The market – now there’s an arresting idea for law and order

The Police Federation’s recent claim a few months back that London’s 24,000 constables have ‘no confidence’ in their leader, Sir Ian Blair, and Tony Blair’s recent admission that Labour still has not got it right on law and order, are all symptoms of a deeper problem that few in our political establishment seem ready to face. Our nationalised police service is a manifest failure and much of it should be swept away in a tide of consumer based reform.

As is the case with all nationalisations, union bosses fight the management, politicians are pained by the organisation’s inability to keep up with demand and ordinary people feel anger at an unresponsive and out of touch service.

For a number of years in the early 1990s I was an occasional guest lecturer on the Strategic Command Course of the National Police Staff College at Bramshill. There I taught the economics and politics of the future to Britain’s brightest up and coming senior police officers.

Away from all the spin of on-the-record professional and governmental propaganda, I was constantly struck by the officers’ understanding of their own situation and plight. Like many people in nationalised industries they well understood that so long as they remained in the state sector they would inevitably be the play things of vote seeking politicians – and not the ordinary people in communities they invariably wanted to serve.

Having signed up to deliver better law and order they often found themselves in a politicised bureaucracy that forced them to fill in endless forms so that a minister could stand at the dispatch box in the House of Commons and recite a Home Office version of the Soviet mantra: ‘tractor production is rising’.

As the play things of ever more statute and an endless array of moral panics, the police have been turned by successive governments more into an extension of social services than a force to deliver real law and order. But it does not have to be like this and there was a time not so long ago when things were very different.

Today, for every police officer in the UK there are now more than two private security guards. In our high streets, in countless private developments and across the country’s shopping centres, a diverse and ever more professional army of private guards and security personnel are being employed to protect people, property and livelihoods.

Now, while the state police force commenced with an Act of Parliament in 1829, between 1750 and 1850 Britain had a multitude of private law enforcement agencies. The services on offer ranged from the systematic use of newspaper advertising to professional detectives and thief-catchers.

Perhaps the most significant of these were the private associations for the prosecution of felons. These were voluntary associations of citizens that were initially set up to defray the sizeable costs of mounting criminal prosecutions and over time they grew to essentially resemble private police forces.

Over the years they acquired by popular demand a wide range of functions including crime-prevention and insurance. And association members paid for services in proportion to their ability to pay. The income was then used for compensation of loss through theft or criminal damage, to recover stolen goods, or to cover criminal prosecutions – particularly the compiling of information against known delinquents. Moreover, the monies raised were used to finance permanent community foot-patrols or watchers.

Between 1744 and 1856 more than 450 such associations were established. By the 1830s the largest and most successful of these agencies – organisations like the Barnet Association – had effectively become private police forces in their own right.

The evidence suggests that these private services were hugely popular. Providing a service that was reasonably priced, efficient and totally focused on real crime, one can only imagine how much better things would be today if they had been allowed to continue and thrive.

While in the early nineteenth century the political class eventually managed to push through a network of tax funded constabularies (this process took more than fifteen years and was often opposed by most counties) the membership of the private sector had spanned the social classes and was by no means confined to the well healed.

It is an irony that while in the 1820s and 1830s many Tories opposed police nationalisation – prophetically complaining that the service would prove ineffective and detrimental to liberty – the police now stand as one of the political class’s favoured nationalisations.

What politicians find so difficult to admit is that as the British state increasingly fails to deliver in those areas where it remains active so ever larger numbers of people are defecting to an emboldened private sector. In desperately trying to get themselves off the hook of past promises, politicians obfuscate and confuse so that they can hide the defecting millions who are opting for private solutions.

For instance, on the back of an inevitably failing NHS, seven million people have private medical insurance and another six million are covered by private health cash plans. In 2004, more than 250,000 people chose to self-fund for independent acute surgery without any insurance at all. Below the radar screen of popular politics, more than eight million people went private for a range of complimentary therapies last year and today more than 3.5 million trade unionists – more than 50 per cent of the Trade Union Congress’s membership – now enjoy the benefits of either private medical insurance or private health cash plan schemes. That’s in addition to rise of the private spectacles industry over the last twenty years and the nationwide collapse of NHS dentistry.


  1. Tim:

    This a superb, succinct summary and analysis of the situation.

    However, it does not seem to address a familiar problem:

    “Who Shall Guard The Guardians?”

    To avoid the grotesque dangers of a fully-fledged Police State in Britain, policing organizations were split into 44 Area Divisions.

    Further, to avoid a power grab by MI5, the “British Security Service”, two measures were put in place:

    (1) MI5 (the British Security Service) was subject to the Maxwekk-FFyfe Directive, whereby their overarching mission had to be:

    (Inter alia): The Upholding of Parliamentary Democracy in the United Kingdom:

    The actual Operational Activities to be carried through by SEPARATED Special Branch sections each with its locus in the 44 separated Police Forces, under the SEPARATED control of each Chief Constable.

    Yet Dame Stella Rimington, formerly Chief of the British Security Service, trlls us all on television, in a steely, brave address to camera, that Britain IS (as of RIGHT NOW!) a Police State.

