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L. Neil Smith's
585, August 29, 2010

"I have a fundamental human right not to be
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How one can distinguish real protection from a protection racket
by Paul Bonneau
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Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

On a discussion in another forum, it dawned on me that some people still think government is here to protect them. I think it strange that this delusion still exists, and thought I'd put together a checklist to help them distinguish true protection from a protection racket.

Let's start with a couple of examples. An example of true protection, is a father defending his family against a criminal attack, or a rent-a-cop guarding a warehouse. For our example of a protection racket, let's just take the stereotypical pair of husky Sicilians walking into a small business, selling "protection", and hinting some bad people will break the owner's knees if he doesn't buy it.

So then, what characteristics distinguish true protection from a protection racket?

1) With true protection, either the protector is unpaid, or if hiring services, a choice among competing services is available. There is no choice in a protection racket; you are stuck with whomever controls the territory you are in.

2) With true protection, you can fire the provider. Not so with a protection racket; on the contrary, you can't even refuse their "services" when they are "offered".

3) With true protection, protection is the aim, the protected thing or people most important. With a protection racket, extorted money is the aim, and the "protected" thing or money don't matter, life is cheap - with one possible exception. A protection racket will on occasion actually protect against attacks by third parties, if they perceive these third parties are trying to move into their territory. But human life is always secondary to maintaining the racket.

4) With true protection, the it is in the provider's interest to avoid provoking attack. With a protection racket, random attacks are actually in the provider's interest because it scares the clients and makes them more amenable to taking protection services. The attacks may actually originate with the provider.

5) With true protection, a business is maintained independent of the authorities, for the most part. A protection racket usually depends on corruption of authorities and police.

Perhaps there are other distinguishing characteristics, but these are all I came up with.

Now, if you look at this list, government clearly resembles a protection racket more than it looks like honest protection (although #5 doesn't seem to apply in either case).

Next time someone utters the "government is here to protect us" meme, point them at this article.

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