We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Vigilantism is defined as “the act of preventing, investigating and punishing perceived offenses and crimes without legal authority” by the various dictionaries. I’d say that the critical part of that is the “…without legal authority” bit.

If you act without being formally “legal”, yet have the support of the community? You’ve essentially supplanted or replaced a dysfunctional existing system or mechanism. To me, that’s the essence of vigilantism, when you consider it as a social phenomenon: Members of the citizenry acting without duly constituted and conferred authority, yet still within the bounds of the community values and mores.

The existing system is in grave danger of convincing a significant fraction of the community that they are justified in not taking things through the duly constituted system of legalisms and legalities. After a certain inflection point, when a critical mass is reached, then the whole thing gets junked and we start over with a new paradigm, one that I suspect is going to be a lot less concerned with the welfare of the criminal, and far more concerned with putting an end to their activities.

Whereupon the usual bleeding hearts will whine and complain about the inhumanity of it all, completely oblivious to their own complicity with destroying the current system in the name of “criminal rights”.

It will be interesting to see what develops, that’s for sure. I doubt that anyone will like it, especially at first.

– Commenter Kirk

67 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • bobby b

    “Vigilantism is defined as “the act of preventing, investigating and punishing perceived offenses and crimes without legal authority” by the various dictionaries.”

    And that “preventing” is why I think we’re well into vigilantism here in the USA. 400,000,000 guns would seem to support this idea. We’re outside the legal system in that we can no longer expect our hired guards – the police – to intervene and prevent crime. We can only expect them to investigate it after the fact, and even then we’ll see no results unless the actors fit the right script and casting models. We’re on our own.

    To be vigilant doesn’t strike me as a bad thing. In a perfect world, our hired agents would be vigilant for us. In this world, they have abdicated and act ultra vires, and so we must fend for ourselves until we can fire them and hire anew.

  • Paul Marks

    In the United States the regime (and the word “regime” is justified – its legal system is institutionally corrupt, and its last election was blatantly rigged) seems to be trying to provoke vigilantism – as an excuse for a CRACKDOWN.

    “Look at these evil far right white supremacists – we must confiscate their firearms and send them to prison” – “but I am black, and a registered Democrat – and you were trying to castrate my little buy” – “that just means that you are the black face of white supremacy – and how dare you misgender your new daughter, or she will be your new daughter when we have finished castrating him – err sorry, her”.

    In Britain it is not an evil design (as it is in the United States) it is just “crapness” (for want of a better word) – the British government and the various police forces do not want little girls gang raped – they just fear being called “racist” or “Islamophobic”. Yes, it is a bad thing for little girls to be gang raped and tortured – but one must be very careful of being “cancelled” as “racist” or “Islamophobic” – after all a police officer might well be dismissed and lose their pension. I do not have a pension to lose – so I am in a different position.

    As for how they treat “Climate Emergency” types obstructing the roads – not arresting them for Obstruction, indeed even giving them water.

    Police training has long been P.C. (no pun intended) – some protests, such as Marxist Black Lives Matter or “Climate Justice” “Climate Emergency”, are to be supported, other protests, such as anti-lockdown protests or anti Covid injection protests, are to be crushed with violence.

    It is NOT an evil plot to provoke a vigilante backlash – as an excuse for a crackdown (as it is in the United States), the British police have no such plans (they really do not), they are just carrying out their education and training – and they would be punished if they did not.

    And to be fair to the various police forces I have known various Conservative M.P.s (including ones who call themselves libertarians) to support “The Squad” in the United States, pretending that President Trump is opposed to these evil people, who supported the looting and burning of wide areas of American cities – and many murders, on “racist” grounds, and even saying they “support the aims of BLM”.

    What aims would they be? Marxist Revolution or castrating little boys? Frankfurt School “Woke” Marxism (“take a knee” and all that) is not better than Classical Marxism – it is worse.

    Of course, sometimes activists kill each other – for example a female Marxist BLM leader in Britain was murdered by another BLM activist. But such things tend to be covered up – just as they are in the United States. That most black murder victims are murdered by other black people does not fit the narrative – any more than white or Asian people being murdered fits the narrative. Black Conservatives try and expose the truth – but they are denounced as the “black face of white supremacy” (“Uncle Tom” or “Aunt Jemima”) a black person must NOT say that “white lives matter”.

    Try saying those three words in a school, or university, or on the “mainstream” television and radio stations – see what happens to you.

  • Paul Marks

    As for “extraditing” British or other people to the United States (even if they have never visited the place) what is it about the words “institutionally corrupt Federal legal system” that you do not understand?

  • Roué le Jour

    There are so many groups the police are reluctant to tackle that they are only left with right wing white people. As this group is fairly law abiding, it is necessary to invent crimes for them to commit, saying harsh things on the internet, for example.

  • One can compare to inflation. As Milton Friedman remarked, people will cling to belief in [fiat] money under great provocation, but if inflation gets bad enough then they will revert to barter, despite their knowing from pre-inflation experience it is a less convenient means of exchange than a trustworthy form of money. That knowledge is no argument because it is inapplicable.

    This inapplicability is reinforced when the inflating government reveals its promises are correspondingly ‘deflating’. The French revolutionaries issued a fiat money – assignats. They ruled that citizens had to accept it from the state and from each other – but soon had to add a further rule: no paying taxes in assignats (as everyone had of course tried to do). “Trust our money – we don’t!”, is a typical message of such times.

    Vigilantism similarly occurs when the value of that most fundamental excuse for the state – monopolising violence to protect all citizens – inflates away enough.

    Kirk is aware from an earlier discussion we had that I think he understates the role of revenge – “wild justice”, as Sir Francis Bacon called it, “without which the domesticated stock would never have arisen” – in what people want from the justice system. But the conclusion is much the same, as far as this thread’s point is concerned, though the reasoning steps vary: people abandon the state’s justice system for a populist one that some enforce and others support against the state’s.

    The change can be as dramatic as when a basket is stolen but the heap of fiat notes it contained are dumped on the pavement. The literature of the west implies the same man could, as juror, vote to acquit a villain (for fear of what his gang would do to jurors if the jury dared convict), then later, in a lynching party, help string the villain up. (In my limited researches of the real history of western vigilantism, I have not come across a proved case of that, but I suspect Mark Twain and Owen Wister were not absurd to suggest it.)

  • Kirk

    Well, this is a bit of a surprise to find my ravings at the head of the page.

    One of the many things that those who’ve set themselves up as our civil masters have forgotten is that legitimacy does not flow automatically and continuously from long-standing tradition and precedence… Nor does it accrue from mere position and role. It has to be earned, demonstrated continually, and re-earned on a daily basis.

    Once you’ve lost it, you’ve lost it. You’re never getting it back.

    Not until you’ve re-earned it.

    If you can.

    Once the numpties have pissed away the legitimacy inherent to the system that their forebears managed to imbue it with, they’ve very much overdrawn the accounts at a very finite and closely-held bank. The auditors at this bank are not green eye-shaded types who pay attention to infinite detail and who care only about the established rules; no, these auditors are the sort who initiate and participate in bank runs, the very people who entrusted their dearly earned monies into the hands of that bank. These auditors are the very public that that bank serves. They are, in short, the mob. The general public; the great unwashed.

    What the social numpties don’t seem to grasp is that they’re positively encouraging a run on the bank of public trust; they don’t even really understand that there is such a bank, nor that they’re its trustees. As far as they are concerned, they may continue to experiment on the body politic as much as they might like, and everything will remain the same as it always was, unchanging into the ever-receding future. Power was; is; always will be. To them. The grounded truth is that that power accrues from the same place its legitimacy did: It worked, to the general benefit of the general public.

    When it ceases to work? When it no longer answers the needs that the general public, the mob, believes it needs to? It evaporates. It doesn’t go away; instead, once evaporated, it does what steam does, and then condenses somewhere else. Remove legitimacy and effect from formal law and justice, and where will it form little droplets of informal legitimacy…? The doors of the local mafia or the Vigilance Committee. The need, the drive… It will be answered. If the victims of crime don’t get their due from legitimate authority, then they’ll petition the illegitimate for redress.

    Who then, will be the legitimate?

    The truth of it is this: It’ll be the same as it always was, until it isn’t. Then, it will change overnight, and where you once went in to work and everything was copacetic on the commute, and you and your officemates were masters of the world? That morning? That morning, you’ll discover that what was, is no more.

    I told people I knew on the Seattle Police Department that they had issues they needed to deal with, lest they lose the public’s consent to their manner of policing. They pooh-pooed me, saying that they provided an essential service, that they could do as they would, and people would just have to take it.

    We now know how that attitude worked out. Reality bit, and bit hard; similar awakenings await elsewhere in the grand interlocking system that is our civilization. The bright lights and bushy tails that believe they are now the anointed masters of our universe are in for a bit of a shock, when they find that they no longer possess the high ground that they’ve failed to keep shored up. It is and has eroded from beneath them, all unnoticed.

    The mandate of heaven is not something immutable and ever-lasting. It must be re-earned every single day of the working year, and the moment you cease to water that plant and maintain it, it begins to boil away, like water droplets on a hot skittle.

    Every generation has to re-fight the battles of the past; legitimacy of government must be demonstrated to all, every day, in every way. Lose that “mandate of heaven”, and you’re never getting it back. Not this side of the grave, at least.

    Most of the authorities in the West think they’ve inherited something that is immutable, unquestionable, which can never, ever change. They captured the heights; they must, then, be forever primarchs of all that they survey. They will do as they will, no matter what, and the rest of us just have to take it, whilst they re-order the world to their own satisfaction.

    The problem with that mentality, which they all seem to demonstrate, is that “the rest of us” don’t actually have to “take it”. We can route around their arrant dysfunctional stupidity and ideological blinders. We may ignore them; hell, we may even do away with the institutions they’ve captured and de-legitimized. The results will be chaotic and ugly, but they will be far more functional than that which the genius autists have created on the bones of what was, that which formerly, at least, worked.

    The brave new world ain’t going to be kind to the educated-yet-idiot class that runs the world today. They think they’ve achieved a sort of mastery, a primacy over all. The unfortunate reality is that their very capture of these institutions has rendered them illegitimate and essentially incompetent at their actual social function and purpose. Once enough people see that, and cease to believe in the fiction? Poof; there it goes. It’s gone. Utterly.

    It’s like an author writing fiction; you must tread that line between “willing suspension of disbelief” and “man, this guy is full of BS…” very, very carefully. High art can result from going right up to the edge of that line; go past it, and you’re in the territory of “…it was a dark and stormy night…”, wherein you’re the subject of widespread mockery and discredited as a serious author.

    This is the fallacy of Gramsci and his long march through the institutions; once they’re captured, that territory ceases to be worth capturing simply because Gramsci’s acolytes destroy the very underpinnings of what those institutions relied on for their social legitimacy and implied authority. They have a tiny window to work in, between “Inherent legitimacy” and “Utterly discredited”. And, when their work itself is that which does the discrediting…?

    It actually stands a very good chance of reversing it all, and recoiling upon them in a very ugly fashion.

    Watch the space currently filled by the LGBTWTFBBQ types. Observe what happens, once they drive enough of the general public into repudiation and reprisal; watch the end-state for their attempts at normalizing the perverse and deviant. If it doesn’t result in more excess in the direction of denial and repression, I will be amazed.

    They don’t happen overnight, these reactionary changes. It takes time, and it takes massive disillusionment and disappointment from those who the institutions are meant to serve. There’s a dwell time between capture and supersession, that we’re in right now.

    But, that supersession absolutely will take place, simply because the Gramscian captures are no longer serving the public purpose they were called into existence to answer in the first place. If it don’t work, it won’t last. History tells us that, clearly and emphatically. If we would only listen…

  • Steven R

    If you act without being formally “legal”, yet have the support of the community?

    Which is exactly why both the prosecution and the courts have effectively done away with Jury Nullification in the United State. Judges don’t want mere plebs thinking they know more about the laws passed in their name than our learned Solons in black muumuus, nevermind undermining the legislative process, and the prosecutors don’t want normal folks deciding that “yes, that guy needed off the streets and the system doesn’t work.”

    And that is even before the even more cynical voices in my head say it’s so judges and lawyers can save their crummy jobs.

  • Fraser Orr

    I’m afraid we may have a rosy idea of vigilantism and revolution here. It doesn’t have a particularly appealing history. It doesn’t allow for the moderation of the courts or the demand that we have police officers trained in certain skills that Random Joe with a Gun doesn’t have. And revolutions are far more often French than American.

    At the core I’d remind you that the problem in America is not really “the elites”, it is the people themselves. In large majority they believe things I find absolutely morally repugnant. Just this morning a read an article on how many great things Joe Biden got done — it was a list of things he had spent massive amounts of money stolen from future generations to buy him votes, and then the article lamented — if only he could get inflation under control. And look at what is going on in Britain. The prime minister is quivering under the pressure for having the audacity to let companies keep a teeny bit more of the money they make.

