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Thomas Sowell: The gun control farce

Professor Sowell wrote this article in 2016. Little has changed since then, except that I doubt that today’s Associated Press would dare publish it.

Surely murder is a serious subject, which ought to be examined seriously. Instead, it is almost always examined politically in the context of gun control controversies, with stock arguments on both sides that have remained the same for decades. And most of those arguments are irrelevant to the central question: Do tighter gun control laws reduce the murder rate?

That is not an esoteric question, nor one for which no empirical evidence is available. Think about it. We have 50 states, each with its own gun control laws, and many of those laws have gotten either tighter or looser through the years. There must be tons of data that could indicate whether murder rates went up or down when either of these things happened.

But have you ever heard any gun control advocate cite any such data?

57 comments to Thomas Sowell: The gun control farce

  • Ferox

    More Guns Less Crime, by John Lott, is still one of the best books ever written on this subject.

  • bobby b

    It does no good to “ban” the possession of weapons in a society full of weapons. The kind of people who use them badly aren’t the types to wonder if they remembered to put their carry permit in their wallet before leaving home. No, weapons bans are designed to make life safer for those skells, not for me.

  • Snorri Godhi

    I like the fact that Prof. Sowell emphasizes the analysis of time series, rather than looking at correlations — which, remember, do not imply causation.

    I have not heard of anybody doing such an analysis; but then, that does not mean that it has not been done.

    I know one thing: I don’t own a gun, but if people over here started yelling Defund the Police, i’d rush to buy a few, with plenty of ammo.

  • pete

    Back in the early 80s my dad went to work in sunny LA. His office and his flat were in a lovely leafy suburb and my dad loved it.

    He arranged for my 16 year brother to visit and they planned to go cycling in the mountains.

    Then one day the receptionist in the ground floor entrance area was shot dead during a petty argument. And then my dad saw a man shooting wildly after a car for some unknown reason.

    My brother’s trip was cancelled and my dad came home after 4 months.

    Sometimes you don’t need reams of statistical evidence.

  • Y. Knott

    “But have you ever heard any gun control advocate cite any such data?” – Of course not: the data contradicts the “NARRATIVE”.

    Just like global warming, boys ‘n girls. “We are certain of this – all our models agree that the observations must be wrong.”

  • Rudolph Hucker

    Not long ago, with no apparent self-awareness, the BBC announced:

    The garrison town of Tidworth, in Wiltshire – postcode SP9 – was crowned the best place to live in England.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-28918709

    Also:

    crime figures for the year ended this April show that the Tidworth police section was the safest part of the county with the highest detection rate for crimes.

    https://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/5591655.tidworth-safest-part-of-county/

    It appears that having a town full of people with guns, who are trained how to use them, has an positive effect on the crime rate.

  • Arguably, the most fundamental motivator of Sowell’s intellectual odyssey was observing the left’s utter indifference to what effect their theories actually had on the ground, and then their hostility when he attempted to measure that for them. This old post of mine describes an incident near the start of his intellectual journey, when such behaviour still surprised him.

  • Alan Peakall

    @RH: The neighbourhood from which I just moved was claimed by the estate agent (when I moved there 25 years ago) to have zero burglary risk because it housed the constituency party headquarters of a former Northern Ireland Minister who still enjoyed police protection. To be fair to him, I don’t think I did hear of any neighbour suffering a burglary until the last couple of years.

  • pkudude99

    The author Larry Correia is currently working on such a book. I don’t know what the title will be or a projected release date, though. His commetns on his facebook page about the data he’s been coming across have been rather scathing toward the media for their lack of reporting, honest or otherwise.

  • bobby b

    “Sometimes you don’t need reams of statistical evidence.”

    And sometimes the reams of statistical evidence show things that people don’t wish to know, and so we find alternate theories.

    I am literally surrounded by guns, but, if I avoid the urban centers, I am never even aware of them, except for the fact that there is no gun crime where I am.

    We used to ban bad people who did bad things. Now we release them, and go after tools in the hands of good people. We do this so that we don’t disrespect the bad people. It’s not working too well.

  • Clovis Sangrail

    I nominate bobby b’s quote

    We used to ban bad people who did bad things. Now we release them, and go after tools in the hands of good people. We do this so that we don’t disrespect the bad people. It’s not working too well.

    as the SQOTD, it’s brilliantly on point.

  • Rich Rostrom

    There is a problem with the argument that there is no benefit to disarming the law-abiding: some of those who committed gun crimes were, until the moment of their crimes, law-abiding.

    For instance, Stephen Paddock, who murdered 58 people at a country-music concert in Las Vegas. His only previous contact with the law was a single traffic ticket. He had no previous history of threatening behavior, nor of political or religious extremism.

    Other mass shooters have had “red-flag” histories, but even among those, many had not committed any actual crimes. I don’t see how anything can be done about such people… Unless the state has the power to designate people as “pre-criminals” – a “cure” worse than any disease.

    Abolishing a civil right (to keep and bear arms) is not a valid answer to the problem either. But we won’t get anywhere pretending there is no problem.

  • Phil B

    You can ban all the guns you like but as the assassination of Shinzo Abe showed, home made or improvised firearms will do the job. This website shows a hell of a lot of improvised firearms and all of them work:

    https://homemadeguns.wordpress.com

    That is setting aside the losses of firearms of all descriptions from the State, smuggled firearms etc.

    And of course, once you have made your improvised gun, no matter how crude, then shooting a Police officer will allow you to acquire a much better weapon or two.

    If you look at the American experience, then you will see an inverse relationship between strict gun control laws and armed and violent crime. Hint – those cities and states (eg Noo Yawk, Chicago, Baltimore, Birmingham, Philadelphia etc) all have strict gun laws and high levels of crime but are reluctant to prosecute and jail criminals for violating those self same laws.

    Similarly, the UK has been recording every firearm sold, imported and manufactured and every round of ammunition sold since 1920 and as we ALL know, Britain is a paragon of safety on the streets without any gun crime at all … Another 100 years of more of the same will surely do it, right?

    But anarcho-tyranny is the preferred option which will allow the government to crack down on the crime and disarm the population. Only the law abiding will hand in their firearms and the criminals (both state sponsored and freelance) will operate in a gun free/free fire zone.

    Looking at statistics and examining facts will not fit the agenda so we will have more of the same.

  • bobby b

    Rich Rostrom
    July 21, 2022 at 11:39 pm

    “There is a problem with the argument that there is no benefit to disarming the law-abiding: some of those who committed gun crimes were, until the moment of their crimes, law-abiding.”

    Certainly there is a problem with it. A proliferation of lethal weapons in a modern society is problematic on its best day. In Utopia, we won’t ever feel a desire to own weapons. There would be no need for them. Humanity would be better off.

