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Vigilantism is Justified when govermnment has failed to enforce the law

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/10/2009 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,740 times Debate No: 7691
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (24)
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V: Societal welfare
VC: Will to Power of societal order
Thesis: The will to power is an individual's struggle against their surroundings that culminates in personal growth, and the ability to assert power. Vigilantism is justified through this struggle against the crime that has been committed. In Will to Power Nietzsche writes:
"My idea is that every specific body strives to become master over all space and to extend its force (its will to power) and to thrust back all that resists its extension. But it continually encounters similar efforts on the part of other bodies and ends by coming to an arrangement ("union") with those of them that are sufficiently related to it: thus they then conspire together for power."

If the government (the highest power) has failed to uphold the law then the vigilante is justified at working for the top, for this is the natural state. Thus, Vigilantism is Justified when the government fails to uphold the law(which is essentially relinquishing power over people). Since the will of the people is being upheld
Observation1: The affirmative is stating that all actions are manifestations of power and a want for the ideas behind it to reach supremacy. EX. Why would I do charity? Because I want to help children and promote the idea by example.
Observation 2: Will to Power explains how an individual set out to reach his goals. The vigilante's goal is to maintain a status quo in which the society is neutral or better. This can further be explained in the definition "who decides to take the law into his own hands" meaning that said individual will fix the law. Thus, it can be understood that the object that is being altered is societal laws.
Contention 1: How vigilantes both work for themselves and others
It can be understood that a government's priority is its citizens, however will to power may seem to contradict that. Or does it?
Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., wrote—clearly within a line of thought already well-established by then:
It has been said that "[t]he most basic function of any government is to provide for the security of the individual and of his property." Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 539 (1966) (WHITE, J., dissenting). And unless Government safeguards its own capacity to function and to preserve the security of its people, society itself could become so disordered that all rights and liberties would be endangered. As Chief Justice Hughes reminded us in Cox v. New Hampshire, 312 U.S. 569, 574 (1941):
Civil liberties, as guaranteed by the Constitution, imply the existence of an organized society maintaining public order without which liberty itself would be lost in the excesses of unrestrained abuses.
1.White: Government must "provide for the security of the individual and of his property."
2.Powell: Government cannot do that unless it "safeguards its own capacity to function."
3.Hughes: Without "an organized society maintaining public order," there can be no liberty.
4.Yoo: Our government must therefore protect "the security of the United States."

There, in just a short set of remarks by members of the professional legal class, by what seems like an unassailable logical progression, we can see the clear development of what ought to be a deeply troublesome idea: only a government whose primary interest is protecting its own institutional existence can serve the function that its citizens believe—apparently mistakenly—ought to be its primary interest, namely, the security of those citizens and their interests. Thus disproving will to power as a narcissistic term.

Cont: 2 Vigilantism's on your side ( To the tune of nationwide)
Some may ask, Well, what if the vigilante fails? I will answer truly. He probably will but this is how all governments are formed. Through trial and error he will work his way up. He will essentially be our patriotic fighter. He works to help us and if he fails, then we mourn. However with every vigilante the will to maintain the societal order will grow. Then, with an incredible barrage someone will achieve.
A: Misdirected conceptions make the vigilante harm society
This is not true. The vigilante first represents himself and then his people. The vigilante will work for his people to establish a societal order. If he fails in that will, it will be not because of him being. "Vigilantes" who have misconceptions about their will or people aren't really trying to enforce the law or better it, only to achieve a knock off or their personal justice which is not a vigilante. To put it in simple terms if the vigilante tries to enforce the law, but isn't really, then that isn't the will of maintaining the social order and thus enforcing the law.
B: the laws are bad.
Again, I will point out that if the "vigilante" tries to enforce bad laws, he will be disturbing the societal order. This runs contradictory to the earlier statement that his will is to promote the societal order. Some may point out that the definition says to take the law into one's hands. This, however, does not imply that the laws will be enforced. This can mean that the laws will be changed and then enforced or some other sequence.


