Lancing the Statist Boil
By Staff News & Analysis - July 15, 2013

This is What Budget Cuts Have Done to Detroit … And It's Freaking Awesome … Leaving aside the details on whether the U.S. budget is actually shrinking, one needs to look no further than the city of Detroit to find the spontaneous order, civic cooperation, and peaceful market forces that take over when government simply isn't around. –

Dominant Social Theme: A lack of government spending is a tragedy.

Free-Market Analysis: One of the sadder developments of modernity is the resoluteness with which the public sector expands. There is almost nothing that an expanding bureaucracy envisions as beyond its reach. Bureaucratic rigor always insists on more and more control.

Government runs schools, civil and military policing, the military itself, the penal system, transportation and infrastructure. Of course, governments are also setting up vast technological surveillance nets to spy comprehensively on citizens.

We live in an age of "can do" government, even though there is no evidence that much of what government "can do" ever gets done – except within a violent or destructive context. "Privatization" is not the answer, either, because in the modern era, privatization merely involves offering a government monopoly to a private contractor. What is lacking in both cases is the rejuvenating process of competition – the "Invisible Hand."

But in Detroit, it would seem, truly private services are springing up to replace foundering government ones … circumscribed or rendered inoperative by the ongoing budget crisis.

Here's more …

Detroit is absolutely bankrupt. The city faces a cash shortfall of more than $100 million by June. The language of budget cuts, austerity, and sequestration seem to dominate the media's landscape these days, instilling fear into Americans of vital government services being cut and chaos ensuing if governments aren't allowed to spend and borrow infinitely.

… Long-term liabilities, including pensions, exceed $14 billion. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder wants to bail out Detroit's city government even further. Thanks to the financial situation of Detroit, emergency services like police and fire departments are being severely cut short. 911 is only taking calls during business hours. Homes have been abandoned making parts of the city look like a ghost town.

If our public servants are right and wouldn't dare lie and try to scare us, then chaos, anarchy and lawlessness should reign in Detroit now, right? Well, not exactly.

Dale Brown and his organization, the Threat Management Center (TMC), have helped fill in the void left by the corrupt and incompetent city government. Brown started TMC in 1995 as a way to help his fellow Detroit citizens in the midst of a rise in home invasions and murders. While attempting to assist law enforcement, he found little but uninterested officers more concerned with extracting revenue through traffic tickets and terrorizing private homes with SWAT raids than protecting person and property.

In an interview with, Brown explains how and why his private, free market policing organization has been so successful. The key to effective protection and security is love, says Brown, not weapons, violence, or law. It sounds a bit corny, yes, but the results speak for themselves.

Almost 20 years later and Detroit's financial mess even more apparent, TMC now has a client base of about 1,000 private residences and over 500 businesses. Thanks to TMC's efficiency and profitability, they are also able to provide free or incredibly low-cost services to the poor as well.

… The heroic Brown and TMC are a great example of how the market and civil society can and do provide services traditionally associated with the state far better, cheaper and more in tune to people's wants and needs. I have always believed policing, protection and security are far too important to be run by the state — especially in age of militarized Stormtroopers — and Brown is helping show why.

It is interesting that many of the feedbacks beneath the article are indignant and accuse the writer of providing TMC with a public relations puff piece. But we can think of literally dozens of articles aggrandizing government types. In fact, as soon as a new face wins an election of any importance these days there is usually a spate of self-important media promotion predicting great things for the latest up-and-comer.

This is not merely a US phenomenon but a Western phenomenon generally. So to see a positive profile of a private-enterprise service taking over parts of transportation and government policing is somewhat refreshing, never mind the details.

The US in particular was built with citizens providing their own fire protection, policing, schooling, etc. It is really only in the past 100 years that the state has acquired responsibility for these functions, with predictably disastrous ramifications.

It has become a matter of cultural fashion to assume that only the state can supervise society's basic building blocks. But even in this central banking age, the profligacy of bureaucracy will eventually outrun the resources that are available. At this point volunteerism and private enterprise must take over. As Ludwig von Mises showed, the current socialist mindset and socio-economic organization of the Western state is untenable.

After Thoughts

Pardon us for hoping that other Detroits manifest themselves rapidly. We would prefer to see the statist boil lanced sooner rather than later.

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