The phrase "Police State" stirs up emotional responses that differ among citizens depending on whether they support or oppose increased control over individuals by the state as a means of providing security. Knowledge that "trading" freedom for security diminishes both individual freedom and security goes back at least to the founding fathers, yet too many people today are acquiescent to this exercise in futility even as it accelerates. Defining "Police State" may be fraught with emotional pitfalls and nearly impossible to find general agreement on, but observing that the state is at war with its own citizens simply requires opening one's eyes.
A society's descent into tyranny is so gradual as to be nearly undetectable in an individual's daily routine. People descend step by step until television news addicts live in daily fear of "drug gangs" and "terrorists" believing that totalitarian measures are reasonable to "maintain order." Of course, that is just as long as the President doesn't grow a black, square mustache and give speeches in German. Thus perception trumps substance for people hopelessly convinced of the virtues of state control. The general attitude is the juvenile "only the guilty have something to hide." If a lot of people don't wake up soon, the fact that the U.S.A. is a Police State will be a foregone conclusion.
As long as people get to "choose" between a warden that promises more affordable cells and more recreation time and another warden who promises better food and friendlier guards in a "free election," they consider their prison to be a free society. Such are the blessings of democracy. Most even believe that they are allowed to come and go as they please with, of course, just a little paperwork and permission. Most are content to seek the protection of their cells where they can be mesmerized by the idiot box. Self-imposed isolation mitigated by the mirage of an electronic community. No thinking required; in fact, thinking is discouraged.
Law enforcement is exactly what it says: enforcing the law created by men who presume to have the authority to rule you. Security is simply protecting your person and property from harm. That these two very different ends are so often considered the same thing underlines how successful government-controlled schools have been. Law enforcement requires thoughtless obedience to authority and marching with the group to the tune played by the leaders. Security requires individual initiative seeking cooperation and innovative responses to ever-changing circumstances focusing on the protection of people and property.
People who understand the special relationship between liberty and real security speak a different language that frightens those who live in fear of freedom. Translating the language of liberty so that reason and logic may begat understanding unto faithful statists is certainly a difficult task. Those who believe that establishing order means obeying authority seem oblivious to the concept that true protection is a result of cooperation and not force. Therefore, let me suggest anecdotal evidence be offered as an icebreaker to explaining the difference between law enforcement (obedience) and security (protecting).
Two recent events reveal that deadly force used by "the authorities" is excessive compared to the "crime" of elevating self-preservation over obeying law enforcement officers. These events reveal that officials lie when they screw up, that citizens may not defend themselves against excessive force by police, and these problems are becoming more accepted as commonplace. People who just ten years ago were horrified by the assault on women and children at Mount Carmel now cheer on the "Bush team" as law enforcement becomes more brutal in spirit.
Law enforcers are increasingly put into positions completely void of moral standing by lawmakers by being sent to enforce laws that defy justice and common decency. Just as good teachers and good politicians are undermined by the system they try to work within, good cops are beaten down by the existing system of law enforcement.
Finally, I submit that the War on Drugs and the War on Terror are nothing more than façades for the expansion of Federal power over the lives of, well, everybody. Law enforcement is an end in and of itself, not just a means. This point is crucial and must be trumpeted lest it becomes our society's fait accompli.
The first event involves Mr. Cory Maye, who is a prisoner on Death Row in Mississippi for the killing of a police officer (Jones) in a drug raid. Details can be found here  and here ; please check them out because I can't explain a great deal in this limited space. In the late evening of December 26, 2001 , Mr. Maye was sleeping when police raided his neighbor's side of a duplex for having marijuana based on a tip from an unknown informer. After hearing his back door being kicked in, Mr. Maye retreated to his young daughter's bedroom and shot Officer Jones when he entered the room before recognizing the situation and surrendering. Other facts include Mr. Maye is black and Officer Jones was the son of the police chief. Note that if it weren't for drug laws, Officer Jones would likely still be alive today and chasing real criminals.
The official story, which includes press releases, testimony, evidence and official records, includes several obvious discrepancies and fabrications. Mr. Maye claims self-defense and appears to have a strong case for just that; certainly enough to avoid a death sentence. However, the intruders in this situation have the advantage of also being the party investigating the "facts," determining who has "broken the law" and then deciding who shall be prosecuted and punished for breaking what law. Justice is not the purpose of this exercise and neither is protecting citizens. The purpose is to instill obedience to the law and its enforcers. Justice requires advocates for both sides and judgment by an objective third party.
The second event involves Mr. Rigoberto Alpizar, who was killed by U.S. Marshals at the Miami International Airport on December 7, 2005 for leaving a plane against orders after returning from missionary work in Central America. Details can be found here  and here . This event has gotten significantly more exposure as the sycophantic media rushed the official lies to press and then dropped it down the memory hole. Mr. Alpizar became agitated about flying, argued with his wife and suddenly announced, "I have to get off the plane" and did just that in a rush being followed by his wife screaming, "He is sick." Then two U.S. Marshals ordered him to drop to the floor. Failing to follow the orders of law enforcers trained to be paranoid resulted in an immediate execution.