    But NOT having those weapons carries much larger, systemic, existential risks. No, not “no hunting”, not even so much “no personal defending”, but “oh, great, my government hates me and also has no reason whatsoever to fear me or consider me.”

    This isn’t the perfect argument overcoming a bad argument. There are huge downsides to personal ownership of guns. But on balance, the risks, and the harms risked, are much worse when only government has guns. So we stay armed, and accept that there will always be costs associated with that.

  • Kirk

    The fundamental error with a lot of this discussion is that it misses the point of it all. “Gun control” isn’t ever going to have any effect whatsoever on crime because the presence or absence of weapons has zero effect on the criminal, other than the absence of arms in the hands of their victims making their criminal careers that much easier and lengthy.

    The root of this problem is a conceptual one. We think that the entire complex of law, law enforcement, and judiciary is there to “provide justice”. It is not.

    That is as fundamental an error as the one Kodak made right before it went bankrupt. Kodak thought it was in the film business. It was not: It was actually in the imaging business. Because of that error, they did not shift from film to digital, and despite the fact that they invented a lot of the digital technology that put them out of business in regards to film, they didn’t position themselves to survive in the new order. I dunno what they expected, really–That people would keep buying film and cameras out of habit…?

    Similarly, the “Justice System” thinks (erroneously) that they’re in the business of providing “Justice”. They are not. They are actually in the business of providing behavioral modification, encouraging the criminal not to be criminal, and keeping honest people incentivized to be honest.

    Manifestly, they’re not successful at either, because they’re focused on the idiotic and entirely delusional idea that they’re providing “Justice” or “Law Enforcement”, when the reality is that they should be evaluating what they’re doing in terms of “Are we successfully modifying people’s behavior…?”

    If you’ve got a three-time felony loser who can’t seem to stay out of trouble on your hands, you might just be doing something wrong. Obviously, what you are doing is not working in terms of modifying his behavior. This would indicate that you need to make some changes to what you’re doing, no?

    Or, it could be that this individual is just not trainable, so the solution becomes the same one used for dogs that won’t stop attacking livestock in the country: Eliminate them.

    Life should be looked at as a succession of Skinner Boxes, behavioral modification “gates” we experience on the daily. If the environment fails to encourage proper behavior, is it any wonder that we have rising crime? Should we not address the environmental cues that are causing the criminal to behave in criminal ways?

    Root problem here is that the “authorities” really do not understand what they are doing. Every plea bargain for a violent crime, every shoplifter you let off leniently…? Those are training gates, and just like with any organism you’re trying to train, you have to examine what you’re actually rewarding and what is being punished. We are not evaluating things in these terms, so we’re failing. Not a huge surprise, when you look at the cues and the incentives in the environment…

  • Fraser Orr

    @bobby b
    But NOT having those weapons carries much larger, systemic, existential risks. No, not “no hunting”, not even so much “no personal defending”, but “oh, great, my government hates me and also has no reason whatsoever to fear me or consider me.”

    I think this can simply be encapsulated in the epigram: “Nobody needs an AR-15? Tell that to Volodymyr Zelenskyy”.

  • Chester Draws

    switzerland is chock full of guns. It has an extremely low murder rate.

    Oddly, Switzerland also takes it “well regulated militia” far, far more seriously than most places.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Singapore has very stringent gun laws and low murder rates too. But we persecute law-breakers vigorously, and a death penalty for illegal gun use certainly works. Plus an island state with relatively easy border control, etc etc etc. A lot of stuff needed to fall a particular way for our gun laws to work.

    Being chock full of guns is no guarantee of low murder rates either. Witness US inner cities (where there is no gun control laws, or at least it is blithely ignored), or Africa. People matter a great deal. In short, civilised people have low murder rates, regardless of what gun laws they have.

    If you want to have real gun control, at least enforce your already existing ones. But we all know that will never ever happen in Democrat controlled cities because the criminals will be mostly blacks, and then there’ll be screams of disparate impact.

    Furthermore, how the hell can you control the black market for illegal firearms if you don’t even secure the border?

    The Dems are just plain evil and crazy.

  • Peter MacFarlane

    Perhaps you are unaware that the British police are not routinely armed?

  • Paul Marks

    The late night “comedian” Trever Noah is going around saying that whilst local gun control does not work (Chicago, New York….), NATION WIDE gun control would be different – that it would work. Well Mr Noah’s home country, South Africa, has nation wide gun control.

    Is South Africa a peaceful country?

    How about Mexico – which has had nation-wide gun control since the 1960s (thanks to political judges who twisted the Mexican Constitution of 1917).

    “But Britain….”

    O.K. then – when my father was born (1913) firearms were legal and common in London and not legal in New York.

    Which had the higher murder rate in 1913 – evil free-for-all London, or noble Gun Control New York City?

  • Similarly, the “Justice System” thinks (erroneously) that they’re in the business of providing “Justice”. They are not. They are actually in the business of providing behavioral modification, encouraging the criminal not to be criminal, and keeping honest people incentivized to be honest. (Kirk
    July 22, 2022 at 2:11 am)

    Kirk’s logic is wrong here. It is precisely when the justice system pursues actual (not ‘social’) justice – due-diligence detection and correspondingly harsh just punishment of actual perpetrators for crimes actually committed – that the genuineness of that system, experienced by all, will (in addition) most affect behaviour. Attempting to replace that goal with affecting behaviour directly will simply reduce the beneficial side-effect on behaviour.

    “The Quest for Cosmic Justice” is one of Thomas Sowell’s titles; it explains why the quest will fail. Kirk may imagine he is rejecting, not endorsing, this quest, but anyone pursuing his policy will soon enough meet the questers coming round the far side of the political world.

  • FYI, I provided an example of how easy it was to acquire firearms in the UK a century ago in this old comment.

    And here’s another one. After a relative was assassinated by Irish nationalists, the early-1900s Duke of Devonshire decided he should own a revolver.

    “He kept losing them and buying others, so there were about twenty of them knocking about Blenheim palace when he died.”

  • Paul Marks

    If someone is prepared to break the law to commit murder – why would they obey a “gun free zone” regulation?

    Especially as most mass shooters have been using drugs – sometimes illegal, but often prescribed by doctors (who prefer handing out pills to dealing with the real problems of boys and young men), drugs (illegal and medical) that do serious damage to the brain over time.

    Governments banning things face a choice – ruthless enforcement as with Singapore, being hanged for having an illegal firearm or a “joint” of cannabis – or non ruthless enforcement such as the farce of the American “war on drugs” (where illegal drugs are on sale a few yards from the Drug Enforcement Agency H.Q. in Washington D.C.)

