THE BLOG

A Modest Proposal to Eliminate the Public Option From Our Policing System

05/06/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

For too long in our nation, we have maintained a universal, single-payer policing system.

As a freedom-loving citizen, I want to see policing returned to the private sector, because we know government does not do much of anything well. And why should the government have the right to tell me who my police officers should be? I should be able to choose who protects my person and property, and I do not need a government bureaucrat telling me who that should be, or limiting what policing services I purchase for myself and my family.

Furthermore, I do not see why I should have to help pay for policing for other people. Policing should be just like any other insurance--like health insurance, for example. If some people do not want to purchase police insurance, then they will not be protected, and the government has no right to tax me to pay for those without policing insurance.

The free market will allow for private policing insurance companies to compete for my business. And these companies would negotiate with private policing service providers to protect paying customers. They could also contract with prisons, many of which are privately run already. The insurers would be able to operate across state borders, removing the possibility that individual states could pass laws or regulations to guarantee a minimum level of protection--this, after all, is something for the free market to decide. And we ought not to retain any public option, as this would be unfair competition for the private companies.

Just like healthcare insurance companies, the policing insurance companies would be at liberty to charge different rates to different clients according to estimated risks. High-risk individuals, depending upon such factors as neighborhood and income, would be charged more, and low-risk individuals less. Indeed, low-risk individuals, just like seemingly healthy 25-year-olds in the healthcare market, might choose to forego police protection altogether--at least until unexpected disaster struck and they showed up at the emergency room, or its equivalent, where they could not be turned away. At least not unless they were immigrants. I mean illegal immigrants.

I do admit that subscribers would risk, as in our current healthcare system, being denied coverage and having their policing insurance plans cancelled retroactively, due to some possible error on their insurance application forms--such as forgetting to report a pre-existing condition (for example, two owners ago, the individual's house had been broken into, though he or she had no knowledge of this). Indeed, individuals with "pre-existing conditions" might have a hard time finding affordable police insurance on the individual market; but we do not want government meddling in our police care.

Some might argue that we maintain a single payer and single provider system for policing because it works, and it is the most efficient, cost-effective way to do so. Advocates for retaining our socialist policing system might point to the low, single-digit administrative costs of Medicare as compared with the double-digit overhead of private insurers.

They might explain that the basic idea is that all of us are at risk, and we never know when we might require the benefits of police services. We pay into it, and some years we do not need any help from the police; other years, some tragedy occurs, and we use much more police services than we paid in taxes that year. Basically, all Americans are joined in a single risk pool, where everyone is guaranteed access to a basic, comprehensive level of police protection. They might claim that the alternative is chaos, as some might say we have in our healthcare system today.

Why, then, do we have a highly-regulated, single-payer system for policing, but a confusing, deregulated system for healthcare? Well, it does not matter if our policing system works and is an efficient way of protecting the public--because we have surrendered our liberty with this system, and private companies in the free market could do a better job anyway.

In brief, just as the government should not get between you and your doctor, it should not get between you and your constable.