    The people who voted for them are the people we want running around enforcing criminal pseudo justice? Can you imagine how those vigilanties would deal with parents stepping out of line at a school board meeting? Or how they would have dealt with the Derek Chauvin case? You might say — but the good guys with guns would protect our rights. Right, just like in Lord of the Flies.

    And if you think that the elites would allow this except in tiny isolated pockets, you are crazy. Remember when Governor Desantis during the aftermath of the hurricane out of concern for looting reminded the public that Florida was a second amendment state? Everyone went nuts. And he hardly even scratched the surface. Remember the old dude who had the audacity to defend himself against some thug attacking him in his bodega in NYC. Were it not for Fox News he’d probably be in jail serving 20 to life right now.

  • Steven R

    Vigilantism went out of vogue in the US precisely because we adopted the Social Contract. We collectively agreed to allow the police and courts to handle things so that it wouldn’t simply be mob rule. And really vigilantism really only took hold in three areas:

    1) the frontier where there was no established legal organs (or they existed but were so sparse that they were essentially absent). As the frontier was pushed westward, those areas that had becomes civilized no longer needed citizen’s vigilance committees. They have in the past also existed when there was no police due to a natural disaster or war or what have you.

    2) in times when unjust laws were enforced and those people who were arrested knew they would be acquitted in a trial via jury nullification (in this case meaning the citizenry would not be a part of enforcing a law they knew was wrong, such as convicting someone of violating the Fugitive Slave Act or bootlegging) and the law became effectively unenforceable. Basically, the citizens subverting the law on such a scale as to eliminate the law).

    3) when some other social order was upended and there was no other legal recourse. This is particularly notorious when it came to things like the KKK lynching some guy to send a message or burning down a house some uppity negro bought thinking he would actually be allowed to live in a white neighborhood; those kinds of things.

    The danger in thinking vigilantism is a good option is twofold:

    1) it eliminates that shared confidence we have in law & order, and that trust is thin enough as it is. This is where we are now considering that so many prosecutors are not even trying to put criminals in prison for political reasons.

    2) Mob justice is rarely just and as easy as it is for the police to accuse the wrong man of a crime, at least the wrongfully accused can end up being released from prison if convicted on appeal. There is no way to unring the bell when some wrong man is on the end of a noose.

  • Kirk

    Who, precisely “went nuts” at what Desantis said? Was it the vast unvoiced, or was it the self-anointed “thought leaders”?

    Most of “the rest of us” were simply nodding along with Desantis, just as we were when he said what he said about the Parkland shooter.

    What you mistake for “consensus” and “mainstream belief” are actually what the idiot “elite” have come up with, and what they believe. Things they’re actually making inoperable, because they don’t work. Nowhere that their writ proceeds do things actually work.

    That’s the test: Does it work?

    Look around you. Does any of it function? Do benefits accrue to all of us, or just the self-satisfied smarmy elite who have managed to attain power over everyone else? Most of those “benefits” the elite perceive are self-delusion, because their cars are getting broken into along with the rest of ours, and they have to step over feces in the street just like we do.

    There will be inevitable consequences for this. Society will route around the stupidity and seek out what works. That’s happening as we observe; more and more people are observing the dysfunction, identifying the causes, and soon they’re going to first opt out of it all and then they’re going start making use of alternatives. If the formal courts and the cops won’t do their jobs where they live, they’ll move to somewhere that they will, and if they find those places are also infected with the same sort of mindlessness, they’ll simply stop calling the police at all.

    I’ve already seen the beginnings of this, first hand. You can see where it is going, just the same as you can see what a train wreck is going to look like while the train is first coming off the tracks.

    It’s all slow-motion, at first, then it happens all at once.

    Like I’ve pointed out before, I saw the current “defund the police” thing coming, years ago. I warned the cops I knew, told them what was coming. They didn’t believe me then, but they sure as hell do now.

    The self-delusion and lies perpetrated by the educated-yet-idiot self-proclaimed “elites” here in the West will be the death of their class. They are creatures of the diktat, foolishly believing that reality is created by their will expressed through their words. To a very limited, and entirely illusory initial degree, that has a tiny bit of truth: Words and thoughts do create a sort of reality-bubble, in that you can shift the way people look at things and perhaps influence how they deal with them. But, and this is the important bit, for that to transition into long-term change, the new paradigm must work.

    Observably so.

    If it does not, then the consensus can shift in a moment, and the whole sorry edifice you’ve constructed up in the thought-clouds comes tumbling down, discredited by contact with sordid reality. You propose that the real problem is how we’re dealing so brutally with criminals; yet, what “the rest of us” observe is rising crime and criminality, immiseration all around us. What lessons do we take, do you suppose? Do we continue to nod along with the liberal thought-leaders, who continuously tell us that the liquid they’re pissing down our backs is actually rain? Or, do we reach a point wherein we cease the willing suspension of disbelief in their fairy tales, and find a new, working “way of being”?

    See, the thing is that you can create a new reality through words. For a moment, if you are sufficiently convincing and what you say resonates with enough people. That’s how Hitler managed to turn Weimar into Nazi-land. He was believable, credible… His words created a new reality for Germans. Yet… What appeared to work in 1936 was well-discredited by 1945, and no amount of belief in the Nazi paradigm could withstand the harsh light of reality or the bills coming due.

    If the bubble you create bursts because it visibly doesn’t work, then what? What really took down the Soviet Union and the other totalitarian states on Eurasia’s western edge? The end of “willing suspension of disbelief” in it all, as the contradictions were laid bare, and it went all dark and dreary once the rose-tinted glasses came off for the majority of the “proletariat”.

    None of the bright lights and bushy-tailed types running things really grasp how things work, out here in the real world. They live in an academized, sterile fantasy world, ensconced in the bubble they’ve been in since the first time they did “really well on the tests” back in school. Nobody has ever once called them on their bullshit, nor have they ever been held accountable for their actual performance.

    They will be. Soon. The test of reality is coming due; the Gods of the Copybook Headings are in the wings, warming up for their turn at it all. I don’t think the self-anointed self-satisfied little pricks running things in the world today realize yet that they’re coasting on the fumes of prior days, when things still worked. Enough of “the rest of us” still believe, and more importantly, want to believe in the system-that-was, which has become “inoperable” the way Nixon’s speechwriters so archly phrased one of their disinformation efforts.

    How long is that going to last, do you think? Does anyone watch the news, and think they’re being told the truth? Do people still believe the talking heads?

    When that inflection point of cynicism is reached, when enough cease to willingly believe? Bloody revolution is only one of the potential outcomes; the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a like event, when the institutions of an entire society suddenly went all soggy and flexible around the participants, because nobody really believed any more. It would work wonders for the elites of today to watch what happened in Romania, that day that Ceaucescu found his inflection point.

    It’s quite like Peter Pan, in a way… If enough members in a society cease to believe in the whole thing, it comes crashing down like Wile E. Coyote noticing he’s been running on air for the last few moments.

    Right now, the way I call it? We’re in that moment of time wherein the coyote is looking down and realizing that gravity is a thing. Reality will ensue, and it will be ugly. What cannot go on, will not.

  • Kirk

    @Frasier Orr & Steven R;

    You both appear to make the mistake that I’m advocating vigilantism and mob violence. I am not.

    What I am pointing out to the crowd here, is that both are almost inevitable outcomes of where we are going with this current trend towards the deliberately unworkable in our society.

    Do the geniuses in Germany think that people will simply sit there in the dark, this winter, when the gas bills are too high to heat their homes? Or, will they instead go out to the local park or forest and “harvest” all those lovely trees for firewood?

    People do what they must, in order to survive. Once you condition (or, more accurately, de-condition…) people to distrust calling the police for those occasions where they perceive a threat, then they won’t just sit there, freezing in the metaphoric dark. They’ll go out to your lovely park, find one of your beautiful trees… And, cut it down for firewood.

    That’s exactly what’s going to happen with the legal system, only it won’t be trees they cut down. It will be people, some of whom will no doubt deserve that which they receive, and others that won’t.

    And, eventually, things will again settle out as we realize that you need something like the old system, flawed as it was. We’ll re-invent the wheel, recreate that which was.

    In between, a lot of people are going to suffer. Innocent and guilty alike.

    The thing that angers me is how unnecessary it is, how foolish the current line of action is. Anyone with a brain and a library card should be able to go to one, withdraw the pertinent history books, read them, and then extrapolate outwards to the present day.

    Yet, our genius “elite” seems unable to do this. The bills will come due, and the piper will demand his fee. What comes after? I do not look forward to it, but apparently, the elites and the masses of today must learn the lessons of yesterday through sad experience, dear as the tuition will be.

    Idiots and dolts, the lot of them.

  • Stonyground

    I vaguely remember a news story about a particular police force, I think that it was in the UK, sending letters to shop owners telling them not to bother them with shoplifting incidents. It seemed to me that shop owners would have been perfectly justified in taking the law into their own hands and in producing the offending letter in court when they were inevitably prosecuted.

  • Steven R


    I’m don’t think you’re advocating vigilantism, and I’m certainly not. Im trying to get across, poorly it would seem, that as attractive as it might seem to be, it is extremely dangerous in reality.

    Sadly, given how society is falling apart and how useless the police and courts seem to be at doing their jobs +we can leave the discussion of what for another time), vigilantism may be the inevitable outcome.

  • Fraser Orr

    Who, precisely “went nuts” at what Desantis said? Was it the vast unvoiced, or was it the self-anointed “thought leaders”?

    Apologies, I didn’t write that well. If you check the context I was talking about the elites, and that is who went nuts. It is a challenge to their authority and the will not brook that. Imagine, just a hypothetical of course, if an 18 year old kid tried to defend the property of his friend from mass looting, and, in the process, in self defense, shot and killed a two people. How well would the elites like that? How would his life look like after that?

  • Kirk

    I think that the root problem here, across much of the West, is that we’ve let a bunch of self-appointed delusional dumbasses at the levers of power, and then signally failed to monitor what they were up to.

    Or, to do anything at all about the things they were doing which were clearly not working.

    When I look back over the history, what I see is the beginnings of the problem starting back around the turn of the 19th into the 20th Century. That was about the time that the various bright lights around the world saw that the old order had discredited itself (WW I, anyone…?) and that they would thusly replace that with a new technocratic and meritocratic elite chosen from the best among us.

    The thing is, though, that they settled on a means of selecting this crew that only appeared to work. These are the same idiots who thought that eugenics was a good idea, basing it on idiocies like appearances and skull shapes, never mind the actual longitudinal long-term performance of said eugenics candidates. I mean, there’s nothing really mistaken about the principles of eugenics; it’s the same thing we do with domestic animals.

    But, the parallels are there: The folks behind the various eugenics plans were of the same sort of feckless ilk that ran the various breeding programs of the American Kennel Club, when you compare their over-refined appearance-based products to the original breeding masters behind breeds like the Border Collie and other working lines. The people who bred Border Collies bred for successful herding behaviors and performance, not conformation and appearances. Compare today’s narrow-skulled Collie to the old-school dogs popularized by literary works from the old days, like Lassie. Bit of a difference, there, what?

    You can’t breed humans like dogs, not on a timeline scale to where you’ll see results in your own lifetime. Yet, they tried… Hell, most of them couldn’t even tell you what they were breeding for, besides the idiocy of things like “Aryan appearance” or “Anglo-Saxon traits”. No attention paid whatsoever to actual, y’know… Performance. Not school grades, either: Long-term, actual performance in the real world.

    AKC breeding plans fail, producing distorted dogs with massive health problems. So, too, would the various eugenics attempts, because they weren’t based on practicalities, they were based on mere appearance.

    On a time scale of centuries, there’s really nothing wrong with eugenics, so long as you have rational ideas about what you want. After all, we’ve really been doing that forever, when you consider the effect of civilization on the human genome. It was just informal as hell, and totally unplanned. Raw chaos, but who can fail to acknowledge that there are vast differences between humanity expressed in rainforest tribal settings vice that of the urban conglomerates of East Asia? Ever wonder why it is that urban Chinese and Ashkenazic Jewry have so many shared traits? Why they both fill similar roles in their separate milieus?

    Bred for success in urban civilizations, compared to others. They’re further along the adaptive tree than many, and demonstrate it. Call it inadvertent eugenics, if you must. But, it’s an example of how you could, should you desire it, breed humans for specific traits, much as we breed herd dogs and guard dogs.

    So, eugenics isn’t necessarily a discredited thing. What was discredited was the methodology that those complete arseholes came up with, and their implementation thereof. Didn’t work; the timescale was far too short. And, they had no real idea what they were looking to improve, other than outward appearances…

    What I’m lining up, with that digression, is to point out that the meritocratic and technocratic program we’ve been following for the last century or so has similar roots, because many of the same absolute short-sighted dolts pridefully came up with those ideas, as well. Based on many of the supposed false ideas that we’ve seen disproven, time and time again if only people would look at the actual effects produced, and the results thereof.