    The Democrats are not going to hang-by-the-neck-till-they-are-dead every gang member found with an illegal firearm – so the only people who would hand in firearms are HONEST people (who do not go around murdering other people – unlike the gang members who would not give up weapons).

    So the net result would be like Mexico – where the criminals have firearms, and ordinary honest people do not.

  • Paul Marks

    Niall – as I said, firearms were legal and common when my father was born in London.

    The murder rate in London then (1913) was lower (not higher) than Gun Control New York – and lower (not higher) than the murder rate in London right now.

    By the way, this is one reason why I also reject the idea that Income Tax and Fiat Money are “inevitable in an industrial society”.

    My father was born in February 1913 – the most large scale industrial society at that time was the United States, where there was no Income Tax and there was no Fiat Money (the Greenbacks printed in the Civil War have dropped out of circulation by then – and the Federal Reserve having not been created).

    Someone who tells me that a big economy is not possible without these things, is telling me that the United States of February 1913 (and many years before) – did-not-exist.

  • Paul Marks

    “Paul you old fraud – you pretend to a be a priori logic person, but you actually take note of practical experience”.

    I am a supporter of logical theory – but, I freely confess, I like to know something has worked in practice as well (so I do not just dismiss historical experience). This is why Thomas Sowell asking for empirical evidence is reasonable.

    Why not compare, for example, the various States – from Vermont (historically the least Gun Control law State – hence “Vermont carry”) to New York (historically the most Gun Control State).

    Adjusted for such things as demography and urban-rural split.

  • Phil B

    One way of looking at law enforcement is that, having as a society decided that blood feuds and random punishments were bad, hence a police force and a judiciary was formed to catch, gather evidence of guilt and put on trial wrong doers so that justice was done and more importantly, SEEN to be done was a better system.

    In other words, the system protected the criminal from arbitrary and excessive punishment at the hands of society. It was never intended to protect society from the criminal.

    Nowadays we have anarcho-tyranny where petty and trivial “offences” (e.g hate speech, “racism”, not enthusiastically supporting drag queens in infant schools etc) are harshly prosecuted whereas serious crimes such as Muslim grooming are ignored. But don’t you dare take the law into your own hands or object … which beggars the qustion “In whose hands IS the law?”. Certainly not society in general.

  • Jack Russett

    Hi Phil B, The other way to look at law enforcement is to read the Police service’s Statement of Common Purpose which says, “The purpose of the police service is to uphold the law fairly and firmly; to prevent crime; to pursue and bring to justice those who break the law; to keep the Queen’s peace; to protect, help and reassure the community; and to be seen to do this with integrity, common sense and sound judgement.” The judiciary is independent. The Police Federation often calls for changes in the law, but those calls are directed at Parliament not the judiciary. Similarly if there are complaints about the Police they should be directed at Parliament not the Police. So, to answer your fair question, the law is in the hands of Parliament. The danger is a lack of response from Parliament prolongs injustice and encourages protest, which eventually forces Parliament to act, thus demonstrating that protest produces results where as complaints are ignored.

  • Fraser Orr

    I have been reading a bit about the Czech republic. They seem to have far and away the most liberal gun control laws in Europe, even moreso that Switzerland. The RKBA is written into their laws, and they went so far as to sue the EU to prevent the imposition of EU gun control laws on the Czechs.

    They also have a murder rate two thirds that of England and Wales.

    Sounds like a lovely place. I should go visit.

    As far as I can see, looking at all the data, murder rates do not correlate well with gun control law at all. And it seems that on the rare occasions gun laws are liberalized it results in a reduction in crime, not an increase (witness recent changes in Brazil’s laws under Bolsonaro.)

  • Kirk

    Niall makes it fairly clear that he does not understand the point I am making, when he says this:

    “Kirk’s logic is wrong here. It is precisely when the justice system pursues actual (not ‘social’) justice – due-diligence detection and correspondingly harsh just punishment of actual perpetrators for crimes actually committed – that the genuineness of that system, experienced by all, will (in addition) most affect behaviour. Attempting to replace that goal with affecting behaviour directly will simply reduce the beneficial side-effect on behaviour.”

    My “logic” isn’t logic in the sense that I’ve reasoned through some deep philosophical labors to reach it. It’s purely observational, and uttery irrefutable. Why? Because my view of what the “Justice System” is supposed to be doing is precisely what you’re going to get when you ask people out on the street what it is supposed to be doing; it’s what they care about, under the hood. Do a survey, and they’re going to give you the polite homilies they were taught in school and their church, of course, but the reality is that when the system fails to address their needs by decreasing the net rate of crime, they’re pissed that they can’t leave their possessions out in their backyard without the local meth addict relieving them of said property and selling it for their next hit. The ideal of “justice” plays little role in their mindset immured in a high-crime environment: They just want the pain to stop.

    Pettifogging lawyers yammering on and on about technicalities and all the other administrative BS that the legalists come up with becomes increasingly irrelevant as the crime rates go up. People simply don’t care about vague ideas of idealized “justice”; they just want their homes, properties, and persons to be safe and secure.

    So, you can make believe it’s all about “cosmic justice”, but the average person doesn’t care. And, as these systems break down and cease serving the interests of the public, they’re going to be supplanted and eventually replaced with something that does actually work for their needs, which are far more rational than some idealist bleating about “justice for the downtrodden” while the downtrodden are victimizing the “good citizen”.

    Hate to point this out to the idealists, but as they’ve steadily been discrediting their ideas and ideals through practical demonstration of how poorly they work, the average scut out here in the real world has been taking notes. They don’t give a rip about some child rapist’s rights to a fair trial; they just want them to cease being a threat to the children in their community. This means, I am afraid, that the idealists are losing the fight, and that mob “justice” is coming back. As we say in the rural US, it is becoming a better solution to implement the “Three S’s” than to call the police. Shoot, shovel, and shut up.

    All of that is due to the practical effect of that idealized “Justice System” ceasing to work under the weight of precedent and pettifogging lawyerly rent-seeking. I don’t think any of you are going to like what happens when the general public reaches that tipping point and ceases to make believe with you that it’s working, because their solution to child rapists involves a lot more fire and a lot less recidivism.

    Y’all can continue to make believe that there is some “cosmic justice” you can speak to, but the average person simply doesn’t care. They want to be safe; they want their family to be safe, and if that means they’re going to have to burn a few suspected child rapists alive, well… Tough.

    I really don’t think you idiot idealists have thought this through, or are going to like what comes after you’ve finished driving things into the ground through your insane drive for this entirely hypothetical “cosmic justice” for the criminally inclined. Ain’t nobody but you and the criminal who really care about that; the rest of us just want the criminals to cease their depradations. If that means a bunch of them die horribly, then die horribly they will. Which, in the final analysis, will be your fault.

