Mar 16, 2009

guest blogger on Locke and vigilantism

As a dissenting view to my recent post on Locke versus the vigilante, I offer the thoughts of Sharry Grewal, this year's Ohio State OHSSL champion. The words are hers, slightly edited by me.
First, actually read the Second Treatise by Locke. If you do, you will find valuable info for the Aff.

In my first contention, I argued that when the government fails to enforce its laws, that state is considered dissolved and society is in the state of nature. I had a quote from Locke supporting this. The quote ended with "and the people are at liberty to provide for themselves."

In my second contention, I argued that the right to punish criminals is a natural right. I had a quote from Locke that said that in the state of nature, vigilantism was needed to enforce natural law, and was a right of all men. I then argued that any right that someone had in the state of nature was a natural right. It is important to note that the right to enforce natural law and punish criminals is the only one that individuals give up when the state is formed. However, when the state dissolves, as in C1, individuals can reclaim this right.

In my third contention, I argued that vigilantism provided the necessary enforcement of natural law to protect the community. I had excellent anthropological evidence of this (from a cross-cultural study) from Dr. Ray Abrahams. Three overarching patterns that Abrahams found: 1. Vigilantism is a frontier phenomenon; occurs in areas where a weak state has a large power vacuum. 2. Vigilantes tend to protect, rather than violate property rights. 3. Vigilantes tend to reduce chaos.

On to the Negative. I took the standard, yet persuasive procedural justice angle here, as well as a disproportionate punishments angle. I proved that disproportionate punishments were inherent to vigilantism because 1. vigilantes had a mob mentality and 2. they let their emotions, rather than a desire for justice take over.

In rebuttals for the negative, I established that vigilantism wasn't needed in the state of nature, because in the state of nature, cooperation would occur. This was established through a Robert Axelrod card. I then gave an excellent statistic to prove this. Out of 196 countries, only 15 are currently at war. I also gave examples of this on the national level. 1. When Fransisco Franco lost authority in 1936, groups of workers in cities. 2. Since 1991, the private sector of Somalia has very little crime rate because its citizens have cooperated. I then claimed advantages of this by saying that cooperation would bring about the re-establishment of the state. I proved that the Aff destroyed this cooperation by locking society into an endless cycle of violence, and consequently, into a state of fear. Whenever an Aff claimed that I wasn't allowing criminals to be punished, I responded that individuals who refused to cooperate will be ostracized (this included criminals and non criminals, so it wasn't vigilantism). Example: economic sanctions on the international arena. I then pointed out that very little crime would occur as a result of the fact that individuals feared reciprocity (if I don't cooperate with you now, you won't cooperate with me in the future) and had a sense of duty to the community. I always was able to extend the international anarchic arena statistic to prove that very little crime/conflict would occur.
Thought-provoking all around. Thanks for sharing, Ms. Grewal.


Anonymous said...

with regards to that affirmative case, negatives need to raise several questions really. 1) does conforming to Locke's Social Contract really bring about justice? I'd agree that the affirmative case does conform to Locke's SC, but only in cases where the government has failed to enforce the entire body of law. Debaters are taking a too narrow interpretation and agreeing to be debating about failed states/frontier socieities, and then bringing up empirical data that doesn't take place in failed states/frontier societies, but societies where the government does not maintain complete control. So you could lay out the first argument, that Locke only justified vigilantism when the government has wholly failed to enforce the law (partial affirmation). But even in extending that, Locke himself says that the state of nature is an undesirable state to be in. This is where negatives should look towards Order framework on the negative. If you can prove that vigilantism actually impedes the formation of ordered societies, even in it's most effective usage, then it can't be justified because it prevents consistent, procedural rights protection. Vigilantism perpetuates establishment violence in large areas of Africa and violence is seen as a legitimate means of solving disputes. As such, this from of establishment violence that vigilantism promotes has prevented the long-term formation of a solid governmental order. The power vacuum that Ms. Grewal argues for might be filled, but only in certain ways. 1)inconsistently, with some cases vigilantes have murdered police officers(Mexico) and the relatives of "suspected" criminals (Nigeria). 2) with inproportinate punishment. Since both of these ways are not ends in and of themselves, they can't be seen as just, especially when they present legitimate roadblocks to the formation of legitimate government. Also vigilantes, while acting for the community in these frontier socities, still violate the rights not only of the people they prosecute (procedural/due process), but the people they protect. Locke says that men have a right to judge their own cases in the state of nature, but vigilantes aren't even neccesarily judging their own cases---they are making judgements that affect the community. So even if you argue for arbitrary justice in the lack of government, vigilantes are violating the right of the people they protect to be judges in their own case. So in summary)Locke even if carried through on the flow can only affirm cases in the most narrow interp of the resolution (I know the resolution does not say when the govt fails to enforce A law, but it also doesn't say the ENTIRE body of laws) 2) Locke does not desire the type of arbitrary justice in the state of nature, and if you can prove that it is a roadblock to consistent justice(establishment violence), then locke himself would probably be against it (locke is for revolution, but only because he believes it will produce government) and 3) when disecting vigilantism and how it functions in frontier societies it doesn't even conform to Locke's own definition of the right to judge your own case. Vigilantes aren't even neccesarily handing out punishment for a crime committed against themselves, but for a crime committed against others. Since no consensus can be reached in a frontier society, vigilantes violate the right of other members to judge in their own cases (a natural right of Locke's)

ldn00b said...

Interesting use of the somalia example. I actually use that in my AFF case, arguing that the Xeer is a form of vig.

ILoveDebate said...

My initial reaction to the resolution was that a.) all societies fail to enforce the law at one time or another which doesn't mean the social contract is broken and b.)the resolution asks if it's justified not if it's just. Thus I can see how something can be considered justified without necessarily following in line of "justice" which I'm sure you'll hear as a value time and time again.

Matt said...

I have a couple cards that define vigilantism that would take down this entire case.

Vigilantism=Taking the law into your own hands

State of Nature=No government

No Government=No laws

No Laws= No vigilantism

Vigilantes need to take the LAW into their own hands. So if there is no law(defined by a government) there can be no vigilantism.