Feb 12, 2009

the moral tradition of vigilantism

Blog-neighbor Mark Olson, considering the March/April LD resolution, delves into the history of the practice.
The backwoods folkway were members of a society that in many ways can be described as the libertarian ideal. Personal freedom was extremely high and its heroes such as Patrick Henry were notable for their drive for independence and then after the Revolution completed pushing for independence from the Federal government(s) as well. However the very limited (or perhaps non-existent) central government in these regions in the pre-revolutionary times meant that there were also large somewhat organized predatory gangs. These gangs were larger and more organized than any given homestead could deal with when threatened and as a result, the organizing of townspeople for common defense against such groups was named after similar undertakings by Mr Lynch. This society was libertarian enough that the law books and statutes that existed provided little to no defense in the way of penal strictures against assault and injury to person (but property damage and theft was dealt with in a more standard, for the age, manner). It seems likely that the reason that rape, battery and other insults were either not or [only] lightly penalized is that the expectation [was] that your “folk” would deal with matters themselves.
For the affirmative, it's a scheme worth considering: in a libertarian minarchist paradise, the government's failure to enforce the law is, to some degree, desirable, since it allows citizens--families, friends, and neighbors--to preserve greater autonomy and fulfill their moral obligations to each other and to justice.

Update: Jason Kuznicki provides a libertarian rebuttal.

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