John at Powerline Blog pointed out today, in reference to the London riots, that
The first duty of any government is to maintain order. Peaceful demonstrations are fine, but mob rule is incompatible with civilization. Any government that cannot maintain order deserves to fall, and will. Napoleon had his faults–well, to be blunt, he was crazy as a loon–but he had the right prescription for dealing with mobs: a whiff of grapeshot.
This is more true that he can explain. He quotes another story which talks about the head of the Police union
Chairman of Police Federation Ian McKeever has warned that many police officers who are assigned to patrol the protest marches are feeling a lot of sympathy with protesters as they are faced with thousands of redundancies [layoffs, ed.] and £500 million in pay cuts.
This is the end of the government. Full stop. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
The purpose of a police force is to enforce enough order to convince the majority of the population that the government is living up to its end of the social contract. The social contract that we have with our government is that we will give up our right for private vengeance for public justice.
The shift from weregild or private revenge to punishment by the state no doubt represents an important social advance. But it ought to be thought of as a bargain, with the state standing in for the Lord and saying to the victim and his family, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” That bargain, once made, must be kept. Otherwise we have the opening scene of The Godfather, where the undertaker goes to Don Corleone for the vengeance the state has failed to provide.
We have given up private vengeance, now the government has to provide public justice. What the ordinary Brits are facing is the realization that they have given up much more than private vengeance. They’ve given up self defense. They’ve given up any semblance of personal and property security. And yet still, the government has not provided them public justice.
If the police forces will not end the rioting, and if indeed they are in sympathy with “anarchists” protesting the withering away of the state, then what prevents the ordinary citizens from deciding that their social contract has been broken and they should no longer be bound by it? What stops counter-mobs from sweeping down on the “anarchists” and slaughtering them? What prevents mobs of angry Brits from seizing suspected criminals and lynching them? Most importantly, what prevents angry mobs of Brits from seizing the politicians who built this untenable state of affairs and hanging them from any convenient sturdy structure? That’s the thing to remember. Once the people decide that there’s no benefit any more to pretending that the social contract binds them they won’t stop until they are either dead or enslaved, or all their enemies are dead.
Here in America, the police aren’t that much better armed than the ordinary people. It’d be less hand to hand and more running gun battle. It’d be a mess. There never was an attempt to raise enough police forces to control the whole country. They only have enough people to keep the criminals well enough in check so that the screaming of the population doesn’t get too loud. They could not control an entire society out of control, nor even a significant portion that decides that the social contract is broken. If, as the police union leader in Wisconsin suggests, the police take the side of disorder even passively, it will get very ugly. Mobs cannot be allowed to trump actual voting.
I would sincerely recommend that the people in leadership here and abroad decide if they really want to allow mobs to enforce their will on the rest of us. They may agree with the mobs, but will they agree with the backlash? More importantly, do they agree enough to willingly share the fate of the mob? Once we start fighting, we won’t stop until it’s over. Completely over.
I’m willing to follow the laws when the laws are enforced fairly. I’m willing to vote when I’m confident that my vote will be counted and that the majority wins. I’m willing to be peaceful as long as the peace is kept by others. But if you give me no peace, unfair application of the laws, and my vote is nullified by an angry mob, why should I be peaceful? Why should anyone?