Foseti’s theory of crime and punishment

I really didn’t mean to get Aretae all worked up yesterday.

The blame is mine. I should have explained myself better.

I’ve been thinking a lot about two issues that came together in the offending post. The first is modern policing. After much analysis, I’ve decided that modern policing strategies suck. This book was the best (and most entertaining) thing I read on the subject.

The second issue is crime. Most of my focus on crime has been the result of moving to one of DC’s ever-gentrifying neighborhoods (the joys of diversity always seem to surprise). But, my conversion from libertarian to reactionary has generally entailed more interest in crime.

In the offending post, I was trying to unite these two lines of thought. Modern policing has gotten so bad that bright-line, relatively harsh penalties for drug use and drug possession are basically the only way that police manage to catch criminals and prosecutors manage to get them off the street for non-trivial amounts of time. This statement is not meant to endorse the "war on drugs" – it’s merely an observation of fact, based on roughly one year’s worth of casually browsing crime and arrest reports.

However, since the subject has now been raised, I’ll offer some additional comments that will surely offend everyone. After all, if I’m not doing that, I might as well stop blogging.

Libertarians suffer from several delusions about crime, Aretae concisely provides one:

The problems Foseti is worried about are caused by the illegality of drugs, just like the problem [of organized crime in the '20s] was caused by the illegality of alcohol. The drug war creates massive incentives to behave illegally, just as prohibition did in the 20s.

This is obviously false. The link above tells the tale of nice, law-abiding woman walking home from the grocery store on a lovey November day in DC. The unfortunate woman’s route took her past a group of "youths" (interestingly, this phrase is seemingly used in all countries and societies to describe the class of people that commit nearly all the crime, so in the US it refers to young black males) who live in a housing project. (The houses that surround the project sell for $500,000+, creating an interesting dynamic). Anyway, while this woman walked by the "youths" one of them randomly punched her in the face, breaking her jaw in a couple places. The "youths" then fled into the project, where escape from consequences is defining characteristic of life.

This is the sort of activity that I am "worried about." It was no more caused by the illegality of drugs than it was caused by rising level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The war on drugs is for libertarians like original sin is for the Catholic. (If you’d like my – non-religious – opinion, the Catholics have the better of the choices here, by far).

Worse yet, these "youths" will likely not be caught and if they are, they are unlikely to stand trial for their crime. Even if they do, they’ll be back on the street in a matter of days or weeks. If we’re lucky, they’ll get caught holding some drugs in the near future and spend some real time behind bars, however insufficient. Perhaps there is some injustice in the fact that they are in prison for the wrong "crime," but I will lose roughly zero minutes of sleep for this particular injustice. The real injustice is that the modern "justice system" is completely incapable of providing justice for this particular type of crime. Absolutely no one actually expects the "youths" to get caught and punished in any manner that even approximates justice.

If I were in charge, the war on drugs would end immediately, and many drugs would be legalized. I would, however, not expect the result to be a utopia in which there was no more drug-related crime (let alone no crime at all!). Drugs, after all, would still cost money and be addictive. These facts combined with the fact that persistent drug use makes it hard to hold a normal job, mean that many drug addicts will resort to crime (regardless of the legality of drug use).

However, if I were in charge, policing methods (and the justice system) would radically change prior to any changes in the drug laws. I think that libertarians must shoulder a lot of the blame for the decline in the quality of policing and prosecuting. Virtually all responsibility has been taken away from individual police officers. Instead they are required to follow ever-more complex guidelines and procedures, which are designed to protect the guilty and guard against even the possibility that someone, somewhere might say, think or do something racist.

So again, when we analyze the libertarian position carefully, we conclude with Moldbug that, "[j]ust as Newtonian rules only make sense at low speeds, Misesian [i.e. libertarian] rules only make sense in a secure order." You cannot both demand the police strategy that we now have and demand and an end to the war on drugs. Well, you can, but you’re demands are incoherent at best, and deadly at worst.

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9 Responses to Foseti’s theory of crime and punishment

  1. Steve Johnson says:

    PJ O’Roark in Parliament of Whores asked about drug legalization with a D.C. police officer with whom he was doing a ride along. The officer’s reply:

    “We’re talking scum here. Air should be illegal if they breathe it. ”

    Now, when I read this I was a libertarian and the quote had more of a “look how racist the system is” effect on me than anything else. Today I’m a royalist reactionary and I view it quite differently – the real problem is that one social class is waging an undeclared but very real war on their class enemies and are using HBD to accomplish their ends. They killed law enforcement intentionally. The result? The only way to prevent criminals from preying on citizens is drug related arrests.

    Maybe the drug war isn’t too good of an idea but it’s basically the only way that progressives will permit any policing of dangerous blacks.

  2. Yalc says:

    What are you apologising for

  3. […] – “The Flynn Effect or Your Lying Eyes“, “Foseti’s Theory of Crime and Punishment“, “Another Reactionary Encounter“, “Who is […]

  4. Matt says:

    “You cannot both demand the police strategy that we now have and demand and an end to the war on drugs.”

    Correct. However, to suggest that we have the police strategy we now do because of libertarians is to display a rather shocking level of ignorance regarding the directional trends of American politics, and to suggest that libertarians are happy with the police strategy we now have is to display a shocking level of ignorance of libertarians.

    I find it extremely hard to believe that you would be significantly ignorant about either of those subjects. So disingenuousness is my bet.

