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Objectivism and the Contemporary Police Officer; Compatible or mutuall

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Since morality and current laws are not in a proper relationship of respecting individual rights, I was curious as to how individuals whose employment(Police Officers) depend on dealing with individuals  who commit illegal acts have to deal with this contradiction between employment and philosophy.

 

Does a police officer act with obligation, imperative and duty due to their employment when encountering an act that is deemed illegal, yet their philosophy shows that the act should be considered just the opposite, legal? How does one keep their integrity intact when philosophy and some sectors of their employment are in contradiction?

 

Does law unfortunately trump morality?

 

As a few examples, as a police officer drives by an individual who's working as an illegal prostitute, should the police officer take no action, explain to the prostitute that the prostitution should be legalized, or arrest them? If any of the three options are taken, doesn't this break one's integrity?

 

What occurs when an Objectivist, who's also a Cop, is in a group of other law officers who think that the governmnt should control an individuals choices? Should the one that is on the side of reality stay silent when the other police officers arrest a young man who is simply smoking marijuana that the state has deemed illegal?

 

Ultimately, can one be a Police Officer and remain an Objectivist, in 2013? The police are necessary, to have a monopoly on the use of retaliatory force and yet, today, are often times the ones that have the option(?) of determining the future of the innocent.

 

Thank you for your feedback!

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I do not believe that I could enforce laws that I consider to be unjust -- essentially initiate the use of force (or be a "puppet" for that initiation) against innocents -- and take pride in either myself or my work. I think that to make a living in that fashion would erode my happiness.

Speaking only for myself, I don't think I could happily be a police officer, or be an effective police officer, given the continual ethical conflicts it would surely breed within me.

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An Objectivist police officer could never act based on "obligation, imperative and duty" as such, in the way Kant describes "acting from duty".  In a non-Objectivist society an Objectivist police officer would act based on a contractual agreement which necessarily includes voluntarily chosen obligations and duties.  In an Objectivist society the police officer would be acting based on a contractual agreement but also in accordance with his/her own interests to live in a society where the protection of individual rights against the initiation of force/fraud are of paramount importance.

 

If an Objectivist police officer finds his or herself violating individual rights on behalf of the State, whatever the form of that State, dictatorship, democracy, etc, I think the police officer could 1. quit, 2. not quit and abandon Objectivism, or 3. not quit and evade the fact that he is no longer an Objectivist, the first being the only rational choice in accordance with the principles of Objetivism.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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Civilians face the same exact (apparent) dilemma cops do, just on a different (less direct/personal) level. Whenever you leave your house, you're walking on a pavement built by money that was taken by force. Whenever you call a cop, you are using a service paid for by money taken by force. Whenever you go to an emergency room, you are relying on a government mandate that the hospital should treat you. Etc., etc.

 

This is the world we live in. It's the only world available to us. And, like it or not, living in the world involves interacting with the world, as per rules we didn't make. Objectivism is a philosophy for living in reality, not for escaping it. It CANNOT be immoral to live in the only world there is.

 

I know that, as per the laws of my country, I can use various facilities paid for by force. And I do so, to the full extent of my ability, both to live my personal life, and for work. When I was a kid, I used public education, then I used minimum wage laws to get better pay than I deserved while I was in college, I use the roads to get to work every day today, and I use a million other immoral rules. So did Ayn Rand. And so do cops. My role is to build software in this world. Ayn Rand's was to create literature and philosophy. A cop's role is to maintain the rule of law. All important roles, all rewarding, life affirming career choices.

 

There is no qualitative difference. We all live by immoral rules, to achieve a morally legitimate purpose. I offer no apology for my choice to live in this world, and neither should honest police officers, or anyone else who does that. This isn't some kind of "the ends justify the means" argument, btw. This is a "I'm not responsible for the rules, just because I have no other choice but to live in the world" argument. The people who created those rules are the ones responsible.

 

Does law unfortunately trump morality?

 

No. Illegitimate laws are evil, and the people who choose to create them are evil. However, last I checked, laws are created by politicians chosen by the electorate, not by cops. 

 

So long as you are careful to identify evil and assign blame for it rationally, you don't have to live with contradictions like "law trumps morality". So let's identify and assign:

 

1. WHAT is evil about modern societies are the illegitimate laws. NOT the rule of law. The rule of law is the best thing that happened to mankind. 

 

2. The people responsible for that evil are people who vote for, advocate for and believe in it. NOT people who believe in and fight for the rule of law. 

Edited by Nicky

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If there is a contradiction between professional duty and one's morality, morality should prevail, otherwise such a person will live in the state of the constant moral guilt. Imagine an executor who morally objects the death punishment. An Objectivist cannot enforce the laws which are incompatible with Objectivist ethics and therefore cannot work as a police officer in the society ruled by subjective laws.

Edited by Leonid

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If there is a contradiction between professional duty and one's morality, morality should prevail, otherwise such a person will live in the state of the constant moral guilt. Imagine an executor who morally objects the death punishment. An Objectivist cannot enforce the laws which are incompatible with Objectivist ethics and therefore cannot work as a police officer in the society ruled by subjective laws.

