TCS Daily

Foundations of the Kling School

By Arnold Kling - March 15, 2007 12:00 AM

"Sociologists have a deep appreciation of imitation and conformity as a basic feature of human behavior. Economists rarely model this explicitly. If it is so important, as sociologists have shown, then economists are really missing the boat."
-- Fabio Rojas

I dream that ten or fifteen years from now, a handful of young economists at a gathering will notice that several of them got started thinking about economics by reading my columns. They will call themselves the Kling school!

In my view, there are three foundations that together distinguish the Kling school from other approaches to economics and political economy.

1. Economics should be subsumed under the general study of human behavior, not the other way around.

2. What matters most for economic performance is firms entering and leaving the market. Free entry and exit produces economic growth over time, which is more important than the allocation of resources at any given point in time.

3. Government is not a person. It is an institution.

Most of the rest of this essay will discuss the first point, which is that we are more than just homo economicus. Instead, we are creatures of habits, predispositions, customs, beliefs, and ethical codes. I came to this view through John Maynard Keynes and Robert Solow. However, there are other ways to arrive at it - -perhaps someone more intimately familiar than I am with the work of Friedrich Hayek might find it in his writings, for example. More recently, I have benefited from encouragement and reading suggestions given by Anglospherist James Bennett and colleagues.

The focus on the second point -- entry and exit -- is my most pronounced intellectual tic. It has been a theme in all three of my books, as well as any that I might write in the future. It accounts for my libertarian leanings, because I see government -- if not everywhere and always, then at least most of the time -- as the enemy of free entry and exit.

In economics, the focus on the dynamics of competition is associated with Joseph Schumpeter. However, apart from the phrase "creative destruction," I know almost nothing of Schumpeter's work. Instead, my views emerged out of my experience in business in the 1980's and 1990's, where I observed organizational behavior from the inside. Late in 1997, when I returned to writing about economics after more than a dozen years' absence, I was obsessed with analyzing the differences between large, planning-driven organizations and small experimental firms. My earliest essays (I am thinking of numbers 3, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16) were on this theme. A few years later, I was excited to discover that Amar Bhide had conducted research that validated and extended my perceptions.

The third point, that government is not a person, seems obvious. It would be hard for me to lose sight of it. My father, a political scientist, instructed me on this as a child and has reinforced it right up to this day.

Too many people forget that government is not a person. For example, George Lakoff, in his treatise Moral Politics, correctly points out that many people use a family metaphor, seeing government as a parent. But he himself does not reject the metaphor! He merely goes on to make a case for government behaving as a "nurturant" parent rather than as a "strict-father" parent.

Libertarians too often speak of "the state" as if government were a monolothic entity. They need to absorb The Federalist Papers, number 10. My father would tell them that even a Latin American junta or Soviet Communist government or college faculty can only be understood in terms of internal differences, interest groups, and factions.

Economic textbooks in the tradition of Paul Samuelson or Richard Musgrave took government to be an omniscient optimizer of the social welfare. While this is legitimately useful for hypothetical purposes (what would a benevolent dictator do?), it is too often mistaken for an empirical description. Even public choice theory, which attempts to provide a reality check for economists, fails to capture the rugby-scrum character of the political arena.

Tipping and Taxes

The main theme of this essay is that self-interested rational calculation is only a subset of human behavior. As an illustration, consider the custom of tipping in restaurants. Why would Economic Man leave a tip, particularly at a restaurant where he does not plan to return?

Economic Man could reason as follows: Other people leave tips for good service. That will induce the waiter to provide good service to me. But I don't have to leave a tip. I can "free ride" on the tips of others, enjoying good service without leaving a tip.

An economist who takes this sort of thinking seriously would expect to see market failure in tipping. I can imagine a Joseph Stiglitz-type proof that government intervention is needed. The fact that the tipping custom survives without such intervention reflects the importance of habits, beliefs, and ethics in determining behavior.

