Terrorism and the Ethics of Collective Punishment


Terrorism and the Ethics of Collective Punishment
by Sean Gabb
(23rd March 2017)

Outraged by yesterday’s terrorist attack in London, one of my Facebook friends has posted this:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The way to deal with Islamic terrorism is mercilessly. You must not be squeamish about liberal use of the death penalty for those who commit or attempt acts of terror, or their associates. You must not be squeamish about retaliatory acts against their friends and families. Every attendee at their mosque should be deported if a dual of foreign national, then no stone of the building should be left standing and the soil soaked in pigs blood.

If you don’t do these things, or attack those who do, you are enabling terror. You yourself have some blood on your hands. This is not me being angry, for I am not angry at all. I’ve just read some history, and this is how it is. Not taking necessary dissuasive action is profoundly harmful. It is evil.

What I find interesting about the post is my friend’s advocacy of collective punishment for individual crimes. He is advancing these propositions:

First, that the man who committed yesterday’s attack is to be regarded both as an individual as a member of an alien group;

Second, that this alien group, or a section of it, is to be held partly responsible for the attacks;

Third, that punishment for the attacks is to involve loss of property and other rights for people who cannot be proven to have taken part in the attack, or to have known about it in advance, plus a deliberate religious desecration;

Fourth, that these punishments, taken together, are to mark out the attacker’s group as both legally inferior and generally unwelcome in this country.

Taking into account what he has said, and what naturally follows from it, my friend’s justification seems to be utilitarian. If a member of a relevant group has reasonable suspicion that someone he knows is contemplating a terrorist attack, he will have an incentive to tell the authorities about it. The leaders of this group will also have an incentive to take their own deterrent actions. This being so, there will be a diminution of terrorist violence from within that group.

To put it mildly, I find the post troubling. I find it troubling for two reasons.

First, we live in a civilisation that pays unusual attention to individual rights and individual responsibilities. We punish only those individuals who can be proven to have committed a crime. We also punish accomplices before and after the fact. We may also impute criminal liability in obvious cases of common purpose. But, unless they are accomplices of some kind, we do not punish the relatives and friends and neighbours of a criminal. This is an important limitation. It is central to our conception of civic order. So far as we depart from it, we become less English and less European and less Christian in our ways.

Second, collective punishment may be a recipe for civil war. If I cannot persuade the man down the road out of the crime that I reasonably believe he is contemplating, I may be tempted to inform on him. On the other hand, I may believe that my other neighbours will then murder me. This will be very likely if I belong to a group that has been officially told it is inferior and unwelcome. I may then connive at covering up the man’s crime. Or I shall be inclined to join in rioting and other acts that may deter the authorities from imposing more than a token collective punishment.

I could end my response here, basking in my own liberalism. There is, however, a difficulty with my first point. The civic order that I mention emerged in its purest form in England and those other European nations that enjoyed a high degree of ethnic homogeneity. It seemed reasonable to treat each other as individuals, because we were all members of the same group – or members of groups closely-related and with fluid boundaries. Such an order has never emerged in territories populated by groups who define themselves as radically separate from each other. The custom here has been for members of each group to deal justly with their own as individuals, but to extend such dealing to others only as a matter of limited courtesy, or from a position of overwhelming strength. When there is a conflict, the custom has been to treat individuals from another group as a representative of the group, and to hold the group as a whole responsible for the acts of its individual members.

The civic order that I mention is not a universal fact, but a product of unusual circumstances. Indeed, it has not been an entirely settled fact even in England. Look at our treatment of the native Irish after each of their rebellions. Look at our treatment of the Scottish Highlanders whenever they actively sided with the exiled Stuarts. Look at how we treated the subject nationalities in our Empire.

