Lowery on Institutional Corruption

Wesley Lowery writes a powerful piece on policing in America. He describes the scene shortly after the death of George Floyd: “Parts of many American cities were on fire and police officers in dozens of places were committing indiscriminate acts of violence—unleashing tear gas, rubber bullets, and worse—against the citizenry they had sworn an oath to serve and protect.”

Here is the key issue: “For years, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets to demand a wholesale reimagining of the criminal-justice system.” He anticipates, “for the first time in our nation’s history, a reality in which black people aren’t routinely robbed of their livelihoods and lives by armed government agents.” So far, he’s not saying anything that any of my libertarian friends wouldn’t say. I have long thought that America’s criminal justice system is in many ways horrifically unjust.

Lowery asks, “What if the activists are right, and the solution is to dismantle American criminal justice and build something better? What might that look like?” He writes about “defunding and dismantling police departments, and ultimately abolishing American policing as it is currently constructed.” It’s entirely unclear to me what this actually means. It sounds like empty utopianism. Nor is it consistent with the meaningful reforms we know are needed: end qualified immunity, end police union contracts that protect bad cops, reform the plea bargain system and the sentencing system, end the death penalty, and so on.

Lowery writes (nominally attributing the view to others) that “the entire American experiment was from its inception designed to perpetuate racial inequality.” Andrew Sullivan addresses this, as I discuss.


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