Another example of customary behavior is paying income taxes. The conceptual differences between leaving a tip and paying income taxes are not as large as they might first appear. If tipping were under the aegis of complex bureaucratic regulations and income taxes were based on citizens following the custom as they best see fit, we might resent the former more than the latter. As it stands today, tipping is much less unpleasant, because you do not have to fill out complicated forms. But if we were to become convinced by a Stiglitzian demonstration that tipping requires regulation, then you can be certain that in order to calculate our obligatory tip, government would force us to fill out forms detailing how well the waiter explained the menu, whether the food was served sufficiently hot, and so on.

Although a libertarian would argue that the government obtains tax revenues at gunpoint, the fact is that most people pay their taxes willingly. In fact, I can imagine a government being entirely supported by voluntary contributions, in which citizens make their payments on the basis of habits, beliefs, and values. Churches and other charitable entities are able to collect voluntary donations without an implicit threat of imprisonment.

Rationality Is Like a Hat

I have no sympathy for the economic imperialists who insist that every action must be explained in terms of the rational, self-interested calculator. Instead, I would start with the presumption that every action can be explained in terms of habits, customs, and the like. Making rational economic decisions is just one of many habits. Rational, economic behavior is like a hat. Sometimes we wear the hat, and sometimes we do not.

I also have no sympathy for behavioral economics. All it does is take the rational, individualistic model and extend it to include common biases and mistakes. It generally ignores the larger context of behavioral influences, particularly the social ones, including the "imitation and conformity" mentioned by Fabio Rojas in the quote with which I began this essay.

Finally, I should emphasize that I have no sympathy with those who view self-interested economic calculation as a bad habit. On the contrary, I believe it is a very good habit, particularly when it is combined with other habits and ethics for commercial behavior. I believe that good skills in commerce are an important part of our moral and mental development. I also believe quite strongly, as I wrote in the essay Economic Man vs. Status Man, that there exist less attractive motives than economic self-interest.

When people speak of the public good, or the good of all, as being of higher value than economic calculation, they tend to engage in (self-)deception. Libertarians have got it right that the greatest crimes of the past century, including mass murders under Stalin and Mao, were committed by governments in the name of the public good.

The Drunk and the Lamppost

Economists use the concept of Economic Man -- the rational, self-interested calculator -- as a behavioral assumption. This is a powerful analytical tool, as long as we recognize its limits. I said earlier that my views on the limits were influenced by Keynes and by Solow, and in this section of the essay I want to elaborate.

In terms of a classic joke, Economic Man is the lamppost where economists stand. We are usually better off staying close to our lamppost, instead of stumbling around in the dark. But every once in a while we need to find something that is not near our lamppost.

For example, the Great Depression and the phenomenon of involuntary unemployment are outside the standard economic paradigm. Looking under the lamppost, it is hard to find reasons for excess saving and low investment.

What Keynes argued -- and this point is made most clearly in Volume 2 of Robert Skidelsky's classic biography -- is that saving and investing are two different habits. One reflects the desire to hoard, and the other reflects the desire to create ("animal spirits"). When animal spirits are high, all of the hoarders' savings are pressed into service. However, when animal spirits are low, Keynes argued, there is no mechanism by which businessmen can be induced to invest.

Keynes' views of investor psychology were featured over thirty years ago in two best-selling books about the stock market by George Goodman (aka 'Adam Smith'), The Money Game and Supermoney. In high school and college, those books turned me on to Keynes, but I found in graduate school that his psychological insights were neutered and buried in mathematical manipulation.

By the late 1970's, the shadow of the Great Depression had lifted, and the new puzzle was stagflation -- a combination of high inflation and high unemployment that, until it occurred in the 1970's, was regarded as highly improbable. The up-and-coming solution to the stagflation puzzle originated in Chicago and other lakeside universities. The resulting conflict between sweetwater and saltwater (if you follow the link, scroll down to the heading labeled "macroeconomics") and the apparent incompatibility between the solution to the Depression puzzle and the solution to the stagflation puzzle absorbed most of my mental energy when I was in graduate school.

