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Always wait for the police

“Police need public support to arrest violent offenders”, says Ken Marsh, the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, effectively the trade union for London police officers.

[Marsh] spoke out after video footage appearing to show two officers locked in a violent struggle as they tried to make an arrest was shared thousands of times on social media.

The footage, taken in south London on Saturday, appeared to show a male officer being dragged around in the road as he tries to stop a suspect in a white tracksuit running away.

A second man, wearing a grey tracksuit, seems to take a run-up before aiming a flying kick at a female officer, who then lies dazed in the road clutching her head, feet away from a passing bus. She appeared to have tried to use incapacitant spray on the pair but to no effect.

A member of the public wearing a motorcycle helmet helped the male officer in the struggle, but several cars went past without stopping.

“Are we now in a society where, if we think we can’t detain somebody, we just let them go? It’s just not worth it,” said Marsh, who represents thousands of police officers in the capital.

Yes. Yes we are. And if anyone wonders how we got to this pass in which the public do not step in to help police officers when the latter attempt to restrain lawbreakers, try repeating Mr Marsh’s question without the implication that “we” refers only to the police:

“Are we now in a society where, if we think we can’t detain somebody, we just let them go? It’s just not worth it,” said the public.

This state of affairs was a long time a-growing. Though I do not know Ken Marsh’s own views upon this issue, how many times have prominent police officers and other figures of authority deprecated, failed to support, actively condemned, arrested or otherwise punished members of the public who “took the law into their own hands” – or even just looked like they might? That last link takes you to a post from 2011 by Perry de Havilland in which a female victim of crime got “quite the life lesson” about police priorities. That lesson will not only have been taken in by her.

Longtime Samizdata readers might recall a little ditty I made in 2007 about a celebrated interview between the radio host Jeremy Vine and Tony McNulty MP, then a Home Office minister. Here is the BBC’s transcription:

Jeremy Vine: You see something happening in the street. Do you step in?

Tony McNulty: I think the general line must be to get in touch with the authorities straight and make sure that if things are as bad as you paint the police will be there as quickly as they can.

Jeremy: You see a young man looking aggressive, shouting at an old woman, what do you do? You retreat and ring the police?

Tony McNulty: I think you should in the first instance. It may well be the simply shouting at them, blowing your horn or whatever else deters them and they go away.

Jeremy: He’s now hitting her and the police haven’t come, what do you do then?

Tony McNulty: The same the same, you must always …

Jeremy: Still wait?

Tony McNulty: Get back to the police, try some distractive activities whatever else.

Jeremy: What jump up and down?

Tony McNulty: But I would say you know sometimes that that may well work.

Even if someone is being battered right in front of you, you must always wait for the police. That was the advice of a Minister of the Crown. Having drilled us in passivity for at least ten years (in fact much longer; that example is only one of many I could have cited), why would anyone expect ordinary citizens to suddenly rediscover the duty to defend a victim of assault just because that victim is a police officer?

Update: Here is some more recent advice from the police themselves: “Taking the law into your own hands – a warning from Derbyshire police”

That article does at least acknowledge that it is possible to make a citizen’s arrest and – mirabile dictu – records that Judge Jonathan Bennett awarded £400 from the Derbyshire High Sheriff’s fund to a man who made a citizen’s arrest of a burglar in recognition of “public spirited behaviour”. But note the response of the only police officer quoted:

Sergeant Graham Summers, of Derbyshire police, said: “We would never encourage anyone to take the law into their own hands by carrying out a citizen’s arrest. Instead, we would urge people to call us on 101 for non-emergencies, or 999 in an emergency.”

69 comments to Always wait for the police

  • Andrew Duffin

    I suppose it would be unoriginal to repeat the old crack about “when seconds count…” etc but hey, the old ones are the best.

    What a world we live in.

  • Mark

    This is one of the unforeseen consequences of making so many laws about our behaviour that everyone has something they don’t want the police to know. When everyone is a criminal, nobody helps the police.

  • Itellyounothing

    I am very confident the wider public and the Police regret the fear and helplessness deliberately injected into the public consciousness by flaccid Oxbridge types in crucial positions throughout the criminal justice system.

    In wider culture, Jordan Peterson and others are widely discussing responsibility in society. The super hero movie genre inadvertently injects the concept of responsibility into audiences across the globe. Movies about freewheeling man children aren’t so popular. So how can ordinary folk change the conversation?

  • When seconds count the police are indeed minutes away. On a particular occasion concerning a guy carrying a knife externally and drugs internally who broke into our neighbours’ house early one morning, it was some 45 minutes after the call when they arrived. (Drive time from nearest continuously-manned station is 10 minutes. The organisation of emergency calls in Scotland has come under criticism.)

    At least they turned up within an hour and took him away, and not us, on that occasion. Nowadays, people suspect that if they express an injudiciously-phrased opinion of an attacker in the heat of the moment, it risks a hate speech charge. Likewise, they fear accusations of using ‘inappropriate force’ on the suspect even when it seemed minimally appropriate to their having some chance of surviving the incident.

    The mention of the dazed female officer reminds me that the son of those neighbours (who have since moved) has joined the police. Recently, he transferred from an area where 50% of the beat/response officers were female to one with a significantly lower percentage because, despite all the propaganda, he had experienced actual incidents (burglary situations and similar) in which his having to be aware of some female colleague’s relative vulnerability had impeded his ability to act effectively to catch the bad guys. He felt that, in discussions of the pros and cons of male/female ratios in given situations, this was the kind of issue that was not sufficiently sayable. (BTW, I invite any non-UK commenters to address whether this issue is peculiar to a force where the police do not routinely carry guns – yet.)

  • Mr Ecks

    They have hundreds of goons online to arrest free-speakers but think we are going to risk our own arses to help some costumed thugs who have run into difficulties. Knowing of course that if we do a proper job and give the un-uniformed scum a quality kicking then the uniformed scum whose neck we have just saved would be quite likely to arrest us for “excessive force”.

    You are on your fucking own lads and lasses. You asked for it you Common Purpose stooges and now you got it.

  • staghounds

    It’s not as though the criminals will be detained for very long anyway- why risk a broken jaw to get some stranger an overnight in a cell?

  • staghounds

    Niall Kinmartin-

    Here in the U. S., it has always been true that some officers are better at subduing violent criminals than others are.

    That’s just life, people aren’t fungible and you deal with it. Some cops have no sense of narrative, some speak Italian, some are terrible at remembering names, some are great shots.

    The increase in smaller officers has raised the proportion of officers who aren’t the best fighters or weight movers. It’s also increased the proportion of good interrogators and the quality of observation. Ass kicking isn’t all the police do, or even all that much of what they do.

    Are women officers in the departments I deal with generally as tough and strong as the men? No. Are they generally up to doing what has to be done? Yes.

    More armour, less speed. Bigger guns, less ammunition. Always a trade off.

  • Dr Evil

    Ideally you would draw your pistol and tell the miscreant to stop hitting the woman or you will shoot him. But sadly that option has long gone. It might help if the physical qualifications for joining the police force were replaced by the original criteria.

  • bobby b

    “BTW, I invite any non-UK commenters to address whether this issue is peculiar to a force where the police do not routinely carry guns – yet.”

    Here in the US, where cops carry guns, it’s becoming apparent that if we want non-lethal responses by the police to situations where something less than death is appropriate, we need cops with sufficient strength and aggressiveness to physically control and subdue miscreants.

    If a young man goes off his meds (or goes on the wrong meds) and causes trouble, he doesn’t necessarily need to be shot and killed. But he’s not going to respond to verbal commands or threats – he’s going to have to be subdued physically if we want him to survive the encounter with the police (and we do want him to survive the encounter.)

    Just like in the military, there are many jobs in the policing profession that can be done by anyone of average intelligence and training. But the insistence that smaller weaker humans be given the jobs that can only be done properly by larger, stronger humans is making the job more dangerous for all cops (by weakening the public’s perception that you don’t mess with cops – you can mess with small weak women cops, and so more people fight back – and by making it more dangerous to depend upon your now-weak partner to back you up as you try to arrest someone.)