The value for this round will be Justice defined as "giving to each his or her due" The resolution is asking us a question of law, making justice the obvious value. Justice is also the state to which all governments and all people thrive, as it holds value in of itself.

My Criterion is the Social Contract.The social contract is an unwritten contract that is agreed to upon entrance into society. The Social contract works as sort of a Quid Pro Quo type of arrangement were in exchange for their protection; the people must give up many of their absolute freedoms such as autonomy.

Observation: In order for vigilantism to exist the Law must exist.
Rosenbaum, H. John and Peter C Sederberg explain,
"[Vigilantism] assumes that there is a recognized sociopolitical order with formalized rules and methods of maintaining its boundaries over time. According to this model one cannot speak of vigilantism where there is no recognized "establishment," or where there are no rules governing the application of coercion." If there is no law that exists, there is no possible way to "take it into your own hands" as that would be like stealing an object that did not exist so a nessecary perquisite to vigilantism is the existence of a law and government.

Contention One: Justified Vigilantism and the Existence of the Social Contract
The moment we can logically justify vigilantism is the same point in which the social contract is dissolved and the state plunges into Anarchy. Laws, Under social contract theory, are made to restrict the savage freedoms of the individual. So, as long as the law exists as does the government and thus freedoms are restricted. However if the Law cannot be enforced, the government ceases to exist. As John Locke Explains "When he who has the supreme executive power neglects and abandons that charge, so that the laws already made can no longer be put in execution; this is to reduce all to anarchy, and so to dissolve the government. For laws not being made for themselves, but to be, their execution, the bonds of the society to keep every part of the body politic in its due place and function. When that totally ceases, the government ceases. Where there is no longer the administration of justice for the securing of men's rights, there certainly is no government left" When the government has been dissolved, that is few recognize its official legitimacy, the society is thrown into Anarchy. It is at this point that the rights to things such as autonomy become absolute, and any action such as vigilantism would be allowed. However when the government cease to exist, and these freedoms become available, vigilantism becomes impossible, as there is no law to enforce, and thus there cannot be vigilantism.

Contention Two: Enforcement of Unjust Laws
The resolution states that the government only needs to fail to enforce the law to justify vigilantism. But can Vigilantism be justified when the law itself isn't good? In affirming the resolution, my opponent seems to have taken the belief that laws are always just and thus not enforcing them is bad. But what my opponent does not take into account is laws such as the Jim Crow Laws, or other such laws. This creates a double bind in the Affirmative stance. First, if they accept that the government shouldn't have to enforce the Jim Crow Laws, as they are unjust then my opponent concedes that all laws are not justified and that the government should not enforce them. However, under his stance, if the government fails to uphold the law, then Vigilantism is justified. So do we justify Vigilantism if the government fails to uphold laws such as the Jim Crow Laws? This means my opponent would be justifying vicious racism meaning that Vigilantism can in fact perpetuate injustice. So then my opponent must either abuse the resolution and conditionally affirm, a practice, which takes all of the negative ground, or must accept the Negative and negate.

Contention 3: Prosecutorial Discretion
Any modern legal system is built on the assumption, stated or implied, that the
law will be enforced selectively. There are too many laws, and too many people break them too many times, to even attempt to enforce them all on everyone all the time. Further, prosecutors need the ability to pick and choose when to press charges so that they can take account of circumstantial considerations not written into the text of statutes, show leniency to penitent first-time offenders, and so on. And finally, some laws, especially local ones, are obviously bad and not worth enforcing but also not worth the trouble of formally repealing, or at any rate have not been formally repealed yet—Or perhaps there is not enough Evidence for a conviction and so the prosecutor drops the charges. Should we force a trial and spend money even when there is not enough for a conviction? Or do we let the vigilante "enforce the law" without regard to due process or even if the suspect is really guilty?


V: What Constitutes Societal welfare? you give us a value and then do not define it. Also Societal Welfare is not always the most moral option. Claims of Morality, Justice or Human Rights must outweigh. Societal Welfare is essentially Pragmatism, asking us whats the most practical thing to do. It may be practical to kill people with genetic disorders to stop the spread of these disorders. But is it the right thing to do? It will benefit society in the long run, but obviously we cannot do it.

