Magazine article The New American

Peace Officers and the Rule of Law

Magazine article The New American

Peace Officers and the Rule of Law

Article excerpt

Have you ever wondered what would happen if there were no government whatsoever, including no police? Would the absence of government allow for greater freedom? Or would it instead have the opposite effect? In fact, could a state of no government--anarchy--even exist for very long before a new government arose?

James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution, imagined a hypothetical situation. "If men were angels, no government would be necessary," he wrote in The Federalist. And he added, "If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary."

Of course, Madison was well aware that men are not angels and that angels do not govern men, as were the other Founding Fathers who gave us the U.S. Constitution, the supreme law of our land. They knew that without law there could be no freedom. Human nature being what it is, the elimination of the rule of law would result in the rule of the jungle and the loss of freedom. They also understood the importance of controlling government, so it does not end up destroying the very freedom it's supposed to protect.

One of the ways to control government is to divide power--so that it is not all in one pot. Another way is to keep government as close to the people as possible, with the national government given only those powers --for example, national defense--that could not be effectively handled at the local level. Our constitutional system is based on such principles, and in our system, police powers are a local responsibility.

From the standpoint of preserving freedom, this makes perfect sense. The police perform a vital function, protecting us from the lawless element, and they should be as close as possible to the communities they are entrusted to protect and serve.

Yet, as we all know, some--not just street protesters but powerful voices in the media and government --do not portray the local police this way. …

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