Few people appreciate what a profound and disturbing puzzle the Depression posed. The non-economist has no trouble getting her mind around the notion of a shortage of jobs. But for an economist, such a shortage is nonsense. If there is an excess supply of, say, construction workers, then the wage of construction workers should adjust downward. As the wage rate sinks, the demand for construction workers rises, and the supply of people willing to work in construction falls. As the competitive process unfolds, bidding down wage rates, eventually supply and demand will balance.

In theory, at any rate, unemployment -- an excess supply of labor -- should accordingly be self-correcting. But evidently, as the Great Depression showed, the labor market lacks in practice the adjustment mechanisms that are supposed to work in theory.

There are hundreds of theories that try to explain the apparent inflexibility of labor markets. But I have never forgotten a suggestion made by Robert Solow. He pointed out that you never see an unemployed worker walk up to an employer and say, "If you let me have that guy's job, I'll work for 10 percent less money." There are self-imposed ethical limits on competition.

If you think about it, there are probably countless self-imposed ethical precepts that affect our economic behavior. Chances are, without the habits incorporating these ethical precepts, our market system would collapse altogether. Like the water in which a fish swims, our commercial morality is invisible to us. But it is essential.

Habits Matter

For a long time, the goal of the economist was to influence government policies, on issues such as trade or regulation. This is still a worthy goal, because the economic analysis of how people behave when they are wearing their rational-calculator hats is still valid. However, there is an important lesson in the fact that people wear other behavioral hats. That lesson is that habits matter.

My thinking has evolved in the direction of trying to influence people's habits. I have become persuaded that the American habit to "form associations" that de Tocqueville found is central to America's success. The ability of individuals to co-operate effectively outside of the framework of an extended family, clan, or tribe is what separates successful societies from those that are economically and politically impoverished. This view is articulated at greater length in What Causes Prosperity?, where I speculated on the role of ethics in leading to economic growth.

If you want to reduce poverty overseas -- and, I suspect, here in America as well -- you have to convince people to change some of their habits. The process of changing people's habits may include government policy changes that affect their incentives, but the government policy changes themselves may be more a result than a cause of broader social evolution.

If people expect too little from government, this will lead to bad habits. If people expect government to be incompetent and corrupt, then they may be unable to bring about improvement, and they may be unable to protect personal property. If people expect too much from government, then they may lose the habits of self-reliance and forming associations that are needed for a healthy society. In the United States today, I worry most about people expecting too much from government. I would urge Americans to try to reinforce the habit of relying on nongovernmental solutions and to be skeptical about governmental approaches.

Arnold Kling is a TCS Contributing Editor and author of Learning Economics and Crisis of Abundance.



Sign me up for the Kling School!
Great essay Arnold. It seems to me that the approach to economics that you endorse is very similar to the Austrian school.

I'd go yet one step further
and declare that economics is a sub-set of anthropology, which is a sub-set of philosophy...

what that means i can't exactly say (maybe we should restructure most 'Humanities' buildings and assert that economics is actually one of the fundemental sub-sets of anthro; those currently being cultural, physical (archaeology), biological and linguistics) but its obvious (isn't it?) that economics is just another study of human interaction

(got too quick on the post button there)
....but its obvious (isn't it?) that economics is just another study of human interaction - and that nearly, if not all, human interaction is based upon an ethical model.

"convince people to change some of their habits."
There is one way government can help convince people to change their habits.

The government can do its job by consistenly enforcing the law and eliminating corruption.

Business conducted by winks and nods do not help to build vibrant economies.

And I don't believe this just occurs in turd world countries but also in politically corrupt cities and counties across the USA.

I would suggest the level of economic stagnation and decline in a city is directly proportional to the level of corruption in local government.

Foundation Trilogy
Add this book to the Kling School of economics.

"I have a dream."
"In fact, I can imagine a government being entirely supported by voluntary contributions, in which citizens make their payments on the basis of habits, beliefs, and values."