Why can't an Objectivist police officer enforce only the laws with which he agrees?

J

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Civilians face the same exact (apparent) dilemma cops do, just on a different (less direct/personal) level. Whenever you leave your house, you're walking on a pavement built by money that was taken by force. Whenever you call a cop, you are using a service paid for by money taken by force. Whenever you go to an emergency room, you are relying on a government mandate that the hospital should treat you. Etc., etc.

 

This is the world we live in. It's the only world available to us. And, like it or not, living in the world involves interacting with the world, as per rules we didn't make. Objectivism is a philosophy for living in reality, not for escaping it. It CANNOT be immoral to live in the only world there is.

It is not "immoral to live in the only world there is," but "living in the world" does not mean that a person is devoid of choices. Among those choices a person might make -- including which occupation to pursue, and how to perform it -- some may yet be moral or immoral. So, generally speaking, I don't believe that this helps us to understand whether being a police officer in this society and enforcing these specific laws is yet a moral choice.

 

So long as you are careful to identify evil and assign blame for it rationally, you don't have to live with contradictions like "law trumps morality". So let's identify and assign:

 

1. WHAT is evil about modern societies are the illegitimate laws. NOT the rule of law. The rule of law is the best thing that happened to mankind. 

 

2. The people responsible for that evil are people who vote for, advocate for and believe in it. NOT people who believe in and fight for the rule of law.

How far would you take all of this? Would a person living in Nazi Germany who sought to enforce that state's laws -- for the sake of "the rule of law" itself -- not bear any personal responsibility for using force against innocents? Would a train operator not bear any personal responsibility if he obeyed his higher-ups and initiated a preventable train accident? Or would a moral train operator refuse to participate, for his own sake? Would a moral man refuse to carry out the policies of the Nazi government, despite the fact that it is a "world he never made"?

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Why can't an Objectivist police officer enforce only the laws with which he agrees?

J

Because it would contradict his professional duties which is an enforcement of the current law. He can perform only duties which are in accordance with his ethics. He may work for example in the homicide or anti-fraud department. But if he asked to arrest prostitutes or drug users, or to enforce any subjective law which violates man's rights, he should resign. Since a police officer usually cannot choose his line of work and acts under command, and most of the existing laws are subjective, I cannot see how he could keep his job.

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Thank you all for the replies. My title to this thread, in full, is "Objectivism and the Contemporary Police Officer; Compatible or Mutually Exclusive?" I think that I had to qualify Police Officer with "Contemporary" because the philosophy of Objectivism requires a government that protects individual rights, yet that's not what "is", today. What I mean by this is that Police is an essential government service, but what we have today is a role that is required yet is tainted, not fully upholding individual rights to the point where the role of employment, Police Officer, isn't compatible with Objectivism. Correct?

 

If a Police Officer protects a civilian from a home intruder yet arrests a young adult for smoking a substance deemed illegal, then how can one be an Objectivist and a Police Officer? An important question is:Can the Police Officer choose to not arrest Prostitutes AND protect civilians from robberies while keeping his employment? If the answer is no, then I think Objectivism and current Police Officers are mutually exclusive.

 

 

If an Objectivist police officer finds his or herself violating individual rights on behalf of the State, whatever the form of that State, dictatorship, democracy, etc, I think the police officer could 1. quit, 2. not quit and abandon Objectivism, or 3. not quit and evade the fact that he is no longer an Objectivist, the first being the only rational choice in accordance with the principles of Objetivism.

 

I agree.

 

 

Civilians face the same exact (apparent) dilemma cops do, just on a different (less direct/personal) level. Whenever you leave your house, you're walking on a pavement built by money that was taken by force. Whenever you call a cop, you are using a service paid for by money taken by force. Whenever you go to an emergency room, you are relying on a government mandate that the hospital should treat you. Etc., etc.

 

This is the world we live in. It's the only world available to us. And, like it or not, living in the world involves interacting with the world, as per rules we didn't make. Objectivism is a philosophy for living in reality, not for escaping it. It CANNOT be immoral to live in the only world there is.

 

I know that, as per the laws of my country, I can use various facilities paid for by force. And I do so, to the full extent of my ability, both to live my personal life, and for work. When I was a kid, I used public education, then I used minimum wage laws to get better pay than I deserved while I was in college, I use the roads to get to work every day today, and I use a million other immoral rules. So did Ayn Rand. And so do cops. My role is to build software in this world. Ayn Rand's was to create literature and philosophy. A cop's role is to maintain the rule of law. All important roles, all rewarding, life affirming career choices.

 

There is no qualitative difference. We all live by immoral rules, to achieve a morally legitimate purpose. I offer no apology for my choice to live in this world, and neither should honest police officers, or anyone else who does that. This isn't some kind of "the ends justify the means" argument, btw. This is a "I'm not responsible for the rules, just because I have no other choice but to live in the world" argument. The people who created those rules are the ones responsible.

 

No. Illegitimate laws are evil, and the people who choose to create them are evil. However, last I checked, laws are created by politicians chosen by the electorate, not by cops. 

