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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

G20 conservative conundrum: It's complicated to be a law and order conservative

Things are really complicated.

They are complicated, in particular, for law & order conservatives -- conservatives whose default position is to trust certain kinds of authorities.

The connotation is difficult to get at, but maybe the denotation is clear. L&O conservatives like police officers. They also like all branches of the military. By "like" I mean, in any dispute between a particular police officer and a citizen, or a particular member of the military and a civilian, their default position is to trust the former against the latter. If we know nothing else, our gut reaction ought to be to trust the uniformed against the non-uniformed, says the L&O conservative.

The same is not true of judges, especially Supreme Court judges. Judges are often subject to ridicule at the hands of these conservatives. I can't always figure out why we should like authorities in blue uniforms, but not authorities in red Santa outfits. But that's neither here nor there.

As for elected representatives, the instinct appears to be to default to partisan preferences. L&O conservatives in Canada support Conservatives, and Republicans in the U.S. If something is done by Tories, the default is to defer to and support them and their policies, unless there are good reasons on the other side.

Finally, Canadian and U.S. conservatives of all stripes embrace freedom of expression. The Canadian conservative commitment to the libertarian position on speech and expression is remarkable both for its tenacity and (apparent) principledness (they've read John Stuart Mill's 'On Liberty'). Conservatives who would otherwise be hostile to the legality of "pisschrist" or other works of "art" depicting Judeo-Christian symbols and personages in, let us say, "disrespectful" ways, recognize the right of jackasses to be jackasses (and recognizing a right is not identical to endorsing what someone chooses to do with that right).

I don't mean to caricature or otherwise mock the L&O conservative. The description above is intended to be an accurate description of the default stance of this variety of conservative. To summarize: L&Os defer to free expression, partisanship, and cops (and the military, but never mind that now).

In the case of this past weekend's shenanigans in Toronto, everything is complicated for this conservative. There's apparent tension between their various default positions.

To see this tension in action, consider the spat over an incident between Kathy Shaidle, BlazingCatFur, and the police in the comment section of Kate McMillan's blog Small Dead Animals, or take a peek at the back-and-forth on our own Mike Brock's post below, where Brock details the apparently unlawful search of his person at the hands of foul-mouthed and aggressive police officers.

It's complicated because the accountability for the police action is diffused between an NDP mayor, a Liberal premier, and a Conservative prime minister. Who's really ultimately accountable? It's hard to tell. It was Harper's conference, in Miller's city, with McGuinty quickly passing temporary enabling laws by cover of night. Small wonder no Party has yet gone on the offensive to demand some sort of investigation into the actions of the police in Toronto. If we had a Conservative premier with a Conservative prime minister, you can be sure the Liberals would be all over this like a police elbow on the back of a Guardian journalist.

And, finally, it's complicated because of the apparent tension between freedom of expression -- including photographing, recording, writing, blogging, and otherwise capturing anything and everything in public -- and the actions of some of the police officers who arrested and/or searched and/or accosted media types (like National Post photographers), bloggers (like our own Mike Brock and Kathy Shaidle), ordinary folk, and countless others.

Since it's complicated, it's not obvious how to reconcile the various default positions. As Jay Currie pointed out to McMillan in her comment thread: "There is a strong cleavage within the conservative interest between people who assert that individual rights and autonomy matters and those who believe in order and an authoritarian state."

It's easier for a libertarian, who ordinarily has a healthy distrust for all political authority (and sometimes even for non-political authorities, like overbearing parents and nagging girlfriends), and consistently defaults to individual liberty in all matters. But the libertarian position is not at issue.

What is, is how a law & order conservative can keep these three balls in the air without letting any of them drop by the wayside. And I just don't see how they could.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on June 29, 2010 in Libertarianism | Permalink

Comments

Shall we attempt to put things in proper perspective concerning the Toronto situation. According to the news the police informed everyone prior to the event that anyone entering the secured area would be required to produce proper I.D. and know that they would be searched. Assuming that the media are not lying, those who insisted in being in the area/zone cannot complain about having to produce I.D. and being searched. It seems that good judgement and common sense were lacking for some. Add to that mixing with rioters (black bloc) was looking for trouble to say the least.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-06-29 4:11:45 PM


Alain,

I suggest you read the CCLA report, and take it from me when I say that I was searched far from the security zone. And I have spoken to many reputable sources which observed the searches occurring all along Yonge St, Bay St and University Ave, far from protests and the security zone.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2010-06-29 4:23:46 PM


Mike, I accept your word concerning where you were searched and see that I misunderstood where you were at the time. However if you were mixing in with the rioters for any reason, then the rest of my statement applies. Notice I said "if", since again I do not know.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-06-29 4:40:52 PM


Alain,

Actually, I encountered no police at all when I was "mixing" with the rioters, as you say. That's the insane part. I mean, the rioters ran rampant for three hours. There were no police to be seen. They just retreated after it all broke out.

