Threat Management Center: Proof Private Security is Better Than Government Police
One of the most common and immediate objections to the idea of a fully voluntary legal order concerns policing and security. It goes something like this: “I’m all for free markets, but private police and security is a bridge too far. I mean, if all policing were private, wouldn’t evil corporations just terrorize the populace for money like a mafia? Won’t private police agencies go to war with each other and leave the world in chaos? Doesn’t that mean poor people wouldn’t even have any police protection at all?”
The first response to this objection is to point out the obvious observation that, in fact, the state is the most organized, well-armed, and well-funded mafia in history. After all, your consent to their activities is nonexistent, and they extort money from you with threats of varying degrees of violence. As Murray Rothbard so eloquently put it in For a New Liberty:
However, the objection does have some merit: after all, a voluntary legal order would be no better than a state-governed legal order if it were merely subbing out one mafia named “government” for another named “security firm.” Fortunately, not only do we have ample support from economic theory that this would not be the case but with the Threat Management Center, we have a beautiful real-life example, too.
In running a thought experiment of how a free market in security services would work, it becomes immediately apparent that such a system corrects a variety of deficiencies inherent in the public policing system. Allowing the forces of competition to work on security would yield the same results as allowing the forces of competition to work on cars, computers, iPhones, or anything else: perpetually higher quality, more efficient, and more innovative service for ever lower prices.
Consider the analogy of the cell phone market. Competition between phone producers is what drives the fantastic, breakneck pace of innovation between phone companies. This is why, every year, phone storage gets larger, screens attain ever more absurd levels of resolution, processors begin to rival those of desktop computers, and prices stay roughly the same. The drive to satisfy consumer demands and create an ever-more valuable product drives the entrepreneurs and innovators behind these firms to constantly work as hard as possible to provide an all-around better product to consumers.
Now, imagine these same forces—forces which have seen cell phones go from expensive, massive, barely operable hunks of plastic and metal that were too heavy to be carried around, to an all-in-one high definition television/supercomputer/radio/music store/everything else modern phones can do in less than 30 years—unleashed onto the market for security. Security firms would constantly be searching for ways to improve the quality of their service so as to satisfy consumer desires and attract ever more paying customers. This, in turn, would lead all private security forces to be amiable, kind people. After all, who on earth wants to pay for private police who are rude to you?
This market competition precludes the possibility of police brutality entirely because of private police, unlike public police, are actually capable of being sued and legally punished for their bad behavior. Private police couldn’t get away with being rude to a customer, much less doing things like beating and tasing compliant pregnant women or executing sobbing, unarmed, innocent men on camera and get away with it; only public police can do that. Private police likewise could never even consider stopping you and harassing you literally without cause; that’s the public police’s modus operandi. They couldn’t stop you and steal all of the valuables from your car, either; that is, once again, the exclusive domain of public police and civil asset forfeiture. You can also be virtually guaranteed that a call to a private security force for help would never result in YOU getting harmed and arrested, rather than the assailant; only public police can do that, too. Clearly, privatizing the provision of security and abolishing public policing entirely would alleviate many of the issues Americans currently face with police overreach, brutality, and abuse generally.
But what of the potential for a security firm to become a veritable mafia, forcing you to pay for their services “or else?” In a market where multiple security firms exist, as would be the case in a voluntary legal order, this, too, is an impossibility. As soon as a security firm attempts this, all it will take is one call to the rival security force across town and you will have protection from such extortion. In other words, because of competition, no security firm could possibly get away with such tyrannical behavior. The constant threat of losing their business to a competitor prevents it.
Likewise, the prospect of security firms fighting one another is nearly nonexistent. This is a result of a simple fact: fighting is really, really expensive. In order for a “fight” with another firm to be profitable, a security firm would have to know that 1) it will lose almost no men or equipment in the fight, 2) the firm’s customers you just defeated will accept you forcing them to pay for your service, 3) another, competing security firm will never possibly crop up in the area and 4) a larger, even better-armed firm from the next city over won’t ever come and offer their services to your customers. Further, no security professional would ever want to work with a firm who they even vaguely suspect will be putting them in harm’s way in such an unjustifiable and aggressive manner; the added risk simply isn’t worth the money for the employee. As such, a firm who attempts such activities would never be able to attract new employees. Thus, it is not only impossible ex-ante for a war to be profitable, but it is will also destroy the firm ex-post.
Besides the impossibility of war between private security forces, a more important point need be made here: it is impossible to imagine small, decentralized, private security forces to ever possibly come close to causing the level of damage, destruction, and human misery public security (in the form of the military) has caused over time.
This still leaves one objection standing, though: what of the destitute poor in such a society? What if an individual can’t pay for security—are they left to the wolves of society?
That’s where the example of the Threat Management Center shines brightest. Founded in the year 2000 by Dale Brown, the Threat Management Center provides a variety of security services in the absolute worst neighborhoods of Detroit, Michigan. Using entirely nonviolent methods, the Threat Management Center has managed to reduce violent crime by a full 90% in the areas wherein they operate. Even more astounding, in their nearly 20-year history, the Threat Management Center has never been sued. This is even more astonishing when put into the context of the areas of Detroit in which they operate. TMC works most effectively in neighborhoods/areas of Detroit in which violent crime is so intense, the city police have simply given up. However, the TMC provides a whole gamut of other, high-end services too, from VIP protection to bodyguard services, to maritime rescue, to hijacking protection, and much more. Their record in each of these fields is positively impeccable; again, they have never once been sued for any sort of malpractice. The video below gives a general impression of the incredible efficiency and proffessionalism of the Threat Management Center:
Clearly, the efficacy and track record of the Threat Management Center is leagues above anything public police are capable of. Surely such high-quality service must be expensive, right? Amazingly, TMC offers the full gamut of their protection for a mere $10 a month, with a $10 charge per call. This gets even more amazing, though: for that $10 a month, they will do everything from escort you home from the bar at night, to protect and provide for you in all of the capacities public police ordinarily do. However, despite this unbelievably low price, this only scratches the surface of how the TMC helps the poor.
The TMC will respond to any domestic violence or sexual assault calls 100% free of charge, no questions asked. Their website and promotional materials are chock full of testimonials and local news stories about the incredible variety of free services the TMC provides to the community. These free services include a weekly self-defense class, a weekly half-hour instructional television show geared toward self-defense they’ve funded for over 7 years, as well as a variety of free services to teach children how to protect themselves from potential abductors, school shooters, or bullies. What’s more, they even provide routine police services like responding to intruders, shootings, assaults, and a variety of other crimes totally free of charge as well on a case-by-case basis depending on the need and economic situation of the individual in question.
Thus, with the Threat Management Center, we have a real-life vindication of the theoretical arguments outlined above: not only is the TMC known for the kindness and friendliness of their employees, but they have a nearly 20-year unblemished track record without even a single incidence of brutality, aggression, or misconduct generally. No customer has ever been harmed or injured in any way after calling TMC for help, and not one TMC officer has ever been killed. Further, they provide exemplary service for mind-bogglingly cheap prices, or completely free of charge.
I had the great pleasure of meeting and conversing with Commander Brown at the Start-up Societies Summit this year, and I can personally attest to the astounding kindness of his staff and efficacy of his methods. He demonstrated a variety of the nonviolent dispute resolution techniques his agents are trained in on myself and my friends, to great astonishment and admiration from us all.
Commander Brown and the Threat Management Center are living, breathing proof that voluntary exchange and market forces can, in fact, do everything far better than government—even policing.