We have, since the end of the Second World War, moved from unquestioned homogeneity to an increasing diversity. The civic order that emerged in one state of affairs may not be supportable in a different state of affairs. There are certain new groups among us who do not wish to assimilate – or perhaps cannot assimilate. So far as it fears loss of territory or demographic weight, the traditional majority shows a growing willingness to act like any other group in history. If someone in one of the minority groups robs a bank, or murders his wife for the insurance money, he will be punished as an individual in the usual way. If he preys on the women or children of the majority group, or commits acts of terrorist violence, he will increasingly be treated as a representative of his group, and his group will be held collectively responsible for his actions.

I will add that a culture of collective responsibility is as likely to result in a restored equilibrium as in unlimited conflict. That is a matter of circumstances. Undoubtedly, though, the achievement of equilibrium will only follow some degree of conflict, and a permanent breakdown of the old order of things.

What I wish to be the case is of no importance. We are where we are, and we are headed where we are headed. It is possible that the “community leaders” of the group from which yesterday’s outrage came will also see where we are headed, and will take resolute and sufficient action. But this would be historically unusual. The usual dynamics of any conflict between groups is an escalation of mutual provocations, in which the moderates on both sides lose position to the hard-liners. It then becomes a question of which side has greater resources and the will to use them.

For the avoidance of doubt, I do not want my country to fall apart in civil war. I do not want the breakdown of our ancient civic order. But what my Facebook friend has said, I fear, is only what many others are thinking – and what many more who do not yet agree will soon be thinking.

 

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38 thoughts on “Terrorism and the Ethics of Collective Punishment

    • If you mean this was planned by the Government or a rogue element within the security services, I think you are being ridiculous. They wouldn’t order a terrorist attack on their own country.

      If, on the other hand, you mean that the Government intend to take cynical advantage of this latest attack for the purposes of their agenda, then I couldn’t agree more.

            • I don’t follow at all the relevancy of the “Terror” phase of the French Revolution.

              Nor am I clear about what you think is the relevance of your earlier reference to the Reichstag fire, which was clearly started by the accused Dutchman, who confessed. There were legal appeals brought in post-war Germany against the verdict and sentence, but these were regarding judicial points peripheral to his moral culpability – i.e. the excessive nature of the sentence (death), whether the original 1934 trial was just (it was the “evil” Nazis who tried him), and whether he acted alone. Nobody has seriously doubted that he was responsible. I do recall at my (rather bad) comprehensive school that the Nazis started the fire and then scapegoated the Dutchman, but that has always been a load of rubbish and is now acknowledged as such by mainstream historians.

              This conspiracy stuff really began and has been influenced by the ‘strategy of tension’ thesis, which arose during the Cold War. I have never seen proof, but the theory is that Western governments, especially Britain (mostly in Northern Ireland), Germany, Italy and Chile (under Pinochet), have and are pursuing campaigns to destabilise their societies, and frighten and intimidate their populations, in order to ensure support for repressive police and control measures.

              There is clearly at least an element of truth in the thesis, and in the case of countries like Italy and Chile, and also places like Northern Ireland, I think it’s probably fully true. For instance, I’ve seen some pretty convincing evidence that during the 1980s, the British government was targeting known IRA members for assassination in their own homes. I suspect that was done in some cases under the cover of loyalist paramilitaries, or even using British agents and operatives within the IRA itself.

              But that’s one thing, what you say is quite another. Killing suspected terrorists in their homes is a very unpleasant thing to do – and also illegal – but those terrorists knew the game and knew they might be locked up, maimed or killed. What you’re talking about is just straight-forward murder of innocent people. For me, the picture painted doesn’t fit reality.

              How the Reichstag fire could be said to be relevant is in the fact that the Nazis took advantage of it and used it as a pretext to expand Hitler’s powers. I would accept and agree that this is a good analogy for what is happening now. The main focus of the repression will be on the militant Nationalists who have always opposed mass immigration and multi-culturalism.

              In that highly-qualified sense, you could call it a ‘false flag’ event in that the government must have anticipated something like this would happen, and will have been ready for it, but the government hasn’t caused it. The cause is the perpetrator or perpetrators. Him or they need to be dealt with by the criminal justice system and punished for their actions.