 

So long as you are careful to identify evil and assign blame for it rationally, you don't have to live with contradictions like "law trumps morality". So let's identify and assign:

 

1. WHAT is evil about modern societies are the illegitimate laws. NOT the rule of law. The rule of law is the best thing that happened to mankind. 

 

2. The people responsible for that evil are people who vote for, advocate for and believe in it. NOT people who believe in and fight for the rule of law. 

 

Rule of Law is what protects men from other men, a rule of men would be horrible, or rather I should say, is horrible.

 

By "honest", does this imply that one simply let alone individuals who engage in prostitution and drug use, for example?

 

 

 

Why can't an Objectivist police officer enforce only the laws with which he agrees?

J

 

Can a Police Officer do this and remain employed?

 

Because it would contradict his professional duties which is an enforcement of the current law. He can perform only duties which are in accordance with his ethics. He may work for example in the homicide or anti-fraud department. But if he asked to arrest prostitutes or drug users, or to enforce any subjective law which violates man's rights, he should resign. Since a police officer usually cannot choose his line of work and acts under command, and most of the existing laws are subjective, I cannot see how he could keep his job.

 

Curious, so is it possible to be a Police Officer who only upholds individual rights and remain employed, today?

Edited by brianleepainter

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It is not "immoral to live in the only world there is," but "living in the world" does not mean that a person is devoid of choices.

I disagree that you have the choice to live a productive life and achieve your goals without

 

1. funding legal actions that initiate force.

2. knowingly receiving material support from legal actions that initiate force.

 

Are you claiming to be living such a life? Are you claiming that you are not relying on laws that violate rights, in any way?

How far would you take all of this? Would a person living in Nazi Germany who sought to enforce that state's laws

Not far at all. In fact, I would take it exactly as far as I took it: the current Western world. Even among Western countries, the moral choice is often to pick the best one, rather than stay put and accept any nonsense your countrymen throw at you. 

 

As for Nazi Germany, the moral choice for a person living in Nazi Germany would be to leave, not to try and thrive as part of Nazi society. 

 

 

 

Rule of Law is what protects men from other men, a rule of men would be horrible, or rather I should say, is horrible.

I used the phrase "rule of law" as a synonym for "a society governed by laws". I have not intended to convey any further meaning than that.

 

I disagree that the current Western world has something other than the rule of law. I also disagree that the current Western world should be characterized as horrible.

 

 

By "honest", does this imply that one simply let alone individuals who engage in prostitution and drug use, for example?

By "honest" I mean what the word means: sincerity, the absence of lying or cheating. An honest cop is one who enforces the laws he is tasked to enforce, and is truthful about his actions to all parties involved: both the public and his superiors.

.

Edited by Nicky

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Quote from previous post: "Curious, so is it possible to be a Police Officer who only upholds individual rights and remain employed, today?"

 

My answer to this question is a qualified "yes", so long as you don't come under the scrutiny of a hard-nosed, irrational superior. As a former police officer, I did the following:

 

1) Arrested the Wild Life and Fisheries Commissioner for DUI. I was reprimanded for this by the Commander for not paying homage to status.

2) Refused to arrest individuals caught smoking marijuana, so long as they were not trying to sell to or involve minors. No one caught me on this.

3) Refused a transfer to work undercover in Vice or Narcotics. Again a reprimand. I stated I would quit before becoming a criminal just to catch one.

4) I was passed over for promotion due to past reprimands. I ultimately quit to become a mechanical engineer.

 

So, one can remain employed; however not without some cost to one's career. In general, if you are a man of principle, I would advise against a career in law enforcement today.

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Quote from previous post: "Curious, so is it possible to be a Police Officer who only upholds individual rights and remain employed, today?"

 

My answer to this question is a qualified "yes", so long as you don't come under the scrutiny of a hard-nosed, irrational superior. As a former police officer, I did the following:

 

1) Arrested the Wild Life and Fisheries Commissioner for DUI. I was reprimanded for this by the Commander for not paying homage to status.

2) Refused to arrest individuals caught smoking marijuana, so long as they were not trying to sell to or involve minors. No one caught me on this.

3) Refused a transfer to work undercover in Vice or Narcotics. Again a reprimand. I stated I would quit before becoming a criminal just to catch one.

4) I was passed over for promotion due to past reprimands. I ultimately quit to become a mechanical engineer.

 

So, one can remain employed; however not without some cost to one's career. In general, if you are a man of principle, I would advise against a career in law enforcement today.

In other words, no, you can't. Because cops can't pick and choose which laws to enforce. Not now, and not in an Objectivist society. It's not your job, and not your responsibility.

 

I'm sorry you felt a responsibility towards drug users to protect them from drug bans. It wasn't your responsibility to do that. It's the responsibility of politicians and voters. Or, when politicians and voters fail, then it's each individual's responsibility to protect themselves either by not using drugs, or by doing it very carefully and being prepared to face the consequences.

As an occasional pot smoker, you should know that I wouldn't expect you to do that for me. I would probably think less of you if you showed any kind of special enthusiasm in coming after me, but if I was stupid enough to just run into a cop while smoking a joint, or try and buy pot from an undercover vice cop, I wouldn't hold it against you. I would blame myself for being careless.

