The Relative Invisibility of Policing in Contemporary Capitalism

Skill improves with experience. An experienced artist may be able to paint with one quick line something that would previously have taken a whole canvas full of brushstrokes. This is an individual process, but it happens in society as well. Social systems also become more efficient with increasing experience.1 A shepherd with a dog, a fence, and an ATV can control more sheep of the sort bred to respond to those tools with less effort than could ever have been done without them. They’re all elements in a social system.2

Policing in the United States is also a social system, founded in the need to control enslaved human beings. The very visibility of the horrors of slavery, the constant terrorism required to hold human beings in bondage, was a weakness in the system. The enslavers’ legal technology didn’t constrain their brutality towards their victims, so any systemic restraint must have gone towards stability. Isolation of slaves was one solution to this problem, a solution adopted by England with the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act, which kept slaves out of sight in the Americas even as the blood soaked money continued to pour into the treasury.
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State Violence, The Diamond/Water Paradox, and an Invisible Axiom of Classical Economics

The diamond/water paradox is a name given to the fact that water has infinitely high use value but only minimal exchange value whereas roughly the opposite is true for diamonds. Apparently economists have been trying to untangle this putative problem for centuries, but my thesis is that it’s actually no problem at all. It seems paradoxical only because these economists have completely ignored the role of state violence in creating value and maintaining capitalism. Without state violence there would be no capitalist economy for them to study and prices of things would be very different than they are now.1

People need water, food, and shelter to survive. For a million years of human history people found countless successful ways to meet these needs directly, for themselves, their families, their communities, without being violently forced by zillionaires to cede a share of the value they created. Fundamentally, capitalism is possible only because if you charge money for those needs and kill anyone who tries to meet them without paying you can force masses of people to labor for your benefit.2
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