Tangible and intangible exports from the United States have long improved the lives of others around the world. Advances from our doctors and scientists have saved millions of lives, manufacturing innovations have taught other countries how to grow, and when tyranny threatened the world in the twentieth century, the U.S. sent its best and brightest to defeat evil during World Wars I and II. But America now exports some of its worst and most chaotic impulses to the rest of the unsuspecting world—especially on criminal-justice issues.
England recently announced that it was forming a panel to scrutinize police on racial-equity issues. The leader of the panel, criminal-defense lawyer Abimbola Johnson, has said that her “ultimate aim” is to end funding for the police. She thinks that crime should be “reclassified until you no longer need to fund a police force.”
What triggered this “defund the police” program in the United Kingdom? The defund movement gained steam in the U.S. after the death of George Floyd in 2020. Its advocates point to the cops’ alleged role in “mass incarceration” or insist that modern American policing is an outgrowth of American slavery. But England has not seen an event like the George Floyd killing, nor did it experience the same crime trajectory in the late twentieth century. And before the U.S. ever declared independence from Great Britain, the English already had outlawed domestic slavery, with a British jurist succinctly noting that as “soon as a man sets foot on English ground he is free.” Without any unique motivating events, it appears that the U.K. is merely imitating the poorly conceived politics of American activists in demanding to abolish the police.
Borrowing misguided American crime policies has resulted in violence and disorder across the English Channel, too. In the aftermath of the Floyd episode, French police faced a backlash as the government weighed punishing any police officer for “proven suspicions of racism”—an ambiguous presumption of guilt that replicated the systemic police-racism claims in America. French president Emanuel Macron later abandoned this standard; some of his officials have since criticized what they call “woke-isme.” Meantime, under Chancellor Angela Merkel, German police were required to undergo “antiracism” training, echoing the implicit-bias training originating in America, even as violence and sex crimes against Germans by non-Germans were increasing dramatically, according to police data.
These countries will discover that American-style anti-police activism is simply a bad idea. Americans should worry that their country is becoming known not for exporting innovation but for exporting madness. As one English pundit recently put it, global admiration for American ideas has turned into global derision.
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