Zero Aggression police reform

We’ve lived to see it! “Defund the police” has become a highly visible national slogan!

That sounds like a dream to those who’ve been victims of police brutality, and even to most who have witnessed it. But…

Will the people who advocate defunding the police do it correctly?

For starters, it’s probably the wrong slogan. Please consider…

What if some people wanted to voluntarily fund the police? Would we allow that? After all…

Many have forgotten the idea of the middle ground and tend to think anything not expressly forbidden should be mandatory. Real freedom is rarely one of their permitted options. Here’s what real freedom would look like…

  • You DON’T defund the police!
  • You change HOW the police are funded!
  • You remove the aggression.
  • You replace tax-funding with voluntary funding. 

That one, simple, zero-aggression change would have profoundly positive implications. It would create consumer-controlled policing. Let’s test-drive the idea to see how it would work. 

A zero aggression police system would have five main features…

#1: People would pay a monthly subscription fee in return for police services.

#2: People who don’t subscribe could still call the cops when needed, but they would have to pay a premium for the service. 

#3: Other firms could compete with the existing police department. Private security firms already exist, and would become even more popular if people were no longer taxed to fund the municipal police. 

#4: I predict both the municipal police and their free-market competitors would provide some pro bono services to impoverished people, and would feature this in their marketing. 

#5: I think some neighbors would join together to buy increased services, such as local patrols to prevent burglaries. 

Could we really have free-market police? 

Well, we have them now. There are vast numbers of private security firms, including companies that patrol local neighborhoods. Plus…

Each of us already has the power to make a “citizen’s arrest” when a crime has been committed. 

Technically, the municipal police don’t have any more power than you do. They just have badges and uniforms. So…

The idea of competing police really isn’t that big a change. We have it already. 

  • The municipal police are tax-funded and mainly enforce all local, state, and federal criminal statutes. 
  • Free market security services mainly provide preventative services, to keep violent crime at bay. 

We need to make the municipal police more like the free-market police. The best way to achieve that is through voluntary funding, as I will demonstrate below. 

But wouldn’t for-profit police favor rich people over poor people?

Actually, that seems to happen already in the tax-funded system. 

The subscription-based system would actually create a counter-balance. Poor people could have their own police protection. But…

Would free-market police be willing to arrest their own customers?

This is where the positive changes will be felt. The police, be they municipal or commercial, will always be willing to arrest someone who has harmed one of their clients. Robberies, assaults, and murder will be readily enforced. But…

Voluntary funding will cause the municipal police to dislike arresting people for personal lifestyle choices. There’s an obvious reason for this change in behavior… 

What pot smoker or ecstasy-raver would subscribe to a service that hassles them for their peaceful behaviors? 

Now you can see the power of this one little change! Absent tax-funding, there’s no market for a cop, dependent on voluntary subscriptions,  who hassles his or her customers for their non-violent lifestyle choices.  

Once the municipal police start losing subscribers to firms that don’t have the burden of enforcing victimless “crimes,” the municipal police will lobby the politicians to repeal those “laws.”

Indeed, this might be the best way to end victimless “crime” laws. Instead of repealing those “laws” directly, replace tax-funded police with voluntary subscription funding. That will give the municipal police sufficient incentive to get those laws changed for you.  

I believe this would even extend to traffic enforcement. 

I’ve been making driving mistakes and committing minor traffic violations on an almost daily basis for more than 40 years, without ever causing a single accident!

Judging by what I see, the same is true for most people. Drivers make lots of mistakes and break lots of “laws,” but cause very few accidents. 

This suggests to me that strict compliance with nit-picky traffic rules has only a marginal impact on safety. 

In addition, I think the main reason people try to drive well is NOT because of the traffic laws, but because they value their own life and property. 

No one wants to wreck their car or break their own bones!

My intuition is further confirmed by the jurisdictions around the world that have experienced increased safety after removing traffic signs and laws

It turns out that people tend to pay more attention and drive more carefully in such environments. 

It’s self-interest that primarily protects us, NOT traffic laws.  That means traffic-enforcement is really just highway robbery! And I think cops funded by subscription would lobby to do away with this aspect of “policing.” 

Free market security firms don’t have the burden of enforcing local traffic laws. So many people will prefer to subscribe to police that don’t write them tickets. 

Municipal cops could try to compensate for the lost business by issuing even more citations, but that would only increase customer dissatisfaction. 

Nope. I think municipal cops would press hard to change the traffic laws. No more fines. 

Instead, the traffic laws would be used to establish liability, and to take reckless drivers off the street. In other words…

  • Minor bad driving would result in no fine
  • Major bad driving could still lead to temporary detention, designed to protect both the impaired driver and others on the road
  • Driving that causes an accident would result in actual liability

These changes should be popular. Citizens would have less reason to fear cops. And there would be fewer opportunities for minor traffic stops to escalate into major violence. 