Perhaps, but it would be a very different government exercising only its enumerated powers; and, exercising them effectively. I am not sure we could return that close to the federal government envisioned by the framers. I, like you, can dream, however.

An interesting thing about this....
'If people expect too little from government, this will lead to bad habits. If people expect government to be incompetent and corrupt, then they may be unable to bring about improvement, and they may be unable to protect personal property. If people expect too much from government, then they may lose the habits of self-reliance and forming associations that are needed for a healthy society. In the United States today, I worry most about people expecting too much from government. I would urge Americans to try to reinforce the habit of relying on nongovernmental solutions and to be skeptical about governmental approaches.'

Is that Iceland was without government for 400 years and who can ogvern Sicily?

Is that Iceland was without government for 400 years and who can govern Sicily? It seems that Government far less effective than we think.

Perhaps very local Governments, maybe city states would be best as long thier is little benefit to fighting.

Voluntary taxes got me dreaming too. Wow what if I could reduce my taxes by striking out the government services I don't want. Some would find this appalling. So they would band together into like minded communities. Activism would become more local. Federal government would cut back to essentials like defense, currency, interstate comm...
Oh never mind. Wake up.

One point...
Let me return to this at more depth later this evening because there is a lot to talk about here. I do like the assumptions. However:

In the last paragraph Dr. Kling states: "If people expect too little from government, this will lead to bad habits." And he gives the example of social anarchy.

The author immediately follows with "If people expect too much from government, then they may lose the habits of self-reliance...I worry most about people expecting too much from government."

It is nice for a social scientist or an economist to take both such positions so as to blame the people and the government too when a society or its economy misbehaves.

Well. The problem is that the government is weak (corrupt) and the people do not believe in its willingness to enforce the rule of law. Or the government is strong (overbearing) and the people have relinquished too many of their civil responsibilities to its bureaucracy. Do we have even one example of a government that has just the right strength and citizens who have an accurate sense of what to expect?

Dr. Kling's says "My thinking has evolved in the direction of trying to influence people's have to convince people to change some of their habits." More with the trying to get people to change the way they behave? Cripes. We can't seem to get people to stop the "rape, murder and pillage" or the "lie, cheat and steal" behavior. Even here in America. Let alone in the 95% of the rest of the world that we are trying to get the global economy on track to serve.

The economist gets to be the high priest (or Mr. Spock) and point out the logical flaws arguing both sides of the same conundrum. But not taking (line management) responsibility himself for specific problem solving and actually making things work.

I don't think we need to "urge Americans be skeptical about governmental approaches." They got that one right already.

I'll be back...

The problem with Sociology...
If Economics is another type of Sociology then we are stuck with the soft and fuzzy, qualitative, wouldn't it be nice, let's idealize, intuitive, philospohical approach. We posit...

Financial capitalism is composed of mechanisms that are not intuitive. Being really cerebral does not count at all if you have never worked in finance, accounting and banking. Read some of these economists and you will see. They do not know where money comes from.

We do not yet understand fundamental human social behavior because we have not done the basic research. With any mammalian model. Not even with mice!

As a business decision maker I want to know what will happen when I manage my company composed of people, deal with other companies and interact with the market composed of individual consumers.

Cripes. Our government does not even know what will happen when we invade a country, sack their government, introduce the concept of democracy and have them write a constitution.

If economists are going to advise governments regarding the subtleties of market behavior while other disciplines of sociology cannot predict civil wars then what confidence should we have in any such model?

Human interaction is actually based on human biology. We like to discuss behavior in terms of ethical models...but people do not consult any sociology handbook to see what they should do next. Indeed "human interaction is [not] based upon an ethical model".

At best sociology attempts to describe cultural behaviors that are already alive in the world rather than to manage them. Sociology is simply not ready to go to work yet. (Cultural Anthropology is overwhelmed by racial prejudices and models based on ethnic stereotypes. The discipline itself is practically useless.)

Let's get quantitative! The author did his PhD at MIT, for crying out loud...