Even though friends and neighbors testify that Mr. Alpizar was a peaceful person, a good worker and husband with no criminal record, many I've talked to say with equal paranoia, "There was nothing that they could do but kill him." So why did these goons and their reinforcements immediately start roughing up the other passengers (whom they were supposedly protecting) while fishing for someone who might agree with their suggestion, "Did you hear him say he had a bomb?" The message: obey or die.
The official story was that Mr. Alpizar said (loudly, one would presume) he had a bomb, though none of the passengers heard him say this and none fell for their strong-arm tactics to back up their story. This is good news even though the story was immediately taken as gospel by the "free press" and then in turn by nearly everybody who heard or read this story. Again the law enforcers are the party investigating the "facts," deciding who will be prosecuted and punished (as if). Justice is not the purpose of this exercise and neither is protecting citizens. The purpose is to instill obedience to the law and its enforcers.
The War on Citizens has two main battles going on using drugs and terror as its primary excuses with a flanking maneuver using porn to reel in the internet. This "War" does not provide security or protection for citizens, indeed it targets them. That is us: me, you, our neighbors. Everybody is a suspect and must be watched under this system. Step out of line and you pay the consequences. Feel any safer yet?
Americans not only still largely ignore that our government is killing people for the crime of proximity to foreign policy enforcement in other countries in the name of protecting them from their local dictators, but now rationalize killing our neighbors as collateral damage to protect them. This only seems strange if you believe the state when it says that it wants to protect you, or even that it can protect you. Neither is true in spite of the best intentions of the most dedicated law enforcers. The real goal of "lawmakers" is obedience to those who make the law. Most law enforcers are being duped along with the general population and know not what they do.
The politics of fear and the "shock and awe" terror tactics used to implement this strategy make a mockery of a once free society that prided itself on being "the land of the free and the home of the brave." If law enforcers were simply enforcing natural laws against thieves, frauds, rapists, murderers and child molesters, thus protecting citizens, then their work would have meaning and be worthy of respect. Harassing non-violent pot smokers undermines that respect. Killing people who act irrationally because they could possibly, maybe, be a threat and then intimidating everyone who witnessed it undermines respect. Thus respect for the law is going down the toilet as order in society spirals downward. More laws equal less order.
The pace of the militarization of local police departments over the past 30 years primarily due to the War on Drugs has reached light-speed with the War on Terror. Federal, state and local law enforcement have been given increased budgets, firepower, military-type training and the power to infringe on the privacy of citizens who have harmed nobody in the name of protecting those same citizens. Property can be taken for little or no reason without due process. It is dangerous to carry large amounts of cash because law enforcement officers will take it from you. The President claims to be able to impose martial law and suspend habeas corpus at his will. Can you imagine where we will be 30 years from now?
Law enforcement is an extension of the politicians who create those laws as well as of those who support those politicians. Being a member of a lynch mob seeking to enforce official edicts should be a source of shame, not pride; even if you 'feel' safer for having "done something." Thinking that one can change a system that is based upon a monopoly on the use of force into a benevolent institution is utopian; recognizing that this corrupt system must eventually implode is just good sense.
Leaders who condone torture, spy on their own citizens, build national identification systems and encourage citizens to spy on each other while invading weaker countries to "liberate" them is not a new path, but a very old one:
What no one seemed to notice was the ever widening gap between the government and the people. And it became always wider . . . the whole process of its coming into being, was above all diverting, it provided an excuse not to think . . . for people who did not want to think anyway gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about . . . and kept us so busy with continuous changes and "crises" and so fascinated . . . by the machinations of the "national enemies," without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us . . . . Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, "regretted," that unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these "little measures" . . . must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing . . . . Each act is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join you in resisting somehow. You don't want to act, or even talk, alone . . . you don't want to "go out of your way to make trouble." But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That's the difficulty. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves, when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things your father . . . could never have imagined. -- Milton Mayer, They Thought They Were Free, The Germans, 1938-45 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955)
Increasing the number of laws and giving more power to law enforcers is a recipe for a Police State. Fear of freedom may blind people to what is happening around them so it is important to open some eyes and make people think about where we are going down this descending stairway. This is why the principles of liberty are so important even when we are afraid of the dark. Local cops getting high on increased power will not make people any safer. Lawmakers injecting steroids into the laws that smother liberty does not protect people. Citizens who want peace at home and peace abroad must be brave by yelling stop to the angry, frightened lynch mob. A life of fear where order is defined as obedience to authority is not how I want my children to live out their lives. They deserve better; we deserve better.
*Thanks to Lou and Dr. Bob Wynman for the quote from Milton Mayer and Anthony Gregory for bringing the plight of Cory Maye to my attention on the lewrockwell.com blog.