      • My suggestion is to look at Theresa May and at David Icke, and then toss a coin to decide which one is telling the least truth.

        • But how can we be sure it’s really David Icke or Teresa May we’re listening to and not an inter-dimensional reptilian from the constellation Draco merely shape-shifted to appear as David Icke or Teresa May?

          • In the case of Teresa May, the former porn star on Television X now runs her own website, from which you can purchase a range of fine merchandise. I would send you the link, but that might be contrary to house rules.

            Theresa May, on the other hand, is a lizard-human hybrid. She is not one of the shape-shifters, but is descended from the sinister Merovingian royal dynasty and as such can be considered an untouchable enemy of the people.

            As for David Icke, I simply refuse to believe anything he says on account of that garish tracksuit he wore on Wogan, which was an offence to fashion.

  1. I read the Facebook post differently. I think it is likely the underlying thinking is that Moslem terrorists must be ethnically-motivated, therefore the consequences of their terrorism must be suffered collectively by that community. You call these consequences ‘punishment’, but I suspect the Facebook poster doesn’t quite see it that way. For instance, closing mosques and taking down such buildings is not an attack on the Islamic faith itself, since mosques can be built and attended without hindrance in Moslem-majority countries, and nobody can stop a Moslem being a Moslem, even if he is without his own mosque. The point being conveyed by the poster is that this is England and we do not want mosques here. It is an alien ethno-religious creed that does not accord with our traditions. To openly say so and to demand that Moslems leave is to take the first step towards ending these attacks, which are only the result of the desire of Moslems – perhaps in most cases not internally articulated, but nevertheless there consciously or otherwise – to acquire a significant national presence in Britain, and maybe even take over in some way. It is not hateful to point this out and speak of the need to stop it, nor does such imply a belief in racial supremacism in any comparative sense. It is simply that each significant culture has the right to fight for its own space. I believe that is the context of the Facebook post you have extracted.

    On a different note, regarding the Westminster terrorist attacks specifically, I concede that it is suspicious that the attacker was able to enter the Parliamentary Estate, but anomalies happen. Whenever I have visited it, the gate is always heavily guarded, but maybe he got ‘lucky’? My view is that he must have had somebody watching the gate for him and the attack was co-ordinated in that way. It could be that the scout was on the inside, maybe even an employee of Parliament, or just somebody watching the location.

  2. …but a reasoned response to violence was never about punishing those responsible. There’d be very little violence in the world today if history proved that true.

    Nothing lives in absolute isolation. Punishing violence usually means the innocent are left to settle the bill; be it large or small, just or unjust.

    In times of war, it’s the civilians who are burdened with the cost of providing a soldier’s uniform, food and weapons. They suffer from long years of pain and misery. Many suffer a poor death – which is seldom poor.

    The eyes dim but the light never goes out. Life’s newly released energy once again moves upward and onward (without even trying) – into a different and always more satisfactory place. Death is seldom poor.

    When killers are culled the innocent shouldn’t suffer but nature herself choses not to work that way. Her cap badge reads, ‘C T B K’. So why then should so-called thinkers think we’re all so special?

  3. There is an old Irish joke that goes something like this – Tourists visiting Ireland were lost and asked a local for the route to their destination. The Irishman replied “Well if I were you I wouldn’t start from here”.

    I don’t want to start from here either, but the emergent plutocratic cultural Marxist regime of the last >50 years has imposed the status quo de novo on me. Islamist terrorists attacks here are a product of state-enforced mass immigration, multiculturalism and political correctness. My own – what I consider Libertarian – model for immigration to our land be solely by express personal invitations by native Britons, archetypically of spouses or spouses-to-be. Any other people from abroad residing here should be temporary visitors – tourists, students and those here on business. Under such a modus operandi there would be only perhaps tens of thousands of foreigners here, not many millions, and they would be or become well integrated, not the emerging Balkanised patchwork.