OK...I'm back...
Dr. Kling,

Your three fundamental assumptions are great. So let's stay with them.

If economics are a subset of human behavior it follows that we cannot understand economics until we understand human behavior.

Human behavior is cultural behavior and each society has its own view of the processes that create wealth within the context of their larger social idiom.

Rather than to create one theory of ideal economic behavior and then to engage in any "process of changing people's habits", as you say, why not develop hundreds of economic models to fit the cultures already in place? (And this means doing way more than simply formalizing the ancient Asian business of making micro loans without collateral traditionally known as "5/6" over there.)

Actually you probably violate your first assumption with the statement: "The ability of individuals to co-operate effectively outside of the framework of an extended family, clan, or tribe is what separates successful societies from those that are economically and politically impoverished."

Here you are talking about our "open economic system" that assumes people should be able to do business with strangers. Of course, such behavior relies on the "rule of law" enforced by a strong central government and paid for by the heavy taxation of a robust GDP.

It is easy to say that a tribal society is "economically and politically impoverished" because they can (de facto) only do business with people they know and trust, because their government does not have the resources to enforce the laws of contracts and property that might already be is easy to say the reason these folks are impoverished is that they are tribal. But the fact is that the only reason we don't fall back into such behavior ourselves is that we already have a strong central government that mobilized us to fight war after war for the past 200 years and that crushed our small towns and shattered our family ties dragging us all over America to build the economic juggernaut that finally defeated the Soviets and won the Cold War (1991). We have not yet demobilized. We still live next door to strangers. And depend on the military police to keep the peace. There are so many police officers and National Guard here (with Marines standing by) that America is occupied by the military of our own government.

We have infrastructure to manage 300 million people as an open society because we are an armed camp still mobilized to fight a world war. Nations that are also carring the overhead burden of a competition, central government include Japan, Germany, Great Britain, Russia, China, Taiwan and South Korea.

Of course we need to be able to do business with strangers. All we ever see are strangers. Strangers are free to come into our neighborhoods. Our homes are portfolio assets that we live in...might as well...until we cash them out.

But this is not the natural way for people to live. Your assumption that nations are impoverished because they have not abandoned their families or learned how to operate outside normal, human, social routines violates your rule that economics should be a subset "of human behavior, not the other way around." Or did you simply want to study human behavior that way and then "convince people to change some of their habits" when their cultures do not fit your economic paradigm?

Wouldn't it make more sense to encourage people to enjoy their cultures and to enrich them by customizing our economic models to suit their societies?

Otherwise, how do you suppose we are going to break them out of their cultures? Democracy? Democracy does not work. Democracy doesn't give you a strong central government, does it?

The only reason the advanced economies have strong central governments has been the totalitarian necessity of military mobilization. America's two-party republic is a sham democracy. Russia and China don't even pretend. Nations with open democracies typically have terrible governments.

More on this tomorrow.

I share this vision
Imagine a "line item veto" tax return document in which you can simply check off the government departments/programs that you approve of having your money support.

A man can dream...

RE: The problem with Sociology...
The author did his PhD at MIT, for crying out loud...

That, in and of itself, says very little; if anything it is an indictment. MIT stands for Massachusets Institute of Technology. Stray away from technology, and MIT isn't a very good school. They have Paul Samuelson, and I believe Noam Chomsky for crying out loud.

Arnold Kling is a pretty good economist despite having gone to MIT.

Bite your tongue...
Economists tend to think like sociologists and create similar behavioral models. I was a behavioral biologist (MS) before I took my graduate degree in business (MBA) and my problem with Sociology (and Psychology) carried over as I read Economics. They just make stuff up. And halfway through the book they completely contradict what they said at the beginning.

With Finance you get into the mechanisms. Economic behavior is, indeed, measurable. What did the market actually do? We can know that. However, we do not know why (things happened as they did) well enough to predict what the market will do next.