I think the same incentives would also cause the end of asset forfeiture because it’s not good business to rob your customers. It may bring some profit in the short term but it will cost you market-share in the long run. 

Once again, voluntary funding would likely incentivize the municipal cops to lobby against asset forfeiture. 

The power of this approach is stunning. 

Just one community voting to create a competitive subscription police system could start the dominoes falling. Other towns and cities would follow as they see the benefits – better police protection at far less cost. 

Police resources that were once used to fine and harass and steal, would instead be used to serve and protect. What a concept! 

  • Preventative neighborhood patrols would quickly make burglary unprofitable. 
  • Asset forfeiture and drug prohibition would end. 
  • The friction between police and the black community would evaporate. 
  • Violent crime, which has already been declining for decades, would virtually disappear. 
  • And the Feds would no longer have a local enforcement arm to implement their meddling schemes.

Defund the police? No! Instead, obey the Zero Aggression Principle. Replace tax-funding with volunteer funding. Create consumer-controlled policing!

Perry Willis is a co-creator of the Zero Aggression Project.


Show Comments 21


  1. This is brilliant, and would also serve to make the ‘militarized police’ issue a non-issue. (Which would solve one of Rand Paul’s pet peeves, one which he has tried to solve with legislation for a while now.) https://reason.com/2020/07/21/rand-paul-its-time-to-demilitarize-the-police/
    I’m posting the links because this is an issue that cuts across partisan lines and has broad appeal. When huffpost (decidedly liberal to the core) and national post (where the op-ed writer admits being a conservative) can agree on something, we libertarians should take full advantage of it.

    1. Post
      1. Wow, I was all set to comment my deep thanks on this fresh article that I thought I had all to myself, and laughed out loud to find someone already beat me to it.

        I first doubted such a concept would have much staying power, but, Perry, you’ve hit it out of the park and we can use these mental levers widely. Golden-rule libertarians are scoring much more often. Don’t defund per se: voluntary-fund the police! (Compare “That Hideous Strength”, painting an eye-opening heavy competition between police and corrupted private security, and emphasizing that both must act in enlightened self-interest or be destroyed.)

        1. Post
      2. BTW, John Bulten is my husband. 😉 I’ve been reading your sites (Downsize DC) and Zero Aggression Project for a while now, and remember the old Downsize DC Educate the Powerful System. When my husband heard that Jim would be at the Hillsboro Libertarian Party meeting, as a treat for me he drove us out there. We all enjoyed it, including our children. I hope we will be able to meet you as well sometime.

  2. Love the concept!

    One minor annoyance–there is no such word as “prevenTAtive”. The word is “preventive”.

    Thank you for all your work.

    1. Post
  3. The consensus is anti-voluntary, i.e., pro-violence, pro-authoritarian. Why would the public agree to make an exception in any area? TPTB certainly know their power is threatened by any change that would expose their myth that only force works. Hence, they would do everything in their power to stop it.
    If change comes, it will start at the grass-roots level, spontaneously, without permission, based on a commitment to reson, rights, choice, and ZAP.

    1. Post

      We agree. But to make that change happen you have to show people what the resulting world would look like.

  4. Perry’s legal scholarship ignores the key difference between police and other civilians. All civilians have the power to make a citizen’s arrest, if we observe a crime being committed. If a guy starts raping a screaming woman in Aisle 6 at the store and I tie him up with a lamp cord, I did not commit a kidnapping, but performed a citizen’s arrest.

    Sworn police officers have a power we don’t, the power of Arrest Upon Suspicion.

    Suppose the rape victim is now dead. Nobody saw the guy doing it. But 6 people were inside the store and two of them are bloody.

    Sworn police officers would likely detain and interview all 6 people at the crime scene to determine who they are and ask them what they saw or heard. The two bloody people will come under immediate scrutiny, to learn if they were victims of the same crime and are bleeding, or if they participated in the crime and have the victim’s blood on them. This power of arrest upon suspicion is limited…you can’t generally be detained longer than 48 hours without charges being brought. A writ of habeas corpus can compel police to bring a person before a judge, who can rule that their detention of the person is unreasonable.

    Where competitive policing becomes problematic, is when multiple people acting at cross purposes, begin exercising powers of arrest upon suspicion, each detaining members of the community whom they personally dislike.

    Such a court case happened last week. Seeking evidence to convict a man he personally disliked, an FBI lawyer altered a document about Trump aide Carter Page, removing language about Mr Page’s work as a CiA informant and adding language appearing to show that Mr Page might have been interfering in US diplomatic efforts in Russia. Nearly four years after the proven crime of forgery was committed, the lawyer was charged with the offense and pled guilty. He likely will lose his law license for that offense, but first will be sentenced for it.