    If new women cops and new women infantry could be chosen exclusively from womens’ professional fighting organizations – mixed martial arts and the like – it would all work great. But that’s not happening – that wouldn’t be “fair”. We’re changing the job descriptions so that everyone – weak or small or timid – gets sent out to wrestle down the schizophrenic big strong kid, and people are dying when they don’t have to as a result.

    Woman desk sergeant? Sure. Crime analyst? Yep. Personnel office? Certainly. But not “street cop.” Some can do it. Most can not do it as well as the average male.

  • john in cheshire

    I know two people, on two separate occasions who tried to break up a fight. Both of them were attacked by the assailants and both ended up with broken jaws needing hospital surgery and weeks of recovery.
    In both instances the assailants and the victims walked away unscathed and offered no assistance to the two would-be rescuers.

    So, no, I won’t be intervening.

  • bobby b

    “Even if someone is being battered right in front of you, you must always wait for the police.”

    Ha.

    I’m typing this in a place where, if I called the police for an emergency, they’d be here in 30 minutes or so. They’re that far away. (Unless it’s snowing, in which case it takes longer.)

    And yet every front door in the area remains unlocked at all times. Cars are left running to keep them warm while you duck into wherever you’re going. Tools are left at unattended job sites.

    This doesn’t all happen because the people out here are any better moral beings than anywhere else. It’s because, out here, no one waits for the police. A few weeks ago, a young man beat up his girlfriend in a bar parking lot one night. The next morning, a group of young men dragged him out of his bed, beat him senseless, and left him lying in his underwear in the snow. He’s going to have to move away – he’s violated the community, and no one will put up with him anymore.

    Savage? Maybe, but when my daughter comes out here, she feels safe anywhere, anytime. Isn’t that what we expect from civilization?

    The police – out of job-protection necessity – are more concerned with preserving the rights of the criminals than with protecting the rest of us. Had the police been called when the guy beat up his girlfriend, he’d be running around free and without consequence, awaiting yet another court appearance, probably complaining that his rights had somehow been violated by someone, and in no way dissuaded from beating up more women. This way – just as in dog training – he’s received quick and painful feedback, and he likely poses a much lesser threat to others.

  • The Fyrdman

    Will I intervene to help someone being attacked? Yes, and I have, but only if the police aren’t there. If the assailant gets away there’s an easy arrest in me. I won’t have anything to do with them if I can avoid them.

    When I was 17, I got into a fight with someone I knew on a night out. A mutual friend, half as lairy and half a foot shorter than either me or the other guy, stepped between us to break it up. A copper ran in and smashed my friend into the ground, his partner followed up by kneeling on his face. We ran about 50 feet, and no police followed. The friend was held in the van for an hour before being kicked out.

    Why take on the drunk aggressive 6 footers when the quiet little guy is available? I didn’t like the police before (I’m from Middlesbrough, it’s built in) but I have never trusted them since.

  • The Fyrdman

    And a tip for those intervening – you are not settling a gentle debate. I have seen people try to talk to people scrapping which is both tragic and moronic. If it’s bad enough you need to intervene, step in confidently, from the side, and smash them in the face. Don’t stop at one; keep going till they are on the floor. I know it sounds horrible if you’re the squeemish type but you do not want to end the worst off for helping.

    Yes, other techniques may work, but they require you getting their attention on you, and I’d rather they be dazed before they know I’m there.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “This doesn’t all happen because the people out here are any better moral beings than anywhere else. It’s because, out here, no one waits for the police. […] This way – just as in dog training – he’s received quick and painful feedback, and he likely poses a much lesser threat to others.”

    I’ll ask the question I always ask myself in these situations: – what happens when your political opponents get hold of this technique and apply it to you, to enforce their standards of behaviour? Isn’t this just Antifa? Isn’t this how the Sicilian Mafia started? Isn’t this the basis of the lynch mob? The Mutaween?

    If falsely accused, do you get to present your own evidence and witnesses at your trial?

    I think the first sentence “This doesn’t all happen because the people out here are any better moral beings than anywhere else” isn’t quite true. It ‘happens out here’ precisely because the standards enforced happen to be based on a ‘better’ moral code there. That’s not always and everywhere the case, and morality is in any case something that changes over time, and that good people can legitimately differ on. Up until the 1800s, wife-beating was considered the norm in many communities. How do you make sure the moral code’s enforcement is and remains safe?

    The trouble is, when people plan out how society is to enforce standards of behaviour, everyone always assumes that they or people like themselves will always be in charge and making the rules. They’re always the dog trainer, never the dog.

  • Mr Ed

    Funnily enough today the BBC are bleating about a police force that seems not to patrol the streets, in Hartlepool, so locals are now patrolling with only themselves for support. This is a town where, before we had police forces, after a shipwreck, the locals reportedly found a monkey on the beach and, concluding it was a French spy, hanged it.

    I think that a recent incident in the UK illustrates the problem with police officers who aren’t up to a fight (NB advert might precede the clip). Two women PCs in a car, one is thrown out of it by a robber who sort of hijacks the car before others intervene. I suspect that in most US jurisdictions it would have ended with the guy on a slab.

    I would not trust the British police not to take a bogus counter-allegation of assault by a criminal at face value and put anyone brave enough to help through the wringer, a nice easy one to pursue for them. It is also a common law offence in England to refuse (without good cause) to assist a police constable in the execution of his duty, when there is a breach of the peace, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment.

  • bobby b

    @Nullius in Verba:

    Isn’t this Antifa? Isn’t this risky, frought with danger that the wrong people start enforcing their own warped moral code?

    Certainly. This is not an ideal situation.

    But the alternative? To live as in Chicago? To abandon responsibility for our fates to uncaring or hamstrung “authorities”? Worse, I think.

    And I disagree that moral codes are a changing thing. To me there is One Moral Code. We all know it, and we frequently fail to live up to it. When men beat their wives regularly – when men owned slaves – I don’t consider that to be a different moral code being expressed. I consider it to be a deviation from morality. When Hitler was killing Jews (sorry, Godwin), was Jew-killing consequently the expression of a moral code? I think it was certainly an expression of a code, but “moral” isn’t something that changes with society’s passions or whims. It was anti-moral then and now, as was wife-beating and slave-owning.

    Outlanders such as I describe aren’t the holders of a different moral code than the rest of humanity. They just see it as more important to themselves and to society that we each and every one follow that code. There’s less protection out here for those who choose to live outside of society’s acceptance, and to abandon morality here leaves you in the wind. Out here, we need society for our own protection, and so we insist that, if you want to join the club, you join it completely. There are enough challenges without having to watch your back.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “To me there is One Moral Code.”

    “Yes. Mine.” … replies absolutely everyone. 🙂

    (And everyone in the world secretly thinks in English. Those ‘foreign languages’ are only made up to annoy us.)

  • what happens when your political opponents get hold of this technique and apply it to you, to enforce their standards of behaviour? Nullius in Verba (November 20, 2018 at 6:14 pm)

    If the task were simply to refute, logically, some Antifa-boosting claim of an exact tu quoque argument, then I think that is doable. IIUC, the activity bobby b described concerned replacing the distant and uninterested state’s ineffective enforcement of a very long-established law with more effective local enforcement of it. Antifa want to break laws and to make new laws, the opposite of merely enforcing a long-existing consensus juris in an inadequately-served case.

    Obviously, I see potential for other kinds of problems – as I’m sure all, including bobby b, can too – but I don’t regard it as hard to draw the distinction in mere logic, impossible though it might be to make an Antifa supporter notice it any more than any other erudite refutation one might offer them. 🙂

  • An ex rozzer

    As others have said, a lot of the general public no longer care about the plod. And why should they when the plod clearly don’t care about the welfare of the general public. As for the female police officer, well, thats what you get when you deliberately relax the recruiting standards. Quite frankly, I don’t care if plod get assaulted.

    Fuck them and their political masters.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Antifa want to break laws and to make new laws, the opposite of merely enforcing a long-existing consensus juris in an inadequately-served case.”

    Do you mean to say that the distinction you want to make is that one rule is “traditional”?

    To which the reply would be that wife-beating has only been socially not tolerated since about the early 1800s (and later than that, in many places). Slavery likewise. Every tradition has to start somewhere.