VC: Will to Power
1. Nietzsche only observes the Will to Power as human behavior. But do we justify that which we cannot help but do subconsciously? If I am an Addict, am I justified in playing to my addiction because its the easyist and most intuitive thing? What if my addiction is Kleptomania?

2. If, as my opponents says in your first observation, "all actions are manifestations of power" then under His VC structure don't you justify every course of action that can possibly be taken? By taking this stance you must justify the most atrocious of actions.

3. No Link. He never supplys us with reasons as to why the Will to Power is good for society. Common sense tells us that if everyone wants to maximize themselves that people will be put down and society will crumble into anarchy. Infact thats what the Will to Power is. Survival of the Fittest, Anarchy.

These don't do anything for the round. I already addressed Observation one so I feel no need to go back. As for Observation two this is just restating my opponent's point. If I missed something here please clarify as these do not seem to fit in the debate.

Contention one: This Contention doesn't even use the word vigilantism, so I am not sure how my opponent attempts to justify the resolution through it. Furthermore my opponents analysis on the "logical Progression" in flawed. The Card he bases he the idea of "only a government whose primary interest is protecting its own institutional existence can serve the function that its citizens believe" really tells us the government needs to exist for it too ""provide for the security of the individual and of his property." The Yoo Card, doesn't fit in the Analysis, and none of the cards have any warrants in them so this is just the Argument from Authority Fallacy.

Contention Two:
A: Failure to succeed doesn't mean he isn't a vigilante. If a policeman fails to catch a criminal is he no longer a policeman? I do accept however that the vigilante must enforce existing laws, and not personal justice. Unless of course their personal justice is accounted for in the law somewhere. Where are the warrants to say the Vigilante always wants to maintain the societal order? you just came up with this out of nowhere, If this isn't his goal he is still a vigilante so long as he "takes the law into his own hands". Anything else is just speculation.

B: Refer to my contention 2. Also this is conditional affirmation which I also address i
Debate Round No. 1


TheCategorical forfeited this round.


Err... Ok

maybe we can finish in round 3?
Debate Round No. 2


TheCategorical forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
24 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Metz 7 years ago
Its fine...

My school does 4 Novice tournaments then we jump to varsity, so everyone who is a first year calls themselves a novice
Posted by Epicism 7 years ago
Oh ok. Pardon me :P
Posted by Metz 7 years ago
By Novice I meant this is my first year if debate.... I compete in Varsity...
Posted by TheCategorical 7 years ago
By the way I am in middle school with regard to the earlier post ( below)
Posted by TheCategorical 7 years ago
Sorry, but I disagree and agree. It depends on your school. For example I still call myself a novice just because Lanier ( My school) faces off against high school and I can't compete in varsity. However, I have won 1st and 3rd against novice high schoolers. If your school was one that competed in like 30 tournaments per year though, I'd call myself a Varsity Expert. :0
Just kidding
Posted by Clockwork 7 years ago
Yeah, I agree with Epicism. Novice got a bit boring after about three tournaments of completely demolishing people. Crushing incompetence is fun and all, but crushing incompetent varsity debaters sure beats showing up some of the idiots you'll run into at a novice tournament.
Posted by alto2osu 7 years ago
By my Birmingham comment, I was simply indicating the National tournament I was referring to, distinguishing it further from the TOC (in case of confusion). I'm an LD coach of 8 years...I know all about the NFL :)
Posted by Epicism 7 years ago
Oh come on, still novices?? In April??

Novice wasn't fun so after about 2 tournies I went straight to Varsity :D try it. You'll have a blast.
Posted by Epicism 7 years ago
NFL Nationals everywhere. I don't do LD but I think I've memorized these vigilantism cases better than my own!
Posted by alto2osu 7 years ago
LDV is what this is...Lincoln-Douglas Value? The topic you are debating is the national topic for NFL Nationals...Birmingham?
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