Asking for directions

Karl, I’d suggest your friends definition of a police state but perhaps a best a correlation.

As a definition it seems rather arbitrary, why not a state aid lawyer and a junior doctor, or a prison warden and a teacher? Also you have to remember the boolean logic is a strict mistress – are you really suggesting that if P is the salary of a police recruit, and N the salary of junior nurse that if N = P + 1p then we’re suddenly is a police state?

The implied meaning is that if the state values entry level police officers over nurse then that an indication of a police state. Seems like their might be correlation but you’d have to find some other definition of a police state and apply it to various countries around the world to confirm the correlation (also if there was historical data for before / during / after police state that would provide further evidence).

However the sticker price doesn’t capture the total value of the job.

First up, the figures you quote aren’t normalised – it’s not clear from the links provided but it seems that the police have a 40 hour week, but nurses a 37.5 hour week, which means nurses have a slightly better hourly wage (yay, no police state!). Also you’d have to factor in holiday entitlements, overtime rates, pensions, shift patterns and flexitime, etc. All the tangible facts you could create a formula to assign an monetary value to get P, the total value of a police office, and N the total value of a nurse, to have a fair comparison.

Anyway I do have my own little anecdote that doesn’t itself provide a definition of a police state, but does give an example of the difference of living a police state for those that have never had the pleasure.

My parents fled South Africa in the late 70s. This was the height of the Apartheid regime and while neither of my parents were in any immediate danger, a number of events forced them to realise what kind of (police) state they were living in (for example, an acquaintance of my Dad’s disappeared for a month into internment and came out mentally and physically wrecked).

After we’d settled in, living in Oxford at the time, we went on our first day trip, to Salisbury as I recall, but could be anywhere. While trying to find a museum from a guide book, we got lost. My Dad popped into a news agent to ask for directions, but the the person didn’t know where the museum was, however they noticed, and pointed across the road, suggesting to my Dad “Why don’t you ask that Policeman”. Dad returned from the shop looking somewhat bemused, and after some consultation with my Mum, plucked up the courage to ask the Policeman who cheerily pointed us in the right direction.

My Dad later recounted how in South Africa people never voluntarily made contact with the Police, even people from the privileged white middle class. The Police were there to enforce the regime, were generally antagonistic, and randomly aggressive, and ultimately had extreme powers, all the way up to interning people more or less on a whim.

Now I don’t have any grand conclusions to make from this – it’s just the first thing I think about whenever someone mentions police state. Sadly many people have much worse stories to tell about the apartheid era police, and some people in this country wouldn’t exactly feel comfortable approaching the Police for directions, and, as Ade so graphically pointed out, we arguably have internment here in the UK.