    The England of c.1960 was almost totally white, and coloured people, still less Muslims, were rare sights. It was very peaceful – there was no terrorism whatsoever. That what I call ‘Silver Age’ was the product of over 400 years of continual cultural reforms by Britons since the accession of Elizabeth I. It was our culture – by historical and international standards extremely free and liberal, and an example to the world, that exceeded the “Golden Ages” of Ancient Greece and the Roman Republic. Had our culture continued we would now live in a land of unprecedented peaceful civic and spiritual enlightenment.

    Tragically we don’t – the boat was pushed out under Attlee’s Labour Government when in 1948 the Empire Windrush sailed, collected c.500 West Indians and docked in Tilbury. In 1958 the state police suppressed native Britons in Notting Hill rioting against the coloured immigrants there. The Wilson Labour Government enacted the Race Relations Acts 1965 and 1968 requiring natives to associate with coloureds in accommodation, employment and services. On 20 April 1968 the Conservative MP Enoch Powell made his famous speech warning that mass immigration would lead to white natives being threatened and even dominated by coloured immigrants. The Conservative leader Edward Heath promptly sacked him from the shadow cabinet. In 1972 Heath’s Government admitted c.23,000 Ugandan Asians here. In due course immigration was running at >300,000 per year then since Blair’s Labour Government in the late 1990s at over 600,000 per year. The number of fairly recent immigrants in the UK, including those undocumented, and their descendents must now be c.10,000,000, and rising rapidly each year.

    That is unprecedented in history. Post-War governments – Labour and Conservative and aided by the Liberal Parties are at one encouraging it, despite opinion polls showing for decades that c.70% to 98% of the British population are against it. It has been engineered by a hellish coalition of cultural Marxists and plutocrats, and their regime – in politics, education, the mainstream media, the church, the police and across the governing spectrum – criminalises us if we oppose from it more than cautiously. It is a cultural coup d’etat. I say it is illegitimate and it should be reversed by the overwhelming majority of those 10,000,000 departing our shores, preferably to their racial homelands, preferably voluntarily but if not by forced deportation. The present regime will not do this but quite the opposite, call for ‘communities to unite’!

    Since World War I and the widespread utilisation of petroleum, the British state had meddled in affairs in the Middle East, the oldest and central Muslim-majority area, and struck there militarily. That has infuriated many Muslims worldwide, including growing numbers here. The most militant among them have the means, motive and opportunity to strike back at us, and they now do so. Islam has a 1400 year history of conquest, its global jihad is mandated by their holy book The Quran, Muslims have tried to conquer Europe many times, most notably stopped and turned-back in 732 and 1685, and the Muslim body politic in their lands is savage compared with our own. It is no coincidence that now that there are millions of Muslims here, jihadi attackers are appearing on our streets. I predict that as their numbers increase relentlessly further that there will increasingly more attacks. I also predict that as they become more and more predominant in areas within our land – inner London, Birmingham, Bristol and the cities of the North, they will come to rule those areas in their own Islamic traditions – the majority of Muslims will follow their ruling jihadis. They will become larger and larger ‘no-go’ areas to native Britons and the writ of the British state will not run there. The fashionable Leftists who sponsored this incubus will be among their earliest victims – an exquisite karmic irony. There will be civil war as native Britons finally free themselves of the cultural torture inflicted upon them by the plutocratic Leftist PC state. Brexit, Trump, the defeat of Renzi and the rise of the populist Right are early signs of it in the West – Britain is not alone.

    So the above is my answer to whether it is right to inflict punishment upon Muslims for the crimes of Islamists. I wish none of the above history had happened – none of the cultural coup was done in my name, and it was strongly against my will. I wish people from the third world had stayed where they were. What we can do – for the present – is spread the word against the treason, the cultural coup in progress. Our primary enemies are not Muslims but the cultural Marxists who betrayed us and created this perverse, inverted miscegenated culture of the present. The PC regime has succeeded because the vast bulk of people submitted, cowed, to it. Where the deconstructionists won so can we.

