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September 01, 2005

By all means shoot them

This is very simple. If the duly constituted authority cannot or will not act in defense of the community the people will take the law into their own hands. It is not only in defense of the weak that the state must act. It is in defense of the principle of law itself. Vigilante justice is otherwise the inevitable fate of those who would take advantage of lawlessness. For those concerned that an innocent might come to harm as a result of stern action I can only point to the innocents who have already come to harm as a result of failure to take such action.

Ted Frank and Glenn Reynolds both say that looters should be shot. Reynolds:

Normally, you don't shoot people for stealing because we value life over property. But when people are, as Frank notes, looting hospitals for drugs at gunpoint and the like, things are out of hand and life-threatening violence looms.

When I was on Grand Cayman last month, several people told me that looting became a problem after Hurricane Ivan, but quickly stopped when the police shot several looters. That's because looters usually value life over property too.

As I've said before, I don't think that people helping themselves to emergency supplies are to be blamed, but that's not what we're talking about here. Those who don't get this are either sadly uninformed or deliberately obtuse.

There is a common misconception that America is a violent place and Americans are a violent people. In fact, Americans should be noted for the extraordinary lengths to which they go to avoid inflicting needless harm in armed conflict. And this is to say nothing of a long history from the Revolution on down demonstrative of a near constant movement toward greater liberty, greater emancipation and greater dignity of the person. A Canadian government presented with a calamity on the scale of the hurricane would have to resort to firm measures much sooner and for much longer than the Americans. We have nothing like the resources necessary to show the discretion thusfar demonstrated by the United States federal government. But even their might appears to be insufficient to the immediate task of overcoming the disaster while tip-toeing around the rights of those who have chosen to pillage the survivors. Judging by fragmentary news reports I would guess the balance of judgement is about to take a turn toward order.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at September 1, 2005 12:50 PM

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I think the scale and facts have changed my feelings. Yesterday for me it was the difference between a loaf of bread and a DVD player. Now it is this inconceivable prospect of armed gangs attacking the civil authorities to assert some co-ordinated right to turf, however unoccupiable. Unless this is dealt with and they are disarmed, how could civil resonstruction proceed? It may well have to be done.

Posted by: Alan McLeod [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 1, 2005 02:14 PM

For symbolic purposes it has to be done. Pour encourager les autres.

Posted by: Joel Fleming [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 1, 2005 05:58 PM