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The problem is America


The thread below on the police lynching of Tyre Nichols features a certain type of characteristically American parochialism that educated left/liberal people in general and LGM commenters in particular are usually much better at avoiding.

What I’m talking about is the discussion of whether police as individuals or more realistically police forces as social structures are inherently authoritarian trending toward sociopathic, and should therefore be abolished if not radically reformed.

Now I have no objection at all to radical reform, but the whole defund/abolish the police trope is not only politically suicidal for obvious reasons, but also a perfect example of the American parochialism I’m referencing.

The problem isn’t “cops” — it’s American cops.

Consider the United Kingdom: a highly developed, increasingly racially diverse (18% of the population is classified as non-white) nation, with its own fraught history of political violence — we’ve never actually beheaded a president over here, as warranted as that sort of intervention would have been on at least a couple of occasions — etc. etc.

British cops don’t kill people. This is almost literally true: for the last year for which statistics are available, the total number of people killed in the UK by security forces was . . . three. Adjusting for population, that means that an American is sixty times more likely to be killed by an American cop than a resident of the UK is to be killed by a British cop.

And the UK isn’t some crazy outlier in this regard: If you look at the statistics in other developed nations, the odds of getting killed by a cop are invariably many times lower there than they are here. Our closest competitor in this regard is Canada, and the rate of cops killing civilians is still three times higher in the USA.

Saying the problem is “racism” is also far too facile. They don’t have racism in England these days? Again, the problem isn’t racism per se: it’s the peculiar way in which American racism functions in America, when combined with the propensity of American cops to kill people unnecessarily. (If you removed the killings of all non-white people by American cops, the rate at which American cops kill white people would still be many times higher than the baseline rates in other developed nations).

All of which is to say the whole “defund the police” narrative is just extremely parochial. You might as well advocate defunding America. That’s not how any kind of meaningful reform could or should happen, on really any subject, but especially this one.

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