Boston: Centralization vs. Friedrich Hayek and Jane Jacobs
By David Henderson
The Massachusetts’ governor’s response to one murderer being at large was to shut down an entire large city–de facto, martial law. Various commenters have said that he “asked” people to stay in their homes. That might be literally true. But then we need to ask ourselves: what if someone had gone out on the street, walking or driving? Would that person have been confident that he would not have treated pretty roughly by the cops, maybe even tackled to the ground or even shot? I think not. Look at what happened in southern California when cop-killer Chris Dorner was at large. Police shot innocent people because their vehicles looked like Dorner’s. Many of the cops acted like a bunch of thugs. Can we really believe that many of the Boston cops would not have acted like a bunch of thugs?
And here’s the irony: besides the fact that the authorities in Massachusetts delivered a body blow to freedom, IT DIDN’T WORK. They didn’t find the suspect.
What did work? Citizens acting in a decentralized way, once the lockdown was lifted. Here’s Boston.com:
By 6 p.m., frustrated officials relaxed the rule and allowed residents to leave their homes. The people of Watertown began to venture outside.
But within an hour, the crack of gunshots again blasted through the neighborhood. Sirens blared, and officers on foot scrambled down Franklin Street.
Police found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev hiding on a boat stored in a backyard on Franklin Street. Police exchanged gunfire with him before capturing him alive. Spontaneous celebrations erupted across the region, from the Boston Common to the Back Bay streets near the bombing.
The boat’s owners, a couple, spent Friday hunkered down under the stay-at-home order. When it was lifted early in the evening, they ventured outside for some fresh air and the man noticed the tarp on his boat blowing in the wind, according to their his son, Robert Duffy.
The cords securing it had been cut and there was blood near the straps. Duffy’s father called police, who swarmed the yard and had the couple evacuated, Duffy said.
This is not unusual. It illustrates the late Jane Jacobs’ insight, in The Death and Life of American Cities, about “eyes on the street” being important for keeping crime in check and it illustrates Hayek’s point, in “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” about the importance of decentralized information. Although Hayek never used his insight to discuss these issues, I have. [See here and the links therein.]
Here’s how blogger “Clark” put it succinctly:
[K]eeping citizens off the street meant that 99% of the eyes and brains that might solve a crime were being wasted. Eric S Raymond famously said that “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”. It was thousands of citizen photographs that helped break this case, and it was a citizen who found the second bomber. Yes, that’s right – it wasn’t until the stupid lock-down was ended that a citizen found the second murderer.
That’s the irony. Here’s the absurdity:
Law enforcement asked Dunkin’ Donuts to keep restaurants open in locked-down communities to provide… food to police… including in Watertown, the focus of the search for the bombing suspect.
This is NOT from the Onion, but, again, from Boston.com.
HT to Less Antman.