    I’m not saying that the vigilante alternative to ineffective state enforcement is necessarily bad. I’m just saying that we need to think about what happens when the bad guys get control of it, and what safeguards we insist on to deal with that. I don’t think “tradition” is a good fix. Something like the Harm Principle would be better, but that still leaves open the question of fixing such a formal ‘constitution’ into such informal and ad hoc arrangements.

    It’s the Chesterton’s fence principle: before we get rid of all the slow and ineffective state process – with crims “running around free and without consequence, awaiting yet another court appearance, probably complaining that his rights had somehow been violated by someone” – we need to remember why we had to create courts and rights and policemen in the first place. They’re kinda traditional, too!

  • Itellyounothing

    Justice in the old days was faster.

    There was less law to clog the system. No license fee evasion, no statutory instruments. The common law was in many ways simpler. Lawyers for the prosecution and defence were much much rarer.

    Minor infractions were dealt with of the street with soft unofficial authority.

    If you went before a magistrate, you had a good chance of transportation or death.

    Money was limited.

    It’s not just principles that restrained and ordered the system.

    Control the budget of the criminal justice system and limit the methods of lawmaking and the system becomes tolerable once more. Keep a small number of people allowed to be full time in the system. Police, lawyers judges.

    Make

  • What Mr Ecks said. In spades.

  • Rob

    “Are we now in a society where, if we think we can’t detain somebody, we just let them go? It’s just not worth it,” said Marsh, who represents thousands of police officers in the capital.

    We have been there for quite some time. I’m surprised he doesn’t realise this.

    The police force has publicly and explicitly divorced itself from the law-abiding public, it did so many years ago. Don’t go looking for help from that same public, that boat has sailed with you on it.

    The superhero movie genre inadvertently injects the concept of responsibility into audiences around the globe

    Interesting – I would have thought it would do the opposite – encourage the belief that no matter how shit things get, some higher power will appear and sort it all out for you.

  • Paul Marks

    If the police freed up officers from trying to attack people for expressing their opinions on the internet – they would have more officers to put on the streets.

    Also more and more people (sadly) are starting to see the police as a “P.C.” force (no pun intended) on the side of the far left state, against ordinary people. One would have hoped that that Conservative Party governments would have corrected that – but (if anything) Mr Cameron and Mrs May have shown themselves to be more (rather than less) influenced by Frankfurt School of Marxism ideas (WITHOUT understanding that they are Frankfurt School of Marxism ideas) than Gordon Brown was. It is all very sad – as most ordinary police officers DESPISE the “Diversity” and “Social Justice” Frankfurt School of Marxism stuff they are forced to parrot.

  • doug galecawitz

    hey Brits, when you ceded your right to bear arms you ceded all of your other rights. You made your rights contingent on the whims of your elites. You ceded your right to have representative government. You in essence told your political class that liberty was not something you cared to handle responsibility. Now surprise surprise, your police don’t protect you… your laws are only enforced against the law abiding, you have no say over your foreign policy, your immigration policy, your trade policy, or anything else for that matter. You squandered your empire and now your country is being colonized and your daughters pimped out by foreigners who live off your taxes and hate you and if you make any noise about it you’ll be locked up. Giving up your right to bear arms is a mistake a free people get to make only once. Britain as a historical entity will cease to exist and there is not one damn thing any of you can do about it. 1000+ years of tradition flushed down the toilet, hope it was worth it.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “hey Brits, when you ceded your right to bear arms you ceded all of your other rights. You made your rights contingent on the whims of your elites. …”

    Mmm. So what’s your excuse, America?

    People commonly blame the black atrocities of history on the leaders – Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and so on – as if one person forced the entire country down that path at gunpoint. But the thing that made their rule possible was all the people who picked them to lead, who obeyed them, who followed them. There are always people like Stalin and Mao around, thousands of them. But it requires the support of the people to hand them the power to act. “No Prince may govern without the consent of the governed.” And that was so even back in Machiavelli’s day, when they didn’t even make a pretence of being democratic.

    The elites follow the herd. They may try to influence it and exploit it for their own purposes, but they don’t control it. The right to posess guns won’t make a blind bit of difference if you’re all alone, against all your neighbours. It won’t even save you against the government. The government has more guns, and bigger guns, and better training. Your neighbours have guns. Your enemies have guns. You can raise the stakes, but that won’t change a losing hand into a winner. What matters is numbers – how many agree with you, how many agree with them, how many are prepared to tolerate you, or them, for the sake of a quiet life. If you’ve got numbers, you don’t need guns. If you don’t have the numbers, guns won’t save you.

    “Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant–society collectively, over the separate individuals who compose it–its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence; and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.”

  • bobby b

    Nullius in Verba, we don’t arm ourselves to win.

    We arm ourselves to make it extremely expensive to make us lose.

  • Itellyounothing

    Maybe both depending on how your brain is primed?

    I saw it as a bunch of private individuals who could have walked away and don’t. Some with powers some not.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “we don’t arm ourselves to win. We arm ourselves to make it extremely expensive to make us lose.”

    And how’s that working out for you, so far?

    When the TSA try to touch you up at airport security, do you pull out your gun?

    When the college tell you that you’ve been accused of rape by a mattress-dragging girl and you are to face a Title IX kangaroo court trial with no due process, do you go on a shotgun rampage across campus?

    When the company you’ve worked for loyally for 20 years fires you in an instant for something politically incorrect you’ve said outside work on Twitter, do you take out the head of Human Resources with a sniper bullet?

    How is this supposed to work, exactly?

  • Albion's Blue Front Door

    The issue of intervening in a fight between strangers, as opposed to taking the law into your own hands, has been explored by people familiar with the nature of criminals and crime. One view was that unless you are trained to fight, and even then you are at a disadvantage in that you do not know what weapon they secretly carry, you are on a hiding to nothing. First it is likely to bring you pain that inhibits your life in some way, and if you are accused of being provocative or responsible, you face the harrowing business of dealing with the police. The chances are the people fighting are not going to worry about the pain as they are familiar with it, and if they are of criminal persuasion they think nothing of a day in court or even facing a jail term. The sort of thing that would destroy the lives of most people is nothing to them. There is also the very obvious fact the police will go after the low-hanging fruit. Me for example, being 5’6″ and old with it, makes for an easy arrest.

    In summary, it is better to avoid trouble because you have no idea of the consequences but the troublemakers don’t worry abut it at all.

    Yes, this makes people not seem at all brave. It seems shameful that we males cannot be males but that is how society has gone. We send policewomen in to deal with violent men and we limit police activity to ‘essential crimes’ such as enforcing Facebook’s terms and conditions. That is what we appear to have voted for.

    Finally, there is an old joke that sums up the relationship between us and the police. A householder rings up the police to say there is an intruder in his garden shed and can they send someone over? ‘We’re busy,’ says the cop at the other end of the phone line. ‘Just be patient, we’ll be there when we can.’ Ten minutes later nothing has happened so the householder rings again, and once more gets the same irritated response of them being busy. Another ten minutes, the same thing happens on the third call. Finally, the householder rings up the bobbies and says, ‘Don’t worry, I have dealt with it. No need for you to come now because I shot the intruder.’

    Inside two minutes there are blue lights everywhere, a police helicopter overhead and armed cops swarming the garden. There is no body. ‘I thought you said you shot someone,’ says an annoyed copper.

    ‘And I thought you said you were busy,’ says the householder.

  • “we don’t arm ourselves to win. We arm ourselves to make it extremely expensive to make us lose.” (bobby b, November 22, 2018 at 2:47 am)

    And how’s that working out for you, so far? When the TSA try to touch you up … When the college tell you that you’ve been accused of rape … When the company you’ve worked for loyally for 20 years fires you in an instant for something politically incorrect you’ve said outside work …(Nullius in Verba, November 22, 2018 at 10:22 am)

    It seems vastly more relevant to the subject of this post to note that when bobby b wakes to the sound of home invaders breaking into the ground floor, he has an option over and above hoping he can call the police and have them arrive before the crims reach the top of the stairs (and over and above shouting loudly, jumping up and down, etc.).

    For now, other tools better address the cases Nullius mentions: your phone camera can film a TSAer touching up someone ahead of you in the queue; Betsy DeVos can issue new guidelines for college accusations; on this blog, we defend freedom – including the freedom of companies to hire and fire – even when we despise the prejudice motivating a particular case.

