Trump is right when he says that as “far-left mayors are escalating the anti-cop crusade … violent crime is spiraling in their cities.” In New York City, shootings during one week in June were up 358 percent over the previous year, while the number of police retirements has skyrocketed 411 percent — a vote of no confidence in the city’s left-wing leadership. In Atlanta, murders are up 86 percent. In Minneapolis, shootings are up 47 percent. In Philadelphia, shootings involving children are up 43 percent, and 96 percent of the victims are black. In Chicago, 106 people were shot during a single weekend in June, 14 of them fatally, while this past weekend, 64 people were shot, and 11 died. All these cities are run by Democrats.
Then there is the spineless response of these local Democratic leaders to violent protests in their cities. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan called the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, which took over several city blocks and a park, a “block party” and compared it to the “summer of love” — only to see multiple assaults and two murders take place in the police-free zone she permitted to exist for nearly a month. In Portland, Ore. — a hotbed of antifa violence — mayhem has raged for nearly two months as violent protesters have set more than 100 fires, looted business and done millions of dollars in property damage to local businesses. Rioters have attacked police with rocks, glass bottles, soup cans, frozen water bottles, bricks and fireworks, according to court documents filed by police. The mayor seems unable or unwilling to quell the violence.
Trump declared that enough is enough and that he and Attorney General William P. Barr will soon unveil a plan to “to straighten things out.” But maybe he shouldn’t. The genius of our federal system is that states and localities serve as what the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called laboratories of democracy that can “try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” Right now, many of America’s cities are conducting social experiments in lawlessness, showing the rest of the country what happens when local leaders join calls to “defund the police” and cower in the face of violence.
There is an argument for just letting those experiments play out. After all, we are told elections have consequences. Well, the people in those cities voted for weak Democratic mayors and city council members. Maybe if they experience the consequences of incompetent Democratic leadership, they’ll do what New Yorkers did in the 1990s and vote in tough-on-crime Republicans to restore law and order.
Or they can move. As Milton Friedman explained in “Capitalism and Freedom,” the beauty of our system of dispersed power is that, “if I do not like what my local community does … I can move to another local community. … If I do not like what my state does, I can move to another. [But] if I do not like what Washington imposes, I have few alternatives in this world of jealous nations.” In recent years, growing numbers of Americans quit high-tax blue states such as California for low-tax red states like Texas. If disastrous fiscal policies can spark this kind of migration, maybe disastrous policing policies will do the same.
Of course, the counterargument is: What about the people in Portland, Seattle and other cities where violence is out of hand who did not vote for feckless Democrats? Why should they be subjected to violence? Moreover, although wealthier residents may be able to pick up and leave, the poorer citizens of these cities who depend on social assistance and public housing don’t have the resources to do so. And what about small business owners who have poured their life savings into enterprises that have been looted and vandalized? If they pick up and leave, they lose everything.
It’s unfair to leave these Americans defenseless. And it’s arguably the president’s responsibility to do something about it.
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