 

Just as I don't hold it against you that, to become a mechanical engineer, you've probably gone through quite a bit of public schooling, funded by forced taxation. Or that you use public roads to get to work. Or that you or your employer might take on public contracts funded by my taxes. Don't worry about it, I do the same things. We all do. Regular citizens and cops alike. We don't make the rules of society. If we could, we would make better ones. But, as it stands, this is the society we have to live in, so these are the rules we have to use to achieve our goals.

1) Arrested the Wild Life and Fisheries Commissioner for DUI. I was reprimanded for this by the Commander for not paying homage to status.

2) Refused to arrest individuals caught smoking marijuana, so long as they were not trying to sell to or involve minors. No one caught me on this.

3) Refused a transfer to work undercover in Vice or Narcotics. Again a reprimand. I stated I would quit before becoming a criminal just to catch one.

4) I was passed over for promotion due to past reprimands. I ultimately quit to become a mechanical engineer.

1) This is a criminal act. While I sympathize with having to deal with having a criminal for a superior, I don't understand how that's relevant to the questions in this thread.

2, 3) Picking and choosing which laws to enforce is not the prerogative of a police officer. Not in current society, and not in an ideal Objectivist country.

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As for Nazi Germany, the moral choice for a person living in Nazi Germany would be to leave, not to try and thrive as part of Nazi society. 

 

Where else is there to flee once one is in America? At what point should the Weimar Guards refuse to sanction and further enforce rights violations?

 

This country is turning from a Rule of Law to a Rule of men, where the rules of law slowly engulf sectors of private life and legalize what should be criminal while criminalizing what should be legal. For example, bureaucrats may legally increase tax on individuals, while other individuals who try to create a business are deemed criminals by violating anti-trust laws. While Police Officers don't create the laws, they are a necessary force in order to carry out the law.

 

The Police Officers are the ones that first administer the noose to hang the petty thieves, while the great ones stay in office.

 

 

Quote from previous post: "Curious, so is it possible to be a Police Officer who only upholds individual rights and remain employed, today?"

 

My answer to this question is a qualified "yes", so long as you don't come under the scrutiny of a hard-nosed, irrational superior. As a former police officer, I did the following:

 

1) Arrested the Wild Life and Fisheries Commissioner for DUI. I was reprimanded for this by the Commander for not paying homage to status.

2) Refused to arrest individuals caught smoking marijuana, so long as they were not trying to sell to or involve minors. No one caught me on this.

3) Refused a transfer to work undercover in Vice or Narcotics. Again a reprimand. I stated I would quit before becoming a criminal just to catch one.

4) I was passed over for promotion due to past reprimands. I ultimately quit to become a mechanical engineer.

 

So, one can remain employed; however not without some cost to one's career. In general, if you are a man of principle, I would advise against a career in law enforcement today.

 

 

Aqualyst, thank you for your personal experiences with this area of employment and for listing several examples. Also, thank you for your insight into remaining principled in this occupation.

 

 

In other words, no, you can't. Because cops can't pick and choose which laws to enforce. Not now, and not in an Objectivist society. It's not your job, and not your responsibility.

 

I'm sorry you felt a responsibility towards drug users to protect them from drug bans. It wasn't your responsibility to do that. It's the responsibility of politicians and voters. Or, when politicians and voters fail, then it's each individual's responsibility to protect themselves either by not using drugs, or by doing it very carefully and being prepared to face the consequences.

As an occasional pot smoker, you should know that I wouldn't expect you to do that for me. I would probably think less of you if you showed any kind of special enthusiasm in coming after me, but if I was stupid enough to just run into a cop while smoking a joint, or try and buy pot from an undercover vice cop, I wouldn't hold it against you. I would blame myself for being careless.

 

Just as I don't hold it against you that, to become a mechanical engineer, you've probably gone through quite a bit of public schooling, funded by forced taxation. Or that you use public roads to get to work. Or that you or your employer might take on public contracts funded by my taxes. Don't worry about it, I do the same things. We all do. Regular citizens and cops alike. We don't make the rules of society. If we could, we would make better ones. But, as it stands, this is the society we have to live in, so these are the rules we have to use to achieve our goals.

1) This is a criminal act. While I sympathize with having to deal with having a criminal for a superior, I don't understand how that's relevant to the questions in this thread.

2, 3) Picking and choosing which laws to enforce is not the prerogative of a police officer. Not in current society, and not in an ideal Objectivist country.

 

Hmm, Aqualyst had explained that one can remain in law enforcement with a qualifier, that if a superior who's not principled towards individual rights has the say then it's best to resign in order to remain principled.

 

Nicky, had said "no".

 

In other words, no, you can't. Because cops can't pick and choose which laws to enforce. Not now, and not in an Objectivist society. It's not your job, and not your responsibility.

 

I'm sorry you felt a responsibility towards drug users to protect them from drug bans. It wasn't your responsibility to do that. It's the responsibility of politicians and voters. Or, when politicians and voters fail, then it's each individual's responsibility to protect themselves either by not using drugs, or by doing it very carefully and being prepared to face the consequences.