    Eugenics failed because of false premises, false goals. You can’t do what they tried to do, simply because they were unable to set rational goals or to work on a long enough timeline to make the idea work.

    Same-same with the meritocracy we think we’ve enacted. The key thing is, there’s no damn feedback loop, no assessment of effectiveness, no accountability. Nobody takes the product of one of these institutions back to them and says “Hey, this guy you sold me, that was supposed to be such a genius? Guess what? He just killed a few thousand miles of the Colorado River with one of his “environmental iniatives”… I want my money back.”

    The raw and unpleasant fact is, we should be doing just that, and we do not. The people running things today never face effective criticism or accountability when they get things wrong. Ever. That’s a self-reinforcing feedback loop of incompetence and ineffective governance. You don’t see anyone held accountable because nobody is ever held accountable… For anything.

    The roots of failure for eugenics and the modern meritocracy are quite the same; eugenics was discredited, yet nobody ever examined the rest of the program and said “Yeah, ya know what…? This is just as crazy…”

    Oh, but we should have. We should have.

    Consider the cursus honorum of any one of today’s modern technocratic elite: Kid does well on their early tests in schools, and achieves high scores. So, that kid is identified, set apart, given more schooling, more tests… Until, finally, they’re at university and graduate, never having done anything outside that hothouse environment of simulated life, their schools. Nowhere along the line do they get real-world experience and feedback; most of them just bumble along from test to class to test again, gaining more and more credit as time goes on.

    Nobody ever assesses whether that budding little genius can actually get things done, in the real world. Whether he succeeds or fails, when put to the test of reality.

    Schools are simulators, gamespaces where you go to learn necessary things in safety from the inherent dangers of life in the raw. That’s fine; you don’t want to learn your physics from crashing your aircraft, doing things the hard way.

    The thing about simulators, games though? If they’re to be of any value and relevance to the real world, you have to ensure that they possess utter fidelity to the reality they’re preparing the participants for. Elsewise, humans being what they are, they’ll quite literally “game the system” to take advantage of your lack of fidelity to reality, and then where are you, once they hit the real world and discover that game ain’t necessarily life?

    The manifest evidence before us today is that this whole supposedly meritocratic structure that we’ve built up over generations ain’t actually producing much in the way of true merit. The cruft has built up; the gamesters have gamed the system, and that’s contributing to the whole thing spinning out of control.

    Look at all the self-congratulatory types we have running things with their self-conceived brilliant ideas. How many of them pay attention to the actual effect of their actions? They have their autistic little ideas about the world, that they came up with in their hothouses of constrained thought, and they insist that black is white, white is black, and that their Imperial Majesties aren’t wandering around waving their genitalia in all our faces.

    How’d we get here? Why do we tolerate it?

    Go back and look, and trace out the ideas and ideals, from Benet forward through Wilson and all his academic technocratic ilk. See if you can find a flaw in my reasoning and history. I’ve looked for those, and the more I do that, the more I come to believe we started off down this primrose path of error back around the 1890s, when the last paradigm of connected aristocracy began to so thoroughly discredit itself. Today’s lot aren’t much better, and in some ways, demonstrate far less common sense than their predecessors. If I had to guess at the future, I’d say that the current lot of idiots aren’t doing much better than the ones who brought WWI into being, and that they’re likely to accrue similar results in terms of civilizational damage.

    The whole thing is so utterly lacking in common sense and pragmatism that it drives one to despair. Does nobody ever stop to examine the basic premises of things, or assess the actual effects of all these wunnerful, wunnerful brave new ideas, like “defund the police” and “no cash bail for violent criminals”?

    Hell, I’m an uneducated dumbass, and I can see where that goes. Why can’t these products of our elite educational and bureaucratic systems work that out? They’ve got all these credentials, right? Right?

    Could it be, perhaps, that they’re not really all that bright, not all that “elite”, or that they’re really totally unfit to be in charge of anything at all?

    Of course, the idea that they’ve set about to deliberately crash the system isn’t so far-fetched. You do, however, wonder what they think will happen to them, personally, during and after the crash. Do they have an Underpants Gnome sort of plan, you wonder? “Step One: Get put in charge. Step Two: Wreck everything. Step Three: _________. Step Four: Profit!!!”

    Some days, all I can do is laugh the high mad laughter of the knowing doomed. I used to wonder what it must have been like, to be that last Roman legionary looking around at the way things were going, when the orders to evacuate Britain came in.

    I think I have an idea, now. I rather wish I did not.

  • Paul Marks

    What has Governor Desantis got to do with any of this?

    It would help if someone typed out what the Governor is supposed to have said – and how it is relevant to the quotation that is the post that this is the comment thread of.

    The last thing I heard about the Governor of Florida was that he was firing people who were refusing to enforce the law – he was replacing them with other people, NOT suggesting that Vigilance Committees take over law and order.

  • Steven R

    In a post-disaster situation it’s all well and good to say “let the police handle it”, but in so many of those situations there is no law and order. Hence the signs reading “you loot, we shoot”. It is infuriating to big-government types to thing that the proles might take care of themselves, and in the process ask “so what do we need all that government for?”, but when they can’t provide police, fire, EMS etc., then what?

    And it is a question they simply cannot answer honestly.

    One need only look at how quickly New Orleans devolved into Mad Max-land to see why normal people banded together to take care of business when government couldn’t.

  • bobby b

    Fraser Orr
    October 14, 2022 at 1:53 pm

    “I’m afraid we may have a rosy idea of vigilantism and revolution here.”

    I doubt there are many people here more committed to legal process – to due process, to constitutional rights for the accused, to adherence to the law instead of to passions and expediency – than me.

    But I will defend my own right to rely upon defensive vigilantism. I go no further than that – vigilantism used offensively remains anathema in my mind.

    But point a gun or a knife at me, and I will defensively react in a way that is not sanctioned by the state. Point a gun or knife at me and attempt to steal my car or my wallet, and I will do my best to stop you – even if the consequences to you far outweigh what the law would impose on you in punishment for that same crime.

    “Let him take your stuff, we don’t execute people for taking stuff” is the standard counter-argument. But I would not shoot him because I might be deprived of my car. I shoot him because he has chosen to impose his will on me by threatening my life with his gun or knife.

    There were five armed carjackings in Minneapolis yesterday. Several people were shot by criminals. This is no longer a philosophical exercise.

  • A Landmesser

    When the government uses the legal system to selectively harass its enemies and shape policies by ignorning and not enforcing many areas of the law then civil society has died. Democracy is of course dead when it cannot define what a women is and throws tranny dance exhibions for five year olds.

    When a government defines half its population as irredemible andpromotes them to domestic terrorists, the end goals are clear.

    A storm is coming. Either uoi prepare or you will suffer the consequences.

  • Kirk

    Self-defense isn’t vigilantism. Self-defense is natural law, and it’s going to happen no matter how much moralizing and theorizing anyone does about it. There was a woman a few years ago who killed the guy her husband hired to kill her, with her bare hands. She strangled his ass, with her bare hands. No weapons involved. She wasn’t protected by any “gun control” or “knife control” laws; nor was she constrained by them. Confronted by someone trying to kill her, she did what she needed to do, and killed him instead.

    Ain’t nothing you can legislate away about that. And, in the final analysis? What was the most dangerous thing in that room, with the killer and his intended victim?

    Her mind. The one determined to survive, to live. Nothing else. Her assailant had a hammer, she grabbed a hammer, both were used. She strangled him after he continued to struggle with her.

    I would propose that when we use the term “vigilantism”, we do not use it in cases like this one, where there is a clear-cut case for self-defense in the face of unprovoked attack. If the woman in this case had gotten up an impromptu posse to hunt down and hang the man who tried to kill her? Vigilante action, clearly. She did not do that; she dealt with the attempt on her life personally, immediately, and in the moment that it occurred.

    What we really have on discussion here is vigilantism as a natural regression from civilized law and order, as those institutions meant to provide it become corrupted and useless, unfit for purpose. As we ratchet down the scale of civilization, vigilantism is a railway stop on the way towards pure mob action, or the eventual devolvement into rule by the strong alone. For examples, see much of rural Mexico, now under the effective rule of the Narcos.

    I don’t think vigilantism is a healthy thing, nor is it effective. When it takes place, it’s more like a warning sign, a dying canary in the cage of civilized rule. You got vigilantes, baby? You done screwed up, long before they showed up. Else they would not be there, doing the job you didn’t do.

  • Kirk

    @Paul Marks,

    What was being addressed about Desantis’s comments was this:


    I happen to agree with him. I can’t see a more clear-cut case for the death penalty than this one. There’s zero question about his guilt; zero question about what he did. They have the right guy.

    What it boils down to is that they’re quibbling about whether or not he “deserves” death. He’s an “unfortunate victim”, it’s not his fault, you see.

    My take? I don’t care about whatever led him to commit those murders. It is enough for me that he committed them, unprovoked, and now the sorry little bastard needs to have an end put to him. It’s not a case of justice, it’s not a case of punishment; the raw fact is that he has displayed the sort of aggression and murderous intent that you put dogs down for. It’s not his fault, but the raw fact is this: He has demonstrated that he is an actual threat to others. This requires he be culled from the body politic, as humanely as possible. And, as quickly.

    Mad dogs cannot be cured; once your farm dog discovers the delights of killing stock, he’s done with. You can’t fix that, so no matter how much good service that dog may have provided in the past, you needs must put him down. You’ve no other choice, really. You owe a duty to those other animals that you’re responsible for, as well, not to mention why you’re keeping all of them in the first damn place.

    The Parkland shooter has amply demonstrated that he has behavioral problems past the point of cure; keeping him alive to kill others? Do we not owe the other prisoners, who he might kill as well, and the guards a certain duty? Why should we ask them to sacrifice in order to keep this sub-civilized cretin alive in order to assuage the consciences of the people who lack the clarity to see him for what he is? Which, I will point out, is but one species-step away from “mad dog”…

  • “I’m afraid we may have a rosy idea of vigilantism and revolution here.” (Fraser Orr, October 14, 2022 at 1:53 pm)

    In my comment above, I analogised a functioning police force versus vigilante justice to a functioning money economy versus a barter economy, and explained that those who abandon the mere facade of the former do so while well aware that the real thing would be better if it were available. It is not a question of having a rosy idea of barter or vigilantes. It can be clinging too long to a rosy idea of the current situation. People have in the past clung to money under great inflationary provocation, when they could have been wiser to have dumped it sooner. The real history of vigilantes in the American west includes cases where justice (colloquial sense) clearly says it should have been started sooner than it was, and inflicted harsher punishments more swiftly than it did.

    Above, I also compared to French revolutionaries ordering that citizens take assignats in payment but forbidding citizens to pay French revolutionaries in assignats. Within a month, you guys across the pond will discover how far the phoniness of the 2020 election has been successfully institutionalised. I wish you good news there and am no pessimist – but I hope you’ve thought about how you will react to bad. The last two years give a worked example of what kinds of resistance do not suffice to restore meaning to your votes. This is not identical to bobby b’s point above (October 14, 2022 at 8:17 pm – “This is no longer a philosophical exercise.”) but there is overlap.

  • bobby b

    “What it boils down to is that they’re quibbling about whether or not he “deserves” death. He’s an “unfortunate victim”, it’s not his fault, you see.”

    He’s a somewhat frail and delicate-looking kid, a child-murderer, who is about to spend the rest of his “life” in a very tough prison system being a predators’ playtoy.

    Not sure they did him any favors giving him a life sentence there.

  • Barbarus

    You got vigilantes, baby? You done screwed up


    Vigilantism is already well established in London, at least according to people I know who have lived there. It takes the form of gangsterism, of course. They felt very secure where they lived, in an area controlled by a ‘mafia’ based in a particular immigrant group.

    So there are parts of his own capital city where the King’s writ does not run. That’s pretty far gone already, and it’s getting worse.

  • Fraser Orr

    bobby b
    He’s a somewhat frail and delicate-looking kid, a child-murderer, who is about to spend the rest of his “life” in a very tough prison system being a predators’ playtoy.

    I think this is true, and I think it is awful. It is really a perfect illustration of what we are talking about here. We have this idea that chomos deserve all they get in prison — prison justice we say. And almost everyone applauds. I do not. It is a kind of weird vigilantism by proxy, using the sense of justice of murderers, rapists and gang bangers as both judge and jury.

    It is a sign of the utter failure of the criminal justice system that the punishment we mete out is so insufficient that we pass it over to the absolute worst elements of society to let them fill in our insufficiencies. I’m not friend of child molesters. Hang em by the gonads till they die. But do it legally. If that is what we think they deserve then do it. The idea that we should delegate it to murderers, rapists and gang bangers because we don’t have the stomach for it ourselves is rather pathetic. And it invokes a culture where people barely deserving of prison get it far worse, if for less time, than the absolute worst of us.