It wasn't until Sunday and Monday, when all the protests were peaceful did we see skull cracking going on.

On Monday, when I was illegally searched, I was mingling with nobody else. I was sitting alone, on the street, far from any gathering of any sort.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2010-06-29 4:48:40 PM


But the vast majority of the arrests happened no where near the security zone where these laws were meant to be applied. And the first arrest under the law happened outside of the fence, and now we are learning from Police Chief Bill Blair that the '5 metre' rule was made up - it was only supposed to apply to persons within the security fence, not outside.

Posted by: BCer_in_Toronto | 2010-06-29 4:52:04 PM


Actually P.M. I and a lot of other lefties have been screaming at both Mayor Miller and Premier McGuinty. There's a bizarre moment unfolding right now when ideological foes are all finding themselves looking over the fence at authoritarian excess and singing a song in unison. Believe me when I say that the very last person I would ever expect to either find common cause with or have sympathy for is Shaidle.

I don't agree with Mike Brock on many viewpoints but I have always known him to be scrupulously honest in his words. When it comes to essential rights and liberties being trampled, it really doesn't matter what colour the leadership flies under. Wrong is wrong and in this instance as you illustrate there is plenty wrong from leaders in all three major parties, at all levels of government.

I've emailed the Liberal Party headquarters and blasted them and I've been none too kind toward Ignatieff, McGuinty, Miller or Teows. There is a shocking amount of guilt to go around and there are pols of every stripe who need to be tossed out of office as a result of this weekend's debacle.

Posted by: lindsay stewart | 2010-06-29 5:02:22 PM


Being an uneducated working class type, I actually am a stereotypical law & order (definitely lower case :-)), Archie Bunker, "life is life," lock em up and throw away the key type.

And I make no claims for ideological consistency either. I don't think that would be humanly possible, literally. You aren't really "human" in one sense if you are so rigidly principled that you NEVER bend to circumstance and insist on filtering everything through whatever your favorite author/thinker once said.

However, I am law & order etc regarding real criminals who have been convicted of real crimes. (If I saw those criminals getting just punishments instead of what they do get, I'd be more sympathetic about their "rights," which sometimes seem to go too far.)

I share Peter's frustration with people who are blindly motivated by party politics, which frankly bores me.

In this case, there is actually an undertone of city mouse/country mouse in the SDA critiques, too. When push comes to shove, many people react to these situations by going "tribal" (myself included.)

Certain Blogs have long history of "city folks are scum" thinking. Believe me, that is driving a lot of this animus even though they won't admit it. yes, people can be that shallow. Again, I include myself.

Oh well, nothing like a little tear gas to clear the air!

(Finally: as for Mill, I've also read Stephen's Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, which offers pesky counterarguments to Mill. Just a mischievous suggestion :-) )

Posted by: Kathy Shaidle | 2010-06-29 5:21:33 PM


When the protesters were Tamils it was so much simpler. Only 15 arrests.

"Earlier in the day, police Chief Bill Blair asked Toronto for patience.

Blair hinted he had no intention of removing the demonstrators as long they remained peaceful."

Why would that be? Too funny.

Posted by: DJ | 2010-06-29 6:39:34 PM


It's much easier than you think, P.M.

For one thing, we currently have only one side of the story--that of the complainants. The police version will come out later, but has already made a start with a truly shocking haul of weapons from these "peaceful protesters" that was five times too large to even fit in the police department's lobby.

Secondly, the complainants are activists, which makes their objectivity suspect. The trouble with activists is that you will, at best, get only half the story--and activists are notorious for bending and even breaking the truth when it suits them. Unlike the police and public officials, they are not in the least accountable to anyone.

Thirdly, forming noisy mobs is neither a reputable nor particularly effective method of expressing oneself, chiefly indulged in by unsavoury characters who already have chips on their shoulders and are on the prod for trouble. They freely admit violent anarchists into their ranks, and make no apologies for it. After all, as one protester noted, "It's only glass, man!"

It's not complicated at all; in fact it's very simple, and jibes nicely with what your conservative grandpappy would tell you: Going out looking for trouble is the surest way of running into it.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-06-29 7:16:38 PM


Mike, by your own admission you were only 1300 metres from the nearest protest, security zone, or what could be considered a "hot" area. That's a 15-minute stroll, if you loaf it. It's entirely possible police were looking for a suspect who happened to look like you and had retreated from the protest zone.

