Reinventing the Shire Reeve

Commissioner and Polk County Sheriff, Grady Judd, center, asks a question during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission Meeting, Thursday, June 7, 2018, in Sunrise, Fla. The commission Thursday will discuss diversion programs for students who commit crimes deemed minor. Suspect Nikolas Cruz was referred to a program while in middle school but never completed it. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Among the silly things that liberals believe about conservatives is that conservatives oppose progress. To hear liberals tell it, defense of the status quo is the extent of conservatives’ contribution to the human journey.

They just don’t get it. What conservatives oppose is top-down authority-powered pseudo-progress. The kind that liberals are trying to invent right now in Seattle, as they propose to “re-envision the way we handle public safety” to fix methods of policing that they consider “broken.”

What liberals don’t get is that conservatives don’t oppose progress, we just don’t believe that humans are all that good at making it happen. It seems obvious to us that humans advance by trial and error, in small increments. We try things. Most things we try don’t work, at least not as well as we’d hoped. But a few do. Those we keep. The others we toss over the side. People copy good ideas from each other, and they warn each other about the ideas that went bad. To our minds, this is how progress happens. It bubbles up from the bottom in what the Quality Assurance fraternity calls “continuous improvement.”

What we don’t get is why liberals fail to notice that virtually all of their Great Leaps Forward that are carefully planned by Smart People Wearing Suits, and then executed by government, either waste vast resources without accomplishing anything or waste vast resources while making things worse. This happens over and over again, from their War on Poverty to Obamacare. Percentage-wise, we have more people in poverty now than we did when Lyndon Johnson started AFDC.

Of course, conservatives oppose such things. “Progress” imposed by government-powered elitists isn’t progress at all. At best, it’s a waste of time and treasure, and often as not it makes things worse. That doesn’t happen because liberals are evil or have bad intentions. The bad outcomes are the inevitable result of the fact that humans do not know the future in advance, and we are — for all of our accomplishments — quite limited creatures who aren’t truly capable of comprehending large-scale, mathematically chaotic systems like economies or human societies or the climate of a planet… all of which liberals insist on tinkering with continually in their usual top-down, government-powered style as if they knew what they were doing.

And now comes the city council of the City of Seattle, an assemblage of liberals almost unrivaled in our nation, who have taken it upon themselves to Improve Things. They will now “make progress” if you can believe that, in the area of public safety by Re-envisioning Policing.

There are areas of human endeavor where liberals might realistically get lucky and hit upon a good and substantial idea that no one has tried before. But this is not one of them. Law enforcement has a long history in our culture. Our word sheriff is a contraction of the Old English ‘shire reeve’, a local official responsible for property management, supervising peasants, and so on.

Shire reeves were already common in England before the Norman Conquest. What this means for us is that today’s modern police force — the way it’s organized, the way it operates — is something that millions of humans have contributed to, thought about, puzzled over, worked on, and improved via trial and error for a thousand years. This is not a good place for liberals to go looking for improvements by starting over, by “re-envisioning” how we do things, from the top down.

The liberals on the Seattle City Council will not care. They won’t be deterred no matter what we tell them. Liberals never have any respect for the people who came before, who worked the problems, who tried and failed and tried again, to produce the methods we use every day and now take for granted. They always think they are so smart that they can start over and do it better.

If you own property in the jurisdiction governed by these people, you should probably not take their bet. The problem of Public Safety has been worked over pretty well, for a very long time, and the probability that anything thought up by the City Council or its consultants will actually improve things is quite low. On the other hand, the probability that they will reduce the value of your residence or business to zero or near-zero, via unintended consequences of well-intentioned “improvements,” is moderately high. Get out while you can.