    All that said, it seems obvious to me that the statistical risk, and therefore net cost to the state, of its persecuting an armed group of citizens to some given degree will become discernibly greater than if applied to an unarmed group when that degree rises above a level that may seem large to us but would seem minor to much of the past and much of the world today (c.f. PerryM’s post on Thanksgiving).

  • bobby b

    “And how’s that working out for you, so far?”

    Quite well, thanks. I remain protected by my Constitution and by the rule of law. Democratic choices remain respected. The population frequently votes for choices that I consider to be stupid, but it’s more significant that we then respect those choices because they were made according to our system’s design. The problems you cite arise within that rule of law, and do not indicate a need for unlawful response.

    Part of the reason I remain protected by the Constitution and the rule of law is that the other side (for lack of a better term) has chosen so far not to attempt to seize an unconstitutional power. Perhaps this is a conceit, but I believe that one of the reasons for this is that my side would pose a viable threat to them if they did. No, I cannot likely defeat the US military if they came for me, but I can shoot the general’s spouse and kids and relatives and friends and pets while they search for me. Any despotic power that arises here would sit uneasily at best.

    The right of a citizenry to be armed and thus dangerous is what keeps us from an ultimate loss of power. To imply that it’s not working because we can still receive traffic tickets is a bit facile.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “It seems vastly more relevant to the subject of this post to note that when bobby b wakes to the sound of home invaders breaking into the ground floor, he has an option over and above hoping he can call the police and have them arrive before the crims reach the top of the stairs”

    Agreed. I support the idea of the right to bear arms and the right to defend yourself with them as a guarantor of liberty in the very short term against illegal force. What I’m saying is that it’s no defence at all against cultural change and the rest of society practising “a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression”. If society itself becomes authoritarian – imposing its norms on its members by force or other pressures, and without safeguards – then guns make no difference. We cannot use them against society and survive. Not having the right to bear arms is not the reason the UK is in the situation it’s in, and having it hasn’t saved the Americans either.

    To defend freedom you have to fix society – you can’t just ignore it or ‘fort up’ against it. To defend lawfulness you have to fix the police – you can’t just abandon the effort and replace them with guns and vigilantism. The purpose in having the police (and rights, and court appearances) is to enable safeguards to be put in place against the other side using the same tools on us.

    On the topic of home invasion – when the burglar hears Bobby moving about upstairs, he shouts “Armed Police!” What does Bobby do now?

    Or somebody of a malicious turn of mind could call the police and say there’s a mad gunman upstairs at Bobby’s address, come rescue me! What are Bobby’s options now?

    Or as in Bobby’s story, the lads go round at night to beat up the guy who beat up his girlfriend in the parking lot, and find him behind cover at the top of the stairs with a loaded Sig Sauer P266 Mk-25 in each hand. Wouldn’t they be wishing right about then they’d waited for the police to turn up?

    It’s no use only coming up with scenarios where your proposal always happens to be the right answer. You have to think about how it can go wrong, too. You’re not always the dog trainer. Sometimes you’re the dog.

    “on this blog, we defend freedom – including the freedom of companies to hire and fire – even when we despise the prejudice motivating a particular case.”

    Indeed. It shouldn’t be illegal to do so. That doesn’t mean it’s not a problem for liberty that a lot of companies should have that sort of attitude to free speech. Standing up for liberty needs to be voluntary, but if nobody volunteers, if nobody even understands the need, freedom will die. (The people as a whole get the society they deserve.)

    “All that said, it seems obvious to me that the statistical risk, and therefore net cost to the state, of its persecuting an armed group of citizens to some given degree will become discernibly greater than if applied to an unarmed group when that degree rises above a level that may seem large to us but would seem minor to much of the past and much of the world today”

    The cost may be greater, but so is the motivation.

    And even an armed group will surrender if the risks from resistance are much higher than those from compliance. It’s not hard for the state to arrange matters that way.

    The real trick is to make sure they don’t want to.

    “The population frequently votes for choices that I consider to be stupid, but it’s more significant that we then respect those choices because they were made according to our system’s design. The problems you cite arise within that rule of law, and do not indicate a need for unlawful response.”

    And I could say the same about the UK.

  • bobby b

    “And I could say the same about the UK.”

    True, but I think you’re conflating two separate concepts.

    I don’t think anyone here has called for an armed response to the UK government’s acts and attitudes. Whatever one thinks about PC police and the Tommy Robinson affair, I’ve not seen anyone saying you ought to be taking up arms against your government because of them.

    But the basic attitude held by a government concerning its citizenry, as well as that held by a citizenry concerning its government, is affected by the amount of power held by that citizenry. Arms are a form of power that most everyone recognizes, and an armed citizenry is likely viewed more carefully and afforded more latitude and consideration than a disarmed one.

    When someone decries the lack of a right to arms of the British citizen, they’re not necessarily saying that an armed response is overdue. They’re saying that the British citizen and the British government treat each other differently than they would if that citizen held more power in the relationship.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “But the basic attitude held by a government concerning its citizenry, as well as that held by a citizenry concerning its government, is affected by the amount of power held by that citizenry.”

    It’s an interesting point. So do you think it should make a difference that the police are (mostly) unarmed, too?

  • bobby b

    “So do you think it should make a difference that the police are (mostly) unarmed, too?”

    Yes. Back when your society was more homogeneous and ordered, I think this was a smart idea. When the power disparity is great, you don’t want to rub the noses of the powerless in it. Even the label – the unarmed “bobbies” – projects a puppyish air, a friendly bonhomie. But, IIUC, everyone was always aware that, with a phone call, the armed police will show up.

    As your society has become less ordered and orderly, I think the unarmed police will give way to the armed model. It has to if the police are to provide any protection. At that point, I think the disarming of the populace will become more of an issue, as people will be staring the power disparity in its face daily.

    I’ve been in places where a disarmed population is surrounded by cops and soldiers holding full-auto rifles. The attitude of the people towards government in those places is characterized by much more fear than in places where the people can also have arms – even when the government is benign. That fear is (in my mind) about 90% of the justification for our 1st Amendment right to bear arms. I want my government to have some fear of me, too.

    It’s not about the right to hunt. It’s only partially about the right to self-defense. It’s mostly about remaining a citizen instead of a subject, and if you are without power, you’re a subject.

  • do you think it should make a difference that the police are (mostly) unarmed, too? Nullius in Verba, November 22, 2018 at 4:00 pm

    A century ago, the police were more rarely armed than now whereas the public were much more often armed. I have failed to locate a post or comment of Natalie’s that I recall where she notes that the police borrowed guns from passing members of the public during the siege of Sidney Street, but the search reminded me of my own comment regarding the ease with which an 11-year-old could buy a rifle in 1914. (The Pistols Act of 1903 made it an offence to sell a pistol to a child, a drunk or a lunatic. AFAIK, minors were otherwise as free to own and carry guns for any lawful reason, including self defence, as grown-ups.) This old post of Patrick’s notes a few of the individual gun crimes of 1910, indicating that the police were not at all operating in a world where civilians never had guns. It was reported of the Duke of Devonshire that after a relative was assassinated in Ireland, he bought a pistol for self-defence but kept forgetting where he’d left it in Chatsworth and buying another, so “there were about 20 of them knocking about when he died”. And anyone who has read Sherlock Holmes knows how routinely Dr Watson carried his old service revolver whenever a case seemed to require it.

    Any theories anyone comes up with may be tested by being reviewed against this state of affairs.

  • Mr Black

    I am sure this has been gamed out in committees for years. Make a public fuss about police being on their own and as such they need much more power and require more officers, more weapons and more money to protect themselves.

  • Mr Black

    I think the first sentence “This doesn’t all happen because the people out here are any better moral beings than anywhere else” isn’t quite true. It ‘happens out here’ precisely because the standards enforced happen to be based on a ‘better’ moral code there. That’s not always and everywhere the case, and morality is in any case something that changes over time, and that good people can legitimately differ on. Up until the 1800s, wife-beating was considered the norm in many communities. How do you make sure the moral code’s enforcement is and remains safe?

    The trouble is, when people plan out how society is to enforce standards of behaviour, everyone always assumes that they or people like themselves will always be in charge and making the rules. They’re always the dog trainer, never the dog.

