Much of the commentary on the rioting and torching of Baltimore resides within the predictable Red-versus-Blue dichotomy: Republicans blame the Welfare State, fatherless teenagers, a lack of self-responsibility. They dismiss the rioters as thugs and imply that whatever the cops dish out, the perps deserved anyway. Democrats blame police brutality, inequality, lack of opportunity and the general hopelessness within the black community, while ignoring the source of this social decay.
While both sides seem to probe around the central problem, they don't appear to understand the implications of their own arguments, or what it would take to ensure that other American cities don't suffer the same fate. To face these implications, both sides of the debate would have to relinquish hold of their most sacred cows, and come to terms with the fact that government intervention, either in the form of the Drug War or of the Welfare State, will always result in the tragic poverty and hopelessness on display in Baltimore.
First, both Republicans and Democrats must give up their twisted obsession with the Drug War, as well as their unconditional devotion to police. I find it so strange that the loudest, most obnoxious, and most superficial conservatives are the most virulently pro-Drug War. The narrative that many "conservatives" are pushing is that Democrats are solely to blame for the social fracturing that is occurring in these cities is nonsense. When you have supposed leaders of the Republican Party like Chris Christie say that he would "crack down" on legalization movements among the states, then they deserve a huge portion of blame for what is happening in American cities.
The ravages of black markets have destroyed black communities. Prison time rips apart families, a criminal record ensures permanent unemployment and minority targeting ensures growing distrust among the black community. Chiding a demographic for not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps while simultaneously supporting the number one policy responsible for that demographic remaining mired in crime and poverty begins to sound hypocritical after a while.
David Simon, of HBO's The Wire, had this to say about how to fix Baltimore:
"I know I sound like a broken record, but we end the f—ing drug war … The drug war gives everybody permission to do anything. It gives cops permission to stop anybody, to go in anyone's pockets, to manufacture any lie when they get to district court … The drug war gives everybody permission. And if it were draconian and we were fixing anything that would be one thing, but it's draconian, and it's a disaster."
Democrats must confront the ravages of the Welfare State. The government, seeking to become parent to its citizens, has severed individuals from their families and communities. This atomization comes with an enormous price: generations hopelessly dependent on the Progressive elites promised a better future in exchange for more power. The children of those who bought in to the promises of the Great Society are feeling the effects of the Police State side of that big-government boondoggle. Millions wasted on failed public services, public education, public infrastructure, sky-high taxes and restrictive regulations, combined with the black market drug trade, have led to the crime wave that was used to justify the belligerent and unaccountable police force that killed Freddie Gray.
Baltimore, as with most other major American cities, has been the playground of Progressive technocrats for decades, itching to centrally plan at the micro scale. If they can't plan the entire country, one city will suit them. And once they got their claws on Baltimore, they proceeded to unleash a Hell storm of bad ideas. The city has been subjected to the worst of the worst in terms of high tax rates, aggressive, "broken windows" policing and hostility to business. All the worst aspects of both parties rear their ugly heads in these formerly "great" American cities to create powder kegs in search of a spark. In Baltimore, that spark was the death of Freddie Gray, who was subjected to a "rough ride" in the back of a police van. His death unleashed years of pent-up anger and frustration, and now Baltimore burns because of it.
The prevailing attitude among those who gain political power is that they are free to intervene at will in society, with no harmful consequences. Tinkering with a system they could never understand, they hatch their little plans, and proceed to pour money and legislation into the mold, so sure that what will emerge will be a Statist Paradise. Rather than Utopia, a monster emerges, wearing their slogans and prejudices, and proceeds to destroy everything in sight. Alarmed, they legislate out of fear, seeking to paper over the unintended consequences of the previous intervention. It's no use; legislation can destroy social order, but it cannot create it.
The attitude that society is somehow "plannable" from the top down must die. It permeates both major parties, and we as citizens are placed on the receiving end of their schemes. It's a faith in force that holds sway over people like Chris Christie, as evidenced in the earlier quote. That attitude was left unchained in Baltimore for 50 years. This is why government hates liberty, and constitutions, and Law, in the Hayekian sense of the term. Liberty and Law block their path.
Society is a spontaneous order. It is an undesigned, and undesignable, web of social cooperation, and every attempt made in history to engineer society, top down, has resulted in either a dumpster fire of colossal proportions, or a slow-burning fuse that one day reaches its end and explodes, taking every innocent life and liberty along with it. The lesson of Baltimore is that any interference with this web will end in poverty and crime, and then chaos and violence. But this spontaneous order thrives in an environment of the Rule of Law, where anyone can freely engage in behavior that is voluntary for both sides. This is the environment that could spell a rebirth for Baltimore. Liberty, though, is the solution that will inevitably be overlooked because it strips our rulers of their power. Liberty for society means chains for the government. They will never submit to these chains willingly.
Shane Smith is an accountant living in Norman, Oklahoma. He writes for Red Dirt Report. Liberty is his religion.