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People go where governments lead

There is an old and wise saying that ‘an armed society is a polite society’. It is also the case that a private society remains a private society as well. That is, the importance and respect paid by governments to a citizen’s right to privacy flows on to the rest of society. In contrast, when a government disregards the right of its citizens to keep matters private, other organisations in society will take their cue from the government’s lead.

Take gambling for example. The online sports betting industry in Australia has sprung up like mushrooms after autumn rain in Australia since the advent of the Internet. People used to like to have a wager on a football or cricket game in the friendly environment of a pub, but since the online bookmakers have opened, the betting habits of Australians have increased markedly.

It is not only Australians that have been bitten by the sports betting bug either. But it is illegal in many parts of the world, and that has created more problems then it has solved. When a market is not allowed to be filled by honest business folk, it is instead filled by organised crime figures and all the baggage that this brings. One of the biggest items of luggage is the curse of match-fixing in popular sports.

It is in countering this that the right to privacy has come under strain as global sporting bodies try to grapple with the curse. Cricket has been dealing with this problem for over a decade now, and the net result of that is that there is a special anti-corruption unit to deal with it. Also, they have done deals with the legal betting agencies to try and trace irregular pattens of betting, and betting by players. The privacy policy at Centrebet, Australia’s largest online betting agency, say this:

Cricket Agreement
Centrebet has entered an Agreement with the International Cricket Council, to provide the International Cricket Council Anti Corruption and Security Unit (ICC ACSU) with betting related information to assist it in investigating conduct connected with cricket.
The ICC ACSU may request from Centrebet any information on betting activity relating to cricket and any identification information held by Centrebet pertaining to:

1. An individual employed by, contracted to or associated with the ICC;
2. An individual employed by, contracted to or associated with one of the National Cricket Boards who are Full Members, Associates or Affiliates of the ICC;
3. An individual whom the ICC ACSU believes is connected to person in (1) or (2) above where the ICC ACSU has reasonable grounds to suspect that the individual in question has breached, or is intending to breach, one or more of the Rules of Conduct as set out in the ICC Player’s and Team Official’s Code as amended from time to time or incite another to do so; or
4. Any person whom the ICC ACSU has reasonable grounds to suspect has engaged in conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game of cricket and/or who may have relevant knowledge concerning corruption within cricket.

Centrebet will not provide any information unless it is satisfied in its discretion that the ICC ACSU has reasonable grounds for requesting the betting related information.
By placing bets on cricket, you consent to the use and disclosure of your personal information for the purposes, and in the manner, described above.

Of course that means, in effect, that a person who is betting when they shouldn’t be will have to use an illegal bookmaker to accept the bet. So any inside betting will be in the hands of the mob from the start. I would hardly think that is an ideal solution.

Give Centrebet due though, they at least agree not to provide any information unless they smell a rat; that is a lot better then giving the ICC Cricket people open slather. But the new Australian football deal threatens to do just that.

In the wake of a player-betting scandal a the start of the season, the Australian Football League has agreed to a deal with a host of big online bookmakers that has exactly the same problem; anyone involved in betting that is in the game now, has to do it through illegal agencies. The betting agencies have promised to do ‘regular audits’ of their accounts.

It all comes back to the ‘right to privacy’ of the individual versus the right to have honest sporting events for the entertainment of the public. However, in sacrificing one, sports administrators have increased the dangers to the other. It is a conundrum worthy of a government. And given that betting on Australian football takes place overwhelmingly in one jurisdiction, it is possible that this infringement in the public’s right to private betting will soon be enforced, ever so arrogantly and hamfistedly, by the power of the Australian government.

We have come a long way from the day when a gentleman’s word was his bond.

15 comments to People go where governments lead

  • drscroogemcduck

    I think you are missing something here. Bookies don’t want to take crooked action. Their will always be an incentive for them to figure out who has information about which games are fixed so they can exclude them.

  • michael farris

    ‘an armed society is a polite society’

    Yes, just compare those exquisite Somali manners, with the loud, brutish and swaggering Japanese …

  • Quite so Michael. I am all for armed societies but I do wish that daft phrase would fade away.

  • Novus

    I am all for armed societies but I do wish that daft phrase would fade away.

    I think to interpret it as Michael has done is slightly obtuse, however (regardless of how Heinlein concluded the statement). “Polite” doesn’t, or shouldn’t, refer to the formality and courteousness of everyday interaction as practised by, in this example, the Japanese; and to compare the habits of a nation at peace with those of one rent by civil war is anyway misleading.