As an occasional pot smoker, you should know that I wouldn't expect you to do that for me. I would probably think less of you if you showed any kind of special enthusiasm in coming after me, but if I was stupid enough to just run into a cop while smoking a joint, or try and buy pot from an undercover vice cop, I wouldn't hold it against you. I would blame myself for being careless.

 

Nicky, I may be wrong, but it appears that you are saying the rule of law must be carried out regardless of the content within the law?

 

But the politicians and the voters in democracy have failed.

 

Why must law be followed if the law is unprincipled towards individual rights?

 

From what I understand, blaming a pot smoker for being careless is simply punishing the innocent for no other reason than because he did what should be legal, if anything shouldn't the pot smoker have your sympathy?

 

Nicky, do you not condemn the Nazi guards for carrying out the law? I"m asking this because it appears that you would not condemn law enforcement for arresting homosexual couples from engaging in sodomy when it was/is illegal from the State.

 

Ultimately, I don't understand how this is unlike victims becoming the victimizers and punishing the good for no other reason than simply because they were innocent. 

Edited by brianleepainter

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I disagree that you have the choice to live a productive life and achieve your goals without

 

1. funding legal actions that initiate force.

2. knowingly receiving material support from legal actions that initiate force.

 

Are you claiming to be living such a life? Are you claiming that you are not relying on laws that violate rights, in any way?

This is such an evenhanded reply, and I appreciate it so much, that I wish I could simply agree with you as thanks. I hope you'll understand that I believe that continuing to voice my sincere disagreement is yet more respectful.

Okay. In the portion of my post that you quote, I'm not making any claims on whether or not a person can live a life today without receiving any benefit from others' use of the initiation of force. Let me address that now to hopefully give us a starting point of agreement. In modern society I'd certainly agree with you that it's (nearly if not completely) impossible. (I might quibble on your use of the word 'relying,' but that's not terribly important.) The society that we live in is heavily polluted by bad philosophy, and consequently by immorality, and a great deal of that is enshrined in law. We cannot live lives untouched by that.

That said, this is what I'm actually claiming: that, despite this, there are yet choices to be made. In my view, ethics/morality is a question of making the best possible choices for the purpose of living the best possible life. I believe that, though there is a great deal of initiation of force going around, as I presume we agree, we still have a choice to make as to what extent we will participate, personally, in that initiation of force. And I believe that this choice will have necessary consequences to the fulfillment and furtherance of our lives, and thus I believe it to be a moral question.

In another thread, I recently offered a soft suggestion of a documentary on the "drug war": The House I Live In. While it was not a central point for the filmmaker -- and while it was completely anecdotal, and second-hand at that -- he made an observation on the seeming toll enforcing these laws takes on the people who do it; the police. He speculates that many of these men were interested in serving justice and locking up "bad guys," but then spend their lives at war with the general populace, and that it is deeply dispiriting for them over time. While I disagree with that film/filmmaker on many points, this particular observation speaks to what I picture, when I try to envision myself as a police officer. I think that spending my life and earning my bread via hurting innocent people -- which I would contend is the requirement, when the laws are perverse -- would crush my soul.

 

Not far at all. In fact, I would take it exactly as far as I took it: the current Western world. Even among Western countries, the moral choice is often to pick the best one, rather than stay put and accept any nonsense your countrymen throw at you. 

 

As for Nazi Germany, the moral choice for a person living in Nazi Germany would be to leave, not to try and thrive as part of Nazi society.

All right. I thought you were making an argument in a general form, in my paraphrase:

That the "rule of law" is good, therefore acting to enforce the law is likewise good without respect to the content of those laws. Where the content of those laws is other than good, the moral responsibility for that rests with the lawmakers, while those who enforce those laws may continue to do so with a clean conscience.

And if that was your argument -- those perhaps it was not; maybe I've misread/misunderstood -- then I would find that equally applicable to those who helped to enforce Nazi dictates.

Again in hope of finding a common point of agreement, the USA is far far far from Nazi Germany. The USA is the best country thus far, in my opinion, while obviously the Nazi state would be near or at the very bottom. And yet, the US has certain policies that truly destroy some peoples lives, as unfairly and as immorally as those of the worst historical states. While I understand your point that a moral person would not want to live in Nazi Germany, just as he might make a choice from among Western countries, a person even within the best current Western country has a similar choice to make from among a wide variety of occupations. I don't agree that it is moral to take a career in an apparatus that, whatever other good it might do, commits so many deep injustices so regularly, and which would require a man personally to carry those injustices out.

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I will probably regret this, but I am compelled to respond to Nicky's post on my comments.

 

Nicky stated: In other words, no, you can't. Because cops can't pick and choose which laws to enforce. Not now, and not in an Objectivist society. It's not your job, and not your responsibility.

 

Of course I can pick and choose which laws to enforce. As a man of free will and principle, I can certainly choose not to enforce non-objective laws where there is no victim. And, obviously, such laws, by their very nature, wouldn't exist in an Objectivist society. I am making a moral statement to all those who know me as my small part in attempting to change an immoral, faulty system.

