You can be sure that when another blogger calls you "intelligent and engaging," there's bound to be a catch -- and in Russell Brown's latest post, there sure is: "I personally like Peter Cresswell: he is an engaging and intelligent man," he begins. And then the knives come out:
Unfortunately, he is also an Objectivist libertarian, which means he will often go off on ideologically-motivated rants that enjoy all the internal consistency of your average tantrum.
Fortunately for me, the knives in this case are just metaphorical. I say that because five Aucklanders and their families and friends are less fortunate than I -- five people including Austin Hemmings have died from real knife attacks in Auckland city since mid-July -- not to mention Darnell Leslie, stabbed to death in Invercargill on Saturday. Darnell Leslie was the fifty-first New Zealander to die at the hand of another New Zealander since the start of this year.
Russell's metaphorical knife is out for me however because in saying on Friday it is time to take a stand over the flood of violence that so far this year has cost fifty-one New Zealanders their lives I am "channeling the spirit of Leighton Smith" -- and out there in the People's Republic of Grey Lynn & Pt Chevalier, no greater crime exists.
I made the "mistake" of saying that the one thing governments are legitimately supposed to be doing is protecting New Zealanders from crime and violence -- when it's manifestly clear this government is not doing that, and has no focus on doing that.
I committed the sin of pointing out that the primary focus of law and order should not be protection for criminals, but protection from criminals, -- and aside from criminalising good parents, the focus of our local law enforcement has been more on revenue collection than it has been on barring physical force from social relationships.
I summoned up my inner frighfulness to ask, "Will the random, violent, bloodthirsty stabbing of a man in central Auckland last night be the final straw? Is that enough, finally, to make you sit up and say 'No more!'"
And I had the temerity to quote Susan the Libertarian, actually talking to Leighton Smith: "Is this enough to pierce your apathy?" she asked his listeners. If not this, then what?
Fifty-one people killed at the hands of other people this year is clearly not enough to pierce the apathetic hide of the Grey Lynn and Wadestown apparatchiks, who think (if they think about it at all) that wringing their hands and crying "It's not OK, eh" will be all that's needed to stop the bloodshed -- and if that doesn't work, that covering their eyes with metaphorical hoodies will at least help to keep the bloodshed out of sight.
Since it's my Objectivism that apparently animates my own ideologically-motivated animus to people being killed, and Russell thinks it's "not clear what Cresswell is proposing here," let's see what Objectivism has to say about all this. "The basic political principle of the Objectivist ethics is: no man may initiate the use of physical force against others." Who could object to that? "No man—or group or society or government—has the right to assume the role of a criminal and initiate the use of physical compulsion against any man," said Ayn Rand. "If physical force is to be barred from social relationships, men need an institution charged with the task of protecting their rights under an objective code of rules.
This is the task of a government—of a proper government—its basic task, its only moral justification and the reason why men do need a government.
A government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective control—i.e., under objectively defined laws."
Sounds clear enough, doesn't it: Initiating physical force against others is wrong. It's a crime. Government's primary task is stopping it, without initiating force in the process. Who could possibly object? Well, apparently Russell Brown does. Despite a clarification in the comments for a reader ("Nowhere at all," I say "have I suggested that the role of police is to walk around and follow each and every individual, so they can clap them in cuffs the moment they step out of line"), he wonders nonetheless what it all means.
Does this mean the suspension of habeas corpus, he asks. An expansion of police enforcement and surveillance so prodigious as to guarantee an officer's intervention? A policeman at every dinner table? Well, no -- although a policeman would probably be better company than the likes of Peter Williams QC, who's never seen a criminal without simultaneously envisioning a paycheck. And a policeman in every home -- or at least a bureaucrat with a clipboard -- is the wet dream of both Sue Bradford and Cindy Kiro.
What it does mean however is removing the scales (and the hoodies) from one's eyes, and urgently recognising that the focus of the law and the number one job of government -- its only moral justification -- is the protection of you from me, and me from you.
Which means apprehending and vilifying criminals, not attacking their victims.
Which means focusing on crimes with actual victims, not on victimless crimes that fill up NZ's prisons with people whose only crime is harming themselves.
Which means recognising that the rise of violent crime (up 12.5% since last year) is the backfire of collectivism -- that paying several generations of New Zealanders to have children they don't want has not been a recipe for happy families, but for people who see their primary means of survival as other people, and whole suburbs in which that ethic is daily acted out.
Which means recognising that every New Zealander has the right to defend themselves, and the concomitant right to possess the means thereof.
Which means taking burglary and other property-related offences seriously, so that more bad law isn't needed to fix bad sentencing; so that those criminals who start with property crime don't learn the messages early on that they may obtain financial values from others by resorting to physical force; so that they don't learn that the word "justice" is always preceded with the words "revolving door."
What it does mean in short is recognising that if the legitimate arms of government are to protect innocent people from others who think force is the means by which humans deal with one another -- in other words, if the police, the law courts and the prisons are going to do their proper job -- then they need to protect those who value their life, liberty, property and happiness from those who've shown beyond reasonable doubt that they're quite partial to taking them all away. ("The rights of the accused are not a primary," points out Ayn Rand, "they are a consequence derived from a man’s inalienable, individual rights. A consequence cannot survive the destruction of its cause.") That's the only reason to lock people up, isn't it: to protect us, not to rehabilitate (or even to punish) them.