    It is a simple fact that far more men are raped in prison on a daily, torturous basis than ever happens to women on the outside. Of course these crimes against women are terrible and deserve severe punishment. But some guy caught kiting a check or robbing a store, or selling some mj or trespassing in the buildings of congress? It is just horrific. It is never reported, and it is ongoing and brutal and nobody cares. Because “prison justice”.

    Prison is a TERRIBLE way to punish people (though it is a good way to keep those dangerous to the public away from the public) however I don’t know what a better alternative is, save the ones we have like fines, sanctions and the horrible concept of “community service.”

    Prison justice is what you get when you have vigilantism. But that is very different from what @bobbyB was talking about — legitimate self defense in face of an imminent threat of hard. This isn’t vigilantism, it is just a good idea.

  • Kirk

    @bobby b,

    This isn’t necessarily directed at you, personally, but… I have to say that I’m profoundly disturbed any time I hear people saying that they’re happy that someone is “gonna get loved” in prison.

    OK, fine, I understand that folks want the criminal to suffer, but… Is this what a civilized society does, outsource punishment to be meted out by other criminals? Essentially at random, ‘cos if our young criminal knows the right people, or gets in with some, he’s going to be essentially untouchable within the prison population.

    How is that any better than just punishing the criminal officially? “Oh, we’re too fine and morally refined to actually do anything naughty to you… So, we’re just going to give Mr. Bruiser over there the opportunity to rape you a few times…”

    This is civilized? WTF?

    I very much believe in the principle of “killing my own dogs”, because if it has to be done, then I’m doing it myself. I’m not paying someone else to do it, I’m not asking someone else to do something I’m unwilling to do for myself. Period. I think that if you’re sitting on a jury and find someone guilty and then sign off on the death penalty for their crimes, then you ought to be the one carrying it out. Outsourcing something like this is profoundly immoral; much as it is to ask a police officer or soldier to kill someone on your behalf, in your name, when you’re entirely unwilling to do it for yourself.

    If you’re going to buy into the whole “punishment” deal, which I don’t, then it ought to be carried out cleanly and honestly.

    If you think someone ought to be homosexually raped, then by God, sentence them to it. Then, do it yourself. No “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” with Percy the man-rapist; have the moral courage of your convictions to actually say what you mean to do, openly, and then carry out the sentence yourself.

    I find it abhorrent that people think that rape ought to be a part of prison life. If you truly believe that, you’re really a far worse person than many of the people you’re wanting punished that way. To my way of thinking, it’s far more humane just to take the prisoner out back and put them down the way we put unwanted pets down, with CO2 and a closed space. Hell, a bullet to the back of the head would be more humane than a life sentence as someone’s sex-toy.

    Who the hell comes up with that, and can still live with themselves? Would you sentence some woman to a lifetime servicing men in a brothel? Why do you think it’s OK to put anyone at all into that situation? How on earth can someone claim to be civilized, and condone, let alone encourage, that kind of thing going on in the prisons?

    I honestly have trouble with just joking about it. I know a lot of people do, but… Man, actually think about it; the implications. Is such a course of action worthy of being termed civilized?

    And, a lot of the same people who say that the death penalty is inhumane and ought to be banned actually come out for this sort of informal punishment, saying it’s better, more moral for someone to be raped continually in prison than cleanly executed.

    I just don’t get that, at all. Advocating for prison rape is, to my way of thinking, a sign of moral degeneracy of the lowest order. If you truly believe that ought to be a part of the sentencing, then you need to put that plainly out there in court, and be willing to do the deed yourself.

    But, I don’t think anyone really means it. They just kinda wish it will happen. Which is in and of itself a profound ugliness.

  • bobby b

    October 15, 2022 at 12:07 am

    “@bobby b,

    This isn’t necessarily directed at you, personally, but . . .”

    I hope not. My point was that we’re sentencing this kid to hell on earth, and the people complaining that he got off easy are misguided.

  • Fraser Orr

    bobby b
    I hope not. My point was that we’re sentencing this kid to hell on earth, and the people complaining that he got off easy are misguided.

    To be clear, I am not saying I am opposed to sentencing the kid to hell on earth. I am opposed to the pathetic abdication of responsibility where we delegate it to the very worst people in society rather than having the balls to do it ourselves through a legal process. However, I agree with what Governor Desantis said about it: if we have capital punishment then what other case would be more worthy of it than this one?

  • bobby b

    “However, I agree with what Governor Desantis said about it: if we have capital punishment then what other case would be more worthy of it than this one?”

    Keep in mind that I’m a rather hopeless crim-def lawyer at heart when I say this: I think his severe FAS is sufficient to get him out of a death sentence. I’m guessing the jury agreed with that, specifically.

    I would say that any case where a defendant has acted similarly, but with an intact organic mind, would be more worthy of execution.

    /s/ Bleeding Heart libertarian

  • Kirk

    As I’ve said… I think it’s best to leave justice and punishment up to God, and concentrate our efforts here on earth on simple behavioral modification. If those efforts fail, well… Make it quick, clean, and merciful. The mad dog does not understand that it is mad, merely that it must bite.

    You need omniscience and omnipotence to provide that which we conceive of as the archetypal ideal of justice. Nobody alive can do that, so we should instead focus our efforts on what we can accomplish, which is the provision of behavioral modification. If the subject isn’t amenable, and the attempt fails, well… The solution is obvious. Behavioral extinction can be accomplished not only through operant conditioning, but through ending the subject’s existence. Sometimes, you have to do that for the good of the subject and those around it.

    Works with dogs. I see no reason to treat criminals any differently than I do a dangerous animal that has demonstrated a propensity for attacking others. If you’re untrainable, unreformable? Incapable of accepting behavioral modification? Well, too bad, so sad… You get one shot at demonstrating you’re successful at moderating and modifying your conduct. Second offense? Put down like the dangerous animal you’ve proven yourself to be.

    If I ran things, there wouldn’t be any prisons. I think they’re inhumane and ineffective. There also wouldn’t be any three-time losers or much in the way of recidivism, because recidivists would shortly encounter a session in the CO2 chamber, and go wafting off to wherever their afterlife beliefs take them.

  • Kirk

    @bobby b,

    I often encounter reasoning like yours, with regards to “it isn’t his fault, he’s got X, had Y happen to him, he had a bad childhood… Whatever…”

    Why, pray tell, does that mean he should not be put down? He’s killed others, indisputably. He has demonstrated, clearly, that he is a risk to others. Why should he continue to present a threat? Does anyone think the other people in prison and his jailers should have to take that risk?

    Our man from Parkland has demonstrated, beyond argument, that he is a threat and an active risk. Why? I don’t care; just like I don’t care that that tree that’s about to fall on my house is beautiful and was here before the area was settled. It’s a danger; it needs to go. Aesthetics be damned, I say. Similarly, I would say that our Parkland shooter has demonstrably shown that he is dangerous and a threat; as such, cut him down.

    You have a right to life. I have a right to life. He no longer does, having taken the lives of others. There’s no doubt at all about his guilt; we know beyond doubt that he did what he did, and we also know he’s a continuous ongoing threat to everyone else around him. Why should that threat be allowed to exist?

    I don’t get the morality, here. At all. Do the Parkland shooter’s set of rights supersede everyone else’s rights to safety and security? Even after he has gone well beyond demonstrating that he deserves no such rights, and should not be entrusted with any whatsoever? How many more people do you suppose he ought to be able to kill? Don’t they have any rights, at all?

    One thing that disturbs me about the criminal defense industry is that there is zero personal accountability. It’s all a game; get the defendant off, and you win. Doesn’t matter what he does later, who he hurts; you’ve got no responsibility for that. I think that defense lawyers and judges ought to be held accountable; let someone off, and they commit more acts of violence? You’re liable; you do the sentence they get for that next crime right along with them. Just as prosecutors ought to be held liable for false or malicious prosecutions–Go after someone under false pretenses? You do the sentence they got, if convicted. If not, then you do the time they could have gotten.

    Officers of the court need skin in the game. And, they should take responsibility for those they inflict on the rest of us, once those parties have demonstrated the threat they pose.

  • bobby b

    “Why, pray tell, does that mean he should not be put down?”

    Because he’s a human and no longer a threat. And as soon as we start labeling one set of people as killable, it becomes easier to expand that set to anyone the powerful wish to kill. Ask the Kulaks. Ask the depressed in Canada. Human life – all of it – ought to be sanctified. Losing that ideal has killed far more people than this sad sack ever did.

  • Kirk

    No… Longer… A… Threat…?

    The Parkland shooter killed 17 people. He has proven, beyond doubt, that he is a threat. Emphatically and beyond doubt; there’s no ambiguity, there, whatsoever, no chance that he didn’t do it. He’s an active, ongoing threat to everyone around him, and has proven that fact through his murder of 17 people.

    To defend his “right to life” is to say that every potential future victim of his effectively has no such right. That, sir, is an abomination and a clearly immoral thing that you are arguing for.

    I can think of no clearer indication that the Parkland shooter is an ongoing menace to others than those 17 dead bodies he left behind. For those reasons alone, he ought to be ended.

    I also object to this creature being considered “human”. There is more to humanity than two arms, two legs, and a glib tongue; there is also demonstrated conduct and treatment of others. If you act to save life? Human. If you act to take life, gratuitously as our Parkland shooter did? Not human. He is risk and danger to others personified and made real in man-shaped form. To mistake him for human is a fallacy, an error.

    The thing that strikes me as absolutely bizarre is that many people look at creatures like the Parkland shooter, and see another human being. Yet, those same people look at a “mere glob of cells”, a fetus, and see something that can be slaughtered for the most trivial of reasons. And, yet, they call themselves “humane”…

  • Fraser Orr

    No… Longer… A… Threat…?

    The little POS was only a danger because he was carrying a rifle. Disarmed he is a pathetic little loser. He will, as Bobby already said, get the living shit beaten out of him in prison. No doubt he’ll be somebody’s bitch, unless they keep him in 23 hour a day lock down, and that is a punishment worse than death.

    The problem is that prison is a multi-pronged approach, and often in these discussions they all get mixed up together. It serves many different purposes. Partly to protect the general public from someone who is dangerous, partly to punish, partly the satiate vengeance, partly to rehabilitate in some cases, partly as a deterrent to others and perhaps other purposes. This kid disarmed isn’t really much of a danger to the public, though keeping him locked away just in case makes sense, the real question is: should we kill him to punish him? As vengeance against him? Or perhaps as a deterrent to others? I guess it depends on your moral code really. I do think it is a bit much to ask the tax payers of Florida fund his room and board for the next sixty years when ten feet of hemp rope could put both him and us out of our misery.

    And if he is sick in the head, if all the terrible things that happened to him compromised his judgement, what are we to do? We can perhaps acknowledge the tragedy of it, but nobody really thinks he can be ‘fixed’. So what then? A lot of kids are dead, and there is a lot of unsatiated vengeance out there. Even if he is sick in the head should not the normal mechanisms of punishment be there — as a do that and this will happen to you? And if we let him off because of compromised judgement do we say to everyone else that has compromised judgement — don’t worry, we will go easy on you — or is a deterrent in order here?

    And I think there is another aspect, something I thought about with regards to Chauvin in Minneapolis. Irrespective of his guilt — someone had to go down for it. Sometimes we need a body on the pyre to satiate our blood lust, to tell the world that we aren’t going to put up with this shit anymore.

  • bobby b

    “I do think it is a bit much to ask the tax payers of Florida fund his room and board for the next sixty years when ten feet of hemp rope could put both him and us out of our misery.”

    Counterintuitive, I know, but (depending on the state in question) it costs between ten and fifteen TIMES as much to execute someone as it costs to imprison him for life.

    A quick Google result: https://ejusa.org/resource/wasteful-inefficient/

  • bobby b

    (P.S. Here’s my Google search results page so no one thinks I’m cherry-picking:)


  • Alex

    Counterintuitive, I know, but (depending on the state in question) it costs between ten and fifteen TIMES as much to execute someone as it costs to imprison him for life.

    Why though? It should be pretty cheap to execute someone, if it isn’t someone is feathering their nest.

  • Counterintuitive, I know, but (depending on the state in question) it costs between ten and fifteen TIMES as much to execute someone as it costs to imprison him for life. (bobby b, October 15, 2022 at 7:37 am)

    Bobby b, it didn’t seem to cost Judge Parker that much in “True Grit“. I take it, therefore, that this cost is state imposed and could be greatly reduced by a libertarian regime. I would also venture that the cost of imprisoning him for life without risk of his becoming a ‘playtoy’ would nevertheless be greater still if the people who created that situation were to be doing the fixing of it.

  • Kirk

    @Fraser Orr,

    “The little POS was only a danger because he was carrying a rifle. Disarmed he is a pathetic little loser. He will, as Bobby already said, get the living shit beaten out of him in prison. No doubt he’ll be somebody’s bitch, unless they keep him in 23 hour a day lock down, and that is a punishment worse than death.”

