The Instigator
behairry2981
Pro (for)
Losing
12 Points
The Contender
alto2osu
Con (against)
Winning
34 Points

Vigilantism is justified when the government fails to uphold the law

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/29/2009 Category: Society
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,840 times Debate No: 8029
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (20)
Votes (8)

 

behairry2981

Pro

I wish for this debate to be LD style only:
I affirm. Vigilantism is most properly defined through five main characteristics as pointed out by Professor William Burrows, Vigilantes:
(1)"are members of an organized committee; (2) are established members of the community; (3) proceed for a finite time and with definite goals; (4) claim to act as a last resort because of a failure of the established law enforcement system; and (5) claim to work for the preservation and betterment of the existing system."
Thus the vigilantes do not intend to act in an unnecessary manner, but rather they act as a last resort because of a failed government, and act only for the preservation and betterment of the existing government.
Insofar as this is true, it is now necessary to determine a proper, justified definition of a failed government. A failed government is most properly defined as a law enforcement body that has failed to deter crimes. This is true because the number one, sole purpose of a law enforcement body is to deter crimes in order to protect its citizens.
Moreover, a government with no deterrence is a clear definition for anarchy. Thus if the negative advocates that vigilantism is violent or that it harms society in any way, it should be looked past in the round insofar as vigilantism is the only effective response. At this point, the burden is on the negative to prove that there are not only other options, but that they are more effective than vigilantism. Thus that gives me the burden to prove the effectiveness of vigilantism.

This brings me to my value of justice. Justice is most properly defined as giving each their due. Justice, which also ties in with deterrence and protecting citizens, is the ultimate goal of any law enforcement system.

Because you cannot achieve this goal with a failed government, my criterion is ensuring means for governmental legitimacy. A legitimate government must represent all of its people effectively. This is the most proper criterion for the round because without a legitimate government, or without any government, there would be no order to society, impacting in endless cycles of chaos and destruction. This shows a clear link to justice insofar as you're granting the citizens their due by representing them effectively and protecting their right to life.

My thesis is that vigilante law enforcement is better than the absence of law enforcement and that even if there is limited failures of a legal system present, vigilantism would still be justified.

Contention 1: vigilantism is an effective law enforcement system when the government fails because it protects the indisputable rights of its citizens, thus achieving governmental legitimacy.

In the case that law fails, community protection is absent, thus the society needs some enforcement mechanism in order to have a chance for survival.

Sub Point A: Vigilantism is used as a tool for self-preservation when the state does not protect its citizens. Vigilantism serves as the right of the people to exercise their sovereign power in order to defend themselves in the absence of the state. William Culberson furthers
"Another point in the philosophy of vigilantism is popular sovereignty. Vigilante action in the nineteenth century was occasioned by an increase in the ideology of popular sovereignty and previous experiences of private punishment. A maturing belief in democracy from the American Revolution to the age of Jackson and the increase in vigilante movements, during and afterwards, coincided with an acknowledgement that the rule of the people was superior. "The right of the people to take care of themselves, if the law does not is an indisputable right," said Professor Bigger of the local normal school to the vigilantes of Johnson County, Missouri in 1867. This was encouragement from a learned man, and extending this argument meant that vigilantism was but a case of the people exercising their sovereign power in the interest of self-preservation. For if the instruments of state power do not exceed private capacities, government ceases to rule and private power becomes the last resort of maintaining the social system."

Thus the impact of justifying vigilantism is that the indisputable right of self preservation is upheld, and in turn, the government is increasing its legitimacy insofar as its people are being represented effectively.

Sub Point B: Vigilantism preserves justice and the right of popular sovereignty when the government fails to do so.

The government exists "for the people", thus when it fails it's up to the citizens to fend for themselves when necessary. Ray Abrahams furthers
"As Bancroft's term ‘popular tribunal' suggests, this position in its simplest expression emphasizes that law, society, and the state exist for ‘the people', and that the people must and will fend for themselves when necessary. This idea is, of course, enshrined in the United States constitutional doctrine of ‘popular sovereignty', but its attraction is much wider. In many different parts of the world, vigilantes and their sympathizers—and indeed some of their critics—argue that, if the state and other institutions worked as they were meant to, no one would look elsewhere for security of life and property. But when police and courts are non-existent, weak, or corrupt, the people will naturally fall back on their own resources. They will form posses and committees, and criminals and other public enemies will be hunted down and punished."

Thus justifying vigilantism results in not only the protection of their rights, but the protection of their own nature as well.

Contention 2: the society needs some type of legitimate law enforcement when the government fails to do so, thus justifying vigilantism.

Sub Point A: Vigilantism is a legitimate law enforcement body because it deters when the government fails to do so. Hine explains
"Vigilante justice fills the law enforcement void. Before the vigilante action, the probability of incurring sanctions for criminal activity was negligible. With the vigilance committee on patrol, this probability increases dramatically. By reintroducing the possibility of apprehension and punishment, the vigilante enforcer provides significant levels of deterrence to society's criminal element."

