Functional Anarchy

I was going in to a local grocery to get some things for my wife this weekend, and had to pause as I saw a police cruiser pull to a stop in the fire lane in front of the store. The officer got out of the cruiser and left it running as he went into the store in front of me. I thought this was interesting, and wondered what he was doing. Responding to a call? Getting a donut?

Image found on wikimedia. I'm not stupid enough to take a picture of a police car.

Image found on wikimedia. I’m not stupid enough to take a picture of a police car.

Turns out he was just going inside to get a Mother’s Day card. This isn’t the interesting part of the story. What caught my attention was the fact that he left the cruiser running. Keys in the ignition, in the fire lane, in front of the store. This is anarchy. You may balk and say, well, he’s a police officer. It probably wasn’t his best move (definitely doesn’t fit office regs, I’m sure) but it illustrates a point.

Anarchy isn’t about people being crazy and doing whatever the heck they want, whenever they want. It is about people respecting property, either out of a sense of propriety, or a sense of self-preservation. The officer, rightly, assumed that no one would simply jump in a police cruiser and drive off with it. The point I want to make is the reason he was right in this assumption has less to do with ordered society than with functional anarchy.

A ‘law abiding citizen’ wouldn’t jump in the car and drive off because that would be illegal. There are all sorts of reasons they might come to this conclusion, “I’d be arrested”, “I’d be fined”, “I’d be shot”. All of these are valid reasons not to take the cruiser. The funny thing is, it isn’t the officer’s property, it belongs to the police force, and thus is payed for by the citizens’ taxes. It’s more right to say that the citizens own the cruiser, and the officer is borrowing it. But none of them take it.

Now, you may say this isn’t anarchy, and you’re right. What an anarchist would think on seeing that same situation is, “It’s not mine, so I’m not going to take it.” You might throw up your hands and say, “well that’s what I thought before those other things as well,” and I’d tell you, “then you are an anarchist.”

We should all be able to drive up to a store, leave the keys in the ignition and the car running, and go in to grab a mother’s day card without fear of our car being driven off by someone else. It shouldn’t take the fear of a badge to keep people behaving. If you think this is idealism, then why are the police officers the only ones able to do this kind of thing?


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