Conflict of interest: How could the government not exploit it?

Does your car insurance company want you to get into accidents? Is it good for their business if you wreck your car a few times? Is it good for you if you find yourself in numerous car accidents?

The answer to all three of those questions is no. Car insurance companies want you to have as few accidents as possible and will typically reward those drivers who are able to avoid them. People purchase car insurance (when it is not forced on them) because they want the peace of mind of knowing that they can have repairs made or their car replaced without too much of a financial burden on them.

Or maybe a person lives in a place without compulsive car insurance and they choose to self-insure. The same ideas apply. If they save up their money to use in case of a car accident, it would be preferable if they never actually had to use it. If they did have to use it, and wanted to remain self-insured, then they would need to spend money in order to build their savings back up.

Apply these concepts to private police forces (or what I’ll refer to as defense agencies). Please understand that I am not talking about a local government contracting out the work to a business in lieu of organizing and managing their own police force. I am talking about individuals and groups voluntarily purchasing their own protective service with no government involvement.

Imagine that you pay a monthly fee for the services of a given defense agency. I would imagine that you would prefer to never have to use your defense agency, but you enjoy the comfort that there is someone you can call if there ever is a problem. Your agency would also prefer that you stay out of trouble. Every time they have to engage in a conflict on your behalf, they incur costs, which may include finding a replacement for an injured agent/damaged equipment or at worst replacing one that has been killed. Your agency’s goal is to maximize subscribers while minimizing violence.

That was a brief introduction to the concept of private defense agencies. If you were not already familiar with the concept, I’m not going to be surprised if that did not convince you that you could trust a private defense agency. So consider this: Is there any way that you could trust the current system with the government providing the police services more than you would purchasing the service on the market?

In the current government system, if you break a law, you are often required to pay a fine or maybe some court fees. Or there is a law that requires you to pay them money simply because you exist. The government is the entity that creates the laws. They also enforce the laws and collect fines and fees they charge you. Do you see any chance for a conflict of interest?

Why would you trust an organization that forces you pay them money when you break their laws if you have no fair way of declining participation? Is it at all just that they wield such power over you?

Get caught not wearing a seatbelt? Here’s a fine. Do you think that’s an unfair law? Oh well! You don’t like paying taxes? Well, that’s how we get paid, so we’re going to send someone to do whatever it takes to seize your money.  It is crazy, but it actually benefits the government in many cases if you break the law.

Unless motivated solely by altruism (don’t hold your breath), how could you not expect abuses to occur in a system where a special group gets to decide when they charge you money? Like the private defense agency that has to find that happy balance, the government also needs to find the balance between maximizing the money they take from people and minimizing the anger caused by it. In other words, they have to make their captive audience believe that they are not actually captive, but instead are the ones in control and that the money and freedom taken from them is given willingly.

If you find that someone wants to prevent you from seeing and choosing other options, it is usually a prima facie indicator that their option isn’t the best.




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