    Only a danger because “rifle”?

    I beg to differ. The rifle didn’t have a thing to do with it; he could have done as much or more damage with some chain, a few judiciously placed padlocks, and a five-gallon can of gasoline or other flammable; he could have stolen a car or truck and driven through a random crowd of students; he could have sabotaged the chlorination plant for the swimming pool, shredding lungs with chlorine.

    There are an infinite amount of things this deranged sh*tweasel could have done to harm others, some of which might have been even more damaging, killing more people. The mechanism of choice isn’t of any import whatsoever to evaluating the damage he caused, or the danger he continues to represent. The mere fact alone that this creature is capable of these acts indicates that he’d be capable of nearly anything his deranged little mind could conceive of.

    I think you discount the risk, focusing on the means he used. There are no dangerous weapons, per se. The rifles and handguns secured in the family gun safe are no threat to anyone, given that I am no threat because I will not kill without due cause and necessity.

    On the other hand, if I do find due cause and necessity, the lack of a formally identified weapon is not going to stop me from taking life in any way whatsoever. Indeed, it will almost certainly result in more horrific results, because I’ll then be forced to use far less discriminatory tools to deal with the threats that have identified themselves to me.

    The only dangerous things that there are, in these cases, are the bundles of neurons and behavioral characteristics in between the ears of the people engaged. You focus on the tools? You fail at threat evaluation.

    A gun in the hands of someone who is afraid to use it? Not a threat.

    A rock in the hand of someone willing to bash my head in, when I turn my back to them? A threat.

    What’s the key difference, there? Not the tool; the bit of blobby protoplasm between those ears. Parkland Boy remains a threat manifest, short of rendering him a vegetable.


    If you do a quick search on the terms “prison” and “killing”, you’ll find a rather horrific amount of evidence that even behind bars and under restraint and supervision, these things-that-walk are still a threat to others. The essential bits of brain matter that make us such are what are dangerous or safe; nothing more, nothing less. And, when those bits are deranged enough to kill others without due provocation or cause, they need to be dealt with forthrightly and permanently.

  • Kirk

    @bobby b,

    Your morals are suspect, sir.

    “Counterintuitive, I know, but (depending on the state in question) it costs between ten and fifteen TIMES as much to execute someone as it costs to imprison him for life.”

    You’re making a value judgment here: The cost of execution is placed above that of the people that these creatures might kill after being convicted of having already killed once before. Not to mention their friends and families, who might well prefer that the risk factor that killed their loved one have been eliminated at whatever cost.

    Not to mention the disingenuous manner in which you discount the very real costs that people like you have imposed on the process, through incessant appeals and objections to eliminating these mad dog threats to others.

    Personally, I think it would be fair for defense attorneys appealing the sentences of killers to post a bond of their own lives; should they get someone like the Parkland killer off, then let their noble asses pay the price for future victims of these identified threats. Getting a known killer off at trial ought to carry the same sort of risk and penalty that owning a dangerous exotic animal carries with it. I don’t object to you owning a tiger or two, but I do object to you separating yourself from the risk to others that you’ve created. You want to keep tigers? You feed them; you care for them; you run the risk of being eaten, nobody else.

    Right now, “defense attorneys” get to play the high moralist; they’ve absolutely got no skin in the game. You get someone off from a murder charge? Fine; you lay your ass on the line the same way the rest of us do, as a potential victim. Since the rest of us have to worry about being randomly selected for slaughter by one of these wunnerful, wunnerful “human beings”, then since you got them out to kill us, you get the same damn risk we all do, collectively. Your vaunted little hobbit kills again? Your life is forfeit, right next to his victims. Too bad, so sad…

    People who think the way you appear to from your writing disgust me. You’ve zero concern for the innocents these mad dogs kill or injure once they’ve manifested themselves as killers, all you are concerned about is the ego boo you get from “saving” them from their fellow apes eliminating them as a potential threat. Fine; you want to keep these creatures alive? You be the one whose ass is on the line, right alongside anyone else who has to interact with them, whilst they’re being kept alive for your gratification.

    I know three people, personally, who would be alive today had the courts and their officers done their damn jobs and properly eliminated the threats that their killers represented. One was a spouse abuser who finally killed his girlfriend, and the other two were killed by drunk drivers with multiple prior convictions. One of those even had a conviction for vehicular manslaughter, pled down from depraved indifference murder. Frankly, I blame the courts and fuzzy little happy people like you present as. Were those lives worth the ego-boo that those killer’s lawyers got? Were the fees they earned saving their clients from their just deserts enough to balance what they later took from others?

    It’s a strange thing, dealing with criminal defense attorneys. I was a soldier; I thus signed on for killing other people at the orders of the politicians I once thought worthy of making that decision. Yet, I could not do what the average defense attorney does, and still sleep at night. If one of my clients went on to commit the same crime that I got him off for once, like a guy I know who has killed two children through abuse? I think I’d have to kill myself, unable to live with having done that. I don’t know how you creatures separate yourselves from responsibility for your acts, but so many manage the feat that I suspect that that aspect of the legal trade tends to attract sociopaths who care nothing for the results of their efforts.

    Funny thing, that guy who killed the kids: Same lawyer for both cases. Made the same basic defense, both times: The girlfriend did it, and his client “just happened to be the guy” watching both kids when it happened. First time, acquittal. Second time? First degree murder. The lawyer should have been in the dock next to him.

  • Steven R

    Do we do it for the other side as well? If a prisoner is found to be truly innocent and released from prison decades after the initial sentencing, can we toss the prosecutor, cops, lab techs, judges, and everyone else in the process into the clink for the same amount of time? Not from any malfeasance or misconduct but because of DNA testing that wasn’t available then that is now (prosecutorial misconduct should be a long sentence in any event).

    How about other fields, like medicine? If the cancer comes back and the patient loses a limb, so does the oncologist? If the dentist misses a cavity that turns into an abscess then into a blood infection that kills our patient, do we kill the dentist?

    Or how about juries? If they get the “wrong” verdict and the defendant kills in the future, should they be prosecuted? Maybe, just in case, we should make all trials bench trials and change the system to guilty until proven innocent just in case.

  • “Why, pray tell, does that mean he should not be put down?”

    Because he’s a human and no longer a threat (bobby b, October 15, 2022 at 2:12 am)

    I have opposite problems with the two clauses in bobby b’s sentence.

    1) When the usual suspects objected to Adolf Eichmann’s death sentence, Hannah Arendt granted that in any society but the one in which he found himself, it was unlikely a personality like Eichmann’s would have found himself before a hanging court. However, she explained,

    In court, all small cogs caught in society’s gears are transformed back into perpetrators, that is, into human beings

    and she rightly insists on the necessity of a defendant’s legal persona in court imposing the assumption of moral competence as part of providing legal rights, a process which “if indicative of inferior psychological understanding” was the definition of a court where human beings are judged, as against a psychiatric hearing where biological machines with ill-wired brains are evaluated for utilitarian confinement or termination.

    So I agree with bobby b’s statement to invert his conclusion. I suggest it is precisely because the perpetrator is human that DeSantis thought he should have been hung. The governor might have spared a violent dog of which safe use could still be made, and readers may know Mark Twain’s book “The Tragedy of Puddinghead Wilson”: the convicted murderer (a negro with so much white ancestry as to pass for white) is due to be hung when it is discovered he is in fact legally a slave. The state governor therefore pardons him and sells him south.

    2) “… and no longer a threat”. This seems an absurd and irrelevant assertion (even before we consider the many cases where woke polities free people because they are “no longer a threat”, who then, within days, prove otherwise). If he is no longer a threat, why is he locked up? If being no longer a threat is insufficient to justify freeing him, why is it relevant to keeping him alive?

  • Kirk (October 15, 2022 at 10:53 am), as regards your defence-attorney ‘sleep at night?’ example, one can get off, or get leniency for, a guy who is in fact guilty (and kills again) or one can fail to get off a guy who is in fact innocent (and maybe realise it later). In a given case, there are certain probabilities. We all act on imperfect knowledge and every viable society will have to have some process for testing suspected guilt. We could easily make great improvements to today’s world of corrupt Soros-backed legal types – and if we do not, the world you warned about in the OP looms. We cannot easily solve the basic problems of justice.

  • Steven R

    “Even a werewolf is entitled to a legal defense.”
    -Hunter S. Thompson

    “For the law holds, that it is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer.”
    -Sir William Blackstone

    “Everybody hates lawyers until they need one.”

    Every defendant is entitled to legal counsel, and that counsel doesn’t need to like his client, or advocate for his client’s actions, or even sleep at night knowing what his client did. But he is required to provide a defense, represent the client’s interests, without passion or prejudice, and work to make sure his client gets a fair trial, a fair defense, and make sure there were no shenanigans and goings-on on the state’s side of the courtroom.

    It is a terrible knowledge to know that some criminals will use their rights to escape justice, get back on the streets, and commit more crimes and destroy more lives, but ensuring the rights of free men not be trampled is of paramount import.

  • bobby b

    October 15, 2022 at 10:53 am

    “@bobby b,

    Your morals are suspect, sir.”

    Oh, and you haven’t even heard the bad parts yet!

    (I think at this point we’ll just have to disagree.)

  • Kirk

    @Niall, et al.:

    The root problem I have with leniency for the offender, especially in cases where there is zero question about what they did (Parkland, anyone…?), is that to grant that creature the continued “right to life” they denied others is to hold those lives taken and any future lives they take as both valueless and meaningless.

    It isn’t a question of “justice” or “fairness”, either. It is that presentation of continual threat-to-others that angers me. You have something that’s a proven risk factor, a danger; what should one do about that?

    It’s like saying “Well, it wasn’t the Ford Pinto’s fault that it burst into flames in that rear collision; it was just made that way, flawed. We must accept it’s essential automotiveness as it is, and keep them on the road… Never mind that they will almost certainly burst into flames again, the same way…”

    Does that strike you as even remotely sane?

    Why should proven-dangerous human beings be treated any differently than we treat other proven-dangerous things? Hell, if anything, they ought to be treated more harshly than animals or inanimate objects that prove themselves dangerous: The supposed human has a mind that chose to be dangerous to others. They made a conscious choice to do what they did, as opposed to that Ford Pinto that was “designed that way”.

    I would go so far as to say that not treating them as dangerous risks and letting them live is rather more dehumanizing than just killing them out of hand. “Oh, you’re just a thing… Not your fault; you had no other choice than to kill those 17 people you slaughtered for no reason…”

    It’s essentially dehumanizing the victims, and the perpetrator. To accept the construct that the fault lies somewhere else, and that the perpetrator was a wholly inert component of what they did, being forced by external circumstances to commit those acts of violence reduces them to a mere mechanical reflex, a mechanism at the mercy of impersonal forces expressed through them.

    That’s a humanistic approach to all this?

    If none of this strikes you as outrageous and bizarre, I think we have a bigger problem than just appropriately dealing with violence in our societies.

  • Steven R

    I am anti-DP. I don’t have a problem snuffing out the life of criminals in and of itself. They take someone’s life, they should pay with their own. So it’s not a sanctity of life, or right of the murderer to live or something along those lines.

    The problem I have is it is a power the state can’t be trusted with. There are far too many people on death row being exonerated via DNA testing for crimes decades old and the state keeps fighting tooth and nail to not allow that testing. There are several scandals in the US over drug testers pencil whipping the tests or being high while testing (because they are taking the drugs they are supposed to be testing). There are cops who lie on the stand. There are prosecutors like Mike Nifong, who knew the defendants in the Duke rape case were innocent, but went out of his way to convict them anyway simply because it would help him win black votes during reelection. There are all kinds of cases where the state refuses to turn over evidence that might exonerate defendants. The bottom line comes down to this: the state has no problem engaging in illegal conduct on a regular basis and we’re going to somehow trust them when it comes down to killing a citizen?

  • Carnivorous Bookworm

    Vigilantism has its attractions, I mean if the cops are failing to do their job & people start dishing out justice with the full support of the local community, that’s great, right?

    Okay, now take a look at certain majority Muslim towns in US, Britain or France, read what I wrote above. Now tell me if vigilantism, with full support of a local community, seems like a great idea.

  • The problem I have is it is a power the state can’t be trusted with. There are far too many people on death row being exonerated via DNA testing for crimes decades old and the state keeps fighting tooth and nail to not allow that testing.

    Quite so, that is exactly how I see it. You can’t un-execute someone if there is a miscarriage of justice.

  • Kirk

    @Steven R,

    I have a lot of the same issues with trusting the state, but at the same time, I also recognize that there are cases like Parkland and others where there’s zero chance they “got the wrong guy”. He’s on video, ferchrissakes… He admitted he did it. It’s not like there’s the slightest bit of ambiguity, there.

    Case like that? I’ll trust the state to get it right.