    Fillowing Alfred Tarski’s Correspondence Methodology of Truth-Content Determination,

    The statement “Britain is a Police State” is TRUE IF, AND ONLY IF Britain is, in fact, a Police State. The statement in quotes can be formed in ANY language whatsoever, thus utilizing the statement in quotes as a Metalanguage, speaking in logical terms.

    See the wiki on Alfred Tarski for more…

    It MAKES NO DIFFERENCE whether or not policing forces are publically-owned or privately-owned. At the ‘receiving end’ of gtoss abuses, THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE.

    As it happens, we have a near-perfect example of this RIGHT NOW.

    It is instructive in the highest degree to advance to the Web site of the Association of Chief Police Officers:

    Here, you will be told that ACPO is a private company limited by guarantee, owned by its two hundred and eighty odd Members, who are ALL Chief Constables of all 44 Police Forces, and their assorted Deputies and Assistants.

    ACPO SAYS that ut is a private organization of ALL the most senior Police Officers of this country.

    “One Ring to Bind them ALL.”

    Privately-owned, yet with a POLICE.UK URL?


    The individual Special Branch officers, controlled by each Chief Constable, are the action arms of MI5… without them, MI5 cannot ACT.

    They are under the unified control of ACPO Members…

    Special Branches perform the vetting of all politicians and senior bureaucrats. They have BLACKMAIL DEADLOCKS on them.

    And — as we saw so graphically in the case of Stephen Waldorf — the Special Branch Officers who shot him in the head and body fifteen times in plain sight in Central London were charged wuth — and acquitted — of attempting to MURDER Waldorf were ACQUITTED by reason of the fact that they stated that they believed themselves to be arresting one David Martin, described as a most dangerous criminal.

    I remember this case so easily because Hillel Steiner had held an Open Inquiry into the Libertarian Alliance dispute of 1982-1983 at the Waldorf Hotel in London…

    I had been asked to stay on after the Inquiry by the Anti-Terrorist Branch of the metropolitan Police, so as to gather intelligence on the stances, mind-sets and intentions of David Ramsay Steele and his associates, who were continously threatening to publish ruinous — qute possibly LETHAL — allegations againt Chris Tame, the LA Secretary, if their demands were not complied with. Both David ramsay Steele AND Chris R. Tame were amongst my closest personal friends, so this was all VERY DIFFICULT for me…

    Our Solicitor, Andrew Needleman, had forwarded particulars of all this to the Director of Public Prosecutions as tantamount to making Unwarranted Demands with Menaces.

    Some “libertarians” seem to think that Blackmail and Extortion is “O.K.”

    I DON’T…

    Steele physically attacked me is bizarre ways, then threatened to kill me, lurching across the table beteen us to attempt it. He was forcibly restrauned by his associates, and U left forthwith, wuth David McDonagh snarling at me:


    I replied “YES” at the timel but I still don’t fully understand it all, even now…

    I went straight home, and notified the Anti-Terrorist Branch (as I have concerning the recent attacks, torture and threats of unufirmed officers at Southmead Police Station, where I had attended — firther to the Advice of Crown Prosecution Service HQ — to make formal complaints against http://www.safecam.org.uk , whose ‘Chair’ just happens to be Jackie Roberts, the Assistant Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Constabulary…

    [ FX: “By their deeds ye shall know them…” ]

    During an interview with two “Tom-and-Jerry” Officers on 13 January 1983, I was offered the option of having Steel prosecuted for multiple assaults and threats to murder.

    To do so would have destroyed Steele’s life ,career and marriage, as well as anmy prospects of his living in the United States, as well as his brilliant contributions to the Wars of Ideas, which have been and are of stellar value…

    Steele responded by having Mark Brady publish a “blackmailer’s revenge” ‘expose’ in “Libertarian Vanguard”, an organization controlled by US Government informers, with Wiliamson Evers, Murray Rothbard’s Lieutenant, who most recently served L. Paul Bremer, formerly Managing Director of Kissinger Associates and appointed US Viceroy, Iraq, with DISASTROUS consequences.

    [ FX: “All that Kissinger touches turns to crap” ]

    today I returned voluntarily, freely, to Southmead Police Station (as a principal, not a messenger) to ask that the two sergeants who deprived my of my liberty, attacked me, tortured me, threatened me and told me I could leave at any time if I ceased asking them to record particulars of crimes; were free to talephone me and I would thereafter take them out and buy them a dinner, whereby we could discuss ANYTHING except the pending cases…

    I told the female officers that if (and only if) the two sergeants actually KNEW what they were doing on the Night of 24 February 2009 at Southmead Police Station, then they were almost unimaginably brave, regardless of the merits…

    The Officer took one glance at my official cap of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation, laughed gloriously and freely, said “YES!!!” then ‘normal Service’ resumed, and that she would ensure that they got the note.

    We said “Goodbye” and I left, freely…

    My heart was singing… Smiles…

    Tony Hollick, presently reading Victor Davis Hanson’s “The Western Way of War” (Oxford, [1989]).


    “The Secret of Happiness is Freedom; and the Secret of Freedom is Courage.” — Thucydides

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