    I prefer to interpret it as the obvious idea that, all other things being equal in a civilised society under the rule of law, the fact of an armed citizenry is likely to deter crime. It’s been my experience when having this argument (as I have been recently following Virginia Tech) that he who falls back on the literalist interpretation of this remark is merely looking for superficial absurdities to seize on at the expense of a meaningful discussion.

  • First of all a polite society is not necessarily a peaceful one. I’m not sure but I suspect that the Issa rituals of nomadic hospitality are as carefully observered now that they have AKs as they did when they had spears or muzzle loaders.

    Second gambling is a tax that smart people impose on stupid people. Why should anuone expect the government to refrain from sticking its nose into these transactions when it cannot refrain from sticking its nose into just about everything else.

    I believe that in Oz they at least leave the transactions between sexy people and horny people more or less alone

  • Pa Annoyed

    “People go where governments lead”

    Governments go where people lead. People generally think private crime is a problem, and demand something be done about it. Both governments and bookies respond to that the only way they know how, which is to try to control it.

    I don’t see any evidence that the bookies’ monitoring is a consequence of anything the government has done. It is a common human solution to a perceived problem. You don’t trust gamblers? Insist on being able to see what they’re doing, just in case. You don’t trust politicians? Insist on being able to see what they’re doing, just in case. You think that if someone has something to hide they’ll just operate with (or as) organised crime and avoid the system? Same for governments.

    The argument that outlawing something that people want to do (like political corruption) only drives it underground and into the arms of criminals is a good one. The idea that the correct response is to legalise and liberalise the undesired behaviour (like opening up a free market for Minister’s favours) is counter-intuitive. I don’t think this example is a case of people following a government lead, I think the two effects have a common cause. It is Common Sense, in the original sense of the sort of beliefs humanity hold in common.

    “I prefer to interpret it as the obvious idea that, all other things being equal in a civilised society under the rule of law, the fact of an armed citizenry is likely to deter crime.”

    I think the point being made above is that the actual rule is that being in “a civilised society under the rule of law is likely to deter crime.” Guns are irrelevant.

    Guns both encourage and discourage crime in proportion to the general levels of criminality and lawfulness. But the causative factor is the nature of the society you live in, not whether it is armed or not.

    It is like arguing against someone who wants to ban cars on the basis they allow criminals to make speedy getaways by claiming that in a nation where everybody owns cars the criminals can be chased and caught. Both arguments are a nonsense. Instead of criminals and vigilantes on an equal playing field on foot, they are on an equal playing field in high-speed car chases. Same difference, but with higher stakes. What really matters is how many vigilantes there are compared to how many criminals.

    A better argument is that banning them only for the law-abiding is bad, as it gives the criminals an advantage over the law-abiding. The counter-argument here depends on how effective the evidence-limited law enforcement is. If everyone has guns, then law enforcement must prove the person used the gun illegally to prove them a criminal. That can be quite hard to do, and can only be done after the fact. If only criminals have guns, then people with guns are criminals and law enforcement has a much easier job proving their criminality, and there is at least the potential to catch them before they shoot anybody. The argument doesn’t work if the police are bad at catching people with guns, or if you take a more relaxed attitude to standards of evidence before the police can throw you in jail.

    But the main problem with it is that merely allowing people to be armed doesn’t redress the balance as claimed, because many people still won’t be armed and the same bad situation will still apply, just to a smaller number of people. (Which is a plus but not a big one, in my opinion.) There will be people who can’t afford them, aren’t trusted with them, can’t use them (disabilities, etc.), haven’t brought them with them today, or for emotional and philosophical reasons don’t want to use them.

    Even if the general public all have guns, the criminals may have bigger guns, better body armour, sniper rifles, 24-hour guards, and so forth. Knowing what they face they can take precautions, like simply killing everyone in sight rather than relying on the gun to scare people into obedience, keeping to cover rather than walking around in the open, etc.

    This argument is essentially the arms-race mentality – keeping a parity of weapons so that neither side are willing to start anything. The disadvantages are like those that finished the Soviets off: that with differing wealth levels achieving exact parity is unaffordable for most, and that it forces everyone to expend precious resources simply to keep up. Being sufficiently armed becomes effectively compulsory, and you wind up spending an absolute fortune on stuff you hope and intend never to use.