Let me repeat it again: The primary focus of law and order and the sole moral justification for government is to bar force from social relationships. The protection of our individual rights. If criminals show they have no intention of respecting others' rights, then the law should have no compunction in taking away theirs. This is manifestly not the primary focus of the present government, but nor has it been of any real interest to most of its predecessors.
While some people prefer to avert their eyes from all the carnage, and to make fun of the likes of Garth McVicar -- one of the few New Zealanders to speak up for victims instead of for those who've done them over -- those who feel threatened are on the march. It's the measure of a community's desperation in the face of crime, for example, that ten-thousand people marched in South Auckland's bad weather recently to demand their fundamental right to protection from criminals to be upheld. But where the self-anointed once joined, supported and promoted marches against violence -- the likes of the "Reclaim the Night" marches, for example, were once a safe way for lefties to meet their future partners -- now they're content to sit at home in their own safe suburbs while chuckling cynically at the desperation that would motivate someone like Manukau's Peter Low to contemplate employing Triads to provide protection, anything to make their streets safer than they are now!
While the police fiddle and the self-anointed smirk, the possibilities of lynch mobs emerges from the shadows. Look too, for example, at the gobs of support given to a Manurewa man when he stabbed and killed a tagger not so long ago -- and for the most part the support came from those who claim to be against such violence.
Such is the measure of people's desperation. They want protection; they're not getting it.
So what's to be done right now? For some people, I suspect the difficulty of doing something means they draw the line at doing anything. As it happens, however, I gave some sort of a prescription in a post earlier this year on Curing South Auckland, one of the places in which no-one can ignore the very real rising tide of violence that threatens to destroy the place. Here they are, in summary:
- A police force that protects the innocent. One that has the tools and the people to do the job, but more importantly has the knowledge, training and backup -- and the will -- to use them (which means promoting people like former Senior Sergeant Anthony Solomona, not sacking them.)
- A justice system that takes the guilty off the streets. Rudy Guiliani's successful 'Broken Windows' policy is a guide: start with the small crimes, where failure to punish leads offenders into bigger crimes, and put these right first. (And remember that justice isn't about retribution, it's about protecting the rest of us.)
- Hold parents accountable in law for the offences of their children. You have them, you take responsibility for what and whom they destroy.
- Stop paying no-hopers to breed. We are forced by government to pay people to have children they don't want. The result of all those unwanted children appears on the front page of our newspapers nearly every day.
- Have an education system that gives youngsters the tools for life -- that teaches each of them, not how fit in and how to follow (which is all the present factory schools teach them), but how to use the brain they are born with, and how to use it to give themselves wings instead of shackles.
- Perhaps most important of all is this, which is much, much harder: work towards towards the destruction of what tennis ace Chris Lewis calls 'the crab-bucket mentality,' the hatred of achievement with which young South Aucklanders shackle themselves and damn their more successful brothers, and instead of the 'warrior values' of dependency and conflict and renunciation that are all many young South Aucklanders see, promote instead a philosophy of individualism that offers genuinely life-affirming values to which to aspire ...
No one, including me, says it's going to be easy to turn things round. But just because it's difficult to do something doesn't mean doesn't mean that one should support doing nothing.
UPDATE: Russell points to crime figures that he says shows there's nothing to worry about, "something that has always been apparent to anyone prepared to look up the numbers: Crime rocketed in the 1970s and has been trending down since." However, something really is apparent to those prepared to look beyond the headlines, even the one to which he links. "Reported crime was steady at around two crimes a year for every 100 people from 1900 until about 1970," says the psychiatrist quoted, "and then climbed steeply to peak at 13 crimes per 100 in 1992." If you believe the headline, that was then and this is now. But how about now? For the last four years crime figures, according to the psychiatrist, have "levelled out" at 10 crimes for every 100 people.
For Russell et al, that's nothing to worry about. It means all is fine and dandy. Essentially violent crimes and homicide shot up in the mid-eighties, and have failed ever since to come down, but as long as he and his friends can point to graphs showing the Red Team did less badly than the Blue Team there's nothing for anyone to worry about -- expect perhaps for those 1 in 10 people who've been victims of the crimes people say we shouldn't be worried about.
And in fact, to be precise, if we actually did look up the numbers, we'd see that violent crime in New Zealand is not so easy to dismiss. New Zealand scored highly earlier this year in an international crime survey.
New Zealand scored highest for thefts from cars, second highest for burglary, fifth highest for assaults, 10th highest for robbery and 11th highest for theft of personal property and for sexual assaults against women in The International Crime Victims Survey. The survey compared 30 countries in 2004 and 2005.
And we'd see too that levels of violent crime are not "levelling off" at all. There were 127.1 per 10,000 violent crimes recorded last year in the official figures, and the trend since 1999 has been up, not down!
Which means the figures provide no grounds at all for back slapping complacency.
UPDATE: Callum McPetrie points out "The underlying factor, behind the government's size and the sanction of criminals, is political correctness, fuelled by the moral equivalency of modern philosophical and political thought.
It's the idea that the murderer is the true victim of an 'oppressive society,' and that the man who was murdered deserved it ... If he gets stabbed or shot, moral equivalency says: 'So what?' "
And the Prime Minister says, "It's the victim's fault"!.