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  • September 17, 2020
  • Chuck Osborne

Do What to the Police?

A few years ago when we began to write these Perspectives, we did so because we frequently get the question, “What is the election going to do to my portfolio?” We had never wished to discuss politics but we get the question all the time, so we decided that we would do it as a separate forum, so clients who were not interested could tune it out, and we would stick to discussing policy. What impact would a said policy have on the economy and therefore the stock market and your portfolio?

I never dreamed that I would be discussing defunding the police. This went from a ridiculous idea to actual policy in some cities in a matter of days. It brings to mind one of my favorite quotes:

The truth is that, to many people calling themselves Socialists, revolution does not mean a movement of the masses with which they hope to associate themselves; it means a set of reforms which ‘we,’ the clever ones, are going to impose upon ‘them,’ the Lower Orders. On the other hand, it would be a mistake to regard the book-trained Socialist as a bloodless creature entirely incapable of emotion. Though seldom giving much evidence of affection for the exploited, he is perfectly capable of displaying hatred – a sort of queer, theoretical, in vacuo hatred – against the exploiters.” ~ George Orwell, “The Road to Wigan Pier”

Orwell packs a lot into that one paragraph. The first thing I love about this quote is that Orwell was a Socialist. He believed in the revolution, as he put it. Some find that odd with his obvious concern about totalitarianism, but he never disavowed his socialist views. He was criticizing his “side.” Wouldn’t that be refreshing today?  A little self-reflection and honesty – that is what is needed.

Today everything has become about politics and the next election, and people are too afraid to speak up for what they believe to be right. It is much easier to have loyalty to a party than it is to have principles. While this is normal for politicians (which is one reason we hold them in such low regard), it also seems true for even our friends on social media. I don’t want to sound overly dramatic, but if our republic is going to survive, this has to change.

When I was just a child, Richard Nixon resigned instead of facing an impeachment trial because his own party was set to vote for impeachment. He may have been a Republican, but what he did was wrong. Two presidents have been impeached since, and both impeachments failed on pure party lines. Something is wrong.

The first riots this summer in Atlanta occurred approximately a quarter of a mile from my house. I assure you there were no peaceful protests. That is not to say the protests don’t have peaceful moments, or that some individual protesters are not peaceful, but the fact is that every major protest that has occurred this summer has ended in violence. This did not happen in the real Civil Rights Movement because the leaders of that movement wouldn’t stand for it.

Martin Luther King, John Lewis, Andrew Young, and rest of the leaders in that original movement were trying to persuade, not punish. They were motivated by love for the exploited, not hatred for the exploiters. They fought for the right to vote, the right to ride in the front of the bus, and to eat lunch where they wanted. They did not fight to tear down anything except for injustice, no modifier necessary. They subjected themselves to violence, but they remained peaceful, and in doing so changed the world for the better.

Is defunding the police designed to help the exploited or to punish the exploiters? It seems self-evident. However, before we just completely dismiss the notion as absurd, we need to make sure that we are not guilty of declaring triumph over a strawman. Is there anything to this idea?

Self-reflection is called for on all sides. Police violence is a real issue and one that must be addressed. There is no doubt that across the country we have too many Barney Fifes and far too few Andy Taylors (for our younger readers, use your Google). My understanding is that the police officer who murdered George Floyd was in the top-ten percent of citizen complaints. Why did he still have a job, let alone why was he training the officer with him?

Republicans are supposed to be the party that is leery of public employee unions, yet when this black lives versus blue lives started four years ago, they lined up for the police vote. Party loyalty is easier than principles. To simply defund the police is, well, stupid. This does not mean there are not problems which need to be corrected. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the great champion of organized labor, did not believe government employees should be unionized; perhaps that would be a good place to start?

Some may think I’m going too far with the idea that much of what we have witnessed since May is just hatred for the supposed exploiter. This past Saturday, a protester ambushed two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies as they sat in their patrol car. The deputies were taken to a hospital where protesters gathered and chanted, “we hope they die.” That isn’t affection for the exploited, that is hatred, and it is wrong. At least that is my perspective.

Warm regards,

Chuck Osborne, CFA