We’re Accountable Because We Say We’re Accountable

Whenever anarchists challenge statists about rampent abuses of power such as the National Security Agency (NSA) spying on anybody and everybody, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) creating terrorist so it has somebody to bust, or the United States bombing of children in the Middle East the standard response is that a more accountable state is needed. An accountable state is a paradox because a state maintains a monopoly on creating and enforcing laws. In order to be prosecuted the state must first find itself guilty of breaking the law.

Case in point, agents of the FBI has been involved in numerous shootouts but not once has the FBI decided any of those agents were in error:

But if such internal investigations are time-tested, their outcomes are also predictable: from 1993 to early 2011, F.B.I. agents fatally shot about 70 “subjects” and wounded about 80 others — and every one of those episodes was deemed justified, according to interviews and internal F.B.I. records obtained by The New York Times through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

The last two years have followed the same pattern: an F.B.I. spokesman said that since 2011, there had been no findings of improper intentional shootings.

In most of the shootings, the F.B.I.’s internal investigation was the only official inquiry. In the Orlando case, for example, there have been conflicting accounts about basic facts like whether the Chechen man, Ibragim Todashev, attacked an agent with a knife, was unarmed or was brandishing a metal pole. But Orlando homicide detectives are not independently investigating what happened.

How can a monopoly holder of justice ever be held accountable? Advocates of democracy will claim the people can hold the state accountable by voting out agents that do wrong. The first problem with such a claim is that most employees of the state, including FBI agents, aren’t elected officials. The second problem is that justice becomes a decision of a voting majority. If a voting majority believe a murder was justified then the murderer remains unaccountable.

Monopoly holders of justice can’t be held accountable because they hold a monopoly on the very thing that would otherwise make them accountable and that’s one of the biggest failures of statism.