Given their habit of avoiding violent confrontation when things look to be getting hairy, it wouldn't surprise me in the least to see them wait until things calmed down and then sweep through the city looking for people based on videos taken earlier. Yes, the police have cameras too. They increasingly apply the same methodology to chasing stolen cars; rather than risk a violent crash, they follow from a distance and swoop when the danger to the public is less.

It simply doesn't make sense that they would come up to you as half-cocked as you describe if they were coming into the situation cold. Do you know what they were doing immediately before they approached you? Probably not, and probably never. But that's an important part of the story.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-06-29 7:28:12 PM


Kathy, a lot of city folks are scum, but maybe it's not their fault. Maybe it's the coffee. :-)

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-06-29 7:28:58 PM


Mike, based on your description of what happened I can only concur with you. In my opinion the police should have taken immediate and appropriate action as soon as those committing violence and vandalism started. Hesitating to take action for whatever reason allowed things to escalate, which is probably why they then overreacted. I am not excusing overreaction, but I recognise that it is rather standard human behaviour in this type of circumstance.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-06-29 7:30:36 PM


Hell, Alain, the police should have opened fire. It would have stopped the violence and probably made certain that these lowlife posers didn't try this sort of crap in Toronto again. But Ontario cops have been notoriously reluctant to meet force with force since the Dudley George affair, as their retreat from Caledonia demonstrates. In all likelihood they're just itching to roust these lowlifes, but are held back by orders from above.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-06-29 7:42:36 PM


But the libertarian position is not at issue.
Posted by P.M. Jaworski on June 29, 2010

Jaworshi's statement is nothing more than a feeble attempt to inoculate libertarians and libertarianism from having to address public security issues, and as such is an admission of the intellectual bankruptcy of libertarianism.

Posted by: The Stig | 2010-06-29 7:48:11 PM


What is up with some people? Some of us feel that you can both support law and order and the individual! If a law and order conservative means that you are pro-death penalty(in cases of murder, attempted murder, rape, and committing violent acts of terrorism) and favor 3 strikes and life legislation(third serious crime results in life in prison with no chance of parole) then I'm in. Yet, I also support the concept of the rights of the individual. I support the right of an individual to own a handgun or rifle(concealed or otherwise) after a background check(so that we make sure that the guy is not an escapee from a mental institution). I think that if someone threatens you then there is a natural right to use deadly force(castle doctrine). I am pro-life because I believe that science proves that an unborn baby is an individual and not a piece of playdoh. Since, these children can't defend themselves, I feel that it is my responsibility to voice a peaceful defense. These children have committed no crime but to appear at an inconvenient time. In my opinion, my belief that the unborn are entitled to their day is as ringing an endorsement of the rights of the individual as those of you who have been cheerleading for Marc Emery. I also believe that the best government is a small government. I understand that in certain instances (like defense, intelligence services(like CIA or MI-6), and justice) government is probably necessary. However, I also believe that the income tax should be replaced with a flat consumption tax. I see no reason why the government should be involved in healthcare, social security, or running the national parks. I think that the federal departments of Commerce(does this dept even really do anything?), Energy, and Education should be broken up! I think that education should be left to each province or state. Also, I think that each state or province should offer a program of school vouchers. I also feel that yearly votes should be held at every public school to determine if the staff wants to continue with their teachers union or drop it! Also, I feel that each state or province should pass a right-to-work law to counter union thuggery(banning the closed shop). Finally, I would reinstate welfare reform as originally envisioned by Newt Gingrich instead of the socialist model that Obama has introduced. My point is that there are no absolutes! There is a fine line between law and order and an overbearing state. Also, there is a fine line between the individual and anything goes chaos. The key is to find that fine line!

Posted by: David | 2010-06-29 8:57:00 PM


I couldn't have said it better myself, David. What a lot of individualists don't seem to gather is that the society they dismiss as an abstract construct of statist doctrine is actually made up of individuals.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-06-29 10:10:45 PM


What a lot of individualists don't seem to gather is that the society they dismiss as an abstract construct of statist doctrine is actually made up of individuals.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-06-29 10:10:45 PM

The society I dismiss is the one that is an abstract construct of statist doctrine. But society as a whole is much more than that and the part I accept is the part that is made up of individuals. As an individualist, I see a clear difference.

Posted by: TM | 2010-06-30 12:11:27 AM


Just to add:

I celebrate Kent State Day and the Hard Hat Riots at my blog every year.

I'm still pretty convinced that invoking the War Measures Act was the only good thing PET ever did.

If labels are required, and I find them tiresome, I'm a libertarian for myself and a conservative for everyone else.

