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Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

What Chicago’s Mayor Gets Wrong about Private Security | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on December 23, 2021

Ultimately, expanding the opportunities for alternatives to state services (sometimes encouraged by absolute necessity, as in Chicago retailers’ case, but also by restructuring public finances, as in the case of school choice) not only improves people’s lives but demonstrates the efficacy of private initiative.

https://mises.org/wire/what-chicagos-mayor-gets-wrong-about-private-security

Tate Fegley

After the recent spate of retail thefts and looting, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot chided businesses for not doing enough to protect themselves from theft. Fox 32 Chicago quotes her:

We also got to push retailers. Some of the retailers downtown and [on] Michigan Avenue, I will tell you, I’m disappointed that they are not doing more to take safety and make it a priority. For example, we still have retailers that won’t institute plans like having security officers in their stores, making sure that they’ve got cameras that are actually operational, locking up their merchandise at night.

In one sense, this admonition (or rather the implicit admission behind it) should be welcomed by those who care about property rights. Some conservatives have responded to Lightfoot by asking, “Isn’t enforcing property rights the core function of government? If this is her attitude, why even pay taxes?” However, it is an ahistorical fantasy to think that Americans have ever been able to depend on the state to meet all of their security needs. Lightfoot acknowledges this, perhaps unwittingly.

But if she really means it, then there are changes that must be made in order to properly facilitate private actors’ exercise of their rights to property-rights enforcement and self-defense. The most obvious is for the City of Chicago to actually recognize a right to self-defense by not interfering with individuals’ ability to bear arms, rather than being one of the most restrictive places in the US for legal gun ownership.

A necessary complement to legal gun ownership is legal recognition of the right to use them, both de jure and de facto. The wide discretion and unpredictability of district attorneys in their decisions to pursue charges against individuals using arms in clear self-defense can cost tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees even when one is acquitted. Additionally, civil courts’ willingness to entertain bogus lawsuits from criminals against their victims presents an additional risk. Under such conditions, it should be no surprise that some businesses are hesitant to hire additional security officers who might need to use force to defend property. Losses from theft can often be lower than losses from legal liabilities.

For similar reasons, it makes sense why business owners might choose not to repair or replace defunct security cameras (if Lightfoot is talking about an actual phenomenon).

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Contact Tate Fegley

Tate Fegley is a Postdoctoral Associate at the Center for Governance and Markets at the University of Pittsburgh. Research Fellow at the Independent Institute.

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