    And, do note: I’m not reasoning my way into anything; I’m merely observing and pointing out the reality of the situation. Y’all can go whinging on into eternity about this nebulous concept of “justice”, but the average person doesn’t care. Eventually, we’re going to be right back where we were in the late 18th Century, and stealing a loaf of bread will be a capital crime again, until someone reforms the system such that transportation to Mars or some other benighted place becomes a mercy.

    Self-inflicted, all of it. Simply because you willfully ignore that which is obvious, which is that idealism doesn’t matter to the average person. All they really care about is that crime and criminals are discouraged, not your “cosmic justice” BS.

  • bobby b

    “All they really care about is that crime and criminals are discouraged, not your “cosmic justice” BS.”

    If this is true – if the average person wants an effective system versus an ideologically pure one – they certainly don’t show it in the voting booth. All of the Soros “prosecuting” attorneys were elected. The average person has the power, through voting, to enact whatever system they desire. We can see what that average person desires by looking at what system is in place, and “effective” hasn’t been here for some time.

    You and I might want “effective”, but we’ve been outvoted.

  • NickM

    Always carry a firearm east of Aldgate, Watson.

    I once lived in Stepney, just off the Mile End Road.

    Holmes was right in the 1890s – and the 1990s. And I suspect the 2020s.

  • Fraser Orr

    bobby b
    We can see what that average person desires by looking at what system is in place, and “effective” hasn’t been here for some time.

    That assumes that our democracy is an effective tool for enacting the average will of the people, which it evidently isn’t. If some thug pulls you aside and offers you the choice between a punch in the face or a kick in the nuts and you select the kick, it isn’t reasonable to dismiss your aching groin by saying you asked for it.

  • bobby b

    “That assumes that our democracy is an effective tool for enacting the average will of the people, which it evidently isn’t.”

    Oh, I think it is, but as MPAI*, it doesn’t result in a rational system – it gives us what 51% of the people want. Like I said, those Soros fake prosecutors were elected by the very people who are now suffering from their effects. They wanted to get out from under the thumb of . . . something. They were just too dense to see that they were merely trading thumbs. But it was a voluntary vote.

    (* – Most People Are Idiots)

  • Paul Marks

    Go to a American-Mexico border town – equally Hispanic on both sides of town.

    On what side of town are you in more danger – the evil 2nd Amendment United States side of town, or the noble Gun Control Mexico side of town?

    Only a moron, or a liar, claims that importing Mexico style “Gun Control” regulations, will make the United States a safer place.

  • Kirk

    You’ll note that many of those “Soros prosecutors” are being recalled and replaced, now that the majority are motivated to actually pay attention to who is in office.

    The essential flaw in the entire “activist agenda” is that they can succeed only so long as people aren’t paying attention. Once they have the people’s attention, however…? Suddenly, they start losing.

    Idealism is all well and good, so long as it is tempered with a recognition that reality gets a vote, and the ideals that don’t work need to be discarded. Lose that dose of reality, you lose the bubble and things that work will eventually replace your idealistic BS.

    The thing that strikes me about much of what is going wrong in our so-called “civilization” is that the idjit class running it signally fails to understand how it really, truly works. They keep doing things and saying things that have no effect on the actual results, while ignoring all the perverse incentives they’ve put in place to encourage the diametric opposite of the things they say they want to happen. This stems from the fact that most of our “technocratic elite” are actually carefully selected and nurtured autistic freaks who’ve no real grasp on how things actually work.

    They live in an entirely imaginary world of their own making, where their words create reality around them. They think that everything proceeds from their diktat, and ignore all evidence to the contrary. They never go out into the real world and actually examine the cues and incentives that they’ve put in place which actually discourage that which they’re demanding via mere words. And, with no examination of the evidence or work-product, they persist in their Red Queen’s Race, regardless of actual outcome.

    You have to examine a society, its institutions, and its customs from a standpoint of what actual functional roles and purposes those institutions and customs fill and (hopefully…) fulfill. The so-called “Justice System”, in all of its majesty and pomp, do not exist to function as some all-knowing, all-powerful omniscient entity overseeing and adjudicating human affairs. The functional purpose it is supposed to be fulfilling is to encourage behavior that accrues towards enabling human beings to live together in a semblance of peace and harmony, while simultaneously effectively dissuading those who are unwilling to actually follow the rules their peers have agreed upon. If the system does not do that, then society will inevitably route around it. Witness the various vigilante committees in the American “Old West”, or the way the Mafia came to rule the immigrant neighborhoods where the then-current “official system” did not penetrate in the urban wastelands of late 19th and early 20th Centuries. You will wind up with something that serves to modify behavior towards the general mean of the public’s desires, or you will have utter anarchy. People really don’t like anarchy, and tend to eliminate the anarch types with glee, when they have the opportunity. Rule-breakers are not appreciated, nor tolerated past a certain point.

    One which I think we’re reaching a lot sooner than the idjit class realizes. Chesa Boudin being thrown out of office is a harbinger, if only they were smart enough to observe.

  • Rich Rostrom

    NickM @ July 22, 2022 at 4:38 pm:

    Always carry a firearm east of Aldgate, Watson.

    Holmes was right in the 1890s – and the 1990s. And I suspect the 2020s.”

    Holmes didn’t say that until the 1990s; that dialogue was invented for the Granada series with Jeremy Brett.

  • Paul Marks

    In South Africa the 2004 Gun Control Act has been a total failure (if its intent was to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals) – but the government there are planning to “double down” and prevent any honest person having a firearm for self defence, thus allowing criminal gangs (who will continue to have firearms) to torture to death anyone they feel like torturing to death.

    Given the support of the establishment in the United States for Marxist groups such as Antifa (“it is not an organisation it is an idea” – yes a GENOCIDAL idea), it seems they want a South African style situation in the United States.

    The unspoken assumption is that rich establishment types such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her kinsman Governor Gavin Newsom of California will continue to have their ARMED GUARDS – “Gun Control” is for lesser people who do not matter to the elite.

    I repeat, under the “Gun Control” the establishment elite support, criminal gangs would continue to have firearms – it is only honest people who would be disarmed.

    The establishment elite believe that criminals are “socially friendly elements” and that their looting is “Social Justice” – hence the de facto legalisation of theft. Ask the shop keepers in California – although a third of small business enterprises were destroyed by the “lockdown” of Governor Newson – and thus are not still in existence to be looted.

    The unspoken assumption of the establishment elite is that this DOES NOT APPLY TO THEIR OWN WEALTH.

    No one is going to touch the wealth of Gavin Newsom – or of the boards of Black Rock, State Street, Vanguard, and the rest of the handful of players that control most of the American economy (thanks to the Credit Money of the Federal Reserve – hello “Cantillon Effect”). The hypocrisy of the rich “Woke” elite is sickening (ordinary people can be robbed and murdered, that is “Social Justice”, but NOT THEM) – and I would shed no tears if their Marxist friends turn on them at some point.