When justified by evidence and statistics, I support "racial profiling", which we used to call "a description of the suspect"' when I was a kid.

I want the cops to pay more attention to the clear and present bad guys/likely (natives in Caledonia; young Muslim males with engineering degrees) and NOT their victims (homeowners in Caledonia; Medal of Honor recipients having their medal confiscated at the airport because "it's pointy.")

Basically? I cheer my team and want my enemies dead. I don't pretend to be consistent, some great political philosopher or member of any group. I fail every political purity acid test and would worry if I didn't.

Posted by: Kathy Shaidle | 2010-06-30 5:09:30 AM


I had the problem of coming back to Toronto by Greyhound during the G20 riots.

I was visiting an aged relative in a seniors' home about 100 km from here.

Two people in that outlying town - people that I have never met - warned me about the trouble in Toronto.

But what was I to do? I look after a different aged relative here in Toronto, and so must return.

Luckily, the police had got the situation under enough control that I got back okay, via subway, once the intercity bus parked.

But it sure set me thinking: Why does the government stand by and make life so easy for useless (avoidable*) tax burdens, while making life difficult for working class people to do things that reduce tax expense because we are willing contributors?

It feels like a war on the real Canada.

* avoidable: = I mean he could just go get a job. I am NOT talking about people who cannot help it.

Posted by: Denyse O'Leary | 2010-06-30 6:55:55 AM


"What a lot of individualists don't seem to gather is that the society they dismiss as an abstract construct of statist doctrine is actually made up of individuals."

Nope. Individualists don't reject the concept of society. In fact, society exists, is important, and will always exist. What individualists reject is the notion of collective rights because as you pointed out: society is but a collection of individuals. Individualists think it is entirely possible to have a well functioning society while strictly enforcing individual rights.

Posted by: Charles | 2010-06-30 7:02:35 AM


I'd have an easier time accepting that explanation, Charles, if libertarians spent more time talking about their responsibilities, and less time talking about their rights.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-06-30 7:14:38 AM


Shane,

Both TM and I responded in pretty much the same way. What you're doing is using a strawman argument. No libertarian has ever argued that society does not exist. And I've never heard of a libertarian who advocates "rights with no responsibilities". This is just another one of your strawmen.

Posted by: Charles | 2010-06-30 7:22:13 AM


There are just so many things to address in that one comment Shane..

Re: For one thing, we currently have only one side of the story--that of the complainants. The police version will come out later...

Yes it will, once the official "police (once again) investigating the police" process is complete - for all sorts of different reasons we are all aware of their credibility and objectivity is questionable.

Re: Secondly, the complainants are activists, which makes their objectivity suspect. The trouble with activists is that you will, at best, get only half the story--and activists are notorious for bending and even breaking the truth when it suits them.

See my above comment Shane, and then add to it the thought that the police are quite good at "bending and breaking the truth" and telling only part of the story when it suits their purpose aren't they? There are various examples of that that I am sure you are aware of.

Re: Thirdly, forming noisy mobs is neither a reputable nor particularly effective method of expressing oneself.....

And what is Shane? Sending letters to politicians? Emails? Op-Ed's in the newspaper?

Just why do you think that people hold rallies and demonstration Shane?

Re: It's not complicated at all; in fact it's very simple......

Imagine that, we agree on something. It's not complicated at all - people either have rights or they do not.

Which is it?

Either the police are allowed to infringe upon peoples rights and engage in violent and questionable tactics, or they are not.

Which is it?

Posted by: stageleft | 2010-06-30 7:57:32 AM


stageleft,

Shane doesn't believe that people have fundamental rights. The law is the law. Rights are determined by the majority of voters and enforced by the gov't. Individuals then have the responsibility to adhere to the laws. Anyone who does not adhere to the laws is a criminal.

Does that about sum it up Shane?

Posted by: Charles | 2010-06-30 8:38:09 AM


Anyone who does not adhere to the laws is a criminal.
Posted by: Charles | 2010-06-30 8:38:09 AM

Would you consider Earl Jones a criminal or merely someone engaged in questionable accounting practices?

Posted by: The Stig | 2010-06-30 8:44:48 AM


No libertarian has ever argued that society does not exist.L

But they have argued that society, considered as a singular entity, has no rights. Which is no more than what I said.

And I've never heard of a libertarian who advocates "rights with no responsibilities".

And I never said I had. What I said was that libertarians seldom if ever talk about their responsibilities, while making much ado about their rights. Which is also no more than what I said.

No straw here, Charles.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-06-30 8:51:26 AM


"Would you consider Earl Jones a criminal or merely someone engaged in questionable accounting practices?"

Earl Jones committed fraud. He stole from his clients, is therefore a criminal, and should be punished.