Of course, the larger problem is the multi-dimensional nature of the calculations involved (if you had perfect data) assuming you had valid formulas. Such algorithms cannot be solved to completion (only approximated) and the projections need to be continually re-thrown as the input numbers are updated with actual measurements.

At MIT, Chicago and Wharton (my school) a great emphasis is put on quantifiable mechanisms. The enduring problem with the discipline of Economics (even at the Quant Schools) is the lingering tendency to create a theory of everything and then try to expain market behavior as Dr. Kling did in this statement: " have to convince people to change some of their habits...people expect too little from government...people expect too much from government..."

My position is that we should see how societies get things done, economically, within the context of their own cultures and then custom design advanced capitalism to work for each of their nations. Rather than to idealize and try to train everyone to conform to our (American) model. The Marxists attempted to force everyone into the same vision of a social behavior utopia. And that experiment came out pretty poorly.

As behavior biologists we seek to understand what our models will predictably do under natural conditions. Theorizing why they act that way and trying to change behavior must be subordinated to first knowing what such behavior actually is. Measurable, reproducible, cause and effect relationships.

Economically, for example, let's say all carnivores make a living eating meat. We have studied African lions and we have some sense of their successful routines and we declare them to be our ideal predators. This might imply to the ethnicist that leopards should learn to hunt in packs and lose the spots, that tigers should form teams, get out into the open grassland and do something about the stripes, that bears should lose some weight and that cheetahs should bulk up. Wolves almost have it right. But Polar bears? What's with them? Polar bears have lots of habits to change. Or they simply cannot get into the global, competitive carnivore game. (Sell those white bears short!)

Time for more...
Let's look at #3 next: "3. Government is not a person. It is an institution." Yes. The culture of group behavior that is sovereign government has a life of its own and its behavior is independent of whatever individual takes up whichever role in the group.

We might elect anyone to a post in government and that individual will either conform to the culture of the group and be judged to be doing a good job or he might act in an antisocial manner and fail to fit in. The measure of goodness is the reasonable expectation of the group ethic.

Human behavior is group behavior and the group itself undergoes phenetic (behavioral) evolution much faster than human genes ever evolved. The responsive group tries to adapt to changes and opportunities. This is how we progress. Society assigns tasks to each group as the work of living is divided up. How well the group does its assigned tasks determines whether society gets the job done and thrives in the context of global civilization and lots of competing, alternative, cultural paradigms.

The government is a self-perpetuating group and inclined to grow. The US government is now appropriating jobs from our society that it might not be able to do very well and that the culture may not be completely willing to give up. If the government does not execute this work well and our society suffers for it then we must reassign those tasks or take them back into our own families. Or lose.

This is a very deep (and insightful) starting point as one of the three fundamental priciples for your economic model. I like it a lot.

This one is troubling: "2. What matters most for economic performance is firms entering and leaving the market. Free entry and exit produces economic growth over time, which is more important than the allocation of resources at any given point in time."

What matters is small companies sustaining themselves long enough to get their business models worked out and then growing quickly into medium sized players and figuring out how to make that work. Thousands of small companies reaching this moment each month constitute the engine for GDP growth and new job creation. In any economy. Including ours.

The tragedy is that many of these ventures fail for the wrong reason. They run out of money before their operations stabilize. If the entrepreneur reaches the point of "go big or go home" and he decides to cut his losses and fold the tent, then, yes, ease of exit is a good thing.

But the economy does not grow when people close down and strong startups are not launched on a whim. It should not be too easy to get in and lose your precious working capital. We have Las Vegas for that.

It's not in the interest of governments that people understand about economics, thus they don't teach it in the public schools. They prefer it if populations are more and more dependant on governments because then it's easier to control people. So you see in all countries that perhaps once had parties that advocated small-govnmt, usually don't anymore. Even in the States, the republican party doesn't really talk about small govnmt anymore, because they follow the same tendency of all beaurocracies and government; more power, more control of people.

Opportunity...for us to do better...

