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A Whiff Of Grapeshot

David Cameron has vowed to get tough with rioters, and the usual suspects complain. What about the rights of the looters, they ask.  What about the freedom to tweet #fire in a crowded theater?

A legitimate democratic government fighting looters and rioters (as opposed to peaceful demonstrators) has the right to restore social order by all necessary means.  Those who indulge in mass criminality have no right to complain when the state uses force to restore order.  If unusually dangerous and widespread episodes of criminality call out unusually harsh, brutal and invasive measures to restore order, the rioters have no one to blame but themselves.

By the same token, measures that are justified in an emergency are not to be used on a routine basis.  A fire brigade has the right and the duty to break into a house and spray water all over the furniture when the house is burning down.  The situation is quite different when things are calm.  Fire prevention is a different kind of job than fire fighting, and Britain will need to make that shift in due course.

With 300 years of parliamentary government, a free press and a healthy opposition, no country in the world has as much experience at managing the tradeoff between liberty and order as Britain.  The human rights crowd should take a deep breath and relax.

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  • Kenny

    “Shot rioters.” Mayor Richard Daily, Chicago, 1968 or there about.

  • Russ

    Similar events in SF Bay Area yesterday, where BART shuts down cellular service in underground terminals to prevent violent flash mob, and is roundly criticized by The Usual Suspects for violating free speech of mob!

  • Jim.

    – Re-enact the Riot Act.
    – Expand Criminal Conspiracy laws to apply to tweets.

  • Steve Fields

    I concur but with a more “colonial” viewpoint . As John Adams said while defending British troops… “We talk of liberty and property, but, if we cut up the law of self-defence, we cut up the foundation of both, and if we give up this, the rest is of very little value, and therefore, this principle must be strictly attended to.”

  • cohort

    1. Do you actually believe that someone engaging in a criminal act have no rights whatsoever to complain about the state using force? Any force? And do you mean only after they’ve been held criminally liable through a trial, or do you mean people on the streets who the police judge to be engaged in criminal acts? Or are you just using imprecise language?

    2. Part of the reason Britain and other democracies with a free press have maintained the balance between liberty and order is through vocal opposition from civil society groups, such as the human rights crowd. In light of that I don’t understand your condescension in telling the human rights crowd to “calm down”

  • Christopher

    Sorry but once the government takes away civil liberties in one emergency it will only continue to do so in the future. The governments failure to actually investigate and attempt to deal with the protesters in any way that excludes force is the true problem.
    According to Locke, when the legislature fails to act in the interests of the people it needs to be overthrown. Unfortunately we are reaching that point.

  • Luke Lea

    If it happened here you’d see the National Guard on the street and militarily enforced curfews. Shoot, if not to kill, to sting. What’s the English word for “curfew”?

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