Posted by: Charles | 2010-06-30 8:51:33 AM


Btw, your implication that I endorse blatant theft is nothing but a typical "The Stig" cheapshot.

Posted by: Charles | 2010-06-30 8:52:31 AM


Yes it will, once the official "police (once again) investigating the police" process is complete - for all sorts of different reasons we are all aware of their credibility and objectivity is questionable.

Slightly wrong sentence structure, TM, but I take your point. Even so, in general I find police more trustworthy than criminals, even if neither party is totally honest--and let's face it, who is?

See my above comment Shane, and then add to it the thought that the police are quite good at "bending and breaking the truth" and telling only part of the story when it suits their purpose aren't they? There are various examples of that that I am sure you are aware of.

See my above rebuttal. Yes, the police sometimes lie. But on the whole their reputation for honesty surpasses that of the activists. Either that's because the cops really are more honest, or because the activists have bad PR. Of course, it's hard to sugar-coat torched police cruisers and smashed storefronts, isn't it?

And what is Shane? Sending letters to politicians? Emails? Op-Ed's in the newspaper?

Yes, yes, and yes. Governments are swayed and brought down by voter displeasure and bad press, not noisy mobs. Why any movement would want to intentionally bring either of those things down on themselves is beyond me.

Just why do you think that people hold rallies and demonstration Shane?

To vent frustration, grab some glory, and commit criminal acts with little fear of prosecution.

Imagine that, we agree on something. It's not complicated at all - people either have rights or they do not. Which is it?

And they are either absolute, or they are not. Which is it?

Either the police are allowed to infringe upon peoples rights and engage in violent and questionable tactics, or they are not. Which is it?

This question presupposes absolute rights that admit to no change in circumstance. Section 1 of the Charter makes clear this is not the case in Canada. Frankly, I prefer this pragmatic approach to government to the dogmatic one of the libertarians. It may not be as ideologically pure, but it's a sight more workable.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-06-30 9:05:40 AM


@stageleft:

Well put - you beat me to saying it. I would just like to add a comment on what SM said in another comment:

"Do you know what they were doing immediately before they approached you? Probably not, and probably never. But that's an important part of the story."

Actually, sir, it is not part of the story, nor must we permit it to become a part of the story.

A person's rights do NOT depend on what the police officers were doing before they approached her/him.

EVER!

Our rights and freedoms are inherent to each and every one of us and nobody, especially an agent of the state whose primary 'raison d'etre' is to protect our rights must be permitted to violate them, even if that cop happens to be 'having a bad day'...

The only way to ensure the well-being of our whole society is by ensuring that every person's rights are protected and respected.

Remember: a person's a person, no matter how small!

Posted by: Xanthippa | 2010-06-30 9:18:48 AM


"But they have argued that society, considered as a singular entity, has no rights. Which is no more than what I said."

Fair enough. My apologies if that is all you said. I misinterpreted your statement. But your contention that society is made up of individuals as an argument for collective rights is curious. Because that's all society is: a collection of individuals. If society is but a collection of individuals, this supports the notion of individual rights, not collective ones.

"What I said was that libertarians seldom if ever talk about their responsibilities, while making much ado about their rights."

That's because your idea of responsibilities is following the law no matter what the law is. That doesn't mean the libertarians don't feel that rights and responsibilities are not intrinsically linked.

Posted by: Charles | 2010-06-30 9:26:16 AM


I think deference is generally given to law enforcement (and the military) because of the recognition that they are given the responsibility of dealing with people who would like to do them harm or even kill them, and at the same time they often have very little time to make a decision on the best course of action.

The default position isn't that law enforcement can do no wrong. It's more that when they do wrong it's often because of the unfortunate and difficult circumstances that we put them in.

When things go wrong, we should rightly demand that procedures be reviewed, clarified, and reviewed. We want to ensure that police have the best training and experience possible, and we want to ensure that there is civilian oversight, accountability, and transparency.

But we don't want individual officers to be make into scapegoats, and we do not believe that an "us vs. them" mentality would improve the quality of law enforcement, or improve relations between the police and the public.

Posted by: Anonymouse | 2010-06-30 9:38:11 AM


@SM

You invoke Section 1 of The Charter as a legitimate excuse to violate an individual's rights 'because a law was passed'. I invite you to continue reading: the second part of that same sentence states such a law must be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

No law that violates inherrent human rights and freedoms can, in any manner, be justified in a free and democratic society: such a law would clearly contravene The Charter.

Please, do not stop reading The Charter at the first point, but do read all the way down to Section 26: our legal tradition is long and this section of The Charter acknowledges that we do indeed have inherrent rights which cannot be arbitrarily stripped from us, even should a government pass a law trying to do so.