 

Nicky stated in response to my numbered comment on arresting the Commissioner for DUI: This is a criminal act. While I sympathize with having to deal with having a criminal for a superior, I don't understand how that's relevant to the questions in this thread.

 

This is relevant to the original post because that post dealt with matters of principle as pertaining to being a police officer. This particular Commissioner was an habitual drunk and had received many passes from other police officers. I chose to arrest him because he was breaking an objective law, as opposed to a pot smoker who is not. On the same principle of non-objective drug laws, I was disqualified for serving on a jury a few years ago because I told the prosecutor that I did not consider possession of pot to be a crime. The prosecutor, for obvious reasons, did not want me on the jury.

 

Nicky stated in response to 2 and 3 of my numbered comments: Picking and choosing which laws to enforce is not the prerogative of a police officer. Not in current society, and not in an ideal Objectivist country.

 

Of course it's my prerogative to pick and choose. As a man of principle, what kind of man would I be if I chose to enforce non-objective laws just because some idiotic, irrational, non-objective laws somehow found their way into the legal system? Or, as another poster alluded to; should I be a good little Nazi and enforce whatever laws I'm told to simply because the Fuhrer says so?

 

Oh, wait, you did mention that the moral choice would be to leave. So, those are the moral choices available to men? One can enforce the non-objective laws or leave. Don't attempt to change the system. Just obey. Well, I would certainly choose to leave if Galt's Gulch actually existed.

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DonAthos, let me put it this way: would you rather live in a world where cops enforce the drug ban, or in a world where there are no cops?

If it's the former, how can you find any moral fault with a person choosing to become a police officer?

And, like I explained, that is the only actual choice an individual has: be a cop or not be a cop. There is no third, "be a cop but ignore laws you disagree with" option.

 

I am making a moral statement to all those who know me as my small part in attempting to change an immoral, faulty system.

And you got fired for it. Congratulations on your martyrdom. But you can stop sacrificing yourself for the cause now. It's not something Objectivist Ethics asks of you. Objectivists are supposed to be selfish.

If you want to help the cause of freedom, study up on philosophy and join ARI. Those guys are making a difference, have job security, and are probably pulling in six figures a year doing it.

Or join the Republican Party, and be like Rand Paul without the faith or pacifist streak. And once your political career is over, don't be ashamed to take a lucrative private sector gig.

Of course I can pick and choose which laws to enforce. As a man of free will and principle, I can certainly choose not to enforce non-objective laws where there is no victim. And, obviously, such laws, by their very nature, wouldn't exist in an Objectivist society. I am making a moral statement to all those who know me as my small part in attempting to change an immoral, faulty system.

Becoming a cop who disobeys the law is not a way to improve western political systems. It's a way to make them worse. There's a very good reason why politicians get to improve laws, cops get to carry them out, and judges get to interpret them.

In a country of laws, you cannot be a cop who gets to decide the rules by which he operates. You are a civil servant, who works for the government in a specific role. If you want to improve society, you should become a politician, and try to improve the laws. Or an intellectual, and try to improve the voters' understanding of the virtues of Capitalism.

But there's no shortcut around that. There's no easy way, where you convince the government to give you a badge and a gun, and then go around setting your own rules hoping everyone will just leave you to it, and accept that your personal Ethics supersedes the laws of the government who pays you and is giving you your authority to use force as a police officer.

 

Oh, wait, you did mention that the moral choice would be to leave. So, those are the moral choices available to men? One can enforce the non-objective laws or leave. Don't attempt to change the system. Just obey. Well, I would certainly choose to leave if Galt's Gulch actually existed.

I said that the moral choice, if in Nazi Germany, would be to leave. I also said that the moral choice, if in the US, would be to work within the system.

I never said anything about those options being the only ones available to men. There are a million choices for you. You could climb a tree and never come down, if that's what you felt like doing. But you would starve to death. Or you could try becoming a cop who doesn't enforce drug laws again. But you'd get fired again. Or you could try becoming a mechanical engineer who doesn't use public services in any way. But you will fail.

Whenever you're ready to try and be realistic, we'll talk more about this.

Edited by Nicky

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DonAthos, let me put it this way: would you rather live in a world where cops enforce the drug ban, or in a world where there are no cops?

This really isn't the alternative.

If people refuse to enter the force there will be strains on the system, sure. But people can make it known why they aren't entering the police force, which would leave LEO administrations with a decision to make regarding how to use limited resources: Do we continue to enforce the laws that are causing a shortage of talent, or we I enforce other laws? Given enough time and pressure LEOs might flip their position on drug laws in general.

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If people refuse to enter the force there will be strains on the system, sure. But people can make it known why they aren't entering the police force, which would leave LEO administrations with a decision to make regarding how to use limited resources: Do we continue to enforce the laws that are causing a shortage of talent, or we I enforce other laws? Given enough time and pressure LEOs might flip their position on drug laws in general.

You're suggesting a situation where officers who think drug and vice enforcement is wrong leave the force, and it is populated by officers who think going after drug and vice violations is just as legitimate as going after (say) thieves. Will this really lead to a noticeable drop in talent on the thief-prosecuting side? I can see it happening if a significant section of the police -- and by extension of the population -- already thought drug / vice offences should not be prosecuted. However, in that context, we'd be soon rid of the underlying problem anyway. 