    Now, show me another case where they only have circumstantial or suspect evidence? By all means, humane life imprisonment or whatever else prevents them from committing another crime of violence.

    Now, understand me, though… I would also drastically raise the consequences for false and malicious prosecution, such that if it were proven that a prosecutor lied or coerced testimony to convict the innocent, then they automatically get the same max sentence they were going for.

    And, to make it fair? Defense lies? Coerces testimony, assists a criminal getting off by intimidating witnesses? Same max penalty. Don’t even care if the guy they were defending is actually innocent–Perverting the course of justice ought to carry extreme penalties, because each and every time they do that, it breaks down the system to all of our disadvantage.

    Right now, all too many prosecutors and defense attorneys treat this crap like it’s a damn game, only worried about scoring points. They’ve got zero responsibility for that which happens after they get their guy off or into prison; that’s entirely too much of an attractive nuisance for the rest of us. We should be able to rely on the utter integrity of all officers of the court, because they’re entrusted with the power of life over death when you get right down to it. Treating it casually, treating it as some kind of perverse political one-upsmanship game? That’s beyond obscene; the Federal prosecutors that knowingly put men behind bars for crimes committed by FBI informants and agents ought to be imprisoned on the same terms, for life.

    You really cannot have a situation where any officer of the court is permitted to lie, cheat, or obfuscate. Allow the tiniest transgression, and the next thing you know, they’re killing innocents to keep the stats up and prevent “their guy” from paying the price for the crimes they committed.

    Integrity is like bankruptcy; at first, it goes away a little at a time, and then it’s all at once, sudden-like. Same thing with public trust in institutions; you can get away with violating the public trust a little at a time, for years. Then, suddenly, it’s all gone. Ask the Seattle PD about that one; I saw what was coming back in the late 1980s. Didn’t know when it was going to happen, but you could see it coming a mile away. And, it literally happened overnight, all because someone back in Minnesota got on TV.

  • Case like that? I’ll trust the state to get it right.

    That misses the point entirely. The facts of a given slam dunk case can’t be the basis for a law. You can’t write a law that protects against the possibility of the state murdering an innocent man with an exception saying “But you can execute people if there is zero chance you might be wrong”.

    Even if you assume good faith in every application of that exception (a dangerous assumption to put it mildly), good faith mistakes happen.

  • Kirk

    @Perry de Havilland,

    One of the things about the supposed gold standard for proving innocence, DNA, is this: We don’t know quite as much as we imagine about it.

    Read up on chimerism, and consider this: Unless you’re matching like tissue with like tissue, there’s no damn telling what you’re actually dealing with. We do not know the rate of chimerism in the general population; we don’t even know how all that works, to be quite honest. There are people out there whose gonads produce one set of genes that do not match up at all with either their buccal swabs or their blood tests.

    Additionally, there are people who have undergone marrow transplants whose blood cells do not match the other cells in their bodies. Those, we pretty much know about, but… Consider this: How many of those “exonerated” types were exonerated because the DNA left at the crime scene came from a different part of their body, with different genes, than the one they sampled to determine “innocence”?

    We don’t know what we don’t know. I strongly suspect that in a few years, we’re going to be looking back at a lot of this DNA “evidence” with much better knowledge, and a lot of “Oh, my God… Did we really do that…?”, much as we do now with the whole Bertillon System.

    The science isn’t quite as clear-cut as they like to project. I’ve seen reports out there where apparently embryos from two different fertilization events, with two different fathers combined, leaving it quite muddy indeed as to whose genes were where in the resultant body. As well, say that the mother’s ovaries aren’t the same cell line as what they test… How the hell do you trace through her to her perpetrating kid?

    The rate of chimerism is totally unknown, in the general population. It might be vanishingly rare, and then again… It might not. I’ve read speculation that a lot of autoimmune diseases and syndromes could possibly be tied in with the phenomenon, which would make the implication that the rate of incidence is pretty damn high.

    As well, the growing knowledge about DNA and genetics leads to the issue that the criminally-minded could very well be “seeding” crime scenes with the DNA of innocent parties. Remember that “serial criminal” in Germany, a few years back? The one whose genes they were finding all across German crime scenes? Where it turned out that it was because a woman at the factory where they produced the crime scene kits was inadvertently contaminating the swabs used to collect material…

    I’m afraid that a lot of the faith that everyone is putting into “DNA evidence”, as though it were some holy grail or gold standard…? Pure sciencism, really no better than “faith-based” belief in evidence.

    Remember a few years back, when they were all aflutter about taggants in explosives and such-like? How that was going so solve all the issues? Remember the results, once they discovered that once enough taggants were out there in the environment, they became useless due to cross-contamination? DNA stands a good chance of going out the same damn way, for a lot of the same reasons.

  • Sure, which is why capital punishment is a terrible idea because we can never be sure, and states are venal, corruptible and inept. The system is imperfect and we can’t unexecute someone. That means some very bad people will get to live. Oh well.

    It is not “killing evil people” that is the issue for me, I have no problem with that. It’s entirely about the mistakes. It’s bad enough when it comes to the moral dilemmas and hard choices required with self-defence or military violence. But once it all ends up in a courtroom, the split second choice justifications for deciding if someone lives or dies do not apply. “We made a legitimate mistake and killed the wrong chap in cold blood” doesn’t strike me as acceptable.

  • Kirk

    @Perry de Havilland,

    “That misses the point entirely. The facts of a given slam dunk case can’t be the basis for a law. You can’t write a law that protects against the possibility of the state murdering an innocent man with an exception saying “But you can execute people if there is zero chance you might be wrong”.

    Even if you assume good faith in every application of that exception (a dangerous assumption to put it mildly), good faith mistakes happen.”

    I think you could indeed write a very clear law that covered these situations. Circumstantial evidence? Fine; there’s enough ambivalence there to say that shouldn’t be a capital case. Catch the guy, on scene, with blood on his hands? With video evidence of him committing the heinous act?

    Mmmm… Yeah, I’m not seeing that being at all questionable. The Parkland killer left unequivocal and excessive evidence that he did it. As was stated, if that wasn’t a case for the death penalty, then what would be?

    As well, you’re arguing for leniency for people who’ve come up on the radar for acts of violence in the first place. What do you propose to tell future victims? That you weighed their lives in the balance against the “rights” of a probable killer?

    I’m fine with people having “problems” with the death penalty. I understand it. I just want you to be the ones running the risks inherent with treating these creatures with understanding and compassion; if you’re not willing to work in a confinement facility where they keep these creatures, taking the risk that one will stick a sharpened pencil through your eyeball one day, then don’t take the position that they shouldn’t be killed out of hand.

    Friend of mine was a pretty liberal kind of girl, once upon a time. She took a job as a prison guard not long after she got out of the service. Last time I spoke to her, she’d pretty much abandoned all of her former “principles” in the face of the reality of who these deranged people really are. Spend a few years dealing with them yourself, and you’ll likely come to a different conclusion than the one you’ve reached in the comfort of your living room at home. There are a lot more Jack Henry Abbotts out there than there are “true innocents”. I’d strongly suggest that false “mercy” only leads to more deaths of innocents, as in the case of one Albert Flick. Murdered his own wife with a knife in front of her daughter, got released because the judge thought he’d “aged out” of violence, and then killed another woman, unprovoked, in front of her two 11 year-old twin sons. Age 77, at the time. They should have left him in prison, or better yet… Killed him for the first murder he committed. Then, three innocent lives would remain untouched by tragedy.

    The one thing I see constantly discounted by all the “innocence advocates” are those lives taken and damaged after their high principles turn out to be just plain wrong. It’s like they get off on the ego-trip of being all sanctimonious and righteous, freeing someone, and then completely discount any responsibility or onus when that person goes on to commit more heinous acts of criminality. The administration of the the law is not always perfect, and it could be done better, but… Generally? You get caught up in the machinery, there’s a damn reason you’re there. You did something, and a lot of the time, it’s something terrible.

    I’d have liked to see the judge and parole board that let Albert Flick out to kill again up there on the docks with him, for that second murder. And, that’s precisely where they should have been, paying the price for releasing him to prey on others. You’d go to jail if you went to the zoo and released any of the big cats, and they killed, would you not? Why the hell should officers of the court who make the wrong decisions not be held accountable?

  • As well, you’re arguing for leniency for people who’ve come up on the radar for acts of violence in the first place.


    What do you propose to tell future victims? That you weighed their lives in the balance against the “rights” of a probable killer?

    I propose to tell them that a life sentence should mean a life sentence.

  • bobby b

    October 15, 2022 at 10:43 pm

    “I’ll trust the state to get it right.”

    I know the state. I’ve eaten lunch with the state. Heck, I’ve slept with the state.

    I’ll trust the state slightly less far than I can throw it.

    No, there’s no question about Cruz’s guilt. None. But the state likes to draw that fine line of “we’re certain!” a lot closer to the bone than I do.

    And when the state decides that it doesn’t like you? (As it has been known to do to many of us?) I’d rather the state not be able to snuff us. Too final, too arbitrary. They’re not good enough to warrant my trust in such things.

  • I propose to tell them that a life sentence should mean a life sentence. (Perry de Havilland (London), October 15, 2022 at 11:55 pm

    If you cannot trust the state to get it right at the end of a trial contemporary with the crime which is still in everyone’s mind, you cannot possibly trust them to treat a life sentence as a life sentence.

  • Kirk

    Well, it is interesting reading here, to say the least…

    I wonder if all of you thinking along the lines of bobby b really hear yourselves, and grasp how people like me hear what you are saying, and then interpret that? Do you really grasp that you are basically laughing up your sleeves at us, dismissively telling us we can’t have what we very obviously can, if only we reach out and grasp the nettle?

    Mr. “b” presents us, as a serving or former officer of the court, with two alternatives, thinking we only have those to chose from: One, we may be raped by the authorities and the courts, under the color of law, or two, we may be raped by the criminals that those authorities refuse to deal with effectively because of their own inherent corruption and inabilities.

    I see a third option, here: I cease participating in the charade, and start handling problems on my own. To include dealing with corrupt officers of the courts appropriately. That’s where this is going, whether or not anyone realizes it. If I cannot rely upon the “system” to do its job, why am I paying into it? Why am I “doing the right thing” by calling for the police to deal with petty theft, rather than burying the evidence out in the forest?

    I do not think that the various interlocking idiots that are bringing all this about really grasp what they are doing with their petty little corruptions and peculations; Mr. “b” was presumably a participant in “the system”, observed questionable things, and went along with them, possibly because someone told him “Well, that’s just the way it is done…”

    Thing is, that’s how it all breaks down. It starts small, and seemingly insignificantly, and then one day… You wake up, and everything has changed.

    What I don’t think Mr. “b” really appreciates is that there’s an underlying truth beneath a lot of the legal system that he fails to appreciate, which is that the system doesn’t exist to protect the public from the criminal, at all: It exists, I fear, to protect the criminally inclined from the public. Because, my friends, once the public loses faith in the effectiveness and fairness of “the system”, then they’re going to be “doing for themselves”, which ain’t going to be pretty. All those semi-feral skells that have been “gotten off”, and who now infest society? How humane do you suppose the mob is going to be, when they tire of their depredations? How fairly do you suppose the mob will deliver “rough justice”?

    The current legal and judicial system is flawed. But, and here’s the thing I think that the various numpties never knew or have long since forgotten, it’s a hell of a lot better than what came before, when the mob ruled these things. Everything they do to tear down the legitimacy of the system in the public’s eye? That just brings the day closer when things like what happened to Ahmaud Arbery become the routine daily norm, because nobody can rely on the self-proclaimed “authorities” to actually act with any efficacy or effectiveness.

    It ain’t an appreciated thing, among the numpties, that they actually did more to cause the death of Ahmaud Arbery than the men that pursued and shot him. Why? Because they’d gutted the police; who’d failed to respond to earlier incidents. Nothing was done about the reports of prowlers in that neighborhood, which was precisely why those idiots acted in their own interests to do the things that the state had demonstrated clearly that it was no longer willing to do. Namely, maintain people’s rights to be secure in their possessions and property.

    You can be assured that a significant number of “missing persons” aren’t really missing, these days: They’ve fallen afoul of the publics loss of faith in “the system”, and are now filling shallow graves in hidden places.

    Those are the wages of corruption and malfeasance in the courts. If “the system” can’t be trusted, then people will handle it on their own, with all that implies for excesses and your vaunted “justice”.

    I really don’t think the various numpties understand the price that the very people they’re so intent on “saving” are going to pay, once what we think of as “law and order” goes slip-sliding away into the netherlands of lost history. You think the courts are bad, now? You think the “authorities” can’t be trusted?

    Wait until you see and experience what life is like on the other side of that. You won’t like it one damn bit, and the sad reality is, you’re making it happen.