    The final argument, that it is claimed was the original reason for making it a right, is that it allows you to overthrow a repressive government. The above counter-argument applies in spades. The government has more guns, bigger and better guns, better training, and the resources to use them more effectively. The rebels fighting the government of Sudan are armed – it does them no good because the government has helicopter gunships. The same I’m sure applies in the US.

    In any case, should such a situation arise, weapons can be constructed.

    So far as I know, guns make no fundamental difference to the levels of crime, one way or the other. They neither increase it nor decrease it. I’d argue against banning them on the general principle of not banning stuff without good reason, but not because of any supposed benefit weapons bring. Criminality is a function of society and culture; it isn’t a consequence of the tools available.

    I know this view isn’t popular around here, but it does often get a good debate going! 🙂

  • John Rippengal

    In other words Novus you mean ‘Don’t confuse my theory with facts’

    If you don’t like Somalia compared with Japan how about USA compared with Japan.


  • michael farris

    “the obvious idea that, all other things being equal in a civilised society under the rule of law, the fact of an armed citizenry is likely to deter crime.”

    In other words, if you add enough qualifications that aren’t part of the saying, it can mean something good (though different from the surface meaning of the original).

  • Brian

    Pa Annoyed is right.

    The immense amount of armaments carried by the Somali people (or, at any rate, certain factions of the Somali people) will result in them seeing off the American-backed invasion by Ethiopia.

    The immense amount of armament carried by Iraqis (or certain factions of the Iraqi people) will result in them seeing off the American invasion of Iraq.

    The immense amount of armaments carried by Afghans (or etc) will result in their seeing off the UN Invasion of Afghanistan.

    I don’t think any of these things are desirable but they will happen.

    I would like to know: absent the intervention of the Allies, would the disarmed state of the French citizenry have seen off the Germans in 1940?. Or at any time in the future?

    Did being disarmed help the Dutch in 1940? Or the Belgians at any time?

    The problem we have is that the vast majority orf the British people think of the government as a fundamentally benevolent organisation. After all, they have increased spending on the national Health Service, haven’t they? This is ‘Unquestionably’ a good thing.

    Although it has to be admitted, the relatives of Jean-Charles de Menendez may have fewer delusions aboutn the inherent decency of the British State.

    The purpose of firearms ownership is for the people to control the government. Naturally the government don’t like that.

  • Pa Annoyed


    Please don’t tell me I’m right and then link it to that sort of anti-Americanism. Not even joking. Apart from that, a good attempt…

    I don’t know what will happen with the Somalis, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the number of guns they have. Warlordism is an unstable form of anarchy, and is normally replaced eventually either by totalitarianism/dictatorship (on the grounds that people prefer it to the anarchy) or, less commonly, progress towards peace. It was being replaced by Sharia totalitarianism, and the Ethiopians quite sensibly weren’t about to let that happen right on their border. Ethiopia did precisely the right thing, and I wish them every success.

    Iraq you seem to have got backwards. The Americans are defending Iraq, and it is the Iranian/Al Qaida invasion that the people need to see off. Again, guns only even things up – the fundamental question is which way the people there are taking their civilisation. So far the overwhelming majority are making a very determined attempt to take it in the right direction, despite the continued efforts of the Islamist Mullahs and all their little helpers in the West.
    The American invasion was done and over three years ago, when Saddam was deposed and the government handed over to the Iraqis. Anyone still calling it that is probably on the wrong side.

    Afghanistan is harder to predict, again not because of the guns, but because it is harder to see how their economy can be made viable. Again, the West are defending Afghans and their hopes, because the locals all having guns isn’t enough.

    Both were cases where the general population was mostly armed, both were cases where repressive governments were for many years unable to be overthrown. Both are cases where the drive towards a civilised society under the rule of law is being led and maintained by the people, not governments or even foreigners, and the guns are being slowly replaced by politics.

    You ask as well about 1940 and resistance under occupation. The same counter-arguments apply. Some kid with his dad’s shotgun versus the Boche? Granny carrying a submachine gun in her shopping bag in case she gets stopped by the Gestapo while out shopping? With the German Army on your doorstep, a few popguns are of little use. The locals could and did make the occupation very expensive, by many means most of which didn’t require guns. And ultimately it wasn’t the local people who drove them out, but the armies run by the US, UK and other governments; the only people with the massed resources to do so.

    The relatives of De Menezes (I assume that’s who you mean) might well have a better idea of the human fallibility of the security services, but I hadn’t noticed that they were subsequently short of any delusions. The same goes for many other people regarding that incident.

