Conflicting Beliefs

An aspect of the human mind that amazes me is its ability to simultaneously hold multiple conflicting beliefs. This is described as cognitive dissonance. What amazes me more is that people demonstrating cognitive dissonance can point out when another person is demonstrating it while remaining ignorant of their own demonstration.

Debates about gun control are gold mines for witnessing cognitive dissonance. But the gold mine has become even richer with the popularization of the defund the police movement. At the root of the defund the police movement is the recognition of the true nature of law enforcement. Law enforcement doesn’t exist to protect the people. It exists to serve the interests of the state. A smart state takes measures to paper over this reality. It’ll keep its law enforcers on a tight leash to restrain them from exploiting too many people too severely. It’ll establish laws that provide law enforcers an excuse for their actions (“I was just following orders”). It’ll go through a great deal of effort to propagandize the masses into believing law enforcers exist to protect them. But eventually the leash slips. When it does, it can do a great deal of damage to the state’s propaganda efforts.

The murder of George Floyd by law enforcers was just one instance of the leash slipping. For some reason that instance garnered national attention and whipped people up into a riotous fury. It did a great deal of damage to the state’s propaganda efforts and revealed the true nature of law enforcement to many previously ignorant people.

You might think that with this recognition would come a general distrust of the government. But in many cases (maybe even most cases) it hasn’t. Many people espousing the need to defund the police also espouse a need to grant the state more power. Those in the defund the police movement who are also demanding more stringent gun control are a prime example of this. All government is ultimately a form of kleptocracy. Those in power use their power to expropriate wealth from the populace. The only thing that restrains those in power from devolving to their basest of instincts and stealing everything from everyone is fear. All but the most ignorant of the power holders recognize that there are orders of magnitude more people out of power than in power. If enough of those out of power become angry at those in power, they will revolt. If enough people revolt, they will win. Arms are a force multiplier. If those out of power are already armed, they can successfully revolt with fewer rebels.

If one recognizes that the purpose of law enforcement is to serve the interests of the state, they should also recognize that maintaining a force disparity between those out of power and law enforcers helps keep the latter in check. Law enforcers aren’t going to stop exploiting those out of power (doing so is their job after all). But if they hold some fear of those out of power, they are more likely exercise restraint. Even if they won’t exercise more restraint, their overlords, the power holders, will be more likely to restrain them because they don’t want a bunch of people with nothing to lose pissed off at them, especially when they’re armed (that’s how revolts start). The more force those out of power have compared to those in power, the more likely those in power are to keep their basest instincts in check.

But the human mind is an amazing thing and so many people who recognize, at least to some extent, the true nature of law enforcement and the state also simultaneously believe the law enforcement and the state should enjoy even more power.