    • Foseti says:

      So I think you’re probably correct that blame should fall on liberals. However, this area has clearly been one where liberals and libertarians have seen eye-to-eye.

      Modern policing strategies – in general – have meant giving police less discretion, responsibility and authority. The theory has been that by removing the responsibility, etc., officers will be less abusive, racist, etc. Unless I’m missing something libertarians have cheered these developments along the way.

      Radley Balko’s blog is basically devoted to criticizing police – if this charge isn’t being led by libertarians, who is it being led by?

      • Matt says:

        Were the law to be refocused on combatting crimes against persons and property, nobody with any moral right to call himself a libertarian would complain about police having more official power.

        But then, I tend to take what might be called the formalist position on police authority…that is, actual authority and apparent authority should match.

        If a policeman witnesses a theft, or an assault, or some other actual _crime_, places the apparent offender under arrest, and takes him to jail (officially legal), then the policeman should not suffer personal consequences as a result of inadvertent errors. If a policeman phones in a false anonymous tip of drug activity in an innocent person’s home in order to provide a pretext for him and his buddies to bust in the door, blasting their guns at anything that moves, thereby sending an entire family to their graves (officially illegal), then the policeman should suffer the same consequences as any civilian who engages in a comparable conspiracy to commit murder.

        Neither of these desiderata are currently the case, nor is there any apparent prospect for them. For the lack of the former, you can blame the left. For the lack of the latter, you can blame the right. Any “libertarian” who’s lined up behind either is better referred to as a “moron”.

        In truth, though, the big problem with public safety isn’t the police…it’s the fact that (with the exception of drug crimes, of which real criminal may or may not actually be guilty, and of course crimes against the dignity of the bureaucracy, which are mostly committed by the otherwise law-abiding) we don’t punish criminals.

        Not being a drug user, I don’t personally care that much about what the penalties are for drugs. But it can’t possibly be good to live in a society where a man can, say, beat up a 90-year old lady for the contents of her change purse, in front of a crowd of witnesses including three cops, but the only way to keep him off the street for more than a few days is for the cops to find (or “find”…) a joint in his pocket when they arrest him.

      • Foseti says:

        Fair (and very good) points. Perhaps the only part of my argument left standing is that it’s retarded of libertarians to want to end the war on drugs without radically altering the justice system – police and courts.

  5. icr says:

    Civil liberties in deep blue Maryland:
    http://www.stopbigbrothermd.org/2010/06/citizens-arrested-for-filming-police.html

    And:
    http://reason.com/archives/2010/03/01/45-swat-raids-per-day
    (…)
    Over the last six months of 2009, SWAT teams were deployed 804 times in the state of Maryland, or about 4.5 times per day. In Prince George’s County alone, with its 850,000 residents, a SWAT team was deployed about once per day. According to a Baltimore Sun analysis, 94 percent of the state’s SWAT deployments were used to serve search or arrest warrants, leaving just 6 percent in response to the kinds of barricades, bank robberies, hostage takings, and emergency situations for which SWAT teams were originally intended.

    Worse even than those dreary numbers is the fact that more than half of the county’s SWAT deployments were for misdemeanors and nonserious felonies. That means more than 100 times last year Prince George’s County brought state-sanctioned violence to confront people suspected of nonviolent crimes. And that’s just one county in Maryland. These outrageous numbers should provide a long-overdue wake-up call to public officials about how far the pendulum has swung toward institutionalized police brutality against its citizenry, usually in the name of the drug war.

    But that’s unlikely to happen, at least in Prince George’s County. To this day, Sheriff Michael Jackson insists his officers did nothing wrong in the Calvo raid—not the killing of the dogs, not neglecting to conduct any corroborating investigation to be sure they had the correct house, not failing to notify the Berwyn Heights police chief of the raid, not the repeated and documented instances of Jackson’s deputies playing fast and loose with the truth.
    (…)

  6. icr says:

    Civil liberties in deep blue Maryland:
    http://reason.com/archives/2010/03/01/45-swat-raids-per-day
    (…)
    Over the last six months of 2009, SWAT teams were deployed 804 times in the state of Maryland, or about 4.5 times per day. In Prince George’s County alone, with its 850,000 residents, a SWAT team was deployed about once per day. According to a Baltimore Sun analysis, 94 percent of the state’s SWAT deployments were used to serve search or arrest warrants, leaving just 6 percent in response to the kinds of barricades, bank robberies, hostage takings, and emergency situations for which SWAT teams were originally intended.

    Worse even than those dreary numbers is the fact that more than half of the county’s SWAT deployments were for misdemeanors and nonserious felonies. That means more than 100 times last year Prince George’s County brought state-sanctioned violence to confront people suspected of nonviolent crimes. And that’s just one county in Maryland. These outrageous numbers should provide a long-overdue wake-up call to public officials about how far the pendulum has swung toward institutionalized police brutality against its citizenry, usually in the name of the drug war.

    But that’s unlikely to happen, at least in Prince George’s County. To this day, Sheriff Michael Jackson insists his officers did nothing wrong in the Calvo raid—not the killing of the dogs, not neglecting to conduct any corroborating investigation to be sure they had the correct house, not failing to notify the Berwyn Heights police chief of the raid, not the repeated and documented instances of Jackson’s deputies playing fast and loose with the truth.
    (…)

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