Yesterday I noted with some concern that a latter-day Pinkertons-like army had appeared outside a mine in Wisconsin. Josh Marshall follows up:
When a fishy paramilitary firm run out of a Real Estate Agency in Scottsdale, Arizona shows up in the North Woods of Wisconsin to protect some mining equipment with a slew guards sporting Death Squad chic, that’s, I have to say, a story I want to know more about. But there’s more to it than just the gonzo freakishness of the story.
It’s stories like this, I believe, where we see at the ground level some of the most interesting, terrifying and important trends in our society. This one reminds me of an amazing story from a few years back about a beleaguered town in Montana that got bamboozled by some Wall Street hucksters into floating a big loan to build their own prison. Only they couldn’t find any prisoners to fill it and ended up falling prey to a California based con-man who got them to sign a contract to make the prison profitable but also basically take over the town with his rent-a-goon police force.
Private security services are nothing new. But the trend to more paramilitary types of protection in an era of demonstrably diminished risk is something new. In addition, as our society becomes economically stratified, with a tiny segment living in a wildly different world than everyone else, you have some rational need for security but also the desire for security chic as another accoutrement of wealth or conspicuous consumption.
This dovetails with a story I read this morning from the American Bar Association Journal entitled, "How did America's police become a military force on the streets?" It discusses how heavily-armed SWAT teams busting down doors to make petty pot busts might have alarmed the Founders.
Oh, and the Illinois Legislature yesterday overrode Governor Quinn's veto, making Illinois the very last state to allow people to carry concealed guns. Because despite 11,000 gun deaths a year in the U.S.—an order of magnitude or two more than any other OECD country—having more armed people around will surely make us safer.
We're not Rome yet, but with stories like these, I give us a century or two at the outside. Unless, of course, people in the U.S. decide they don't want to live in a military dictatorship. It could happen.