That's just my point. Even China is taxing its growing economy almost as hard as we do in the US. And you can be sure they will not back down into a smaller federal footprint as they go from strength to strength. Social programs and intruding into the personal lives (only one child policy) of their citizens is what the Chinese government is all about.

But such big government momentum drains precious working capital away from private players who might not need the government to order to enjoy a great life taking care of our own domestic problems. If the government can't do it "better, faster and cheaper" than I can do it for myself then give me my money back and I'll take care of it.

If we operate in a place already with a small government and lower taxes we should take (world class) care of our own team and all of their families with the money we save. And still retain more of our working capital. We should thereby enjoy an unfair competitive advantage in the global economy.

Let the major powers spend all their money on defense and going to Mars. They can protect my small country from each other and I can watch the Moon colony being built on National Geographic (because I won't get to go up there myself anyway).

your 'small country'?
What do you mean your small country? There is no really free country in all the world as far as I can see. Some better than others sure, but no real free place since everywhere you get groups of people who are predators on others. I've been all over the world and have never seen any kinda actually free place.

the give and take of employment negotiation
Dr, Kling says that he has never heard of someone coming to an employer and saying "I will work for less than that guy." It happens everyday. That is part of the illegal immigration question. It is more subtle than that - but it does happen! attention...
I said small government, not small country. And nothing is free. Freedom has costs.

The alternative to a big government is a small government. The big ones are not getting any smaller and they are not getting any cheaper.

You might want to rely on your big, expensive government and its police officers to protect you from predators. Fine. As for me, I would rather hold onto my money and protect my own interests with my own people. We can do that in my country with the small government.

Someone needs ordnance and (you might say) I've had some negative experiences with those fine men we pay so much here in America to serve and protect...if you know what I mean...They've had their chance to behave...and they continue to abuse citizens. We are genuinely occupied by the military police of the American government. Drive down your own street at midnight with three other guys in the car. It's called a profile stop and they will definitely pull you over. Sit there quietly. Any sudden moves and they might shoot you.

I'm too old and I'm running out of time. America won't get this right in my lifetime and I would really rather take care of such matters myself. I don't want any strangers "protecting" me.

Those were your words above, " They can protect my small country from each other". Never mind tho, cus we always talk at cross purposing. What's all that about driving down the street at midnight? Do you mean you yourself have been stopped for nothing like that, or you have heard that it happens? I don't live in the States but have driven around all over the place, and have never been hassled by cops there, ever, not even in the deep south.
But re profiling, I thought that meant that in situation like when an old lady screams that someone grabbed her purse, and the cop looks down the street and sees: a nun, a group of cute schoolgirls, and old chinaman, and a young black guy running like crazy; then you profile the one that is most likely to have stole it. But I do agree that is is theoretically possible that a nun might have at some point in the past, and in some country under some type of circumstance, also robbed. But you go by the odds.

You are right..and a story...
A small country and a country with a small government amount to the same thing. Sorry. My bad.

Yes. I was pulled over in a profile stop twice in the same night when the boys and I were moving my stuff into the new house we just bought. This was 12 years ago. Couple guys drove the truck and I drove three others in my Buick La Sabre. Several trips across town back and forth. Like I said, they stopped me twice that night. (We started after work on a Friday because most of the guys had family stuff to do over the weekend. So instead of drinking, we moved.

The local police always pull over four guys in a car at night. Gang banger (war wagon) profile.

Then, that same night, when we were picking up some of my stuff that was stored over at my company (in an industrial park) with our truck, six squadcars and 15 cops (count 'em!) descended on us. And those fine officers made us stand out in the cold drizzle in our shirt sleeves for a very long time after it was completely clear (to them) that this was our own building and that we were simply transporting my own stuff (and nothing of any great value).

I have also been beaten up more than once by cops (mistaken identity) because I happen to look like the sort of person they get to abuse. White, West Virgina born and bred. I look like those people. I am those people. Tall, athletic and rough face. Not in any way cute (according to my wife).