We are not Americans, nor do we wish to be. I, for one, am a Canadian by choice. It is precisely Canada's traditional emphasis on personal liberty (as opposed to the American emphasis on 'equality') that attracted me here: it is a recent and erroneous impression that the American system enshrines more personal rights and freedoms than the Canadian one does.

Posted by: Xanthippa | 2010-06-30 10:07:08 AM


If society is but a collection of individuals, this supports the notion of individual rights, not collective ones.

True, but when you have more than one individual, you have the problem of one individual's rights potentially trampling on those of another, or several others. It is to prevent problems like this that so-called "collective rights" are considered. It's the old question of whether to protect the one or the many, and no question it's a delicate balancing act.

That's because your idea of responsibilities is following the law no matter what the law is.

You credit me with far more influence than I actually have, Charles. This statement, offered as rebuttal to my own, suggests that my notion of responsibility is solely responsible for libertarians' curious reluctance to talk about responsibility in general. You know that's not true, just as the statement itself is not true. If the law required me to slit infants' gullets, I'd happily break it, even if I had enough sense not to flaunt the fact that I was breaking it.

That doesn't mean the libertarians don't feel that rights and responsibilities are not intrinsically linked.

But if they do think that, Charles, explain why they discuss it so seldom, even on threads where I have no presence.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-06-30 10:17:25 AM


Actually, sir, it is not part of the story, nor must we permit it to become a part of the story.

Yes, we must, because no fact exists in isolation.

A person's rights do NOT depend on what the police officers were doing before they approached her/him. EVER!

Actually, they do. A police officer in hot pursuit can search and arrest you if he loses sight of you for a moment and has reasonable and probable grounds to suspect that the man he just spotted is the same man, even if he is later proved to be mistaken. And remember that resisting an officer is an offence. Generally it's better to cooperate and then review the situation with a lawyer afterward, as someone else on this thread has wisely pointed out.

Our rights and freedoms are inherent to each and every one of us and nobody, especially an agent of the state whose primary 'raison d'etre' is to protect our rights must be permitted to violate them, even if that cop happens to be 'having a bad day'...

This is a disturbing attitude among many citizens, that public servants should be held to a higher standard of conduct than those same citizens are willing to hold themselves to. That is the attitude of a criminal.

The only way to ensure the well-being of our whole society is by ensuring that every person's rights are protected and respected.

I agree. Therefore I presume there shall be no further demonstrations like this one, which block traffic, cause property damage, and hinder the average Canadian's right to go about his business unobstructed and unintimidated.

Remember: a person's a person, no matter how small!

How stands your disposition towards abortion, Xan?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-06-30 10:23:26 AM


Shane, Xanthippa has the right of it; we are entitled to expect our public servants and police to respect our rights. While we should certainly acknowledge that they might be having a "bad day"; but that is an explanation not an excuse.

In a rights based polity, personal responsibility is enhanced rather than diminished. If I am secure in my rights I would be rather more inclined to behave with an extra measure of co-operation with the police. but, so long as the police consistently overstep their boundaries, lie to the public, conduct their own internal investigations and entirely ignore criminal activity for fear of unfortunate pictures, I am not about to trust them.

Canada is moving from an authoritarian, deference culture to a rights driven individualist culture. This adjustment is not easy and it bothers traditionalists. However, it is only through the vigorous assertion of personal rights - from free speech to freedom from search and seizure - that this transition can be completed.

Posted by: Jay Currie | 2010-06-30 11:13:53 AM


Actually, Jay, I never said the cops were having a "bad day," that's a creative liberty Xanthippa took. And the police have as much right to expect us to respect the rights of others (that is, we don't intimidate them, block their streets, trash either public or private property, and basically hold the city hostage simply so their voices can be heard) as we have to expect them to respect ours. It's a two-way street. Adults don't get to opt out of responsibility because they have a cause.

Secondly, it's one thing to say personal responsibility is increased commensurate to an increase in personal rights, but it's quite another for it to actually happen. As noted earlier, libertarians spend remarkably little time talking about their own responsibilities, preferring to dwell on those of the state, as you have done.

Responsibility is an enforceable obligation that suggests penalties for shirking it, but to be imposed by whom, if not the authorities? By a lynch mob, by any chance? And police are compelled to ignore criminal activity for fear of unfortunate pictures precisely because the same rights-shouting public they serve has a weak stomach when it comes to facing the consequences of dealing with unpleasantness.

