The limits of the law and vigilantes

Recently, in New Zealand, there were reports :arrow: and :arrow: that Asian people in Auckland were considering banding together and forming vigilante groups to combat crime in their area. Their complaint was that the police were ineffective and that they, the Asian folks, were being targeted by criminal groups.

The fellow, Mr. Peter Low, who was at the center of the effort to organize vigilante defenses, in my opinion, went too far and created a media firestorm when he suggested that Asians could hire Chinese Triads to protect them. Chinese Triads, if you didn’t know, are similar to the Japanese Yakusa or, perhaps, the Italian Mafia. Secret societies with more than a little involvement in criminal activities.

Soon after, many of the people he was trying to defend were disowning him and the entire thing went nuclear in the press and basically melted down.

I found all of this interesting, to a point. I think Mr. Low may have been justified to organize local people to defend themsleves but I think he was clearly over top to suggest bringing in outside Triad enforcers to defend Asian interests. He might as well have suggested importing the La Cosa Nostra.

So why am I blogging about this? Because it made me reflect on the fact that I, personally, only believe in the law … to a point.

The law is suppose to be a common set of rules we have all basically agreed upon to keep order in our societies. Of course, we could quibble for hours that that’s not how it often works, but that is the basic idea and intent. And that’s good – it benefits us all, when it works well.

But, I’ve often reflected that if the law breaks down and fails to protect my interests, I am not going to passively watch myself or those I love be abused. I have limits and beyond those, I will look out for myself.

Some would have us believe that this sort of thinking is anti-social and that we should always passively rely on society’s systems to look after us – even when they are failing us. They would have us believe that no matter what the justification, taking things into one’s own hands is bad. Personally, I don’t feel that way.

There will always be those who think they are above the law and that they can act with impunity against us because of their age, their associations, their money or their political clout.

Have you never encountered the 16 year old with an attitude? He’s been breaking the laws and causing mayhem since he was 11 and he knows the juvenile courts won’t do anything to him more than a slap on the wrist. His parents either think he’s a saint, no matter what he does, or they are utterly disinterested. In any case, he has no fear, no limits, no self control and no respect for anyone who’s not prepared to do him more violence than he can do them.

Would you think me anti-social and very un-liberal, if I said I think a two by four on a dark night in an alley might help sort him out?

My wife tells me about what it was like in the 50’s and 60’s to grow up in small town Kansas in the American Midwest. Everyone carried guns there. Every pickup truck sported a rifle rack with a rifle in the back window. And folks left their doors unlocked and there was very little serious crime of any sort.

I long ago read most of Ayn Rand’s books and then outgrew them. But, Rand said one thing that has always stuck with me. She said (paraphrased), “They cannot oppress you unless you consent to it.

I’m judge myself quite liberal in most of my feelings and beliefs but there are definitely some exceptions to this pattern.

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