Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It's worth it. It's a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else's rights, because if you don't there is no one to defend yours. -- MaxedOutMama

I don't just want gun rights... I want individual liberty, a culture of self-reliance....I want the whole bloody thing. -- Kim du Toit

The most glaring example of the cognitive dissonance on the left is the concept that human beings are inherently good, yet at the same time cannot be trusted with any kind of weapon, unless the magic fairy dust of government authority gets sprinkled upon them.-- Moshe Ben-David

The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem. -- Sultan Knish

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Violence and the Social Contract

 In the previous piece immediately below, "(I)t's most important that all potential victims be as dangerous as they can," I put forward the concepts of violent and predatory and violent but protective, and their antithesis, non-violence or passivity. I also noted that the pacifist culture in general holds a logical disconnect in that it still supports violence, so long as that violence is threatened or performed by duly authorized agents of the State.

I found this link at Rev. Sensing's that illustrates why that logical disconnect, that dichotomy, exists. It's a quote from Christian philosopher-ethicist Jacques Ellul:
Violence is to be found everywhere and at all times, even where people pretend that it does not exist. . . every state is founded on violence and cannot maintain itself save by and through violence. . . . Everywhere we turn we find society riddled with violence. Violence is its natural condition, as Thomas Hobbes saw clearly.
Pacifists reject Hobbes's belief that the natural state of man is one of conflict, but in general hold his belief that governments are formed to protect people from their own selfishness and evil. And how do they do that? Rev. Sensing:
Ellul disagrees with the classic distinction between violence and force: it's lawyers who have invented the idea that when the state uses coercion, even brutally, it is exercising "force" and that only individuals or nongovernmental groups use violence. All states are established by violence. A government stays in power by violence or its threat and the threat is meaningless unless it can be and is employed.

The fact is that society depends on violence or its threat simply to exist. That's why there are police departments in every city. But there is no moral difference between the homeowner who protects his life or property with a gun and one who does not but summons a police officer. The police use violence or its threat to protect the law-abiding. The unarmed homeowner has merely "contracted out" his use of violence.

If using violence is sinful, the blunt reality is that there are no sin-free choices.
Note that critical point: "...it's lawyers who have invented the idea that when the state uses coercion, even brutally, it is exercising "force" and that only individuals or nongovernmental groups use violence." And that is, in my opinion, an insidious form of self-deception, because it draws a moral difference between a citizen who defends himself, and one who does not but instead summons a police officer.

This is a recent philosophical change. When Sir Robert Peel formed London's Metropolitan Police Force - the first of its kind in London - he set down his Nine Principles of policing:
The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.

The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.

Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.

The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.

Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.

Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient.

Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.

The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.
Note Principle #7: "Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence."

Now look back at Principle #1. The prevention of crime and disorder is incumbent on every citizen in the interest of community welfare and existence. But when a society, step by slow deliberate step, deceives itself into believing that there is a moral difference between defending oneself and one's community and "contracting it out" to the State, then that society will lose the majority of its defenders and risk descent into chaos. The converse is also true - when there is no reliance on the State, you risk anarchy as well,
Discourage self-help, and loyal subjects become the slaves of ruffians. Over-stimulate self-assertion, and for the arbitrament of the Courts you substitute the decision of the sword or the revolver. - The Law of the Constitution, by A.V. Dicey (MacMillan, London 1885).
(Quotation found at Samizdata. I recommend you read the whole piece.)

The concept of pacifism as it pertains to crime is generally predicated on the concept that all life is of value, and that using violence to injure or kill in defense of mere property is disproportionate - the value of the material is much less than the value of the life of the person attempting to take the material. Surprise! I concur. The life of a human being is of greater value than, say, the contents of my wallet. But this ignores something more important - the fact that the contents of my wallet are the least things at risk. Because someone willing to threaten bodily injury or death in order to take my wallet violates the tenets of the society in which both of us live. He puts in fear not only me, but the entire society. He has proffered a new social contract - "Give me what I want, and I won't hurt you."

The pacifist culture tells us that we should not resist, that we should call the authorities who are empowered to deal with social miscreants. At most, we should respond (as the British are required) proportionally. Yet a proportional response requires us, the defenders, to read the mind of the assailant. If he holds a knife, are we to ask "Do you actually intend to use the knife, and if so is your intent simply to wound or would you be intending a killing blow?" A proportional response requires the defender to reason cogently in a situation wherein our lives, or at least our health may be at risk. The advantage belongs to the attacker, and that is a recipe for social disaster.

To prevent that social disaster, the new social contract offered by the criminal should be understood by all parties to be: "Whatever it is I want, I have decided that it is worth risking my life for." And we, the potential victims, should be as dangerous as possible.

So long as a sufficient number of us are, the rest of society will enjoy the benefit of our protection. When there are too few of us, or when those of us who are willing to resist are restricted by law from doing so, there remain only two options: suffer the onslaught of criminals, or increase the police forces to overly burdensome levels. With the second option, assuming that a sufficient level is attained to reduce crime, the officers of the State required to accomplish that task will not then be reduced, they will be reassigned to other tasks, and a de facto police state will exist.

Those are the choices. It seems apparent which Britain has decided on.

(To be continued...)  Original comment thread is available here (thanks to reader John Hardin).

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