    Corporations such as Cable News Network took part in a scheme to hijack any such law enforcement personnel as they could enlist, apparently outraged that Mr Trump’s pick for National Security Adviser, retired General Flynn, wanted to audit the CIA covert budget, a task that has been delayed since 1948 and never completed. CNN built an entire conspiracy theory and set the straw man up in constant reporting, building unfounded suspicion that Mr Trump had stolen the 2016 Election.

    Now, clearly the agenda that was at work in this extreme case, is that a fund of many billions of dollars that actually are the property of taxpayers, have covertly moved through a fund that nobody audited for 73 years, and all manner of mischief may have been done with the money. And apparently each of the players from both major political parties, who tapped that covert fund for various purposes, would prefer if they could continue doing so, without scrutiny. So each is engaging in private policing, attempting to get anyone in law enforcement whom they can dupe, to participate in their private agenda of keeping their dealings with the secretive slush fund, secret, by obstructing investigation of the fund.

    Clearly, the power to tax, is what caused the CIA fund scandal to exist. If taxes had not been used to create the fund, nobody would have an unfair business advantage by gaining access to it.

    But the squabble over how to investigate what happened with the fund, has made widespread abuse of powers run rampant.

    1. Post

      Thanks for your comments and suggested amendments.

      It seems to me that we already have the problem of conflicting police departments. Sheriffs and municipal cops and state cops and federal cops step on each others toes all the time. It’s a staple of movies and TV shows. We manage to survive the chaos.

      In general, municipal and private cops should all need warrants to arrest people unless they have caught someone in the act.

  5. But…what will the politicians and municipal worker drones do? They seem to depend on the AGW (armed government worker also known as “police”) to protect them.

    1. Post

      They will have to legislate with an eye to what police will actually be willing to enforce. It’s another check and balance on power.

  6. Somebody needs to shoot the bad guys and if you idiots get rid of the cops who will that job fall to? Many of us have had enough of the domestic terrorists and feel that it’s time to take them down hard with malice. If they aren’t getting spanked they will never change their behavior. They are useful idiots, puppets for their Marxist handlers. Better a few of them get whacked than lose our precious country.

  7. For context, I am a hard-core Libertarian, and I strongly agree with the Non-Aggression Principle, including for police, but…

    The term “police” generally implies violent force and therefore aggression. In particular, one town or neighborhood will pay its police to focus on an annoying nearby town or neighborhood, with very violent results. We see such situations in South America, Africa, and Central America, with guerilla warfare over generations. That is why we have republics: To accommodate the various ways people raise police (and other armed forces) in one peaceful place, to let them fight it out in peaceful ways before extending their violence to the rest of their territory: A parliament or house of representatives for those relying on mob violence; A senate for those relying on alliances of smaller scale republics; A presidency for those relying on charisma; A court for those relying on wise counsel; and YES, we need a body for those relying on financial influence. I call it a “fundry”, where seats are auctioned for short terms. The Hanseatic League, the Republic of Venice, and many other quasi-governmental organizations have had bodies approximating a fundry. We need these legislative bodies because some people are violent whether we like it or not. They run the police. That said, I don’t trust such a government (and its police) with any job other than reducing the incidence of violence among its own participants. I tolerate its meddling in the economy as better than outright warfare, but I don’t approve of it.

  8. This is absolute genius mate! How can I support you (us and everyone) in promoting this idea?

  9. I am all for this idea, but how could this ever come to be when politicians and bureaucrats (pol’crats) would likely never allow it to pass because they’d lose a TON, likely several TONS, of money from fines the State Extortion Racket generates each and every year? I have no idea how much the various states take in every year from collecting fines, but I suspect it’s more than any greedy pol’crat would be willing to forgo.

    How would you persuade them to sacrifice not only the extorted money they’d lose, but also the stolen power over our personal lives that would no longer be theirs? Given what we know about how government works, it seems impossible.

    1. Anarcho capitalist and sixxfingers, thank you for your kind words of support.The most effective way to achieve change is to work from small scale to large scale, starting perhaps from the size of a neighborhood organization or home-owners association. The organization creates its own money, which is totally legal as long as it is not forgery. It also provides security in areas that have economic demand for it. Whether violent security is legal or not, it will have fewer local problems if it is non-violent. That non-violent goal may be a challenge, but we have the technology to achieve it. The fundry and security provide the demand for the money. Payment to those providing the security provides the source. I do not suggest that the organization get involved in any economic activity more significant than hosting a few parties, dances, and parades.

      Please email me at rudminjd@jmu.edu if you would like to see an example constitution. I tried to model the constitution on the instructions for a board game.

Leave a Comment:

Fields marked with * are required