  4. It really doesn’t matter how the English respond: They have already given the keys to the kingdom to the illiterate, murderous apostate of the Mussulmen. Their subjugation is only a matter of time.

    Anglican theology has passed from Richard Hooker to Rowan Williams; Lutheran theology has passed from Dietrich Bonhoeffer to Nadia Bolz-Weber; Presbyterian theology has passed from John Knox to Mark Achtemeier; Catholic theology has passed from Pius IX to Pope Francis. The ascendant trend in Christian theology is the “emergent theology” of those like Brian McLaren.

    In the law, you dance around niceties, embracing those verses of the Qur’an that suggest a tolerant Islam with nervous hopefulness, waiting forever to at last give Anjem Choudary a light spank on the hands of five years in prison, unaware that this posture of tolerance, rooted in taqiyya, is phase one of Muhammad’s three-stage blueprint of dominion (see David Wood at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPLqVL4GHVU )

    Demographics is destiny, and you are doomed (http://tinyurl.com/AyedBreedJihad). Who elected the current Mussulman Mayor of London? You are finished as a culture and as a people. And who destroyed you? You did. You cut your own throats out of pure Christian altruism.

  5. I don’t support attacks on the families of such people. But we should at a minimum stop importing more people from these countries, and implement policies designed to encourage an outflow without rounding anyone up. I would remove citizenship from people without British ancestry, giving them permanent resident status. They could stay with no problems, but would be under our control. They wouldn’t vote, stand for parliament, be policemen or judges. The politically correct edifice would be torn down. But if they chose to stay and fit in they could. But: there would be no benefits for them (we are told they’re here to pay our pensions, so let’s make that a reality) and no public-sector jobs. Those who can’t find private-sector employment would be left to their own devices to leave. One way tickets to Calais should be provided free of charge to “permanent residents”, of course. I wouldn’t build more mosques, but there is a query about how confrontational you want to be. If you are going to close down mosques, you have to at least be prepared for an enhanced terror threat, and it would probably prove to be unwise…

    • I’d be inclined to remove the concept of naturalisation from the statute book altogether. Citizenship should derive either from birth to lawfully resident persons or ancestry.

      • So would I. The idea that Britishness means possession of a passport is ridiculous. This terrorist yesterday was born in the UK. How do you screen immigrants for the behaviour of their children not yet born? We’ve made a mockery of our citizenship rolls.

    • I accept your point that closing down mosques and similar measures would be a provocation, but withdrawing British citizenship would be as well, regardless of the circumstances. In that sense, any meaningful proposal that has ‘bite’ could be considered provocative and thus ‘unwise’.

      There is also the issue of what would happen to those who have their citizenship removed but have no other citizenship. It is normally unlawful to make people stateless. That said, provided the individual has other citizenship (and thus somewhere else to go), I would care not and would happily go along with your proposal.

      • I don’t see the problem of equipping them with statelessness. Islam makes no distinction between religious law and “law”. That s its main problem we have with it. Roger Scruton wrote copiously about this very matter. If they are “secularly” stateless, let Allah have them in his “state”. If he can make one somewhere. And as it’s on this planet, they’d better not misbehave by going about beheading people on video and setting them on fire. Sorry. It’s time to buzz the tower. People are angry.

        • You don’t need to tell me ‘sorry’. I hold no brief for Moslems or their religion. If I had my way, all persons of recent non-white ancestry would be liable for deportation from this country. (Present company excepted of course: in your case, I can only assume a promotion to the War Cabinet will be in the offing, or perhaps a plum job as Special Envoy to the Levant).