 

One cop, explaining why he chose his career, spoke of it being something he decided when quite young (but older than the elementary stage where a lot of boys want to be cops and firemen and soldiers). It was prompted by a robbery and the idea that he wanted to be fighting such thieves. In this sense, the decision is closer to the scientist who wants to pursue a particular field, but knows that government-funding and control is pervasive there. The person has to make a judgement call within the context of a mixed-society. The organization he seeks to join is mixed; that's a given. The only question is: how mixed: how much good and evil? If the organization has crossed the bound into being predominantly oppressive, it is clearly a bad choice. If the police force, as a whole, good and bad, helps uphold rights... I don't think one can generally say it is wrong to become a cop.

 

In the U.S. voters have the power to change things. This means that ideas: ideas held by voters, and ideas promulgated by intellectuals are the key factor at the root of the current system. I have co-workers who work at innocuous jobs that have little to no direct government help, and would probably exist as-is in a free-market. Yet, some of these people have the wrong ideas. And, these people -- summed up across the city, state and country -- are going to employ policemen who will go after robbers and policemen who will go after prostitutes. Do I blame them less -- morally -- than the few cops who are in the force to stop robbers and really want to stop going after prostitutes?

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You wouldn't necessarily blame them less. I know I couldn't throw someone in a cage simply because it was part of the job. I'd probably be willing to accept lower levels of government involvement if I worked in a different government-controlled field (like if I was a nuclear technician). Perhaps on some level it is a matter of personal tolerance, but if you were going to shrug I think it's important to let others know why. 

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DonAthos, let me put it this way:

Yes, all right. But I'm still curious about the ways we had been putting it till now. Let me explain why:

Suppose that at the end of this new line of argument, you and I reach some sort of agreement. Let's say that I concede and declare, "Nicky, you're right -- it's perfectly moral to be a police officer in today's society." Well, I would still believe that the other arguments that you had advanced earlier would be equally applicable to (for instance) the Nazi state. I should still like those arguments clarified, to see either where I misunderstand them, or perhaps where you're mistaken in your approach to this subject. It's not only about arriving at the "correct answer" to one particular question. It's about trying to have a full understanding of these principles and their application. Does that make sense?

So I had attempted a paraphrase of your argument, to explain why I thought it had implication for states outside of the modern US. Was I wrong in my presentation of the argument you had made? I would appreciate any corrections you could offer, or an explanation as to why your arguments do not apply in other situations where "police officers" are asked to execute more dreadful laws (if indeed you think they do not apply in those cases). Or, if you think that the person who acts to enforce laws in a Nazi state -- again for the sake of law and order -- is thereby acting morally, then I would welcome your saying so, because that would further help me to understand your point of view, and my attempt to isolate where and why we disagree.

 

would you rather live in a world where cops enforce the drug ban, or in a world where there are no cops?

But I don't think that this choice is available to me -- do you? If we're dealing in "what I would rather," I would rather live in a world where laws are just, but I'm not getting that for Christmas either. :) I want to deal with the actual choices I have, and then I want to make the best choices.

Here, I am stuck with a world where cops exist and also enforce the drug ban (among other awful things). What this means is, they carry out the initiation of force against innocent civilians. A gross immorality. Given this condition, there are yet choices available to me, in terms of whether and in what ways I lend support to this current system, and in terms of my personal participation (which will have necessary consequences, I have argued, for my "spiritual health").

I don't get to choose from among worlds, exactly, but I do get to choose what I do in this one. And my choice is based upon my belief that my personal happiness (/flourishing/life) is paramount. I believe that to engage in an occupation where I would routinely act to accomplish that which I believe to be evil would be to sacrifice my happiness. And that is what I call "immoral."

 

If it's the former, how can you find any moral fault with a person choosing to become a police officer?

I would ask that you consider trying to see this in a different way, if nothing else but to try to understand the viewpoint I'm attempting to express. To my mind, finding "moral fault" with other people is the least aspect of ethical reasoning. I hope you'll understand it if I don't apologize for "being selfish"? But I don't really care to assess other peoples' morality, except insofar as it directly impacts my life or well-being. I approach questions of ethics or morality instead from the question of "what is best for me"? And come to it, and so I'm clear on this point, I am not saying that "anyone who chooses to become a police officer is immoral." I don't even believe that such a choice necessarily represents a moral failing in itself -- I could easily imagine people who are innocently led into the profession because they believe in justice (as in, actual justice, stopping murderers and the like).

But I feel sorry for those people. I feel sorry, because I believe that they are bound for disillusionment and possibly regret, to the extent that, rather than living lives of heroism, they are instead led to use violence against the innocent, and routinely.

Who cares whether we find "moral fault" with others? I believe that the primary ethical question is what will be the effects for me, in my life, if I select from among two (or more) possible choices. That's at least what I mean when I say that I find it immoral to be a police officer in modern society. I'm not looking to pass judgement on others. But I do mean to say that I believe becoming a police officer, given the context of modern society, would represent a huge personal sacrifice for me, and likewise for any man who believes in justice.