    The purpose of firearms is for people to control their neighbours. Fighting governments that way is foolish.

  • Midwesterner

    ‘an armed society is a polite society’

    Yes, just compare those exquisite Somali manners, with the loud, brutish and swaggering Japanese …

    In other words, if you add enough qualifications that aren’t part of the saying, …

    Well, Michael Farris. Since you are resorting to technicalities perhaps you better reveiw the meaning of society. When we discuss situations like that existing in Somalia, the general description is that society has broken down. You may have gotten the “armed” part right, but you are the one who is adding “qualifications that aren’t part of the saying“.

    Somalia is not even remotely a society. It is a combat zone.

  • michael farris

    midwesterner, my point (among other things) is that “armed socities” (according to your apparent definition of ‘society’) are so rare as to be exotic and making pithy sayings about them is a waste of time.

    questions of manners and low crime depend on very different factors than number of local people packing heat everywhere they go.

    and somalia is a society, an armed, clan-based society with a high level of inter-clan mistrust and high levels of concommitant violence (which enough somalis enjoy enough to keep it from turning into a civil society for a long time).

  • Phil A

    In other words, if you add enough qualifications that aren’t part of the saying, it can mean something good (though different from the surface meaning of the original).

    Most sayings are effectively a distillation, representation, or code. They do generally come with a number of unvoiced qualifications, a built in context if you like.

    Think of it in terms of computer code. You have the code, but underlying that you have ‘libraries’ that the code needs to run and under that you have an operating system that it needs….

  • Midwesterner

    “armed socities” (according to your apparent definition of ‘society’)

    You are equating ‘population’ with ‘society’. If it is your intention to slander Wikipedia by calling it my definition, then I’m flattered and you are wrong.

    Wikipedia states:

    The following three components are common to all definitions of society:

    * Social networks
    * Criteria for membership, and
    * Characteristic patterns of organization

    The only way you can find ‘society’ in Somalian warlords is to consider each warlord’s clan as a society in isolation. The ‘clans’ are at war, so what you have between them is not society. It is a combat zone.

    You state:

    questions of manners and low crime depend on very different factors than number of local people packing heat everywhere they go.

    There is a substantial body of research showing that patterns of lawful gun possession directly and inversely track crime. High crime societies that legalize gun possession for individuals without a criminal record have clear and unmistakable reductions in overall violent crime. Low crime societies that move to prevent the lawful possession of guns by individuals without criminal records experience a distinct and unmistakable rise in crime.

    If 2% of the law abiding population is “packing heat” then everytime a criminal attacks someone, he is playing Russian roulette with 1 loaded and 49 empty chambers in the gun. Those kind of odds, low though they are, quickly generate a Darwinian effect on the population of criminals in any given society.

    Since street thugs are generally the rudest members of society, it stands to reason that there is an overall reduction in rudeness. 🙂

  • Vijay KRKM Shah

    WERE RUN By Inland Revenue Collection Authority!?

    KRA RULES forces KRA to run our supermarkets.

    Supermarkets are staffed by friendly, hardworking people and are open long hours.

    Most people are quite satisfied with their supermarkets.

    Clearly KRA and supermarkets are different.

    But imagine if we ran our supermarkets the way we run our KRA.

    Due to the importance of equality of opportunity to buy groceries and to protect Kenyans from starvation due to negligent and ignorant shoppers buying the wrong groceries, we have government provided supermarkets, financed by taxes, at which shoppers can get a basket of groceries for fixed fee only when they are Registered.

    Registered Kenyans are forced to shop at the supermarket in their suburb, and can only change to another government supermarket with permission, and subject to room at that supermarket.

    There are private supermarkets, but customers have to pay for their groceries there which may be more expensive because of duties and Taxes levied thereon.

    Entry of new supermarkets is heavily regulated especially by investment in Fiscal Electronic Registers.

    New supermarkets are not allowed and old ones closed down in areas of declining population.

    The public supermarkets in each State are run by huge Departments of Supermarkets.

    Pay, staffing and working conditions are centrally determined, by negotiations with the unions.

    Some regions find it difficult to attract staff so they will be supported by staff from the Capital with out of town and traveling allowances.

    Employment conditions are strictly regulated, with rigid job classifications (check-out operator, shelf-stacker, trolley retriever, price labeler, Toilet cleaner, loyalty manager, ).

    Hours worked and tasks are strictly mandated.

    The number of staff in each position in supermarkets is strictly regulated.

    Pay rises tend to be uniform across all classifications.