Thus vigilantism leads to deterrence thus it's properly justified as an enforcing body, whether there is law present or not.

Sub Point B: Vigilantism can spur governmental reform, as shown empirically in Tanzania.
Suzette Heald explains
"The sungusungu have come to operate in a distinctive space; co-opting government and, in turn, co-opted by it. Communities have taken back power, developed their own policing capacity and, in so doing, effectively re-invented themselves. With reformatory agendas, they have evolved new normative structures and modes of co-operation and organization which both actually and potentially have far-reaching consequences for economic and social welfare. A new vision of community responsibility is heralded and held out as an ideal. In the same way, perhaps, they have reformed and reclaimed the state, with the administration demonstrating an increasing responsiveness to the priorities of local communities and allowing them a greater degree of autonomy in the management of their own affairs."

Thus this is the most important impact coming out of this round insofar as the agent of action is being reformed. The overall impact is that law enforcement is increased, rather with or without previous enforcement, which in turn, ensures a means for a legitimate government.
Thus it is properly justified as law enforcement when previous law is present or not, so you affirm
alto2osu

Con

Despite my initial confusion on character limit, I like this topic, so I shall negate. Since we have a non-traditional 4 rounds, I will only post my case. I assume we can rebut in future rounds.

Before I introduce the negative advocacy, I need to contest the definition provided by my opponent for "vigilantism."

1. This definition is highly abusive to the negative advocacy. Clearly, the empirical manifestation of a vigilante is not going to always exhibit such lofty characteristics as the ones in Burrows' study. Furthermore, the purpose of the resolution is to debate the empirical reality of the practice of vigilantism, which is generally most commonly practiced in areas of unrest. Hence, the concept of a vigilante inherently acting in last resort, in organized committees, or for the betterment of a given system is unable to be proven conclusively. Hence, the more accurate definition and more educational definition for the round should be:

"One who takes or advocates the taking of the law enforcement into one's own hands."- American Heritage Dictionary

2. Even if you buy that this definition is fair to the negative advocacy, the affirmative can't prove that any vigilante will act in this Utopian manner. Even the author of this definition, with his obvious bias in favor of vigilante justice, must use the word "claim" in order to describe the virtues of the practice. At the point where vigilantes can clearly violate these tenets, both by the author's own admission and empirical examples, you should not prefer the affirmative advocacy.

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To the negative case:

V: Human Rights. When we think of human rights, we default to the same general definition: life, liberty, and security (assuming we use rights established by the United Nations). These, however, are far more complex. Not only is life guaranteed, but so is its quality. Liberty is certainly an intricate concept, and must be carefully established to protect all. Security isn't just safety from immediate harm. Stability is also expected in a fair society. The negative will show that none of these things may ever be achieved or even maintained by the act of vigilantism.

C: A Stabilized System of Justice. The negative's ultimate goal is to establish a stable, centralized, equitable judicial system. This, as the negative will prove, is the only way to maximize both justice and human rights.

1: Vigilantism entrenches problems within a given state, and can never solve any of the problems that spawned its necessity. Though vigilantism, like communism, has its foundations in noble intentions, rarely does it have the capacity to solve the problems within a state that keep that state from effectively enforcing its laws.

A. Vigilantism leads to no systemic change within government. Vigilantism, no matter what definition we operate under, is not interested in anything more than a band-aid solution to governmental problems. If a state is failing to enforce its laws, there is clearly a reason for doing so, and an inept government is not always the cause. That is the worst of causes. Failure to enforce could stem from a lack of resources and support. In fact, in first world countries, the chances of non-enforcement being due to infrastructural or resource-based concerns is highly likely. Vigilantism throws this legitimate government into chaos, rather than simply fixing the root problem at hand. In states in which the government is unadulteratedly corrupt or inept, vigilantism is not only useless, but it is dangerous to all involved. The affirmative world refuses to examine the government, but simply prescribes what amounts to anarchical, despotic justice fueled by revenge and impatience.

B. Vigilante groups are more likely to violate human rights than procedurally established justice systems. Logically, the nature of an impromptu vigilante or vigilante group is highly volatile. Unlike a government-established system of justice, vigilante justice is motivated by revenge. Vigilantes have no way to establish checks or maximize objectivity within the judicial process. This is not to say that a government cannot be volatile or establish unjust laws. That is patently undefendable. However, it is clear that a group of vigilantes are far more likely to violate the rights of offenders, as they are human beings as well, because of their motivation and lack of infrastructure or legal authority.

C. Vigilante groups are susceptible to infighting and corruption. As seen in too many countries to name, vigilante groups do not arise in singles. Multiple groups per community form, and those groups are often polarized by ethnicity or religion. As has been seen countless times, because of the lack of organization and the penchant for blind revenge, will turn on each other. Higazi elaborates:

"There was a general shift or extension from vigilance against criminality to vigilance against attacks by opposing groups or militias defining themselves in religious or ethnic terms…Hence, vigilantism…appears not only to have increased but also to have been transformed."