          But the problem with making people stateless is that it would be contrary to international law. If we make millions of people stateless, we would become a pariah state, and no doubt in the distant future people will be commenting on blogs like this one about how the “evil British fascists” persecuted those poor innocent Moslems, put them in camps and deported them. There will be films about it in which we are characterised as devil-like, while Moslems are portrayed as the very archetype of innocence and light.

          Perhaps now you can see why regimes such as the Nazis arose? A desperate people can be driven to adopting desperate measures to deal with an enemy within. The question is: How desperate are we going to get? Time will tell. It depends on whether these attacks worsen in ferocity and carnage. If they do, then I can only assume the Moslem strategy is to wear us down, in which case it’s a matter of whether the British people are made of the right stuff. However the first task would be not to deal with Moslems, but to deal with the people who are causing all this: starting with the obvious white collaborators, and then, I’m afraid, a certain other group we can’t mention.

          I do hope none of that happens. I would rather things change through the ballot box, and realistically, that’s the only option open to us at this time.

        • David, I agree. I don’t care if they’d be stateless. Let them apply for citizenship of their ancestral countries.

  6. The Westminster attacker was not a Pakistani or other South Asian Muslim but a resentment-filled black convert to Islam.He also had a long record of anti-social behaviour and criminality suggestive of some kind of personality disorder or mental illness. He is far from being the first “jihadist” with these kind of general characteristics, but it does rather beg the question of who any “collective punishment” for such actions might be applied to.

    • The thing that is being missed, in particular by the media’s hysterical attempts to point out that he is not an immigrant, is that Britain is now producing its own “homegrown” terrorists. Although more than a few of these terrorists have proven to be migrants, that isn’t the issue! There’s entire communities in France, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, and even the UK, which are extremely poorly integrated, hostile and hermetically sealed bubbles. This is not as a result of “racism” or whatever other nonsense the leftist media likes to concoct, but simply as a matter of convenience. Many of these people are not mentally equipped to compete in high tech western economies and welfare is very enticing to them.

      Many also have been indoctrinated into having a chip on their shoulder against the West in general, sometimes for semi-valid reasons (but they focus their ire on westerners in general and not our corrupt governments.) Just adding more of these migrants is not going to solve anything and it could well worsen things as it helps increase the levels of tacit support for such acts, even if it does not culminate in overt acts of this nature. I don’t know how hard this is for the media to grasp, but then again, they are not there to report on the facts but to manipulate them… even The Telegraph leapt on the opportunity to try present the attacker’s actions as a consequence of “racism”, as if desperately trying to find a reason to blame whites, again.

      • Rogers & Lock: I generally agree with your views.
        Like everyone nowadays you handle the word “racism” not just like a hot potato but like a jiggered packet of C4. The first duty toward everyone aspiring to a free liberal (Americans read “libertarian”) society is to unpack this loaded term.
        Jacques Barzun’s Race: A Study in Modern Superstition (1937) provides a meaningful (i.e., non-modern) definition. His several propositions can be reduced to a single one: Racism is the attribution of spiritual characteristics based purely on superficial physical ones. In this sense – the only useful one – few people in the West today are racists.
        But nowadays the term is meant to cover other meanings, despised by the Left and cherished by the (Old) Right. But – note! – both Left and Right agree on what those other meanings are. They include: Freedom of association, property rights, pride in one’s culture, and the democratic definition of nationhood. The whole effort of the Left is to smear these cherished attributes with Barzun’s evil one, undermining the confidence of their defenders, especially among the populace at large who are not capable of making distinctions.
        That libertarian would achieve fame and recognition who could, in a memorable word or phrase, make these distinctions immediately clear to all.

  7. Pingback: Is Christianity to Blame? | Tormod's Blog

  8. Pingback: Terrorism: Is Christianity to Blame? | The Libertarian Alliance Blog

  9. I’ve re-parsed Sean’s essay. And, up to where he says “I could end my response here,” I agree totally.

    But after that, I scratch my beard. Does Sean really think that England (or does he mean “the UK”?… he is frequently ambiguous on this point) has a homogeneous culture? When it houses tories, socialists, “liberal” “democrats” (scare quotes needed on both words) and greenies? Even before recent waves of immigration?