    The key point you’re missing here is there doesn’t get to be an Antifa in a society that is moral and just. The first asshole who stands up and demands this and that and he’ll smash things until he gets his way has the utter shit kicked out of him or maybe he is killed. You can’t have a moral society if you let the immoral start carving off pieces of it. There is a range of civilised behaviour you accept and outside that you are run out of town or found face down in a river. If you don’t like living in a moral society, feel free to leave.

    That’s why we are in such a state now, the right forgot that defending liberty meant ACTUALLY defending it, with fists and boots and knives and guns. When the evil, the immoral, the power hungry realised there was no one standing in the way anymore they just moved in and took over. In that town mentioned by bobby b, everyone is a trainer because nothing else is tolerated. And thus they live in peace.

  • The Furdman

    In intervening to defend another, I do not know what the results will be. I do, however, know what the results of not intervening. A shrinking of my spirit; to look with hate at mirrors; to spend countless hours at night not sleeping because I am tormenting myself with the shame of standing by. I have intervened and came away with bruises and broken noses, and I have not intervened and suffered much deeper wounds.

    I will not stand aside.

  • Paul Marks

    Is there a right to self defence – and a right (indeed a moral duty) to come to the defence of other people under attack?

    Even Thomas Hobbes accepted a sort-of right of self defence (but as a animal reflex – Mr Hobbes did not accept the traditional view that humans are BEINGS, i.e. moral agents). But Thomas Hobbes never (as far as I know) considered the possibility that the just person has a moral duty to come to the aid of someone they see being unjustly attacked. And modern British law is very much in line with the ideas of Thomas Hobbes (and Sir Francis Bacon and Jeremy Bentham) – it does not really see humans as beings (as moral agents) with Free Will (moral responsibility). Modern British law treats people as something less than free citizens (moral agents). As Mr Ed has often pointed out – one can tell one is reading modern British law (or laws of other places influenced by it) by its “bullying tone” – the utter contempt modern British law shows for private persons and private organisations.

    It is as if that modern British law does not believe that private person and private organisations should even really EXIST. It holds that, as Edmund Burke described the French state of his time, the state should be “all in all” – a totalitarian state, as with the French Jacobins of the Revolutionary period, or the Fascist Italy of Mussolini and the Fascist philosopher Gentille.

    “You have violated Godwin’s law Paul – you are comparing Mrs May to…..” – no actually I have NOT violated Godwin’s law, I have been careful to compare the present British state (in its PHILOSOPHY – its belief that there is no private sphere which is none of the business of the state) to France under the Jacobins, and Fascist Italy – NOT to the land of Gothic Script and Goose Stepping.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “The key point you’re missing here is there doesn’t get to be an Antifa in a society that is moral and just.”

    Yes, and *my* key point you keep missing is that this is exactly what Antifa say. This is exactly what Antifa are. They are people who are morally certain that the far right are evil: that racists, sexists, rapists, capitalists, homophobes, hyper-wealthy ‘fat cat’ CEOs, nationalists, zionists, and fundamentalist Christian bigots are all unacceptable in a society that is moral and just. And the first asshole who stands up and demands ‘free speech’ rights to insult people on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or whatever is going to get utter shit kicked out of him or maybe killed. That’s what Antifa *are*. They’ve got their own idea of what ‘moral’ is, and outside that you are run out of town or found face down in a river. If you don’t like living in a moral society, feel free to leave.

    It’s what the Mutaween are. It’s what the Political Officers were. It’s what every set of totalitarian warriors for morality, virtue, and social justice are. Everyone’s got their own moral code, and they’ll fight to build a moral society and then use whatever means are necessary to keep it that way. They have no tolerance whatsoever for any other opinion on the matter, any other way of life, or anyone who thinks differently. If someone disagrees with their idea of ‘moral’, then they are immoral by definition. Kick the utter shit out of them, so that like a dog being trained they stop trying to corrupt your perfect society.

    And you get cycle after cycle of these same people, all with exactly the same attitude, who all look on with utter astonishment, confusion, and dismay when society changes its beliefs about what is moral, but not its methods for enforcing it, and they suddenly find themselves in the next cycle on the receiving end of the same technique. Somebody else has taken over the machine they built and maintained, and is now using it on them.

    As Orwell put it: “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” We just take turns wearing the boot.

    The authoritarian vision of the ideal future is that they get to keep hold of the boot – forever. The libertarian vision of the ideal future is that we get rid of the boot. I don’t know if the libertarian vision is possible. We seem to have moved a long way towards it, and things have got much better as a result (Thanksgiving!), but we still clearly have a way to go. But I’m certain that the authoritarian vision is not possible. History tells us that all empires fall, and that morality changes and mutates with each passing generation like the language does.

    A couple of centuries previously, a wife-beater would be considered normal and outsiders interfering between a man and his wife would be regarded as out of order. Now we’ve got this new morality where it’s the wife-beater who gets kicked out of town. If only the older, sexist generation had stamped on this new ‘equality’ wickedness before it took hold, eh? Now it’s taken over, and believes itself the One True Morality. And oh boy, is it in for a shock!

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Is there a right to self defence – and a right (indeed a moral duty) to come to the defence of other people under attack?”

    Yes.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-defence_in_English_law

  • Nullius in Verba (November 23, 2018 at 1:38 pm), Adolf Hitler and Sir Winston Churchill both believed that their causes were just – or at least, there is a sense in which that can be said, just as there is a sense in which you can say

    Antifa … are morally certain that the far right are evil

    In the UK, in the darkest winter of WWII, pamphlets abusing Churchill, praising the enemy, clamouring for surrender and claiming that WWII was “British capitalism fighting for loot”, were offered openly for sale on the streets – though they did not find many buyers – whereas similar activities were imprudent under Hitler’s rule. Some of those who sold those pamphlets were communists whose failure to attempt revolution in early 1941 had more to do with their extreme lack of support from the British public than their lack of desire for violent revolution. Had they tried, Churchill would have crushed them – less cruelly than Hitler crushed those who rebelled against his rule, but effectively enough.

    Similarly, Antifa’s members live in a 1st amendment country. If they use violence to take the 1st amendment from others, they are no more equal to any who use violence to make them desist than Adolf was to Winston. A 1st amendment is one way – perhaps the way – to

    get rid of the boot

    And the 2nd amendment was passed so people could hang onto the 1st – could keep the boot from coming back again.

  • Mr Ed

    Some of those who sold those pamphlets were communists whose failure to attempt revolution in early 1941 had more to do with their extreme lack of support from the British public than their lack of desire for violent revolution.

    There wasn’t an ‘extreme’ lack of support for the Communists in Britain during WW2, there was plenty of sabotage by Communists. The late Lt-Cdr John Moffat, the Swordfish pilot who has been credited with striking the Bismarck with a torpedo, wrote expressly about a spate of sabotage by Communists in Britain in 1940-1941 (up to early morning on 22nd June 1941) which led to mysterious aircraft crashes.

    And there are other sources suggesting that Communist sabotage in WW2 was a serious issue, here’s one.

  • Mr Black

    Yes Nullis, obviously the evil and the good both believe in their cause. But you go down the path of cowardice and an abdication of responsibility by trying to equate the two as equals somehow. Because when evil rises up in strength you would sit back and say “they have as much right as anyone”. No they don’t. If you believe in a just society and in the righteousness of your cause you don’t say that. You shoot them. You shoot them without hesitation, you shoot all their supporters and anyone who gives them aid or comfort because they are the enemies of civilisation, even though they may be your neighbors. You either believe in your principles with enough force to kill for them or you will live a life of constant surrenders to people who DO believe that way.

    Cowardice in the face of evil is not a virtue, as much as many on the right like to pretend it is to excuse their inaction. If you do not trust yourself to make a moral judgement then you are a worthless human being, flotsam to be carried along by the tide of social fashions, standing for nothing and permitting all manner of evil to have free reign.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Yes Mr Black. We would shoot anyone who attempts to put on the boot, whether they are on the left or on the right. We would shoot anyone who seeks to enforce their own norms on the rest of society, where those norms are not justified by the Harm Principle. We would shoot Antifa when they try to impose their moral views on others by violent/coercive means, but if you use the same sort of techniques, we would shoot you too.

    Hypothetically, if we ruled the world.