In other words, not only does fighting between the factions occur, but the fighting then increases the number of vigilantes within a community. This quickly spreads out what used to be a state monopoly on violence and punishment, which immediately destabilizes a country. Furthermore, it allows the already corrupt state to eliminate any insurgency using its own vigilante mechanisms. Higazi continues:

"There is strong evidence that some elites in government and the military helped arm militias, and even after the violence ethnic and religious leaders continued to lobby for the political support of sectional interests, with divisive repercussions."

It is thus concluded that vigilantism does nothing more than entrench a corrupt and abusive government by eliminating competitive, sectional insurgency groups that would otherwise be able to unite and overthrow an oppressive regime.

D. The only solution to states with corrupt or inept justice systems is revolution. If we exclude first world, democratically-minded governments, which can most likely be aided by resource or infrastructural repair, rather than vigilantes, we come to governments that are most likely highly corrupt or inept. As has been evidenced above, insurgent or revolutionary groups would be entirely more successful in checking poor governments if vigilantism did not occur. Revolutions can only gain momentum through unity, and vigilantism only divides. Not only that, but vigilantism simply works within the existing system to seek justice; it does nothing to renovate or change the system itself, which is the foundation of the problem in the first place. Only violent revolution can destroy a nonfunctional system. Rosenfeld elaborates:

"Violent revolution effectively simplifies the work of justice by marking a sharp rupture between ancient and nouveau regime by providing a murky interim period fit for settling old accounts and dismantling old power structures that stand in the way of the new order…"

As I not only sufficiently negate any perceived benefits of vigilantes, but provide working solvency for unstable governments, I encourage you to vote negation.

I look forward to refutations and will post responses to my opponent's case in the next round.
Debate Round No. 1
behairry2981

Pro

behairry2981 forfeited this round.
alto2osu

Con

Extend my case arguments :) Hopefully, my opponent will have time in the next few days to post. If not, we shall have to have a rematch!

If there isn't a response next round, I will post my responses to the affirmative's case in the hope that he or anyone else can use the information competitively. But, I will forfeit if I wait until I have access to my responses (on another server in another city).
Debate Round No. 2
behairry2981

Pro

behairry2981 forfeited this round.
alto2osu

Con

Extend. The responses I mentioned are still on that other server. Not sure I want to post them on a bust debate, though :)
Debate Round No. 3
behairry2981

Pro

behairry2981 forfeited this round.
alto2osu

Con

Extend, if you please.
Debate Round No. 4
20 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by thisoneguy 7 years ago
thisoneguy
After what the US Gov did on 9/11 I would feel quite justified in marching into the white house and arresting everyone involved with a view of taking them to court with a real terrorist judge presiding over proceedings. Sorry but Bush and Co have killed more people than the Romans, Vikings, and catholics put together. look at what was set up to happen to their own soldiers in Iraq, pearl harbour,
and add these figures onto the bilderberg groups involvement in WW2, then take it back to the slaughter of the red Indians, not forgetting Albert Pike and his decorations after leading so many people to their death during the civil war, and I could go on and talk about the country of Widows Iran, and add that to the long list of mutilation inflicted by the US Gov, Fema camps ?, I'd fill them with Freemasons, Illuminati, and Gov officials, they are all the same people anyway, then give the land back to the people, and then call it the "land of the free", just glad I'm not an American citizen.
Posted by TheSkeptic 7 years ago
TheSkeptic
That is a lot of forfeits PRO. Win goes to CON.
Posted by RoyLatham 7 years ago
RoyLatham
Pro defaulted and left Con's rebuttal unanswered. Easy win.
Posted by alto2osu 7 years ago
alto2osu
:( I'm sorry to hear that. I was looking forward to a good debate. Well, if it doesn't happen this time, feel free to rechallenge me or post the debate over again sometime!
Posted by behairry2981 7 years ago
behairry2981
Hey im really sorry, but ive got soooo much studying to do so i might start forfeiting rounds if i dont find time. If i do find time, then the rebuttal will be extremely short. So pretty much expect a win.
Posted by alto2osu 7 years ago
alto2osu
That's a good observation, James :)
Posted by James.ticknor 7 years ago
James.ticknor
Well I disagree with Pro. Vigiliantism is not a system, if it acts in the interest of self preservation. And through self preservation you may harm the community. Whereas if we work to fix the system, it can function to community preservation. Because we can only achieve community preservation, if we act as a community, not as self rightous individuals.
Posted by alto2osu 7 years ago
alto2osu
All better now. Good luck to my opponent.
Posted by alto2osu 7 years ago
alto2osu
Sorry to harp on the comments, but your aff case is about 7000 characters long...are you sure you meant 2000?
Posted by alto2osu 7 years ago
alto2osu
Life is actually not a particularly good value in this debate at all. Let me tell you why:

Things like justice preclude life. People are willing to give their lives in order to protect the quality of life that one receives under a given system of government. The basic response to life is that, historically and empirically, rights advocates have valued life under the ability to claim all basic human rights. Otherwise, the government could provide us with a terrible life and still be meeting our needs. Unless you combine life with something else (like preserving all human rights, which include life), then you run into the problem I've described.
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