    For me, there is only one way forward. We must not only preserve, but expand, the culture of individual rights and individual responsibilities. And we must reject the culture of collective responsibility; which, as Sean rightly says, can lead nowhere but civil war.

    • Isn’t it the case that we can have a culture of individual responsibility (which by the way, I agree with) only if we have a relatively homogeneous society? Or do you disagree with this premise?

      Until the 1950s, Britain did have this sort of society. There were different ethnies that made up the British folk – Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, etc. – but they shared a very broad common ground and a British civic identity. That is no longer possible, as the ethnicities that have been admitted in large numbers since the 1950s are not assimiliable.

      By the way, I don’t see civic nationalism and ethno-nationalism as necessarily opposites. One is voluntary, the other is involuntary, but the voluntary is only workable (or even possible) on the basis that there is a solid involuntary criterion that forms the bedrock of the nation. Without that bedrock, you just have a free-floating identity. There is thus nothing wrong with civic nationalism in and of itself – and in the pre-1870 United States, it could have worked – it’s just that neo-liberals and naïve conservatives have given it a bad name because they want to reject viable assimilationism (what they call, ‘racism’) in favour of integrationism or multi-culturalism.

      I would submit that libertarianism cannot work under present conditions (or maybe a better way of putting that would be that it won’t be allowed to work). As a prerequisite to it, we have to get back to shared identities and borders.

      • I rather think it’s the other way round. In a culture of individual responsibility, people will naturally gravitate towards associating with others like themselves. Similar values, similar interests – and yes, similar nationality, race or religion if that’s what they want. I see nothing wrong with that. Where the problem arises is when you put a political state on top of that. A state, by its nature, can only allow one culture at a time to rise to the top. So, instead of people just doing their own things and not needing to have anything to do with those they don’t agree with, they end up having to fight for their particular culture against everyone else’s. The state, by its existence, is a source of conflict. The state is the problem.

        And I fully agree with the first sentence of your last paragraph; we cannot have true liberty, as long as there is a political state. But the borders I want to see are social borders between people with different interests, not the physical borders of a political state.

  10. There seem to me 2 issues here: how to deal with an individual who has committed a crime when that crime appears to be one more in a series of similar crimes and committed by people sharing a particular belief (or set of beliefs), and how to deal with a breakdown of law and order (e.g. the no-go areas in big cities Sean mentioned). In Holland recently, there were demonstrations which were fairly yet firmly quelled and dispersed by the Dutch police (at least that’s what I saw on YouTube). But what if there had been many more demos packed with many more armed and aggressive people determined to cause mayhem? And what if there had been many riots in many cities at the same time, such that the police were simply stretched too thin to handle them and become unable to protect the civilian population and its property? In such a case, different, extreme measures must be prepared for and if necessary carried out fairly but very firmly and decisively.

    Those in favour of violence to cause mayhem and chaos must not be allowed to gain the upper hand, nor must they be allowed to become the victims of retribution. Like Sean, I hope and pray that civil war or even anything close does not happen in Britain or anywhere else. However, I do think that whether or not it happens may well depend on how firmly and decisively the authorities can act in a timely manner. For this they need to be prepared., both in terms of numbers and equipment, and mentally. Are they?

  11. Collective responsibility can be a useful (though un-libertarian) tool but if one is seriously thinking of implementing it on a limited scale this must be kept in mind: if you hold group X collectively responsible for any its members’ action, you must also allow the same group to police itself autonomously. Collective responsibility is the norm among states, and states do not (or are not supposed to) interfere in on-another’s internal matters. If collective responsibility is not married to autonomous in-group policing, most of the incentives are wasted. Does collective responsibility still sound like a good idea? It does to me.

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