 

And, like I explained, that is the only actual choice an individual has: be a cop or not be a cop. There is no third, "be a cop but ignore laws you disagree with" option.

I'm not arguing that a person should do such a thing, but why not? I mean, in terms of reality, I think that third option does exist (as we have a poster in the thread, for instance, claiming to have done it). But you're saying that to do such a thing is not an option... morally? Or in what other sense?

I could well imagine a cop who refuses to harm the innocent and only take action against the true criminals, in the name of justice, as being a sort of romantic hero. In real life it might be somewhat more messy, granted. I think that would be a very difficult life, and I'm not surprised that our poster got out of it. But you would think such an approach to be immoral... because it works to subvert these immoral laws?

Do you think it generally immoral to try to subvert immoral law? Do you think that every person should always strive to act according to whatever laws happen to exist, in the name of law and order? We really need to pin this down. Do you think that it is always good to uphold the law, irrespective of the content of that law? (Because I find that subtext again and again in your arguments, and I would really like to understand your position better if I'm getting this wrong.) Or do you believe something else?

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Thank you all for the replies. My title to this thread, in full, is "Objectivism and the Contemporary Police Officer; Compatible or Mutually Exclusive?" I think that I had to qualify Police Officer with "Contemporary" because the philosophy of Objectivism requires a government that protects individual rights, yet that's not what "is", today. What I mean by this is that Police is an essential government service, but what we have today is a role that is required yet is tainted, not fully upholding individual rights to the point where the role of employment, Police Officer, isn't compatible with Objectivism. Correct?

 

If a Police Officer protects a civilian from a home intruder yet arrests a young adult for smoking a substance deemed illegal, then how can one be an Objectivist and a Police Officer? An important question is:Can the Police Officer choose to not arrest Prostitutes AND protect civilians from robberies while keeping his employment? If the answer is no, then I think Objectivism and current Police Officers are mutually exclusive.

 

 

 

I agree.

 

 

 

Rule of Law is what protects men from other men, a rule of men would be horrible, or rather I should say, is horrible.

 

By "honest", does this imply that one simply let alone individuals who engage in prostitution and drug use, for example?

 

 

 

 

Can a Police Officer do this and remain employed?

 

 

Curious, so is it possible to be a Police Officer who only upholds individual rights and remain employed, today?

if he lucky

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Ticket quotas seem like a different issue. That officer felt like he was refusing to be part of what he saw to be a corrupt law enforcement policy. 

 

Is a corrupt law enforcement policy different than a bad law? 

 

My main question during the video though was "Why isn't this illiegal? Everyone hates this crap yet its still around, isn't that the voters fault?" 

 

 

(The sheep analogy was awesome).

Edited by Hairnet

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brianleepainter commented: What I mean by this is that Police is an essential government service, but what we have today is a role that is required yet is tainted, not fully upholding individual rights to the point where the role of employment, Police Officer, isn't compatible with Objectivism. Correct?

 

and also commented: Can the Police Officer choose to not arrest Prostitutes AND protect civilians from robberies while keeping his employment? If the answer is no, then I think Objectivism and current Police Officers are mutually exclusive.

 

It is true that police are a requirement of an Objectivist society. It is also true that today's laws are tainted by the non-objective. So, is it possible for an officer to choose not to enforce laws against the non-objective such as prostitution and drugs. As a former police officer, and contrary to what Nicky seems to believe, I can attest to the fact that one can make this choice and remain employed. The caveat is not to get caught.

 

Can one be an Objectivist and remain a police officer who picks and chooses what laws to enforce? Well, actually, the same question could be asked of many positions of employment. In other words, we live in a society fraught with irrationality and one is forced to deal with it if one wants to survive. As I mentioned in a previous post, I quit the police department (not fired as Nicky wrongly drew from my post) because I finally realized that I could not personally maintain the deception of picking and choosing and still be true to myself.

 

However, as an engineer, I learned that I had to often "suck it up" and do what I was told, no matter how irrational the orders from my supervisor-- if I wanted to remain employed. At one point in my career, my job title was Engineering Technical Advisor, responsible for over 40 personnel in the field. I was also the Technical Writer for most engineering documents and, because no one else wanted to to it, I created all brochures and presentations for customers.

 

My supervisor, who was not an engineer and could not begin to do my job, once chided me for being too slow. I tried unsuccessfully to explain that it was more important to get the job done right than it was to do the job quickly. He told me in no uncertain terms that the truly important thing was to "get the job on the street" and let him worry about the rest. So, I was forced to perform "half-assed" work to remain employed merely to satisfy an irrational supervisor. I wonder if this example would be, in principle, significantly different that enforcing non-objective laws.

 

Either way, I was required to act against my principles, and against the principles of Objectivism. So, perhaps one could ask whether or not one can remain an Objectivist in just about any endeavor in today's irrational society. If I were a Hank Rearden or a John Galt, I could probably get away with standing on principle. Otherwise, men today are generally buffeted about by the winds of irrationality.

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