A reader just sent me the article below. It’s certainly an interesting perspective for someone who at the time called himself a libertarian. No, it isn’t explicitly racist. It merely argues that cops should be free to beat the hell out of people. The line about video cameras is nice, too.
To be fair, Rockwell does seem to have changed his tune since then. Good for him. But the article speaks volumes about the mindset of the paleolibertarian crowd in the early 1990s. It also further validates the reporting done last month by Julian Sanchez and Dave Weigel. Rockwell seems to have two similar articles for USA Today at about the same time, one called “Curbing Cops Helps Crooks,” and another called “Crack Down on Crime–And Support Police.”
Some of the paleos have argued that the newsletter kerfuffle is just political correctness run amok–that those of us who are disappointed by all of this are just urbane city dwellers trying to show our mainstream media friends how open-minded we are. Whatever. But even if the racism doesn’t shame them, you’d think they’d be shamed by the fact that this crap isn’t remotely libertarian. They didn’t just make ugly appeals to racists and conspiracy theorists. They let those appeals trump their principles. Rockwell below is basically arguing for a police state in America’s cities.
IT’S SAFE STREETS VERSUS URBAN TERROR; IN THE ‘50S, RAMPANT CRIME DIDN’T EXIST BECAUSE OFFENDERS FEARED WHAT THE POLICE WOULD DO.
March 10, 1991
Los Angeles Times, Sunday edition
By LLEWELLYN H. ROCKWELL
If you offer a small boy one candy bar now or 10 tomorrow, he’ll grab the one. That’s because children have what economists call a “high time preference.” They want it, and they want it now. The future is a haze.
The punishing of children must take this into account. One good whack on the bottom can have an effect. A threat about no TV all next year will not.
As we grow older, this changes. We care more, and think more, about the future. In fact, this is the very process of maturation. We plan, save, invest and put off today’s gratification until tomorrow.
But street criminals, as economist Murray N. Rothbard points out, have the time preference of depraved infants. The prospect of a jail sentence 12 months from now has virtually no effect.
As recently as the 1950s — when street crime was not rampant in America — the police always operated on this principle: No matter the vagaries of the court system, a mugger or rapist knew he faced a trouncing — proportionate to the offense and the offender — in the back of the paddy wagon, and maybe even a repeat performance at the station house. As a result, criminals were terrified of the cops, and our streets were safe.
Today’s criminals know that they probably won’t be convicted, and that if the are, they face a short sentence — someday. The result is city terrorism, though we are seldom shown videos of old people being mugged, women being raped, gangs shooting drivers at random or store clerks having their throats slit.
What we do see, over and over again, is the tape of some Los Angeles-area cops giving the what-for to an ex-con. It is not a pleasant sight, of course; neither is cancer surgery.
Did they hit him too many times? Sure, but that’s not the issue: It’s safe streets versus urban terror, and why we have moved from one to the other.
Liberals talk about banning guns. As a libertarian, I can’t agree. I am, however, beginning to wonder about video cameras.
Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr. is president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, an economics think tank in Auburn, Ala.