    The story of the late 20th and 21st Centuries isn’t going to be some idyllic trajectory towards the enlightened sun-lit highlands imagined by the various numpty factions. Instead, what it is going to be is a nightmare progression back towards the mean of pre-civilization, followed by a reconstruction of what we had going back in the late 19th and early 20th. If we’re lucky. If not, it’ll be “nature, red in tooth and claw” for the foreseeable future, until enough people get sick of it and decide to re-invent the wheel.

    Whereupon the various do-gooders will then intervene and start the whole cycle all over again, ‘cos they must have perfection at all costs, and if they can’t have it, then they’ll stamp their little feet until it magically appears. Or, they’ll tear down what structure comes, in a fit of spoiled rage.

  • Steven R

    I have no problem whatsoever with someone defending themselves or another in the middle of an attack. That isn’t vigilantism; that’s just being the man who is in the wrong place at the wrong time and has to take action to defend a life.

    But I do have a real problem with some guy deciding to simply take out the trash because he feels he has the authority for whatever reason, up to and including thinking the courts have fails so someone must do the needful.

    What if our hero in question is wrong? What if he kills a drug dealer that wasn’t actually a drug dealer but an undercover cop? What if he does a Peeping Tom spying through a window that is really a private detective trying to get evidence of an affair for his client? What if the guy with no kids he sees at the park that is subsequently disappeared isn’t a potential child molester but just a guy who enjoys watching kids play because it reminds him of a time before life wore him down?

    Either we decide Due Process and Law and Order are worth having or we decide they aren’t. Frankly, I don’t want to live in a world where Judge Dredd or the KGB or some nutjob with a God-complex get to decide who lives and who dies without any regards to the law or our rights as free men.

    No matter how bad our elected officials have let things go (because we haven’t held their feet to the fire) Paul Kersey isn’t a hero to admire and want to emulate.

  • Kirk

    Nice thoughts, Steve… But, you miss the point: The mob acts when the system doesn’t.

    And, that’s the point: If I can’t rely on the cops, the courts, and the rest of state-run edifices to actually dissuade people from committing crimes against me and mine, why on earth should I bother bringing them into the picture in the first place?

    The numpties don’t seem to get this–You have to provide a viable alternative to shooting that guy peering in your windows through the head. If the homeowner calls the cops, they come and take that window-peerer in, followed by his subsequent release on a technicality? What lesson does that impart to the homeowner? What, do you suppose, he’s going to do the next time he finds someone peering in his teenage daughter’s windows?

    It won’t be good for the window-licker, that’s for sure. Shoot, shovel, and shut up… Those are the watchwords to listen to when the system starts failing. Canaries in the coal mine, slumped over on their perches…

    See, the thing is, you have to take a look at the way things are set up. You have to frame this properly, and think of it in terms of Skinnerian behavioral conditioning.

    Everything you do, everything you experience out in the environment is a conditioning event, a two-way conversation between subject and the surrounding matrix of other subjects and the environment itself. This isn’t just a weird concept; it’s how the world really, truly works.

    Consider our peeping-Tom: He’s found, through previous experience, experience that was rewarded through sexual gratification, that he’s got a thing for watching teenage girls undressing. So, he satisfies that by going around, looking in windows. Because he gets away with it, and he gets his rocks off, the behavioral pattern is reinforced, rewarded.

    Then, he encounters the guy who catches him, and who turns him in. That guy is a lot bigger than he is, maybe a lot more physical. But, because he’s been properly socialized, he does the “right thing” and engages the authorities, who come and take our peeping-Tom away. The system has acted to reward our guy, the father.

    Then, the system turns around and tells him that the peeping-Tom he caught at his daughter’s window can’t or won’t be prosecuted for whatever reason. What lesson do you suppose he takes? Does that reinforce his law-and-order behavioral pattern? Does it encourage him to call the cops, the next time?

    Suppose he does call the cops, with the same or very similar results. Our peeping-Tom finds that he really gets his rocks off getting caught, ‘cos “danger”, and he feels safe since he’s learned from the environment that nothing will happen to him.

    Do you see the succession of interacting Skinnerian behavioral modification boxes, here?

    Where do you think it goes, once the ineffective “authorities” finally condition the father in this case that it’s useless to even bother calling them? What action is he going to take, next?

    Can you see how you’re training-in very counterproductive behavioral patterns, with all this? You act to ease the way for that poor pervert, and heighten the tension for that father, worried about his daughter’s safety. Not to mention, what you’re doing to warp that poor girl’s life with what you’re situationally teaching her about her rights and place in society, reinforcing that she’s an unwitting and unwilling sex object for whatever male picks her out of the crowd…

    You further the breakdown more and more, don’t be real surprised when your “innocuous” peeping-Toms suddenly start disappearing, or show up as the object of mob violence, burnt to death in the street while the crowd dances around the body. And, be certain of this… Once you establish the behavioral pattern and reinforce it, then you’ll get more and more of it. And, it will be applied elsewhere, with gusto… Because you’ve demonstrated that it works.

    You didn’t mean to, but you did. Everything you do and don’t do as “the guy” in charge does that; you’re shaping behavior with what you reward, ignore, or punish. And, being as you’re dealing with subjects that can think, don’t expect them to leave the lessons you impart in one area of their lives where they find them. They will be applied elsewhere.

    This is, in a nutshell, why the “Broken Windows” policing theories actually work. It’s behavioral conditioning through environmental modification.

    Skinner doesn’t get enough credit for his insights, nor is his work utilized enough out in daily life. You wonder why so many “initiatives” espoused by our social betters, the “elites” don’t actually work? It’s simple: They live in the world of the diktat, where they create reality through their words. People aren’t doing as you like? Write a memo, make a law, stand there and tell them not to. None of that will work, however…

    Why? Because you haven’t addressed the underlying features of their personal environment that make them do the things you don’t like. You want to modify behavior, you have to address those things, not write a memo or some new law.

    You also have to think about the things you’re doing when you come up with some new touchy-feely BS, like the whole “defund the police” idea. You think that you’re signaling peace and amity between people, but what you’re really doing is teaching the criminally-inclined that they can now act with impunity. While also, as a corollary, teaching their victims that the “authorities” are not only useless, they’re a positive risk factor.

    So, where you thought to increase social order and what you think is “justice”, what you’ve actually done is inject an untold amount of chaos and distrust into the environment, which will ground out in entirely unpredictable ways. Ask Ahmaud Arbery how that worked out for him… I rather suspect he’d have preferred an effective bout of behavior modification that conditioned him not to go into other people’s properties whenever he felt like it. He’d still be alive, at least…

  • Paul from Canada

    Climbing out of the Capital Punishment rabbit hole, and going back to the vigilante justice thing, I vividly remember reading something on the subject by the controversial anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon.

    He is well known for his studies of the Yannomammo(sp?). The “Fierce People”. A stone-age tribe that lived in the junction between Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil. They didn’t contact Western Civilization until well into the late 20th century, and continued to practice the dawn village raid, murdering all the men, old people and infants, and taking the older children as slaves and the women as concubines and so on until they did.

    In the 1970’s, when he was studying them, the Venezuelan government was trying to manage their emergence from the stone age, and contact with the modern world. One of the things that they did, was to establish a simple medical service of village paramedics. An intelligent young person with some education (perhaps grade 8 or so at a mission school), would be given a job and training as the village paramedic. Not a Doctor or Nurse, but well enough trained to administer vaccinations, treat minor wound and injuries, and to know enough to decide something was serious enough to put the patient in the outboard powered dugout canoe, and take them to the clinic at the larger town.

    Chagnon recounts the return of one such village paramedic from his course in the capital. His friends all crowded around and asked him about the capital and its wonders like skyscrapers and cars, and his response was interesting.

    (paraphrased from memory), “Never mind about all that”, he said, “In Caracas they have this thing called a police. I don’t understand entirely how it works, but they have these men, who don’t belong to a particular clan or tribe, and when someone does evil, they come and ask questions and determine who did wrong and take them away. I’m not sure how it works after that, but they take away the one that did wrong, and since they are not of anyone’s clan or tribe, they deal with it without starting a blood feud. We need something like that.”

    Every time I hear people criticizing the police, and demanding their de-funding, I am reminded of that. I myself criticize and vilify the current state of affairs re: policing, but the perfect is the enemy of the good. Churchill is famous for his quip about democracy being the worst system, except for all the others that have been tried, and the same applies to law and order (notice I didn’t mention “justice”).

    We established the modern police and law and order system for a reason, and that is that, despite its flaws, it is still better than the alternatives. Those being Albanian style multi-generational blood feuds, dueling, private armies, warlord-ism, local neighbourhood gangs, “auto-defenca”, mafia or any number of other similar things.

    We gave up these thing in exchange for the civil contact. This was a good thing. Albania is a backwards shitehole because the burden of the multi-generational blood feud ruined any chance of a modern trust based transactional society until very recently, and look at any failed state like Somalia or Libya.

    The only problem being that it is not really a contract. Nobody comes to you when you turn 18 and asks you to sign it , and you can’t opt out, but it is still valuable and useful. We give up personal revenge and vigilante justice in exchange for the “impartial” justice of the state. But that only works when they uphold their end of the bargain. Unfortunately, they are not doing so. When you are told that the burglary, car break in, shoplifting etc etc committed against you will not be investigated, let alone prosecuted, well, all bets are off, and “In oppido lusor solus none es”.

    And we REALLY don’t want to go there.

    “Vigilance committees” sometimes did good work, or started out that way, but often ended up as essentially the warlord gang controlling the area at best, of a simple lynch mob at worst. You see this in Mexico, where the local civil defense organization starts out as such, but ends up being just another drug cartel.

    A woman of my acquaintance was espousing the idea of de-funding the police with great approval…. I disabused her of the notion by pointing out that as an able-bodied male with lots of guns and ammunition in my possession, I could take great advantage of such opportunities. I suggested (exaggerating somewhat for effect), that to be Judge, Jury and Executioner for whatever slight I resented would be a fine thing. Why, if someone scratched my car I could deem it a capital offense and without any police, I would not even need to hide the body, rather just ensure that the roadside ditch I dumped it in was sufficiently downwind so that the smell would not be bothersome to me. She took my point, but she doesn’t speak to me much anymore…

    I am really getting worried that TPTB don’t understand this, and are ushering in the very disorder an vigilante justice they deplore…..

  • Paul from Canada

    …Looks like Kirk was typing at the same time I was, and made some of the same points just above my last post……

  • Kirk

    @ Paul,

    Haven’t seen you around in awhile, good to run into your wit and wisdom again.

    You indeed are saying the same things I am, but in your estimable style, a lot better than I am.

    The “powers-that-be” are going to regret going down this rathole; Chesterton’s Fence strikes me as the lesson for this age, more than anything else. If you don’t understand something, then don’t change it until you do.

    In my understanding of the world, no culture or civilization does anything, anything at all without reason. You may look at some tradition, value, or more as being obsolete and meaningless, but the raw fact is, those things wouldn’t still be around if they didn’t have a damn purpose.

    Societies are like some vast self-assembling mechanism; the things that go on within them and in between their members happen for reasons. Maybe not necessarily nice reasons, but reasons nonetheless.

    We forget this at our peril. A good example would be the current drive towards behaving as though the rules of biology no longer obtain, or apply to us. While we’ve made a lot of progress, we’re still a hell of a long ways off from actually making biology “our bitch” in terms of things like casual sex-swapping and fertility at any age. The unpleasant facts of biology are still there, much as we might want them not to be. And, since we seem to insist on ignoring them, as we go about ordering our brave new world, wellllll… It’s gonna be an ugly comeuppance for a lot of people.

    I don’t think there’s a single social rule, value, or more that isn’t rooted in some practical matter, some ugly reality. You can try to change the rule, the value, and the more, but if the underlying feature that brought them about remains? Good luck with all that, because you’re going to need it.

    Our ancestors were not stupid people. In fact, if some recent research is correct, they might even have been smarter than we are in the aggregate. Because they weren’t stupid, we’re not demonstrating our own intelligence by ignoring the things they did, and trying to change everything the way we are.

    The whole thing rather resembles one of those experiments where you shake the box, and everything sorts itself out. Instead of observing how the sort went, and into what, we’re steadily trying to go back and re-order things because we don’t like where they wound up. Social change as the underlying conditions change is inevitable, but change without actually having had the underlying conditions move an inch…? Yeah, that’s a recipe for disaster.

  • Good points by Paul of Canada (and Kirk). As people know barter is far worse than money, but will turn to it if sufficient corruption or evil destroys the value of money and keeps it destroyed, so people know the woes of vigilante justice, yet will turn to it if corruption and evil destroy real policing and keep it destroyed.

    In an ideal world, the vigilantes would defeat the forces that were keeping real policing destroyed, then evolve/replace themselves so real policing returned while memory of what it looked like was still common. In the real world, this, ah, does not always happen.

    Kirk, there’s a non-trivial difference between Skinnerian theory and the reality of the consequences you rightly predict. Those consequences are compatible with many theories – and probably the right one is one we none of us know yet.

