Your right to lorenorder

PXL_20240510_061801824 Gangsters in El Salvador are terrified of strongman Nayib Bukele says the Economist, and after noting He protects citizens from crime it wonders But who will protect them from him? Before you accuse me of being interested in El Salvador, I defend myself by pointing out that this is merely a hook to hang a discussion of the balance between the govt's duty to provide Peace, vs the govt's duty to provide Due Process. Or, about the tension between Order and Law.

In the soft warm comfortable West we are so used to a generic background of lorenorder that we take it much for granted, and therefore prize due process without a great deal of thought. But perhaps this isn't true everywhere. Indeed TE notes that Leaders everywhere must decide, in tackling gangs, what is the right balance between respecting civil liberties and protecting the public. Completing the set of warring opinions, we may note that growing disillusion with democracy is fed by a sense that governments are not keeping the public safe, which can lead to growing populism, a desire for strongman leaders, and authoritarianism; but also that discarding due process in one place may legitimise said discard elsewhere, also tending to authoritarianism. 

Why does it seem that only strongmen be able to discard due process? Democracy should be able to as well, where necessary. And yet the inevitable softening and blurring of multiple opinions makes this hard; the regard that the West has taught all democrats for due process is so entrenched that it is hard for a democracy to show the necessary determination. Instead, TE offers the usual platitudes: leaders who care about civil liberties must do the hard, patient work of figuring out how to fight crime without trampling on them. Bryan Caplan, who will also supply you with some nice statistics if you want them, tries some kind of moral calculus to work out if all the imprisonment without trial is worth it, and concludes reluctantly that it is, at least in the short term. You may also like Blackstone's ratio It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer, though opinions seem to differ on what the ratio should be; Benjamin Franklin seems to prefer 100:1. I would though extend the thought: does 10:1 guilty-escapes to innocent-suffer being good imply that 100:1 is bad? The proverb is not just trying to tell you not to be too harsh; it is reminding you not to be too lenient.

Just as (per Hobbes) violent revolution is only permissible if it has a fair chance of success, discarding due process in favour of peace is only permissible if it is likely to work; TE (yes them again) argue that the experience in El Salvador may not be generalisable. However, I wanted to talk about when it does have a fair chance of success.

And my answer (per Hobbes, but also others) is that govt is constituted first to provide peace, and replace the private resolution of disputes by violence with common public law. The norms of due process that we in the West take for granted are desirable but secondary; we should not impose our values on them. The current war in Palestine also refers.

Note also that Peace, in the conventional model, is a matter of the govt ensuring that citizens are non-violent towards each other. Due Process is a matter of the govts relations to citizens.



Tom said...

Why do we agree to be governed? Because we are assured that we and our families will be safer, first from the bad tribe across the river and second from the bad guy in our tribe that looks too much at my wife and my vegetable patch.

The priests order me to obey and to give of my produce on pain of damnation. And when our governor is not too despicable, life is not bad.

Does not all else proceed from this starting point?

William M. Connolley said...

> Why do we agree to be governed?

Largely, in the West. It is the contract std.theory. The issue here is how much you consider to necessarily "proceed".


I've steered clear of El Salvador because things are bad enough next door,

From The Economist , 2005
Letters : Life is cheap

SIR – Reacting to your report that it costs 5,000 pesos ($93) to hire an assassin in the Philippines, Tom Young assures us his wife can have him put away for a maximum of 2,000 pesos ( $37.20)(Letters, July 2nd). In a global context, this is still extortionate and inflationary. It may interest CAFTA enthusiasts to know that in Guatemala's Zacapa province, the lowest bid I have heard reported is 25 quetzales ($3.30).

Russell Seitz

That's what I was told a patron of the the sketchiest knifing bar on the road to Puerto Barrios, AKA Bahia des Piratas, offered the bouncer if he'd enliven things by shooting the next man to walk through the door.