    Time for the Woke Corporate Elite to experience their beloved “Social Justice” from “socially friendly elements” (i.e. criminal gangs) – up close and personal.

  • Now I disagree with both Kirk and bobby b 🙂 – or maybe not.

    I think Kirk is right to observe that Soros prosecutors are being recalled. The left identified and exploited a weakness in the system to get power. They then exploited that power so greedily as to become noticeable. Lincoln’s remark about only a minority of people being the kind you can fool all of the time may yet be verified in this example – we’ll see. (BTW, while it may be that Soros’ money bought enough publicity in normally-neglected races that it did not need to buy vote fraud as well to get them in, I raise the point that there could have been and there could be.)

    Thus I agree with Kirk that people want the law to protect them – and say that the meaning of that statement is that they want a system that finds perpetrators and punishes them severely. They don’t want – because they could not for long believe in – a system that had any other goal, and that includes the goal of keeping them safe pursued by other means.

    However, let’s consider the possibility that I was indeed not really addressing Kirk’s point – that Kirk’s idea did not differ from mine of maximising the system’s ability to ‘find the perpetrators and punish them severely’ as against punishing non-perps and/or letting perps walk, but was about the trade-offs.

    If not one single innocent is ever convicted, many guilty will walk – and vice versa. A quick check on the web (my own memory not sufficing) yields the following. Benjamin Franklin (letter to Benjamin Vaughan, March 14, 1785) said

    That it is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer, is a Maxim that has been long and generally approved.

    Franklin’s 100:1 ratio was not that generally approved. The jurist and Tory MP William Blackstone wrote, in his Commentaries in the 1760s,

    “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”

    The same ratio appears some 70 years earlier.

    “It were better that Ten Suspected Witches should escape, than that one Innocent Person should be Condemned.”

    Here, New England minister Increase Mather is urging that stronger standards of evidence be required for conviction in the ongoing Salem witch trials.

    Given that death was the penalty for many crimes in the 12th centory, Rabbi Maimonides was talking about serious crime in general when he wrote,

    “It is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death.”

    More satisfactory to whom, Maimonides? Not to me.

    1000:1? 100:1 10:1 1:1 ? I continue to think justice cannot work if it has any basic aim other than identifying and punishing perps – if Kirk meant anything else, I’d require an example of the alternative. But we might be agreeing on that and imagining (rightly or wrongly) that we disagree on the trade-offs that any system of justice must make.

    Getting back to the main topic of this post, if any of us ever draw our gun to resist an armed criminal,

    – there a chance the criminal has some excuse, or we are misunderstanding the situation,

    – there’s a chance our shot might hit a bystander,

    and the more time and care we devote to minimising those chances, the more chance we’ll be gunned down before we shoot. Anyone know quotes about that?

  • Snorri Godhi

    Benjamin Franklin (letter to Benjamin Vaughan, March 14, 1785) said

    That it is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer, is a Maxim that has been long and generally approved.

    Of course, Ben Franklin had the disadvantage of ignorance of signal detection theory, including (but not limited to) concepts such as the sensitivity index.

    The main goal of a justice system should be to find a method that minimizes false positives for a given number of false negatives, and vice versa. Deciding on the ideal trade-off should be secondary.

  • bobby b

    “Thus I agree with Kirk that people want the law to protect them . . .”

    Well, of course they do. Problem is, they wanted some other things more, such as woke thought guiding crim prosecution, and their own idea of being able to get away with incivility and lawlessness. And so they voted in favor of those other things. Then, when their votes brought them the results of which they were warned, they decided that they really didn’t want those other things as badly as they thought, and so the recalls begin.

    Point is, there was no lack of warning to all what the outcome of hiring defense lawyers as prosecutors would be. That warning was wide and loud and no one could claim to have not heard it, and they voted to do it anyway – because they wanted those other things more. Those voters decided that the new system would be more advantageous to THEM, to their friends and relatives and cohorts. Then, they found out that they were not to be the main beneficiaries. (Sounds like so many stories about fighting for communism, and then realizing too late that there were a lot more people below you than above you.)

    No one forced those initial votes on them. I don’t think fraud played a major part in those elections. People got what they thought they wanted. But people can learn. And so the next round of voting will reflect the NEW list of what people consider to be important and wise, and hopefully that list will reflect the assertion that “people want security.”

    “Anyone know quotes about that?”

    How about “I’d rather be judged by twelve than carried by six”?

  • TH

    This just came up with Thomas Massie and the current US gun ban working it’s way through Congress. Massie points out that some of the most effective battle rifles in history are protected as historical artifacts. And that the period of the assault weapon band only correlated to a marked increase in the availability of semi-auto rifles, so while the crime rate dropped, considering the bill did none of what it was crafted to do, it clearly wasn’t responsible for that improvement in crime rates.

    Schumer responds with “well the numbers came down so it obviously worked. Obviously” completely failing to address Massie’s critique.

    https://fb.watch/es2jDmGLDp/

  • Kirk

    Oh, dear God… Niall, you completely miss the point of what I’m saying.

    People do not necessarily want to “punish” malefactors and criminals. They want them to stop doing what they’re doing.

    That’s it. The punishment is a means to an end.

    Thinking the “Justice System” is in the business of meting out punishments is almost worse than thinking it exists to provide some happy-dappy “justice”, as if anyone but God himself has the omniscience to do that.

    People care for one thing, and one thing only: Being safe and secure in their homes and property. How that is accomplished? They don’t care. If making sure their kiddies aren’t raped means paying that nice Mafioso down the street to kill Mr. Touchy-hands, well… Too bad, so sad. If it means burning Mr. Touchy-hands house down late one night, after blocking the exits? So sorry, friends… The “Justice System” wasn’t fulfilling its purpose.

    Punishment is a side-effect. If you were to, say, lobotomize criminals and free them to play happily with flowers and puppies? People would not care; so long as there’s no recidivism, they’d be perfectly happy to forego punishment. Hell, look at how many simpering fools get on television to offer up forgiveness to the monsters that raped and killed their kids, as if anyone short of God himself can actually do that.

    People want the pain to stop. How that is accomplished? They don’t care. They can either pay the cops, or they can pay the local organized crime chapter. If the one actually works, then the other is pretty much useless.

  • Kirk

    @Bobby B,

    “If this is true – if the average person wants an effective system versus an ideologically pure one – they certainly don’t show it in the voting booth.”

    I’ve been thinking about just why this bit of your post bothers me, and I think I can express that now, after some reflection.

    Your perception here is reliant on the idea that everyone is actively observing everything that is going on, and votes accordingly. Average person? LOL… They’re barely aware of whatever the latest idiocy is coming out of their legislature. It doesn’t matter to them until it does.