    The only justification for society to impose on an individual’s freedom is to prevent actual unconsented harm to others. There are many other matters on which we can make moral judgements regarding the good and proper way for people to live, but where they are not harming or forcing one another, we have room for them all. We can still judge; and will no doubt consider many of them sinful, corrupt, unwise, cruel, dishonest, dangerous, dishonourable, and ungenerous. But if we want the freedom to live according to our moral standards, we have to allow everyone else the freedom to live according to theirs. If we want the freedom to choose, then everyone else must be free too, even if we think their choices are mistakes.

    Thus, there are many evils that we *will* allow to rise up, if people choose them freely. The only evil we would *not* allow to rise up and be enacted is the belief that you can/should shoot anyone who doesn’t share your values (on any other issues besides this one). You can believe that and advocate for that if you like, but we wouldn’t allow you to actually *do* it. You cannot win against evil by becoming evil yourself.

  • bobby b

    “The only justification for society to impose on an individual’s freedom is to prevent actual unconsented harm to others.”

    Me, earlier: There’s one moral code.

    NiV, earlier: “Yes. Mine.” … replies absolutely everyone. 🙂

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Me, earlier: There’s one moral code.”

    Yes. There are lots of moral codes, everyone has one, and *everyone* considers their own to be the only valid one.

    “But though this proposition is not likely to be contested in general terms, the practical question, where to place the limit–how to make the fitting adjustment between individual independence and social control–is a subject on which nearly everything remains to be done. All that makes existence valuable to any one, depends on the enforcement of restraints upon the actions of other people. Some rules of conduct, therefore, must be imposed, by law in the first place, and by opinion on many things which are not fit subjects for the operation of law. What these rules should be, is the principal question in human affairs; but if we except a few of the most obvious cases, it is one of those which least progress has been made in resolving. No two ages, and scarcely any two countries, have decided it alike; and the decision of one age or country is a wonder to another. Yet the people of any given age and country no more suspect any difficulty in it, than if it were a subject on which mankind had always been agreed. The rules which obtain among themselves appear to them self-evident and self-justifying. This all but universal illusion is one of the examples of the magical influence of custom, which is not only, as the proverb says a second nature, but is continually mistaken for the first.”

    To allow the maximum number of different moral codes to co-exist peacefully, and so maximise our own chances of being allowed to live as we believe we should, we seek the minimum restriction we need to apply. The minimum possible evil, you might say. Moral codes are divided into two *sets* – one set whose practice is to be tolerated, and the other not.

    Obviously, not everyone agrees, and not everyone’s moral code is compatible with such a restriction. But this is ours: the one we’re fighting for.

  • Mr Black

    Unfortunately the tired old “least harm” libertarian nonsense has never worked and can never work for the simple reason that it gives evil the same rights and freedoms as the good. Inevitably evil uses the system to establish power and then the “least harm” people surrender without a fight because they have abdicated their duty to kill in defence of liberty. It is not a moral code in itself but the refusal to have a moral code, “everything is ok because I don’t want to take the responsibility of making a judgement”. It’s like trying to run a justice system on the principles of a pacifist. Only criminals benefit. Mosley and his gang should have been rounded up and shot, as should the communists during the cold war. Freedom of thought does not include siding with the enemy in any nation that wishes to survive intact. Instead we’re now asking how to wrestle society out of the grip of firmly established communist control. Cutting away moral infection is a vital and necessary task to preserving liberty, it always has been.

  • Mr Black

    I feel I must also comment on your stupid remark that the man who kills in defence liberty is no different than the man who kills to crush liberty. You see the killing as the problem, not the justification for doing so. Nothing could more clearly illustrate the abdication of moral values and judgement than equating the two. The Nazis and the allies, both just mass murdering armies, amirite? Pure nonsense.

  • Mr Black (November 24, 2018 at 9:03 pm), I agree and disagree in equal measure. On the one hand, I agree that “least harm” can be, and has been, interpreted in idiotic ways. When I was at school, teachers who were firm on their first day with us and lightened up later did well, whereas those who began by being nice to us, and only ratcheted up the discipline slowly and reluctantly as they were compelled to, invariably had a very thin time of it. That school lesson was one I learnt well; it is applicable to many situations.

    On the other hand, I query your final phrase in:

    Mosley and his gang should have been rounded up and shot

    Mosely and senior followers were rounded up and interned when war broke out – whereupon half the English upper class went to the government and said, “Are you crazy locking him up and not his wife? She’s far more dangerous than he is!”. The wife was Diana, third of the Mitford girls, and sister Nancy was one of the warners. After a few weeks of this, the government gave way and interned her too. Later in the war, Churchill, while visiting the US, met younger sister Jessica (the communist one) and told her he had lightened some of the internment conditions, expecting to please Jessica by having made her sister’s life easier. Instead, Jessica echoed you, furiously demanding that Diana be shot. “I had not realised the family animosities were so strong”, Churchill wryly commented afterwards.

    AFAIK, lower-level blackshirts ‘did their bit’ in the war like everyone else (Orwell’s home guard commander was one of them). I know no evidence that the war effort would have been benefitted by their being shot.

    My comment above notes the far greater latitude given to the communists. There was a good argument for more equal treatment of the two groups. Until June 22nd 1941, the communists did more harm to the war effort – but still hardly managed to do any (in the UK, that is; France was another story). After that, some of them ‘did their bit’ too, though one may reasonably ask for which country they were really doing it. In other words, you can sometimes get use out of people you don’t shoot – even rather lousy people.

  • bobby b

    “Inevitably evil uses the system to establish power and then the “least harm” people surrender without a fight because they have abdicated their duty to kill in defence of liberty.”

    I have to disagree with this part of what you said.

    I was somewhat amused earlier when Nullius in Verba decried my claim of there being one moral code, but then named my own moral code almost exactly when he said that “the only justification for society to impose on an individual’s freedom is to prevent actual unconsented harm to others”. This is, essentially, the Golden Rule. That is my moral code/aspiration, and it is apparently shared by Nullius in Verba.

    So that places me firmly in the “least harm” group. But the philosophy to which I facially adhere, and the one that I have lived by concretely in past times, does not allow me to “surrender without a fight because they have abdicated their duty to kill in defence of liberty.”

    Indeed, it is that philosophy that compels me to fight, to the death when it has been needed. Think of it as the Gadsden flag, personified. “Unconsented harm” isn’t limited to an immediate threat to my life. Harm to my liberty interests also counts.

  • Mr Black

    Niall, it’s not about the war effort, it’s about the principle of defending liberty from those that would destroy it. When someone forms a political party around the principle that their opponents should be enslaved, they have violated the compact of that society. Executing them is a way of enforcing a hard red line that cannot be crossed. A society that defends liberty should allow the widest range of belief and behaviour EXCEPT where it challenges the foundations of that society. At that point you have crossed into sedition, in the case of Mosley, treason. These should be capital crimes and enforced without exception. Such a person is always welcome to leave the country for a place more to their liking but they should not be protected by the laws of that country when their objective is to destroy it.

    Nations are, or were, formed around common culture and practices and that formed the common basis for deciding what was and what wasn’t a crime. Now we’ve got so many hostile, competing ideologies that there is no longer any basis for coming to common agreement on what our society should stand for. Sometimes nations have to enforce that common culture by slaughter against splinter groups who seek power to over-throw the existing order, that’s just the house-keeping of an open society. But to keep our freedoms we MUST be ready to say “over this line and you forfeit your right to live among us”. We’ve failed to do that and now we are a hunted minority in our own nations. The “least harm” approach has utterly failed everywhere people have claimed it was in effect. Evil moved in and took over.

  • Mr Black

    bobby b, “least harm” can and does work in a society where all agree on what form justice and morality should take. But that kind of society cannot be maintained for long if people who oppose it are permitted to live within it. It requires broadening the idea of “harm” to include the stated goals of each person within in. If one person demands death to red-heads, we’re supposed to laugh at the fool and carry on. If he gathers 10 million followers we realise that the nation is in mortal danger but now it’s too late to stop.

    The time to act is when that one man cries out death to his opponents. The least harm model says do nothing, even when he has gathered his 10 million followers because no one has been killed yet even though they make the promise of it in the future. It may well be that some people who meant no real harm would be killed under such a policy but it would also mean that ALL the people who meant real harm would also be killed. The cost of a few innocent lives each year is easy to bear next to the cost of one Pol Pot or Kim Jong. Least harm properly applied is the long view of survival, least harm as applied by “libertarians” is just an excuse for cowardly pacifism. The “always do nothing” doctrine.

