The Safer Ontario Act and Police Privatization

People rioting against police corruption

Prior to being ousted, the Liberals were about to introduce Bill 175 "Safer Ontario Act" which would have allegedly privatized some police services and introduced stronger police oversight. I saw it as a step in the right direction and was initially encouraged by some of its provisions. A real free market in the security services industry is ultimately what I think will solve the serious problem of police corruption and misconduct against individuals and businesses that exists in our society. The additional choices to consumers provided by natural markets and voluntary transactions with security services providers would surely weed out corruption and misconduct as people would choose the most ethical and least corrupt options from among their available choices.

Even after the conservatives watered it down, this bill allowed for the some police services to be outsourced to private for-profit providers:

  • Crime prevention
  • Investigative supports related to law enforcement, including supports in the areas of:
    • crime scene analysis,
    • forensic identification,
    • canine tracking,
    • technical collision investigation and reconstruction,
    • breath analysis,
    • physical surveillance,
    • electronic interception,
    • video and photographic surveillance, and
    • polygraph and behavioural science.
  • Explosives disposal
  • Assistance to victims of crime

Unfortunately, it is still not possible to start a private market security services business in these fields because a monopoly provider of these services, the government, would continue to compete against you and force its customers to pay for their services through taxation whether they used your services or not. Consumers may choose the worse option because they have already been forced to pay for it. There is also the problem of the need to obtain permission from your competition, the current monopoly provider of these services, to start your new private security business and the need to hire only staff that they have vetted and approve of.

To me, security services are a very important service. Far too important to be run by central planners using socialist principles which destroy pricing information and make it impossible to allocate police resources to their highest and best use. Real privatization of security services, as it is envisioned by free market libertarians, would mean that anyone could start a business offering any of these services without a permit, that they would be allowed to charge their customers directly for their services, that these services would be entirely voluntary, and that service delivery would be controlled by the business owner.

The Ontario PC party does not support the economy or free markets. It supports a form of right wing socialism that views private business as beneficial only as a means to reduce costs to the government. Private for-profit businesses are permitted to exist provided they are strictly controlled by the state and operate in the interests of the state (what they would call "The Public Good"). But it is still socialism because despite having private owners who make profits, these industries remain under control of state central planners and the price discovery mechanisms offered by natural markets have been banned.

For a conservative right wing socialist, the police are the club of government, to be used to coerce their policies onto unwilling segments of the public. They have no ethical issues with using initiatory force to deal with victimless crimes and regularly use the police to shake down industries like food trucks and taxi services for permits and fees. They consider it government business what you can and can't do with your own body and property, even when what you are doing harms nobody else. In the conservative world of "rule by force" it is important that police officers have legal protection from the crimes they commit against the public; because anyone else committing such acts would be facing lengthy prison terms. Conservatism requires this creation of a class of people who are effectively granted immunity from the rule of law and this is ultimately why they oppose any sort of police reform.

For libertarians, the primary function of policing is the safety and security of individuals and their property. We place a stronger focus on restorative justice: having convicted criminals make restitution directly to the victims of crime rather than "society" (which really means the state). We place less of an emphasis on using state violence as a deterrent for what the government considers bad behavior or as encouragement for what they consider good behavior. In our view of policing, if it is illegal for you and I to do something, it ought to be illegal for a police officer to do that thing as well. Equal rights under the law is part of the classical liberal tradition that Libertarianism evolved out of and has been retained intact.