    So much of what the idiot class has been doing has been done in that shadowy realm where nobody has been paying attention except a few perceptive people who can’t energize everyone else until the actual evidence is in front of things, in terms of failed policies and procedures. I guarantee you that nobody really took what any of the various Soros-supported DAs were saying in their campaigns seriously, or extrapolated out to what those things would mean in the real world. A few of us did, but that’s not enough; you can get away with literal murder, politically, so long as you piously mouth the right things and phrase everything properly.

    Right up until the actual effects of your policies become crystalline-clear in the harsh light of reality.

    It’s not that everyone made this choice to go with the Soros-elect. They weren’t paying attention, just like with most sleight-of-hand tricks. Now, however? They’re paying attention, and I don’t think the Soros-adjacent types are going to like where it goes.

    There’s probably an equation you could write that would lay out the relationship between “Political program that people will vote for without understanding the ramifications…” and “Pissed-off voters coming for you with electoral pitchforks and torches after your ideas have been put into effect and shown wanting…”

    Shortly put, nobody really voted for this crap. They voted for some sweet-smelling lies they were told, and now that they’re seeing those lies for what they are…?

  • People do not necessarily want to “punish” malefactors and criminals. They want them to stop doing what they’re doing.

    That’s it. The punishment is a means to an end. (Kirk, July 24, 2022 at 1:32 am)

    Well, that is clear; we simply disagree. I think you are quite wrong to imagine that ‘people’ do not want punishment. The Israelis who took Eichmann back from South America so he could be tried and hung in Israel clearly did not imagine that, if left alive, he would again help murder millions of jews – or even one. They wanted justice – and/or that revenge that Bacon defined as “wild justice, without which the cultivated stock would not exist”.

    If making sure their kiddies aren’t raped means paying that nice Mafioso down the street to kill Mr. Touchy-hands, well… Too bad, so sad.

    Not sure how that disagrees with what I wrote. If your local situation is such that Mr. Touchy-hands is safe thanks to embedded corruption in the local pols and/or police, such that you can only pay the local crims, that is irrelevant to whether the payer is having Mr T-h done in for what he did, or only lest he do it again.

  • Kirk

    Niall, I love your charming naivete, but the fact remains… People will say all sorts of happy things about what they’re doing, but when you watch what they are actually doing? They’re not enacting those pious words they told you when things were all quiet and safely rational.

    Watch what they do, in exigency. They don’t act with regards to “justice”, they act to put an end to what was going on.

    Do you think that any of the people involved in any of the various lynchings and setting-on-fire events in Central America were thinking “justice” when they acted? No; they were eliminating what they saw as a threat to themselves and their loved ones. You can make believe that the pious statements made in church or the legislatures actually mean things, or you can observe what people actually do. And, what they do? It ain’t justice, it ain’t dissuasion, and it ain’t punishment–It’s doing what an animal trainer is doing when they give up on a subject, and practicing behavioral extinction.

    The mob is not a discerning creature, when you get down to it. It’s a very simplistic beast, and when it observes what it perceives as a threat it can deal with? It acts, and it acts only to eliminate the threat. There’s no rational thought involved, no drive for “justice”, because if it were, mobs would take more time to determine the rights and wrongs of a situation before setting someone on fire. It’s very animalistic and entirely irrational, but that’s the way most people really think, underneath it all. It’s like a herd of Cape Buffalo; there’s not a thought there, in their collective skulls about the rights and wrongs of their role on the savannah, or how that poor pride of lions won’t have something to eat if the odd calf or elderly Cape Buffalo doesn’t give up their life; the herd is just going to end the threat by turning said lion pride into so much meat confetti, trampled into the ground.

    I’m sure that if you were to interview a rational, sentient and speaking Cape Buffalo, they’d tell you all about how they were enacting social justice for the downtrodden buffalo community, but the actual fact is the herd was really just acting to eliminate a threat.

    And, that is precisely what the hindbrain governance that lurks in the background of all our minds is doing, when it decides it needs to act in defense of self or loved ones. The forebrain no doubt pretties it all up with sweet-smelling lies and self-justification, but the raw, observable fact is that people act to end threats, not seek out some concept of justice.

    If the so-called “Justice System” ain’t actually addressing the needs of our admittedly simplistic hindbrain through demonstrating that it’s serving to end the threat? That it’s not efficacious at teaching the criminal not to behave criminally? Instinct is, do something. And, that “something” is likely to be “Don’t bother to call the cops… Deal with it yourself.”

    What I’m trying to convey is that these things need to be looked at not through the pious lens of judicial or theological yammerings on the matter, but strictly in terms of what could be termed “social function”. If your institution ain’t answering the bills, when it comes to the job its doing fulfilling its function, well… Yeah. Fail to address people’s spiritual needs? You get what’s going on with the Church of England and a bunch of other sects here in the US. People abandon it, because it isn’t addressing the need it is supposed to be filling. If the various flavors of organized traditional religion aren’t addressing people’s needs, then you get interesting little things like New Age Crystal Healing, and Ramtha-channeling.

    Human beings are mostly a mess. You can get into an awful lot of trouble by taking them at their words, and thinking that what’s there on the surface is at all accurate. The truth is, they’re largely irrational and you have to watch their hands, at all times, in order to get any idea at all about what they’re really thinking and going to do.

    People have a drive for security. If what you’ve set up as a “Justice System” isn’t delivering that, well… They will find a way. One you likely will not like.

  • People have a drive for security. If what you’ve set up as a “Justice System” isn’t delivering that, well… They will find a way. (Kirk, July 24, 2022 at 11:37 pm). One you likely will not like.

    Lincoln once asked a crowd how many legs a dog would have if you called the tail a leg. ‘Five’, someone answered. ‘No’, Lincoln replied, ‘Calling the tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg’. Likewise, Merrick Garland is not necessarily just, nor are the acts of the department he heads necessarily just, merely because it has the word ‘Justice’ in its title.

    So while the guy who told Lincoln ‘five’ might not like replacing a system that called itself ‘justice’ with one that provided more justice, nothing I’ve said above justifies asserting I am that guy.

    Do you think that any of the people involved in any of the various lynchings and setting-on-fire events in Central America were thinking “justice” when they acted?

    If we’re talking about the lynching of some brutal guy who could and did do whatever he pleased unhindered, since the state was in his pocket or terrified of him, then yes, I see no reason not to think that “he got what he deserved” was the sentiment of many actors and observers, and that, for key initiators of the deed, a personal rage at things he had done to them or theirs may have been key to overcoming the fear he inspired, whereas mere anticipatory fear of what he might do to them, unleavened by sympathy for those he’d already hurt, could rather have inspired fearful flight than risky revenge.

