MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

My First Year as a Voluntarist Sheriff

Posted by M. C. on September 12, 2022

By David Hathaway

Being a politician is, of course, being a professional thief. A tax feeder.  A central planner. A mandator.

Most people like freedom. But, the ones who contact the state for action are often making a push from the left or from the right. Those people often love me on certain topics and hate me on others. Why? Because I don’t want the state involved in the lives of anyone and I don’t have the full bandwagon of beliefs from either side. Let private property rights dictate outcomes. Ron Paul often says he wants to support all the freedoms, not just the ones promoted by one side or the other. What a good point.

Being a politician is, of course, being a professional thief. A tax feeder.  A central planner. A mandator. Part of what Murray Rothbard described as a “GANG OF THIEVES.” There is no way to sugar coat it and keep any legitimacy. There is the voluntary economic method and the coercive political method. Being a sheriff is using the political method. It is not a thing created by the market via price signals. A state agency does not spring into existence, scale up or down in size, or go bankrupt and cease to exist based on market demand. Being a politician in the executive branch is brandishing the edge of the knife of statism. A legislator can vote no, opt out, or decry all the actions of the state. A politician in the executive branch in control of state gun wielders has more of a challenge.

On another side of opinion, the traditional side, there is the fact that the sheriff was the only law enforcement function at the inception of the U.S. It was a common-law tradition inherited from England. If historical precedent means anything, then the office of the sheriff is more legitimate than the Johnny-Come-Lately three-letter federal agencies that sprang into existence in the 20th century (think FBI, ATF, DEA) and the city “police departments” that were invented in the late 1800s.  And, of course, sheriffs are the only law enforcement officials that are elected by the people as opposed to appointed—which suggests there may be some mechanism for accountability if they stomp on the people.

What have I learned in my first year as a voluntarist sheriff? Very little. You can’t be a central planner exercising unilateral force and expect it to work. About the best you can do is say, “no,” “no,” “no,” “no.” “No, the market can handle it.” “No, there is not a crisis needing a government solution.” “No, that is private property and the state has no business intervening.” Anything else is picking sides with no market signals to say who should prevail.

Reduced Focus on National Politics

One good trend that I have noticed as an elected sheriff in this era is that people have started to lose faith in national politics after the last two years. People are looking for local solutions. In a country of 330 million people living in wide-ranging geographic zones and linguistic communities, it is impossible for everyone to have the same time preferences, goals, abilities, cultural traits, economic advantages, and consumer preferences. A one-size-fits-all national policy mandated on dissimilar peoples makes no sense. The bluster of national level politicians is being increasingly ignored. The resultant local focus is good.

Hoppean Capital Preservation

I have also noted that, since an elected sheriff is usually not term-limited and has no boss within the state apparatus, he can, in the Hoppean sense, act more like a capital-preserving force in his local area. He can, in a fashion, have the mindset of a benevolent ruler as opposed to that of a ruler that is exploiting the people for his own benefit during his rotating tenancy in the position (as happens with term-limited governors, presidents, and politicians at all levels). In the case of a voluntarist sheriff, he can choose to implement control not so much over what things the state shall do, but over the things the state cannot do in his county.

Petty Tyrants

On the negative side, my first year as a voluntarist sheriff has caused me a lot of heartache and made me some enemies. The little petty bean-counting tyrants that were previously just a nuisance to me, now hate my guts. No, I won’t enforce your mandates. No, I won’t force Sheriff’s Office employees to get shots. No, I don’t want to militarize my county. Yes, I will violate your occupancy rules, curfews, and mask rules and speak to large crowds in indoor venues.

On the more cynical side, someone could ask what the point is of even being Sheriff if I don’t intend to use the power and endorse the graft and the lies that the state expects from me? If I am not going to insist on more DUI checkpoints, a bigger drug war, or more cops to push people around; or promote some other “public good” that the market supposedly can’t provide, why would I even fight in a six-candidate race, wear out shoes campaigning with my wife and children, and knock on thousands of doors for a year and a half and put myself in this position? The answer is pretty simple, but maybe it doesn’t make sense: I can at least be a place holder in my little corner of the world to keep a gun-grabbing, vaccine-pushing, private property disrespecting tyrant from occupying the spot. This benefits my family and my neighbors.

Change the Cops from the Inside?

Can I change the mindset of state employees from the inside of an agency? No, not in a significant way. This is one of the biggest misconceptions. I have received many communications from good people and organizations suggesting that I could be the one to end the tyrannical nature of state police forces starting with my agency.

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