    But such a system requires the education of people in their formative years to give them an understanding of their place in society as judges and dispensers of justice, the ability to be moral agents. The final word on protecting liberty should always be at the hands of a moral and armed population and not in the hands of governments.

  • bobby b

    Mr Black, I wonder if we’re not all getting hung up on semantics.

    If I had a red-headed daughter, and encountered someone who convinces me that he was truly compelled to kill red-headed daughters, I would shoot him. Maybe not as a first step, but certainly at some point before my daughter was at risk. “Least harm” allows me that right – that moral imperative.

    My code of “least harm” compels me, when I see someone murdering innocents who I don’t know thousands of miles away, to stop them from doing so, because interfering with the killers’ advancement of their moral code causes less harm to my moral interests than does allowing the slaughter of innocents.

    I don’t think that Nullius in Verba is saying that we need to abandon our own moral code because it might conflict with someone else’s moral code. Indeed, I get the feeling that he would value his own moral code as much as you and I do our own. He’s simply saying that we ought not be surprised when others, who hold moral codes at odds with our own, feel just as compelled to follow theirs as we do ours.

  • Mr Black

    bobby b, I think the main point of difference is the threshold that constitutes a lethal response. There are numerous contributors here that would say a man has a right to his policies of death to red-heads and that if he can gain popular support, then so be it. The underlying assumption being that IF such popular support is found, the society is not worth saving from itself. It twists the idea of “least harm” into any shape necessary to justify doing nothing until it is too late where the justification becomes there is nothing we can do now so why bother. I believe there is a Yes, Prime Minister episode that covers this exact philosophy and its moral bankruptcy.

    And yet we live in a society now that would imprison you for taking that man seriously and killing him, even though you were right to do so. We’ve lost the ability to distinguish just actions from unjust actions in a misguided attempt to accept all ideologies as equals, as part of a right to freedom of belief. A “least harm” doctrine that forbids action until after the threatened crime or evil has taken place is not a moral position, it is a deliberate rejection of moral judgement and the responsibility of making it. Anyone can justify punishment for a crime having taking place, few have the courage to do justice BEFORE the damage is done. That is the linchpin, the courage to decide right and wrong and to enforce it, even brutally if needs be.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “There are numerous contributors here that would say a man has a right to his policies of death to red-heads and that if he can gain popular support, then so be it.”

    What if “red-heads” = “Communists”?

    I know people who argue death to all Communists… 🙂

    “The underlying assumption being that IF such popular support is found, the society is not worth saving from itself.”

    No. The argument would be that even if such popular support was found, it still shouldn’t be allowed/tolerated. We’re not democrats!

    “We’ve lost the ability to distinguish just actions from unjust actions in a misguided attempt to accept all ideologies as equals, as part of a right to freedom of belief.”

    First, we *are* distinguishing just and unjust actions, by forbidding the killing of people simply for holding beliefs, or proposing policies.

    Second, we *don’t* accept all ideologies as equal – we just allow people to believe in and advocate for them. “I detest what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Detestation implies a moral judgement. We judge it. We condemn it. We argue against it. If it looks like it might be implemented, we fight to stop its implementation. But we don’t forbid the belief, or the advocacy. We don’t abandon due process.

    There are a whole stack of practical reasons for allowing dangerous opinions we detest to be argued out in public debate, rather than being driven underground. (Go read Mill’s ‘Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion’, or Milton’s ‘Areopagitica’ if you haven’t already.)

    But the main one, like I said, is that all of this will one day be applied to *you*. If we can all kill people simply for having what we consider to be evil beliefs, then when others think *your* beliefs are evil and need to be stopped before they gain popularity, it means they can kill *you*. That’s Antifa’s viewpoint. And you can’t make any distinction in the principle you’re applying that simply reads “Because it’s *me* doing it.” Because Antifa can say exactly the same thing, too.

  • Mr Black

    The theoretical underpinnings of libertarianism are utter horse shit, so appealing to this unicorn fantasy of failed ideas is no different from admitting the futility of your position. How about you answer this question so I can nail down exactly what you would do, in real life.

    The muslim population of the UK coalesces around a push for Sharia law and an exclusively muslim government. Every year their numbers grow in relation to the population, every year they win a few more seats in parliament. Whole cities become muslim only as other residents are “encouraged” to leave. Eventually they get the numbers and we have a muslim majority parliament. Sharia law is introduced, along the lines of Iran or SA. At which point in this story does a good, right-thinking defender of liberty start shooting?

    And please, if you’re going to make some long-winded reply that dodges the question, I’m not interested. Just name the point where defending liberty moves from talking to killing.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “How about you answer this question so I can nail down exactly what you would do, in real life.”

    The question doesn’t describe real life. The cultural change is going in the other direction, but hypothetically…

    “Sharia law is introduced, along the lines of Iran or SA.”

    Here.

    Now consider the same question in reverse. Imagine you’re a Beardy Mullah in Saudi Arabia. The English and Americans are moving into your country. They’re setting up businesses and employing the local young people. They’re selling their music, their TV shows, their clothing styles, their attitudes, and the kids are hopping on the bandwagon. People are suddenly talking about freedom and democracy and the ‘Arab Spring’, and disrespecting the old rules. Girls want to wear revealing clothes. Women want to drive cars, and get jobs, and own their own property. Couples want to hold hands in public. They’re not going to the mosque five times a day any more – maybe once a week, or once a month, or never. And Western governments keep leaning on your country’s leaders about your “human rights record” and all the religious persecution, sexism, slavery, and so on, and the Western media spread propaganda about it, presenting your nation and traditional culture as some sort of primitive scumsuckers, and every time they do your weak leaders cave in. They’ve liberalised this and repealed that, and they no longer apply Sharia beatings and executions as they once did, and they’ve banned slavery, and they’ve even alllowed women to drive cars! They seem to have completely forgotten their sacred duty to the jihad, to drive the infidels and their ways out of their nation and the world, and seem to be in the process of surrendering wholesale to them! Muslims seem to want to travel to live in infidel Western countries, something that is strictly forbidden by Sharia law! And their adherence to traditional ways is even more corrupted and compromised – they have drifted into Western corruption even further and faster than people in Saudi Arabia. You are one of the last beleagured islands of traditional morality in a world rapidly going secular and materialist, as your followers are seduced away by Western wealth and luxury and ‘freedom’, and you can see very well that at this rate in another hundred years time there won’t be any Islam worthy of the name. (Just as Muslims of two hundred years ago would consider the current “moderate” version a travesty.) It’ll be as emasculated and secularised as Christianity is now in the West. The Church once ruled in Europe, and even kings had to bow their heads. You can see Islam being slowly destroyed before your eyes in the same way.

    So, at what point in this process do you think you should start shooting people?

    It’s the same principle as with free trade and competition. Humanity does best when you offer them all the options and let them choose for themselves. People know what they want/need better than centralised authorities do. They pick and choose a bit of this, a bit of that, and if the competition are offering something they like, then everyone else had better follow suit and supply it too. We don’t do ‘intelligent design’, we do Darwinian evolution, where the competitors fight it out in the market and the losers go to the wall because they’re simply not as good. Gazelles are fast and graceful because there are lions that will eat them if they’re not. Lions are fast and strong because they won’t catch any gazelles if they’re not. Our economy and our culture are so powerful, so successful, so prosperous and popular because we allow the competition to play out. Our economy today is made up of the winners from an ongoing war for survival, and we need the war to remain strong.

    Build walls around your economy to keep out the competition, and it’s like having birds on a small tropical island with no predators. They forget how to fly.

    The principle applies to the cultural free market too – the only difference is it operates on a slower timescale. Insist on people having the freedom to choose between all the cultures on offer, and only the best and strongest will survive. Only those who believe they’re the weaker culture try to build walls around themselves. Don’t wall out the competition unless you want to turn into dodos.