    I also suggest that watching him burn at a lynch mob’s hands may have been far more satisfying to that mob than being told he had fled to a distant land, there to live peacefully on his ill-gotten gains. When you read of Hitler dying in the bunker and Mao dying in bed, which story leaves you more content with its ending?

    The mob is not a discerning creature, when you get down to it. It’s a very simplistic beast, and when it observes what it perceives as a threat it can deal with? It acts, and it acts only to eliminate the threat. There’s no rational thought involved, no drive for “justice”,

    See above what I said about how much or how little time you invest when you draw your gun to resist an enemy (end of Niall Kilmartin, July 23, 2022 at 5:23 pm). In deciding you prefer the risk of being judged by twelve to that of being carried by six, you are deciding to accept the risk of missing your just target. If siccing a mob on some local tyrant is the only available means – if you work diligently to arrange that opportunity, or seize a sudden moment of opportunity when a crowd can be turned into a mob, or just decide to join it – your situation is similar. The imperfections of this system of justice must be weighed against the imperfections of what it is fighting.

  • Paul Marks

    Snorri and Kirk.

    You miss the point that the American establishment elite, the people who control many States (including California and New York), cities, and the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT (as well as the “Woke” Corporations) do not want Common Law criminals punished – they regard thieves, looters and so on, as socially friendly elements engaged in “Social Justice” – and they regard ordinary property owners, for example small business people, as reactionary scum who have no place in a Progressive society.

    To the establishment elite – real criminals are “reactionary” political opponents, such as parents who complain about the indoctrination of their children in schools (such parents are Domestic Terrorists – according to Attorney General Garland).

    But people who steal from stores, burn homes, or shoot people dead for the “crime” of wearing a MAGA cap – the establishment elite have no problem with them at all. No “gun control” for them

    The “gun control” pushed by the establishment elite is not designed to take firearms away from Common Law criminals (remember they are socially friendly elements, engaged in Social Justice – looting) – it is designed to take away firearms from their VICTIMS.

    “And how do the establishment elite reconcile their opposition to private property with their vast private wealth?”

    The contradiction either does not occur to them, or they believe that being “Progressive” means that their own private wealth is justified – unlike that of some “racist” store owner, who is a reactionary-running-dog who deserved to have his home burned (with him in it).

    Remember, for example, Mr William “Bill” Gates does not regard himself as the largest scale private owner of land in the United States (even though he is), because is the custodian for the community.

    These people, Attorney General Garland and the rest of them, would continue to have guards armed with firearms – it is just the “reactionary” store owners (and so on) who would be disarmed, and left to be robbed and murdered.

    Governor Gavin Newsom destroyed a third of the small business enterprises in California (he closed them all down – and 1 in 3 never reopened) and he is a media darling.

    The vast “Woke” corporations were not locked down – and they were not looted either.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Paul: i know very well that “anti”fa and BLM are the blackshirts of the Democrats.
    But what does that have to do with my comments above?

  • Fraser Orr

    @Niall Kilmartin
    Well, that is clear; we simply disagree. I think you are quite wrong to imagine that ‘people’ do not want punishment.

    I think Kirk is delusional if he things people don’t want justice. Here in the US it is common for people to conclude that the inadequacies of the justice system’s punishment will be compensated with so called “prison justice” where particularly loathsome individuals are subject to extreme violence and rape while incarcerated. I think “prison justice” is a terrible thing, but the fact that nearly everyone in the US salivates at the idea tells you a lot about what “people” want.

    Just recently some weird freak got a rifle and climbed on top of a building near where I live and shot up a parade. In fact one of my kiddos was marching in a parade in the town next door. There is a story of a little two year old boy who was found wandering around covered in blood from both his parents who were shot in front of him for no reason at all. If anyone thinks that the public will be satisfied with this guy being taken off the street to protect us rather than suffering real, state mediated, vengeance then they are wrong. The fact that we delegate this vengeance to a bunch of thugs in the prison system speaks both to the blood lust of a violated population and the utter inadequacy of the penal system.

    A famous judge often says that she thinks that the criminal justice system should in fact be called the victim justice system. I think she may be on to something here.

  • Snorri Godhi

    I admit to not reading more than a fragment of the Kirk/Niall controversy.

    With the above disclaimer, let me say that i do not think that their positions (as i understand them) are irreconcilable.

    Niall (and people who agree with him) thinks that people want justice and/or vengeance for its own sake. Introspection suggests to me that i do. (Although much less so after adopting a more brain-healthy diet.)

    And yet, why do people want justice/vengeance? I submit that that is because natural selection favored the desire for justice/vengeance.

    The reason why natural selection favored a desire for vengeance, seems obvious.

    The reason why natural selection favored the desire for retributive justice, might well be that retributive justice is aligned with the deterrence that Kirk (and people who agree with him) thinks is the real motivation of people. If so, people do not consciously want deterrence; but the (evolutionary) reason why they want retribution, is that retribution is a deterrent.

  • Kirk

    Niall, Fraser, Snorri…

    I think that all of us have a piece of it, but the underlying thing I think you are all missing with this “justice” idea is that it’s merely a surface justification that people offer up when pressured, in order to look good on camera.

    I think it would be educational for all of you to look into the case of Ken McElroy, a man who spent years terrorizing his community. He was shot in broad daylight, in the middle of town, in front of witnesses. The police, who had failed utterly in changing this town bully’s behavior, could find no witnesses. His killing remains unsolved to this day, and nobody has ever talked about it.

    https://allthatsinteresting.com/ken-mcelroy

    The cases I was referencing in Central America had nothing at all to do with governance; they were cases where the locals decided that the strangers in town were there to kidnap children for organ transplants, and took measures to ensure that they weren’t around to do it, any more. You could make a case for that being mass delusion, but the point remains: They did not act with any intent to enact or deliver some idealized, rarefied idea of “justice”. They acted to eliminate a perceived threat to their kids. This has happened often enough that travelers get warned to exercise caution with regards to interacting with kids in that region, lest they get a surprise reaction from the locals.

    People are going to dress up everything they do and say as something that sounds good to them. In the end, however? There won’t be any such consideration as “justice” that actually plays a part in it all. The people who hope for prison rape? They’re fully aware that the system does not work, and are hoping that the experience of being raped in prison will have a salutary effect on the criminal, or kill them. There’s nothing there that has a damn thing to do with “justice”; it’s all reflexive desire for the behavior to cease, and if that means eliminating the person performing the behavior…? So be it.

  • Kirk (July 27, 2022 at 2:04 am), if you want to believe that

    this “justice” idea is … merely a surface justification that people offer up when pressured, in order to look good on camera.

    then you will want to go on believing that in the face of any evidence we offer to the contrary. However you ought to perceive how bizarre it is to offer the lack of witnesses to the shooting of Ken McElroy as evidence of your view, as if it had no greater moral meaning than the lack of witnesses to one of Al Capone’s killings.