One such time 17 years ago they worked me over very badly at 11 o'clock in the morning (on a weekend) while I was walking outside in my own neighborhood smoking a cigar. I had not even had my breakfast yet. They kept me for 9 hours handcuffed to a chair without a phone call and without charging me. The shift changed. I was still there. And the new guys seemed just as desperate as the previous bunch to come up with any good reason why they should have me there. Since I had done absolutely nothing but was, nevertheless, sitting there with blood all over my face. Too late.

So they thought about it for a very long time. Didn't take off the shackles and let me use the facilities or put me into a holding cell. Nothing. I just sat there in the middle of the police station and waited while they got visibly more concerned what they should do. Literally until 8 o'clock that evening when my wife finally sorted it out and located me.

I would not talk to them after they threw me down on the sidewalk, handcuffed me, put a knee into my upper back and then rubbed all the skin off my forehead (pavement rash). Not one word. They fingerprinted me but I was not in the computer. So they did not know who I was and I had no identification on me. But for sure I was not their guy. They hate that.

For a month or so the cops called my wife at the house every few days and threatened her that they would find a way to arrest me for something if we made a problem about this.

I spoke with my father and he said to go get a gun and settle this matter myself. Or to forget about it and go on with my life. He also did not tell me what he would have done. Or express an opinion about what he thought that I should do. Entirely my own choice. Either way was going to be perfectly OK by him. (Dad was 63 at that time and in the fullness of his manhood. I was 42.) You have to love an old man like that. I did not buy that gun. But I did not completely forget, either.

Very prejudiced deal, here in America. We live under the tyranny of an army of occupation. It is certainly worse for many of our citizens who fit a certain profile. Gestapo Lite. (Could be the name of a premium Austrian beer, couldn't it?) Thanks, Dietmar.

your Gestapobehandlung
Jeez, that does rather sound like gestapo treatment. Of course I will believe you if you say it happened to you, but surely it's not too common, is it? One of my brothers lives in the US and some other relatives that got there after the war, and none of them has had anything at all like that happen to them, in various locations, ever. I also know plenty of americans guys and and when on such subjects, they also say such stuff doesn't happen too much. Maybe you just appen to be in a particularly bad area. Never happened to me either in the States, and even in the old country where there REAL gestapo around, it never happen to most people.

Nature of the sovereign...
My experience was made worse because I could not defend myself or resist in any way without risking execution on the spot.

I know the words "summary execution" sound inconsistent with freedom here in America. But there are no other words for it. The statistics indicate that "justifiable homicide" by a police officer occurs somewhere between 500-1000 times a year, in the United States.

There were three police officers involved. One stood back while the other two tossed me back and forth trying several times trying to get me to fight (or run) and then they picked me up and dropped me face down onto the concrete sidewalk. Hard. If I made any sudden move on my own I feel certain that this third cop might have shot me. The first two did not start in on me until he showed up. They were absolutely convinced that I was the bad guy they were looking for. I never found out what that character was thought to have done. But they, therefore, got to do this to me. (Free shot.) Only when more units arrived did someone say "This isn't the guy." "Well, too late now." "I understand that he resisted arrest, right?" "Nice pavement-rash!" Laughs all around. Nervous laughs.

Then they held onto me for nine hours. At one point in the basement office of the first police station they took me to there was a moment when one very large cop seemed eager to do something violent. Bouncing around and flexing his shoulders like Mike Tyson before the bell rings. With me sitting there handcuffed and my hands behind my back. Theatre? I did not provoke him enough to find out.

When I spoke with a lawyer about it he advised me not to sue anyone. He said this sort of thing happens all the time. Every day. And I was lucky the cops did not kill me. I could never hope to win. And I would put myself at further risk.

The sovereign's method is violence and his tool is the military. If we look to the police to protect us in an open society (where everyone you see is a stranger) then some of us fit the cop's preconceived profile of a fair target. Such mistakes will be made. In a war zone they call this sort of event "friendly fire". In my neighborhood, however, it is called living under the occupation of the government's military police.

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