    The Muslims are a rigid, out-dated primitive desert culture stuck in the 14th century and reliant on authoritarian force and exclusion to maintain their hold. We’re the culture that went from mud huts to skyscrapers in five centuries! There’s no comparison! We are winning. We will win. Militarily, economically, and culturally we can squash them like a bug. It’s like setting lions on an island full of dodos.

    Protectionist thinking is the plague of the world. Cultural protectionism no less so.

  • Protectionist thinking is the plague of the world. Cultural protectionism no less so. (Nullius in Verba, November 25, 2018 at 1:02 pm)

    If you mean a culture should take anything useful it finds in other cultures – should ‘culturally appropriate’, not refuse to consider such a thing – then I agree. However it is the culture of the west that gave us ideas like the abolition of slavery, free speech, limited government (and, not unrelatedly, ‘appropriated’ the number zero from India, paper from China, etc.). These are things we don’t want to replace with their opposites appropriated from other cultures, still less have forced on us. That refusal could also be called cultural protectionism.

    This already long thread may run and run, or be reaching its natural tl;dr end-point. I appreciate your text on the Islamic fundmentalists worried about the west’s cultural encroachment. I can imagine myself using it sometime, though probably not to make quite the same point. We should indeed not be surprised that those you describe resort to violence, any more than the violence of the nazis should have surprised anyone.

    The, ah, ‘good’ news is that the fundamentalist muslims you describe will not be deterred from violence by any particular restraint on our side. On the contrary, as per my tough-teacher/weak-teacher example, I suspect the appearance of weakness in us will strongly encourage violence from them.

    As regards the marketplace of ideas, consider two scenarios.

    1) Legal immigration into a free speech society, at a rate generally accepted in that society, with whatever assimilation or lack of it that promotes, from a much less free society.

    2) Illegal immigration at a rate intended to help the faction arranging it by protecting the immigrants’ culture (since assimilating migrants would also assimilate in their voting patterns).

    The market place of ideas is the best test. Socialists who rig economic markets also rig other kinds of market.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “These are things we don’t want to replace with their opposites appropriated from other cultures, still less have forced on us. That refusal could also be called cultural protectionism.”

    My first reaction was that it wasn’t what I’d call cultural protectionism! Certainly not the bit about them being forced on us! But then I considered the question for a bit longer. Maybe it is, in a way.

    I was trying to think of the corresponding economic argument. If we let down the EU’s regulatory barriers with Brexit, the UK could soon be flooded with cheap, shoddy, dangerous products from China, like baby milk adulterated with melamine. (Someone did actually once try to make that argument to me. Brexit will kill babies.) Obviously we don’t want to poison any children. Or the planet. And given the well-known failings of human nature, we need experts to save us from the consequences of our own stupidity and greed. So EU safety/environmental regulations on products are a good form of protectionism.

    Is that a fair comparison?

    I don’t think it would be a totally unreasonable point for a protectionist Remainer to make, although I expect that in this analogous example you can figure out for yourself why I wouldn’t necessarily agree. Are strict regulation and bans on foreign goods generally the right response to product safety concerns? Isn’t there another more free market solution?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Maybe a bit O/T. Do you folks still hold incoming pets (from abroad) in quarantine for six months?

    (Or am I asking if you still beat your wives. :>( But I honestly thought that was British policy.)

  • Nullius in Verba

    Julie,

    Not if it’s got the right papers. And is a dog, cat, or ferret (or horse, with another scheme). Otherwise it’s 4 months, not 6.

    https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad

  • Julie near Chicago

    Ah. Thanks, NiV. Always nice to get the straight of things. :>)

  • Mr Black

    So if I understand it correctly Nullius in Verba, the time you think resistance to evil should begin is when evil has fully taken over and has established itself with great power. Except that if you were being honest, part two of the libertarian strategy of surrender would come into play then:

    “It twists the idea of “least harm” into any shape necessary to justify doing nothing until it is too late where the justification becomes there is nothing we can do now so why bother.”

    This is why libertarianism is seen by almost everyone as intellectual garbage. It gives away the shop to invaders and comes ready made with excuses to let it happen. You can’t rally people around the idea that their culture, their homes, their institutions, their way of life and even their safety are expendable assets in the drive to be the perfect pacifist. No one thinks that way because it is suicidal.

    “The Church once ruled in Europe, and even kings had to bow their heads. You can see Islam being slowly destroyed before your eyes in the same way.” So, at what point in this process do you think you should start shooting people?

    In their position, almost immediately. It’s useless to wait 50 years until your culture has been degraded and diluted to the point where no one can even remember what it was like before that time. They had the power and they squandered it, now they will be wiped out by the flood of perversion sweeping their country.

    Did you think this was the example that was going to prove your point? If anything it shows the grave mistake in allowing competing and aggressive ideologies inside your borders.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “So if I understand it correctly Nullius in Verba, the time you think resistance to evil should begin is when evil has fully taken over and has established itself with great power.”

    No. You don’t.

    First, you’ve already lost to evil if you are the one who is using evil to maintain your rule. Nobody else is worried about invaders introducing evil because you’re already here.

    Second, resistance to evil can start as soon as it appears, but belief should be met with counter-belief, debate should be met with counter-debate, persuasion should be met with counter-persuasion, and only violence should be met with counter-violence.

    “You can’t rally people around the idea that their culture, their homes, their institutions, their way of life and even their safety are expendable assets in the drive to be the perfect pacifist. No one thinks that way because it is suicidal.”

    But they’re not *their* institutions and way of life, they’re *yours*. *They* didn’t choose them, *you* did. You haven’t given the people the freedom to *choose* their way of life, you’ve imposed your ideas on them, and told them you’ll *kill* them if they so much as argue. Because you know that if you let them argue their case publicly, and people are persuaded, your rule of evil might be swept away.

    And yes, you *can* rally people to such an idea! It’s the basis of every revolution!

    The problem is that the revolutionaries are invariably exactly the same sort of people. “And a parting on the left – Is now a parting on the right – And the beards have all grown longer overnight” as they say in the song.

    The evil that motivates revolutions is not generally inherent in the particular culture or way of life that people practice, it is in the fact of it being imposed on them by someone who threatens them with violence to suppress dissent. People want freedom to choose their own way of life. But like an abused kid, they know no other way of behaving, and so when they escape their abuser they use the same methods themselves. All their life they have seen that only those who wield the power have freedom, so in search of freedom they aim only to seize power themselves. The only way to have the freedom to decide for oneself, they believe, is to be the one with the power to impose their choices on everyone else. And thus the cycle of endless reboots continues.

    “Did you think this was the example that was going to prove your point? If anything it shows the grave mistake in allowing competing and aggressive ideologies inside your borders.”

    It proved it perfectly. My point was to show that your ideology was essentially the same as theirs, that your methods are the same as theirs, that in their position you would do as they do.

    Your aggressive ideology is already inside our borders. But you’re welcome to hold your opinion, and to express it. I’m not going to shoot you for being an authoritarian. I’m not going to tell you that “you can’t say that”, or that you can’t try to persuade people to your cause in debate. Because it’s not for me to impose on other people what they can and cannot believe, or what policies they can and cannot advocate. I’m giving them the choice.


    Thank you for the interesting debate. I think it’s been instructive! But I’m clearly not going to persuade you, and you’re definitely not going to persuade me, and I think I’ve covered everything I wanted to say about it. Cheers!

  • Mr Black

    It seems you cannot write 3 words without deliberately misconstruing my point. Defending a national culture is not the same as imposing the will of a tyrant. Japan defends its culture by effectively banning immigration and discriminating against foreigners. Japan for the Japanese, as it should be in every nation. They are not worse off, in fact I’d say they are far better off than western nations who have hostile invaders occupying significant pieces of their territory.

    But you’re right about one thing, I’m not going to convince you. Libertarianism is like a political religion to those who subscribe, such fervent belief in a thing that never has been nor ever will be.

  • WILLIAM TOWNSEND REEVES

    I am struck by the difference in attitudes in England and where I live in Houston, Texas. In most respects English and Americans are alike and I used to believe the English were in fact more violent – I spent time in English overseas schools and got into more fights in a couple years there than in the entire rest of my American/International school career. Now it may be that there is more bluster to Texans talking about civilians fighting back but the news and my own circle testify to the readiness of many here to ‘get involved’. I honestly don’t understand the difference in England. It’s a riddle wrapped in…you get my point.

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