yellow ‘Do Not Cross’ banner – we might actually start thinking about proactive ways to actually keep the criminal outliers among us from doing harm to us in the first place.  We might come to realize that centralized government bureaucracies are not suited to provide the vastly individualized array of services needed to truly protect people under various social conditions, (e.g. the security needed for urban living versus the security necessary for someone with a family farm).  We might understand that security is a really a very personal, private issue that is in dire need of multiple decentralized solutions and private market innovation.

Thankfully, this process has already started.

We need much more of the same.


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