    BTW, just at the lowest level, if I wished to rid the community of a Ken McElroy, I would not go around telling everyone that their desire not to be a witness against his killer after the deed was done would be morally no better than their fear of being a witness against McElroy in the days of his reign of terror.

    In Huckleberry Finn, Colonel Sherburn gives his view of how justice worked in the ante-bellum south.

    “Why do your juries always acquit murderers? Because they’re afraid the hung man’s friends will kill them – and that’s jest what they would do. So they always acquit and then, in the night, a hundred masked cowards with a man at their head lynches him.” [quoted from memory]

    The colonel (i.e. Mark Twain) has no great respect for the lynch mob, whose members likely include some or all of the same jurors who dared not convict in public, but he is describing how justice operates in his community. The court trial establishes the innocence or guilt of the accused in the minds of the jurors (and courtroom witnesses). In the latter case, the jurors nevertheless acquit from lack of courage to risk the consequences of a visible act – but then they and the courtroom watchers inform the community, and take the lesser risk of arranging the same result as conviction through an act shared by a anonymous hundred, not a known twelve (but – and this is a key point for Sherburn – they’ll only do even that if provided with courageous leadership).

    Criticism of this system of justice as ‘not the ideal’ is easy – but if Kirk insists on saying it has not one iota more justice to it than its absence would have, then that says something (something strange to me) about Kirk’s philosophy.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Kirk insists that “justice” is pretext for eliminating threats to society.
    That seems a weird position to take. To me, the reverse seems more plausible: people who want “justice” (in most cases, vengeance) might plausibly insist that they only want to make a safer society.

    I read with interest the story of Ken McElroy. Were there more big-city Americans who think like the residents of Skidmore, Missouri thought 40 years ago, a lot of problems could be avoided; especially for minorities.

    In the case of McElroy, prevention was most likely to be the primary concern. I mean, normal people would not risk being indicted for murder, just to kill somebody they hate.
    But other cases are not necessarily the same.

  • Snorri Godhi

    BTW, I seem to remember being taught that a good Catholic is not supposed to want “true” justice from the State: that would be to put the State in the place of God.

    I don’t remember whether my teacher added that temporal justice is only meant as a deterrent, but it is an obvious inference from the above. I did not study this issue further after turning agnostic.

  • Kirk

    Niall makes my argument for me, without realizing it.

    I’d also point out that he’s citing a work of fiction as authoritative. I won’t take anything away from Samuel Clemens or his prose, but I seriously doubt that his observations are anything we could term as “timeless”. Or, for that matter, definitive–Clemens was, after all, writing for entertainment, not authoritative sociological observation.

    Leaving that aside, let us examine what Niall says refutes my assertion: People go to court and are afraid to find someone guilty, yet are perfectly willing to take part in a lynch mob afterwards. This, to me, isn’t a sign they want “justice”. If they did, they’d find the bastard guilty in court, and hang the consequences. What’s more likely going on in those cases is exactly what went on in McElroy’s case–The system did not work, so the body politic routed around the system to deal with things more effectively. And, permanently.

    I will repeat my assertion: People really don’t care about “justice”. They care about stopping crime and criminals. Period. If your system doesn’t work to stop crime or criminals…? Don’t be awfully surprised to wake up one morning and find out that the local Mafioso has supplanted your courts and judges, or that the mob has determined that its views on the matter will prevail over all the polite and proper procedure of the courtroom.

  • bobby b

    I’ll just interject here that people do want justice, because they want to be treated with justice when they themselves fall under suspicion. In the US, an estimated 3-4% of the people are accused of a crime yearly, and they’d mostly rather not simply be imprisoned or killed upon accusation.

    It’s a very self-serving and practical concern for justice, but it is a concern.

  • Niall makes my argument for me, without realizing it. (Kirk, July 27, 2022 at 5:53 pm)

    I do not think so, but I suggest we let things rest. Readers can decide for themselves. (If you reply and I think I see something genuinely new in your argument, I may respond, but otherwise feel free to have the last word if you wish.)

    People go to court and are afraid to find someone guilty, yet are perfectly willing to take part in a lynch mob afterwards. This, to me, isn’t a sign they want “justice”. If they did, they’d find the bastard guilty in court, and hang the consequences.

    If you define ‘justice’ as meaning the correct procedural operation of the current legal court system, then of course any activity against malefactors that occurs outside that court system is by trivial definition not ‘justice’, but – quite apart from the major question of the sufficiency of that definition of the word ‘justice’ – that does not mean that all such activity can be plausibly represented as a concern to avert future danger.

    Consider, for example, the post-liberation activities against collaborationists in 1940s France. During the Nazi occupation, killing an informer had an obvious aspect of making the informing stop, so protecting the resistance from future harm, but one hardly needs to watch ‘Le Chagrin et la Pitie’ to know that, even then, rage against traitors and a desire to punish them were part of the picture. After liberation, no-one imagined the former collaborators were going to team up with any reinvading Germans. (Indeed, those most likely to be a danger in any future invasion – the communists – were least pursued since, after June 1941, all those most eager collaborators had reinvented themselves as resistors.) The post-liberation judicial and extra-judicial actions were not always perfectly just as I would use the word, and the extra-judicial ones by definition were not pro forma legal, but it seems to me psychologically absurd to suggest those who did them were motivated by fear of their informing to the fled Nazis and not by a desire that the collaborators finally get their just deserts.

    The same idea applies to the British Army’s Jewish Brigade. Ending the war on the Austrian border, certain brigade members then spent some months gathering intel on final solution participants and liquidating them. You can say if you like that they were guarding against said Jew-killers ever resuming activity on a personal basis, and sending a message to future ones, but again it seems to me psychologically absurd to suggest those Jewish soldiers were remotely as motivated by that future concern as by the desire to do justice to Nazi killers for their past misdeeds.

    If you object to Twain’s observations on his society because they are presented in the form of fiction, there are many histories. I certainly won’t write out Boorstein ‘The Americans: The National Experience’, book 1, part 4, 26. ‘How the Southern Gentleman became honour-bound’ (plus most of it is just an aristocratic touch above the class Sherburn is describing) but it establishes the context of duels and blood feuds in which lynching a murderer could have little to do with fear of a killer who will not kill outside the context of his feud. The section early in ‘The Americans: The Democratic Experiencs – ‘Lawless Sherrifs and Honest Desperados’ – certainly has something for both of us, but your thesis seems to demand that movie Westerns, in which the revenge motive is so often key to the hero and the prudential motive is usually that of the villain, have no real parallels; I challenge that.

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