  • Kirk


    I’d say that Skinner’s theories are pretty much spot-on, in a lot of ways. Elsewise, most animal trainers would be entirely ineffective, and parenting would be a total waste of time. As would any sort of training.

    The key thing to observe with Skinner’s theories about operant conditioning having impact on behavior is the pervasive nature of it all. If you observe things going on around you carefully enough, the obviousness of it all becomes manifest.

    The biggest problem is making that leap between “Surely I am not influenced by my environment the way Skinner postulates… I am more than the sum of my trained reflexes! I am not a risk/reward/punishment motivated being!!” to “Yeah, I’m having a conversation with the environment around me, and what it tells me works, works, so I do more of it, and less of that thing that doesn’t work…”

    Most of us don’t want to accept the Skinnerian view. I get that. But, the problem is, Skinner’s ideas are observably ones that work. Maybe not all of them, maybe not all of the time… But, often enough that we can and should make use of them in trying to understand the world around us, along with our fellow creatures in it.

    I had an epiphany, once upon a time, while reading a very valuable little book entitled “Don’t Shoot the Dog“, by Karen Pryor. Pryor is an animal trainer, a woman who managed to train a lot of animals that many consider “untrainable”, and she did it through operant conditioning and positive reinforcement. The book is full of insights, practical things she learned while training animals and other people, when she applied those lessons to them. She doesn’t quite make it clear, in terms of what I’m going to extrapolate to, but the base is there.

    I hate to say it, but reading that book did more good for me as a leader in the Army than all of the other crap I’ve ever read, over the years. Certainly, all of the “official” leadership BS they pushed at me.

    You have to examine what goes on around you in terms of each individual’s interaction with the environment. Every single interaction sequence ought to be seen as a little Skinner Box, a training/conditioning event. This ranges from “Do these doors here open in, or out…? What happens when I push on them? Do I get inside?” to bigger and more spread-out questions about behavior. The little things build, continuously, creating chains of behaviors that are successively conditioned in, unconsciously.

    I want you to watch this video:


    It’s entitled “Lying to Ourselves: Dishonesty in the Army Profession”, by one Dr. Leonard Wong, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Army. The lecture was given for the US Army’s Strategic Studies Institute, and it’s a valuable little thing to watch, if only for an example of how little self-awareness exists in the managerial elite of the US Army.

    Dr. Wong lays out a bunch of things as he decries what’s going on in the Army in terms of “Why is lying an endemic problem?” What he misses entirely is that the issue can be laid at the door of one key factor that goes into all of it: The people who run the institution really do not understand how it works, or what they are doing.

    Most of them are functional autistics. They were selected, schooled, recruited, selected again, trained, and finally promoted with a certain mindset, the one that says “I create reality with my words, and my words alone…” These are all men who believe that if they want to effect change, all they need to do is write a memo, a new regulation, or start some program, and Hey! Presto!!, the problem is solved.

    The Army, and all the rest of society? They don’t really work that way, at all.

    Not. At. All.

    You want to get a behavioral change in what your charges are doing, as an officer, you first need to understand why they are doing what they’re doing. You have to get the f*ck up out of your comfortable office chair and wander out into the real world, examine what is actually influencing people to do those things you don’t want.

    Then, if you really want change, you have to consider what to do about it. Maybe a policy change would work, but likely not. The reality is that the environment is making them do those things, rewarding them for doing so. You want to effect change, you need to ensure that the signals they’re getting from the environment are consonant with the changes you want to make.

    I was assigned to a Kaserne in Germany once upon a time. There was, on the parade ground, a certain corner which was always cut by the troops going to the mess hall, coming up from the motor pool. They wore a path in the grass, the traffic was so high. We got a new Sergeant Major in, and one of his first bug-bears was that parade ground: He wanted it immaculate. That people were walking on his grass was an abomination, and must stop. He put out policy letters; he set guards; he proceeded with a reign of terror on anyone caught walking on the grass when it wasn’t officially sanctioned, like in a parade or other formation. None of it worked; people still cut across the grass. His entire tour as the Sergeant Major of that battalion, this issue never, ever got truly “fixed”, and it created a lot of misery, angst, and outright hatred of the man.

    Now, the thing was, he could have solved the issue very simply, and made a hero of himself with all of us lowly lower enlisted swine. All he had to do was actually go out and ask “Why do these cretins keep walking on my grass? I’ve done everything but station armed guards with shoot-to-kill orders on it, and yet they walk on it…”

    The root cause was very simple, and rooted in that most base of causes: Food. See, our mess hall was run by a total idiot of a mess sergeant. He served really good food, using the budget he had, but… He didn’t serve really good food to anyone past about the first third of the headcount to get in line. Everybody else got absolute crap, ‘cos they’d run out of the good stuff. So, if you were late to the mess line, you got fed frozen breaded veal patties or whatever else was cheap that week. Couple that with getting released from the motor pool right when the mess line started up, and you had a horde of troops that had to get from Point “A” to Point “B” as quickly as possible, which meant (ta da!!) going across that corner of the parade ground from the motor pool to the mess hall. So, people weighed the risk/reward balance in, and they naturally as hell went for “I wanna eat something that’s actually tasty and filling…”

    That was the purely Skinnerian thing the Sergeant Major never saw; he could have fixed his problems with the grass simply by fixing his problem in the mess hall, or in changing the equally draconian rules about dismissing the troops from the motor pool before lunch. Yet, he never saw that, because he never looked into the “why” question in the first place. In his reality, he saw someone doing something he didn’t like, and he would, by God, change it with a memo.

    He never changed a thing, behavior-wise.

    Why? Because the environment rewarded the rule-breakers who cut across that grass. And, it rewarded them very well… If you got to the head of that mess line early on, you ate like a king. Get there late? Well, you’d be better off taking some of the pittance you were paid and walking across the street outside the gate to the nearest Schnellimbiss, because whatever wound up on your plate at the mess hall was going to be more of the same frozen crap you’d eaten a thousand times before.

    It’s this kind of thing that I’m getting at. I spent a hell of a long time in the US Army looking around at things, and trying to work out why they were going the way they were, mostly to hell in a handbasket. What I eventually figured out was that the vast majority of the people running the place don’t really understand how the hell it all works, or how to make what they want to have happen, happen.

    Watch Dr. Wong. Observe the sheer confusion he has, trying to wrap his head around it all. He’s suffering the early stages of a massive bit of cognitive dissonance, but he’s really unaware of the full ramifications. Watch the audience response… They’re puzzled as hell, too. They don’t get it, even when he points at the basic outlines of the problem, when he goes over the whole drug-taking issue. They don’t realize that the reason so many young officers lie their asses off when it comes to training and readiness reports is that the environment they’ve set up for them trains them to lie from day one. And, it continues to reward it from then on, incessantly, in diametric opposition to that which the institution says it wants from them.

    Hell, if you tell the truth, do the “right thing” when they don’t want you to? They’ll burn on a stake. Yet, the people who do this, from within the institution? They’re captured; they think they’re doing the right thing, by God.

    Case in point: The lovely Army institution of the annual “EXPENDEX”, wherein at the end of the fiscal year, you go through your accounts of training munitions, realize that you’ve got tons of stuff that you’ve carefully husbanded all year long, cutting corners on training, that you now have to get rid of and expend, because if it’s still on your accounts, that will demonstrate that you didn’t really need it, and you’ll lose it. So, high-ho, off we go… Task the young LT that just came in, tell him to go draw it all, and then… Use it. Somehow. Don’t give him time to work up some meaningful training with it, either: Just use it. Get rid of it. Expend it, please.

    Else, you’ll lose it. Won’t have it to expend this time next year, after the same thing takes place over the course of the year…

    So, this young LT, who’s just come into the Army all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, a fully indoctrinated “true believer” in truth, justice, and the American way? What have you just done? Why, you’ve taught him, yet again, that lying and wasting the taxpayer’s resources is perfectly A-OK, when you tell him to do it.

    And, if he hies himself off to the nearest telephone, to call the Fraud, Waste, and Abuse Hotline to turn your sorry ass in for wasting expensive munitions? What will you do, then? Right after the incredulous laughing Officer-in-Charge of that hotline calls you, to tell you about what your naif young Rupert has done.

    Second Lieutenant Rupert will, if he actually does call that hotline on your hypocritical ass, get crucified.

    For doing the right thing, that you told him to. Incessantly. In training.

    In actual practice, his mileage has very obviously differed.

    The wonder to me isn’t that these young men leave their military careers early on, disillusioned about everything, but that any of them stick around at all.

    Doesn’t matter what you tell them. It’s what you demonstrate and reward on the daily that counts.

    There are, I’ve worked out, three things that go into this. You have what you tell people, the diktat. The official institutional party line: “Don’t lie, cheat, or steal…” Then, you have what the environment tells them, the things that actually reward or punish them. Term that “signal”. If signal and diktat are in alignment, then you’re good, and the troops will do as they are told.

    If they are not in alignment, however…? You’ve got our third thing, which is “noise”. The noise distracts, but if it doesn’t actually reward or punish, it’s extraneous environmental BS that will be ignored. Because it neither rewards nor punishes. If your diktat is mostly noise, while the environment mostly rewards things in direct opposition to it? Guess what? Your non-alignment of things is going to result in abject failure, when you try to do something.

    In order to be effective, your words have to be in alignment with what the environment is signaling to your people. If it isn’t, then what you say will be ignored, and you eventually won’t be listened to even if you’re crying “FIRE!!!” in a burning building. Noise has cumulative effect.

    That’s the problem with most of our institutions: The majority of the people running them really don’t understand how they work, or how to make them work. They’re creatures of the diktat, flailing away at the levers of power like so many crazed monkeys, and they can’t figure out why things aren’t working for them, why their words aren’t creating reality around them.

    It’s mostly because they were selected and trained up as autistic savants, whose imaginings were catered to all through school and their advancement through the institutions they now run. They’ve never encountered reality, and they don’t know how to process it. As well, they’ve never faced honest assessments of their accomplishments, and thus, they’ve never experienced failure. Many of them can’t even recognize that they have failed, which is why you see all the self-congratulatory awards and utter BS about the success of their endeavors being put out to all and sundry.

    Once you start looking at things through this lens, it’s hard to avoid: Skinner had an awful lot right, about behavior. The behavior you see today is a result of a conversation that individual had with the environment earlier on, about the success or failure of earlier behavior. You meet an asshole? Like as not, that asshole got rewarded at some point (at least, in their mind…) for being an asshole…

    And, if you want to break the behavior chain, turning that asshole into a tolerable human being, you have to look at the environment they lived in, and still dwell in. If their being an asshole gets rewarded? Guess what? You’re never fixing the problem…

  • Paul from Canada

    Aw shucks! Thanks for the kind words Kirk.

    Tim Worstall has a phrase he uses to boil down economic theory to a single sentence; “People respond to incentives.”

    What you reward, you encourage and get more of, what you punish or fine, you discourage and get less of. Simple as that.

    Robert A. Heinlein in Starship Troopers has some interesting things to say about those sorts of things. Now I don’t think that his imagined society would actually work as well as depicted, but he obviously put a lot of thought into his world, and cause and effect, incentives and motivations figured very largely in his narative. One of the things he put in his society, was a reliance of physical/corporal punishment. The explanation given was that sine it was a physical (pain) punishment, it worked on the more primitive and instinctive parts of the brain, and was therefor much more effective. A drunk driver may laugh off and be willing to risk a license suspention and/or fine, but might be deterred by 50 lashes. (See also the American kid who was sentenced to caning in Singapore for minor vandalism).

    One of the problems with most of our institutions is the perverse incentives that Kirk alluded to in the institution of the US Army. The EXPENDEX he mentioned is a perfect example. My favorite example of perverse incentives was a software company that offered programers a direct financial bonus for discovering and removing a bug, which resulted in a thriving black market in deliberately inserted bugs. One programmer would deliberately insert a bug, and tell another programmer what and where it was, and then reverse roles……

  • Kirk

    Yep, and the guy who was supervising those programmers likely remained utterly clueless as to what was going on, or what he’d done in setting those perverse incentives in the first damn place.

    You start trying to winkle out why people do things, often against their own self-interest and even more often against the stated interests of their institution, and what you almost always find is that someone has set things up such that almost no other outcome can be expected.

    The integrity issues in the Army readiness reporting system are built in; you almost cannot tell the truth, and if you did, you’d be the only one. Which would really screw things up, because everyone assumes that most of those reports are essentially meaningless in the first place. I certainly wouldn’t rely on them.

    Once you see it, you cannot un-see it. Behavioral conditioning is a thing that goes on, no matter what, no matter who. Even when you’re aware of it, it works on you. How many of us keep beating our heads against the wall, with unsuccessful behaviors? Not many; you fail at getting what you want often enough, you get a hint and stop doing that. Even if you’re self-aware enough to observe what is going on…