Yes, yes, we know what the rules are and we know why they’re there:
The problem stems from the fact that state law says the officer loses the right to directly buy the animal if he leaves the force while the dog “is still fit for duty” and the animal remains the property of the city of Marietta, where Mr Hickey is based.
“Because it is personal property, it is treated like a shovel. That’s just the way it is,” Paul Betram, Marietta Law Director, told WBNS.
So, the retiring police dog handler has raised money on the internet to buy his police dog as he retires. All cool, right?
No, of course not. Because the correct way to deal with this is through society, not rules. Yes, sure, we’ve got to have the rule so that the Governor’s idiot nephew doesn’t get to walk away with the State House when he retires from his job that lasts only as long as his Uncle’s does.
But the solution here is that we have a little bit of socially approved collusion, the auction is held, one person bids $1, Officer Hickey bids $2, the first bidder folds and 5,000 on watching locals cheer loudly, wipe away the occasional tear and dog and master potter off for a celebratory hot dog on the way to their well earned retirement.
As Elinor Ostrom pointed out to gain her Nobel in societies above a certain size we really do need to have property ownership laws. It’s only smaller ones where there’s a web of connections, Polayni’s mutual debts perhaps, which can get away with the societal and mutual enforcement of property rules.
Marietta Ohio, with 14,000 people, is too large for Ostrom’s mutual enforcement to work. The number of people in Marietta Ohio who would want to purchase a working police dog is small enough that it would indeed work. Because there would be sufficient social outrage against anyone who outbid Hickey.
We can even test this. Could we have a Bateman cartoon with the caption “The man who outbid the retiring police dog handler”? Could we imagine an Ealing comedy that starts with the auction and then the reaction of everyone in the town to the buyer who did outbid? With, of course, the inevitable denouement that he’s a bit of a bad one, the dog dobs him in and the handler makes the citizen’s arrest which jugs him.
Yes, we could indeed imagine both (we’ll get Steve to write the script for us). So, therefore, we think that such societal solutions would indeed work. Our deeper point being perhaps, as those Ealing films made so often, that sure there have to be rules. But the important thing is to know when to subvert them.