George Floyd

Coronavirus, Protests, and Policing Expose Government Failure at Every Level

The summer of 2020 got a lot crappier over the weekend, according to the Reason Roundtable podcast.


Garrett Foster, an AK-47-carrying libertarian who joined Black Lives Matter protesters against police abuse, was shot and killed in Austin, Texas, Saturday night after an altercation with a motorist. The facts of the case are murky and disputed, but one overall snapshot of America is clear: Just past the midpoint of this annus horribilis, summer in too many cities is devolving into riots, police crackdowns, and the politics of violence.

All of these trace their origins to local, state, national government failures. The local police and city halls have given up on protecting property; the federal government has given up on law-enforcement federalism; officials have failed to accomplish such basics as enabling speedy test results for a deadly virus.

So argues today's Reason Roundtable podcast, featuring Peter Suderman, Matt Welch, and special guest stars Stephanie Slade and Zach Weissmueller. The gang discusses teachers unions that want to keep schools closed and competition stifled, politicians and partisans who want to keep conflicts escalating, polls that show Joe Biden stomping Donald Trump, and whether Iron Man 2 is the most libertarian movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Audio production by Ian Keyser and Regan Taylor.

Relevant links from the show:

"The Feds Are Still the Jackbooted Thugs We Were Warned About," by J.D. Tuccille

"'CARES' Package Part Two Is Coming, to the Tune of at Least $1 Trillion," by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

"Dispatch From Portland: The Morning Crew," by Nancy Rommelmann

"The Media Wants To Guilt-Trip Parents Over School 'Pods,'" by Matt Welch

"Portland Protesters Get the Immigrant Treatment," by Shikha Dalmia

"Where's Republican Federalism During Trump's Urban Invasions?" by J.D. Tuccille

"Dispatch From Portland: The Fire Next Time," by Nancy Rommelmann

"What It's Like To Work in the Portland Jail During the George Floyd Protests," by Nancy Rommelmann

"Trump's Political Opportunism Has Shredded Federalism," by Shikha Dalmia

"Trump Administration Justifies Federal Police Surge With Fake News," by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

"The Majority of Americans Oppose Qualified Immunity. Where Is Congress?" By Billy Binion

"Rand Paul on Republican Plans for Another Coronavirus Stimulus Bill: 'They Simply Don't Care About the Debt,'" by Eric Boehm

"Trump Deploys Lawlessness Against Lawlessness," by Jacob Sullum

"Dispatch From Portland: A Distinct Lack of Crowbars and Cops," by Nancy Rommelmann

"Rand Paul: It's Time To Demilitarize the Police," by Rand Paul

"Trump Is Wrong: Spreading Epidemic Is Responsible for Most of the Rise in COVID-19 Cases," by Ronald Bailey

"Iron Man 2: Monsters of Metal," by Peter Suderman

NEXT: Who Should Libertarians Vote For in 2020? A Soho Forum Debate

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I was in LA during the riots. I remember how relieved I was when President Bush sent in the National Guard to restore order. If and when we see polls that are critical of President Trump in his handling of the protests in Portland and elsewhere, don’t assume that people are criticizing him because he sent in Homeland Security. They may disapprove of his handling of these protests because he hasn’t sent in the National Guard.

    1. I think we should let them continue protesting! Burn it all down until they get it out of their system. When will white Americans ever be free of their original sin, having the same skin color as the people who practiced slavery (please ignore the Greeks, Romans, Persians, Arabs, and all the African tribes who owned slaves too)?

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    2. The difference between now and than is the left, corporate press and most of these protesters actually want to create the images of the national guard descending on these cities. That’s almost the stated goal.

      1. Also it’s an absolutely frightening idea, the full weight of the feds coming down like they did during the Boston Marathon is absolutely frightening. But the complete failure of these localities to not only not protect people and business’s property is fucked up beyond measure.

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    3. I think what is making this situation so divisive is this situation isn’t a case of people vs. the government. It’s a case of denouncing the government, which becomes tacit support of another government entitiy.

      On one side you’re supporting federal actions in these riots, or you’re supporting every state governor and local mayor, along with the media and every major corporation.

      If this were some generically anti-government protest, I think this would be much easier to parse out. But it’s not. If you applaud the federal government protecting its buildings, you’re taking a stand against Ted Wheeler, Jenny Durkan, Jay Inslee, all the local daily’s, most of the national press, and almost every major corporation with a twitter account. Whereas if you’re against the feds’ actions, then you support Ted Wheeler, Jenny Durkan… etc.

      1. There’s also the people protesting and the mayors have no problem with the feds besides the fact Donald Trump is at the head.

      2. I think the mob is doing what the mob wants while the local / state government officials are taking a hands off approach while the feds under Trump want to clamp down on the rioting. Call it a Mexican standoff government.

      3. And the “anti” gov/fed side will absolutely censor your social media posts, fire you from your job, and refuse you financial services if you speak against them.

        That’s how important opposing the fascists is…

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  2. The obvious answer to Trump’s failure as the executive of the federal government is an older and more mentally incompetent executive with even greater powers and a compliant media to back his message up!