Canada is moving to a rights-driven individualist culture? Not according to most sources, including this board. In fact, much of the content of these threads consists of libertarians bemoaning the steady erosion of their civil liberties by statist mandarins. But since you favour the bold assertion of individual rights, I presume you wouldn't have a problem with a private citizen knifing a Molotov-cocktail-wielding anarchist in the kidneys and leaving him writhing on the pavement, in the course of protecting his or even someone else's property?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-06-30 11:35:17 AM


"True, but when you have more than one individual, you have the problem of one individual's rights potentially trampling on those of another, or several others. It is to prevent problems like this that so-called "collective rights" are considered. It's the old question of whether to protect the one or the many, and no question it's a delicate balancing act."

How can one person's rights trample those of another? That is only possible if you are a believer in positive rights/collective rights - which I am not. So, in other words, the only time "rights" can trample other "rights" is if they are positive rights (which are collective). Individuals can violate other individuals' rights, but that's why we have the police, court system, army, etc.

"You credit me with far more influence than I actually have, Charles. This statement, offered as rebuttal to my own, suggests that my notion of responsibility is solely responsible for libertarians' curious reluctance to talk about responsibility in general. You know that's not true, just as the statement itself is not true. If the law required me to slit infants' gullets, I'd happily break it, even if I had enough sense not to flaunt the fact that I was breaking it."

Although my statement was admittedly too broad, I have heard you on countless occasions state the we have a responsibility to follow the laws of the land (in the drug debate for example). Libertarians simply do not believe that individuals have a responsibility to follow laws which trample their rights (i.e. which are unjust). This is exactly why on many issues (drugs, prostitution, etc.) libertarians will only speak of rights. Because how can you have responsibility if you are being being stripped of your rights? In fact, it is L&O conservatives, in this case, that are divorcing rights from responsibilities. On another note, you have just fully endorsed the libertarian stance on many issues with your infant example. Unjust laws should not be obeyed. The blame falls on those passing the unjust law, not the ones breaking it.

Posted by: Charles | 2010-06-30 11:49:15 AM


How can one person's rights trample those of another?

All too easily, if one person asserts those rights at the expense of the rights of another. This weekend's protests are a case in point--freedom of expression trumping the right to go about one's business in peace. The number of individuals on either side of the scale is irrelevant; the rights on one side were violated.

Although my statement was admittedly too broad, I have heard you on countless occasions state the we have a responsibility to follow the laws of the land.

Unless you can demonstrate a better reason than drug users have so far managed. Saving life, defending property, protecting livelihoods constitute examples of good reasons. Getting high, especially when one knows the cost of patronizing that particular black market, does not. Actual, measurable consequences trumps abstract notions of rights every time.

This is exactly why on many issues (drugs, prostitution, etc.) libertarians will only speak of rights. Because how can you have responsibility if you are being being stripped of your rights?

Assuming you have rights to vice and drugs, when both have been shown to negatively affect the rights of others (freedom from predatory junkies, freedom from unknowing spread of disease, etc.) I realize these are not traditionally considered "freedoms," but then again, neither is getting stoned.

On another note, you have just fully endorsed the libertarian stance on many issues with your infant example. Unjust laws should not be obeyed. The blame falls on those passing the unjust law, not the ones breaking it.

Absolutely, but I have yet to see convincing proof that restricting access to substances that are known to be dangerous in unsupervised use constitutes a manifestly unjust law. You are leapfrogging the determinance stage and proceeding directly from an assumption of injustice without first objectively ascertaining whether that injustice exists.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-06-30 12:21:05 PM


"All too easily, if one person asserts those rights at the expense of the rights of another. This weekend's protests are a case in point--freedom of expression trumping the right to go about one's business in peace. The number of individuals on either side of the scale is irrelevant; the rights on one side were violated."

But Shane, these arise because the property is publicly owned. If the roads were privately owned, the owner of the property would decide whether to accept the protestors or not. End of story. The right to go about one's business in peace is a positive right (not a right as far as I'm concerned). Negative rights never trample upon each other.

"Unless you can demonstrate a better reason than drug users have so far managed. Saving life, defending property, protecting livelihoods constitute examples of good reasons. Getting high, especially when one knows the cost of patronizing that particular black market, does not. Actual, measurable consequences trumps abstract notions of rights every time."

But that's not my point. I'm not debating drugs. I'm attempting to give you an example of why libertarians don't talk about responsibilities when negative rights are being trampled. Pretend you were a libertarian for one second. You strongly believe that a person has self-ownership and therefore can do what they please to their bodies (as long as they're not violating someone else's life, liberty and property). You therefore believe drug laws are unjust. Since drug laws are unjust, those who use drugs are having their rights stripped from them. Do you see how absurd it is to talk about responsibilities in this case? If I believe that drug laws are unjust (and strip rights away from drug users), how can I then argue that drug users have a responsibility to obey the law? It doesn't make any sense. So it is normal, in this case, for libertarians to not talk about responsibility.