    Although the public supermarkets seem to be over manned, particularly when compared to the private sector, checkout queues are much longer and shelves are frequently empty.

    Managers find it difficult to order supplies on time, experiment with new suppliers, fix windows, get supermarkets painted or build new facilities as these will be strictly governed by procurement rules.

    All these decisions are overseen by central office and involve much bureaucracy.

    Most spending goes on salaries based on civil servants pay scales.

    Cuts in the equipment budget mean that IT could be obsolete, shopping trolleys are very old, most with three or four wobbly wheels.

    Home delivery has been abandoned as a cost-cutting measure.

    Many ideas introduced in the private sector, such as express checkouts, and checkout-scanning devices have not been adopted in the public sector due to union opposition however these would be compulsory at other private supermarket outlets.

    There are large differences in quality of supermarkets between suburbs; the rich areas seem to have the best supermarkets.

    Quality of supermarket is an important factor in determining where to live.

    There are many laments about the quality of public supermarkets.

    Independents and minor parties often raise election funds and support from the Checkout Operators Union with strident demands for more spending on public supermarkets, to reduce the enormous checkout queues.

    Bans on private supermarkets are periodically proposed, so that the rich will use their political influence to keep the quality of public supermarkets high, but many politicians, bureaucrats and public supermarket employees do their own shopping at the private markets.

    Media reporting of supermarket issues is usually based on `facts’ supplied by the well-organised public supermarket lobby group.

    What products are stocked on government supermarket shelves is a controversial political issue, and is subject to much special interest pressure. Public supermarkets stock Kenyan goods only .

    The Commonwealth Government is funding a campaign for a national shelf-stocking policy, which will outlaw all fatty foods and environmentally unfriendly products.

    Managers are appointed by a local board, on which the Checkout Operators Union has substantial representation.

    Hiring is done through the central department.

    High school leavers who want to be checkout operators must do a special course in the Faculty of Shopping.

    Firing staff is a complicated process.

    Pay depends mostly on seniority, but a master checkout operator allowance is available, mainly to those operators who acquire qualifications in product selection and show support for the government’s supermarket social justice aims.

    Gender equity requirements where married couples must share shopping duties are being introduced.

    Supermarket closures are a controversial political issue, and the subject of many government inquiries and customer demonstrations.

    No suburb wants to have its supermarket closed.

    Supermarket closures are resisted with violent demonstrations.

    Governments have been re-elected on promises not to close any public supermarkets.

    The option of selling ex-public supermarket buildings to be operated as private supermarkets is explicitly banned.

    There is much academic research into appropriate shelf stocking policies, optimal supermarket size and various measures of supermarket productivity.

    Very little of the research is used by those operating supermarkets.

    But there is much pressure to increase staff-customer ratios.

    A commonly used indicator of customer satisfaction is customer retention rates, those supermarkets whose customers spend the most time in obviously being the best.

    Supermarkets find it difficult to know what customers would prefer.

    Some managers have tried including customers on boards, but it turned out most customers did not want the chance to run the supermarkets themselves.

    Managers are never sure whether those customers on the Board are representative or are pushing a pet interest.

    In any case, many important decisions are made by those in central office, who have even less information on consumer desires and special needs and little incentive to promote consumer satisfaction.

    Issues are resolved on the basis of political clout, not consumers’ choices, and the producer interests dominate.

    Proposals made by senior opposition spokesmen that supermarkets be open weekends, public holidays and after 5 p.m., as some private supermarkets do, have been quashed by industry representatives, claiming most consumers do not want to shop at these times, and it too difficult to introduce because not all stores want to open these hours. Instead, more `customer free’ days have been proposed, where staff from different supermarkets can liaise and discuss product selection.

    Economists have proposed that supermarkets be allowed to organise themselves, that new supermarkets be free to open and that customers be given the right to choose which supermarket to shop at, giving supermarkets the incentive to cater to customer needs.

    Supermarkets would be accountable to customers rather than the central bureaucracy, those that offered what customers wanted at least cost would do best.

    Most find these ideas impossible to envisage. Producer interests have come out strongly against the proposals, arguing that untrained customers cannot possibly judge what is an appropriately stocked shelf and the poor would suffer the most.

    Groceries are too important to be left to the private sector they say.

    We should be thankful that politicians consider running shops trivial enough to leave to the private sector.

    Or is it too important to be left to the government?

    Posted by vijay krkm shah at May 20, 2005 01:28 PM