Over the past three months, the shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Mo. has been the focus of much coverage in the media. The story has been misreported in many outlets, and it has been used as propaganda by race-baiters. If any good is to come from the tragic events which have occurred, then the situation must be examined logically. Seven such logical observations follow.
1. A government agent being tried in a government court is a conflict of interest. A grand jury is convened in a government court house filled with government agents. The case is laid before the grand jury by a government prosecutor, who gets to present a one-sided case. In a case involving a government agent, who has likely helped the prosecutor (or one of his friends) bring and try cases in the past, there is certainly a conflict of interest that could only be resolved by having an independent prosecutor and grand jury (although the latter no longer exists in the current system).
2. That being said, a conflict of interest is not by itself a cause for rejection. While a conflict of interest is cause to be suspicious, further evidence is needed to show that something untoward has occurred. This is especially true when the available evidence supports the conclusion reached. Sometimes, the available evidence for a case really is one-sided, and this case is such a case. There is not enough evidence to even say that it is more likely than not that Wilson committed an offense against Brown, which is the required burden of proof for a true bill of indictment from a grand jury.
3. In a free (stateless) society, a person in an equivalent situation to what Wilson encountered would have been justified to act as Wilson did. Let us examine how a similar chain of events might unfold without a government. A man walks into a convenience store and commits a strong-arm robbery. As he leaves, the store clerk calls his private defense agency to report the crime. The video feeds from the store’s security cameras would show beyond any doubt that the man was guilty of robbery. The private defense agency issues an all-points bulletin against the robber, informing all property owners and service providers of his criminal status. At this point, the robber is effectively an outlaw. He would be unwelcome on private property, which is all property in a free society, including any roads or sidewalks on which he may be traveling. The robber is therefore trespassing on the road or sidewalk owner’s property by using the road or sidewalk to escape from the scene where he committed a crime. The road or sidewalk owner calls up his private defense agency to have the robber removed from his road or sidewalk. When he is found, he is walking down the middle of a road, blocking traffic. This creates even more incentive to remove him. An agent of the road or sidewalk owner’s private defense agency confronts the robber and trespasser, telling him that he is unwelcome on the road and that he will not be welcome anywhere or be a part of mainstream economic life until he makes restitution for his robbery. The criminal assaults the agent and makes an effort to kill him. The criminal starts to leave, still trespassing on the road or sidewalk. Then, he turns around for a second attack on the agent. The agent yells at the criminal to stop. The criminal keeps charging. The agent shoots to kill. The actions of the agent are in accord with defense of person and property under the non-aggression principle.
4. “Hands up, don’t shoot” is a nonsensical slogan. Even though no evidence supports the suggestion that Brown raised his hands into a surrendering posture, this has become a slogan among demonstrators motivated by the incident. As such, it must be addressed. Putting one’s hands up does not amount to a surrender. This can be shown by a simple counterexample. One can raise one’s hands, move toward someone, say that one is surrendering, and then deliver a double-fisted downward blow to that person’s head once within striking distance. Unless the approached person shoots in self-defense before the assailant gets too close, he or she can be attacked.
5. Demanding justice for black people while destroying businesses owned and/or operated by black people is contradictory. As Ferguson is a town composed mostly of black people, most of the businesses in the area provide employment to black people, and some are owned by black people. Violating the property rights of black people and depriving them of economic opportunities, as the rioters did, is the opposite of advocating for justice for black people.
6. Cameras should be worn by police. If Wilson had been wearing a camera that had recorded the entire incident, then there would be no questions about what happened, as there would be an objective record of the events that occurred, rather than just a litany of contradictory eyewitness accounts, the word of Wilson, and the forensic evidence. Outside of this matter, studies show that body cameras worn by police officers lead to a over 50 percent reduction in police use of force and a nearly 90 percent reduction in citizen complaints against police for their conduct.
7. Every aspect of this situation could have been avoided by respect for private property. If Michael Brown had respected the private property of the convenience store owner, this situation never would have happened. If demonstrators had respected the private property of the people of Ferguson, the looting and destruction of the businesses never would have happened. If the state had respected the private property of everyone, there would have been no taxation to pay for policies that lead to economic inequality, which motivates people to turn to criminal behavior.