The End of Policing Means the End of Capitalism — Some Likely but Rarely Discussed Economic Effects of Abolition

A great deal of discussion about police abolition concerns non-police responses to violent crime, but most police work is unrelated to violent crime. Most, maybe all, of this is economic in nature – designed to keep working people from using productive property to meet their own needs directly – to keep the commons enclosed. This work means the police are inextricably integrated into the economy in surprising ways that are largely undiscussed in the context of abolition, which would trigger monumental, almost unimaginable changes in how we as a society meet our human needs through work. It’s likely that the end of policing would mean the end of capitalism, which suggests that it won’t be easy to achieve given the magnitude of what’s at stake.

By police I mean anybody who’s socially authorized to enforce laws or other social rules through the unilateral use of physical force, up to and including the intentional infliction of pain and death. If they’re allowed to hurt people to enforce their commands but people aren’t allowed to hurt back in self defense they’re police. In this sense the existence of police to respond to violence is much less controversial than their other functions. Many, maybe most, people agree that potentially violent responses to violence are appropriate. A lot of the current discussion on post-abolition responses to violence centers on community organized and implemented solutions. It’s not hard to imagine members of the community willing to organize to deal with violence in their neighborhoods, in fact, as in the case of Uvalde and many other less extreme examples, the involvement of police often prevents this natural response.

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If it’s actually true that building more homes makes the rent go down then it’s also true that intentionally keeping units vacant will increase profits

If you pay any attention to online housing discourse you’ve heard repeatedly that we can eliminate homelessness by just building more houses. The most idiotic versions of this theory rely on the (putatively obvious) idea that if the demand for a good is fixed then the price is roughly inversely proportional to the supply. My personal feeling about all theories like this is that they are framing phenomena created by state violence as if they were the result of universal natural laws, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something from them.

In particular we can learn that this supply/price assumption implies that under apparently normal market conditions landlords with more than a few units can maximize their profit by intentionally keeping apartments vacant to artificially restrict supply. If it’s actually true that increasing housing supply functionally decreases housing costs then all else being equal it will lead to house-hoarding. This appears to be a contradiction in the theory.
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