"Absolutely, but I have yet to see convincing proof that restricting access to substances that are known to be dangerous in unsupervised use constitutes a manifestly unjust law. You are leapfrogging the determinance stage and proceeding directly from an assumption of injustice without first objectively ascertaining whether that injustice exists."

Again. I am not debating drugs. I am leapfrogging because you constantly accuse libertarians of not addressing responsibilities. But in this case, if I believe the laws are unjust, it would be absurd for me to speak of responsibilities. We've gone over the drug debate ad nauseum ... I have no intention of reopening that can of worms with you. I am attempting to explain why your accusation that libertarians don't care about responsibilities doesn't hold water.

Posted by: Charles | 2010-06-30 12:47:34 PM


Unfortunately, Charles, the roads are not privately owned, and it is pointless to speculate as to what the laws would be like if it were. We are discussing what happened in today's reality, under today's laws. Today's laws have been cited time and time again while condemning the police for their actions. If the true reason for the outrage is not the alleged violation of the law, but the alleged violation of libertarian principles, then the debate should be framed in those terms, not the present terms.

In any case, just because you feel someone else has mistreated you, does not give you the right to shirk your responsibilities, which will often negatively affect some third party that had nothing to do with what happened to you. That may or may not fit into libertarian dogma (I'm not sure), but that's what I believe, and more to the point, it's the way our society is currently structured. Your responsibilities are what they are, and most of them are defined by someone else. That's probably because it's their job to see that you live up to them, whether you are inclined to or not.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-06-30 1:05:10 PM


Not so fast.

Before pondering the three balls of "law and order" conservatives, I'd like a ringside seat for the "individual rights in the absence of order" performance.

Posted by: Kate | 2010-06-30 1:26:19 PM


I don't know of anyone who supports "individual rights in the absence of order." References?

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2010-06-30 1:56:52 PM


This weekend's protests are a case in point--freedom of expression trumping the right to go about one's business in peace.

Sort of like how the government built a wall around my neighbourhood? No, that didn't interfere with my right to go on with my business at all.

All the closed stores in my neighbourhood, shut down because of the expectation of slow business due to draconian measures. They weren't affected.

The only party that interfered with people's right to go on with their business was the protesters. Yup.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2010-06-30 2:04:58 PM


You provided a "we vs them" quote from Jay Currie, that placed "individual rights" and "order" on opposite sides of a divide.

I figured you'd know how that worked.

Posted by: Kate | 2010-06-30 2:10:38 PM


"Unfortunately, Charles, the roads are not privately owned, and it is pointless to speculate as to what the laws would be like if it were. We are discussing what happened in today's reality, under today's laws. Today's laws have been cited time and time again while condemning the police for their actions. If the true reason for the outrage is not the alleged violation of the law, but the alleged violation of libertarian principles, then the debate should be framed in those terms, not the present terms."

Nope. We were discussing how a right could trample another right. But ok, in a liberal democracy protestors have no right to prevent others from going about their daily business. That doesn't mean, however, that people don't have the right to organize and protest. They simply need permission from gov't authorities so that it can be organized properly. But in this case, the police did much more than just attempt to maintain the peace, they abused their power.

"In any case, just because you feel someone else has mistreated you, does not give you the right to shirk your responsibilities, which will often negatively affect some third party that had nothing to do with what happened to you. That may or may not fit into libertarian dogma (I'm not sure), but that's what I believe, and more to the point, it's the way our society is currently structured. Your responsibilities are what they are, and most of them are defined by someone else. That's probably because it's their job to see that you live up to them, whether you are inclined to or not."

Well then, according to your logic, if ever one day a law is passed demanding (for example) that infants be killed upon sight, then it is your responsibility to do so. Your responsibilities are what they are, and most of them are defined by someone else.

Posted by: Charles | 2010-06-30 2:26:04 PM


Btw Shane, protestors don't have the right to prevent others from using public property and neither does the police.

Posted by: Charles | 2010-06-30 2:31:25 PM


One final comment: there is a big difference between maintaining order (i.e. preventing thugs from destroying property) and conducting random search and seizure.

Posted by: Charles | 2010-06-30 2:33:27 PM


It isn't very tough, Kate; the preservation of order must not be at the expense of individual rights.

Posted by: Jay Currie | 2010-06-30 2:39:16 PM


Jay,

Exactly. A matter of priorities. Having the trains run on time isn't worth much if the tracks lead straight to the gas chambers.

Posted by: Terrence | 2010-06-30 2:52:55 PM



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