  3. They are riots, not protests now. You writers can call out all the evils in government and the police, as you should. Yet, calling rioters what they are is beyond you it seems. It ruins your credibility .

    1. The protestors are just a peaceful collective that wishes to impose their views and values upon the people of America by threat or force. They have nothing to do with collectivism!

  4. Government can do no good.
    Government can only redistribute or do harm.

    Trump’s is that “energetic government” which Jefferson so criticized, and we are seeing why he did so, that “energetic government” redistributes and does more harm than a less energetic one.

    “I own I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

    1. I think the lack of government enforcement in Democrat controlled cities makes our current situation more like a Hobbesian state of nature.

      1. Begging Foxworthy’s pardon –

        You might be a rabid statist, if you think that even this slight restraint of armed state oppression is a problem.

        Democrats not being statist tyrants for the first time in living memory should be cause for a sigh of relief, had they not been beaten to it this time by Trump and Trumpists.

        1. You might be as brain damaged as Biden.

    2. oy let’s carp Jefferson because Orange Man Bad.

  5. I’ve argued with these protesters online, and they have no message other than “F- the police” and “TrUmP fAsCiSt GoOnS”. They are just looking for a fight. Meaning, they will keep instigating and nothing but force will stop them and they have to learn the hard way. I have no problem with the feds being on the scene.

  6. People will start taking matters into their own hands on both sides further escalating things. Protesters are going to just start dropping brass at cars trying to pass through and visavis.

  7. devolving into riots, police crackdowns, and the politics of violence.

    If the police were actually cracking down, these cities wouldn’t be on fire.

    1. this. whole fucking world is a giant game of Cry Wolf

    2. This.

      From my perspective, the feds are showing a quite high level of restraint.

      60 days in to Waco, tanks had moved in while people were murdered, and Waco involved not a single night of “peaceful protest” that’s happening in Portland. Had the cops left, absolutely nothing at all would have happened.

      This is completely different of course, but in a way that should have the feds acting more violently, more quickly. They’re being bombarded with fireworks and other makeshift explosives. Molotov cocktails. Other improvised weapons of all sorts, yet rubber bullets and tear gas are the extent of the feds’ “cracking down excessively.”

      If Clinton were president, and there were even a whiff of someone who claims to support a militia or white power group among the “peaceful protestors”, the full force of the federal government would have come down like a ton of bricks. In the form of tanks and automatic weapons, not bean bags and tear gas.

        1. In the hypothetical Clinton (or Obama) case, the press would have sympathized with the difficult position the racists had put the poor President in.

          In the Trump (non-hypothetical) case, they are screeching about “jack-booted thugs” even when said thugs are very gently defending themselves. Also, why are these people so concerned with their footwear?

  8. “All of these trace their origins to local, state, national government failures. The local police and city halls have given up on protecting property; the federal government has given up on law-enforcement federalism”

    You don’t see how one leads to the other? Seriously?

    “Locals won’t protect citizens. But Feds should follow the locals decisions.”?

    1. The libertarian solution is to vote with your feet. Sorry if your house or business burned down but you can live in your other house. Charlie Koch has half a dozen houses!

      1. Reason must be a helluva tax writeoff for Koch to continue tossing his money into a bonfire to keep afloat.

        1. Really. I guess there were other people like me, who supported the print endeavor with our dollars even after it became superfluous.

          NOT ANY MORE. Nor votes for the shit party that seemingly is on the Dem/Antifa/Nike/Google side of things.

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    3. This was exactly my reaction. And my only reaction to this article.

  9. Repeating this each day ad nauseum isn’t a valid argument.

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  11. Matt Welch, have you seen the 1944 Republic Captain America series? I have. And does Howard the Duck count? I haven’t seen that one yet. I’m so far behind.

  12. I was first attracted to libertarianism years ago because it struck me as more logical. But hearing a bunch of eggheads going on about THEORIES while cities burn points out how much libertarians are like every other political party locked into their positions.
    When cities are being destroyed, people need the cops. They deserve federal assistance as well. The last thing they need is theories.

  13. Well Written Article. Informative and interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  14. I clearly see Reason’s failure to accurately report on the riots in Portland and Seattle.

  15. Gee, Reason, do you have any more cute photos of that well-shot ex-Libertarian? Maybe pics of his 10th birthday, playing with a puppy?

    If the LP is HIS party, it ain’t mine.

    Enjoy your newfound popularity at the NY/DC cocktail parties, Reasonoids.

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  18. I think the mob is doing what the mob wants while the local / state government officials are taking a hands off approach while the feds under Trump want to clamp down on the rioting. Cleaning Services Dubai

    1. I think the mob is doing what the mob wants while the local / state government officials are taking a hands off approach while the feds under Trump want to clamp down on the rioting.

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  21. I was still in Los Angeles during the protests. I remember being delighted when Barack Obama deployed the National Guard to restore order. If or when studies indicate that President is being criticised for his handling of the protests in Portland and elsewhere, don’t assume that it’s because he brought in Homeland Security. They may be upset with his treatment of the rallies as he’s never ordered in the Armed Forces. 3D Modeling Services

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