May 25, 2013
Ever wonder how come there are men (and women) in costumes “policing” the rest of us?
Most people accept this relationship as both given – and eternal. That there have always been men (if not always women) in costumes “policing” the rest of us. But, in fact, it’s a relatively novel thing. Think back to your schooldays. Do you recall any mention of police when you were learning about the colonial era and the American Revolution? There were sheriffs, yes – and the local militia. But these were concerned mostly with keeping the peace – that is, stepping in when someone harmed someone else. Up to and even during the Civil War – a titanic struggle between the fading remnants of the old republican idea and the centralized, omnipotent state that took its place – the idea of police as we know it was essentially unknown.
It is a modern concept – one developed out of the company town idea.
You may or may not recall the company town. It is a place – once upon a time, a very real place – in which the company not only employs nearly everyone but also controls nearly everyone. During work hours and – most relevant in terms of the discussion at hand – the rest of the time, too. This is achieved by paying the workers not in specie, but in “script” or tin coinage or some other form of fiat currency issued by the company – and good at the company stores in the company town where all the company workers live. Even the worker’s homes are company homes. In the company town, everything you did was the company’s business. And to keep it all nicely organized, there were company police.