The Instigator
Pro (for)
7 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Vigilantism is justified when the government has failed to enforce the law

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/8/2009 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,921 times Debate No: 7741
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (10)
Votes (1)




Hi, this is my SECOND debate on this website.
I stand in Affirmation
V. Societal welfare
VC. Will to power
Thesis: The criterion of will to power represents the struggle of good and bad to ascertain power. If anarchy is met with no opposition then the societal order will collapse. For these reasons I believe that it is in the interest of society to fight against anarchy.
Please critique because I just jotted this down. And can someone explain to me the WILL TO POWER concept?
I get that it is the struggle against one's environment, and in the vigilantes case it is against anarchy but how does it really connect and what are the advantages?
Cont.1 The criterion of will to power could be interpreted differently, because of that I will set up the "will"of the vigilante. The vigilante could further be defined as an individual who takes justice into his own hands.- Oxford Law handbook. We can see from this phrase that justice is taken into his/her own hands and thus, the goal is justice.
Cont.2 Letting the social order collapse is not moral
My opponent however pays no regard for the social order...... He is not moral
Cont.3 The struggle of the vigilante against the criminals is the same as the one that another government could propose. I believe that standing there is death. I want life


Hello, thanks for starting the debate

I negate the resolution

Because you have begun this debate using LD rules, I'll try and use LD rules as well

Value: Moral relativism--basically the concept that all people have different morals which differ between people, regions, cultures, relgions, beliefs, values, etc.

Philisophical Basis (or 'value criterion'): Rule of Law--basically the idea that no man is above the law, and the law applies equally to all people


Vigilante- Self appointed administrator of punishment who ignores due process of law due to a perceived lack of insufficient government action.

Justify- to show to be reasonable or necessary.

Government- A body with the power to create and enforce laws.

Law- the collection of rules imposed by authority.

*Note that in this debate, affirmative has the burden of proof, and must prove that vigilantism can always be justified when the government has failed to enforce the law


1.) Vigilantes lack legitimate political authority. I am essentially saying that citizens of a nation have not necessarily consented to the authority of vigilantes. Take the example of the popular and fictional superhero "The Punisher". He goes around killing criminals where law enforcement has failed to. Where does his authority to do this come from? My philosophy is that the law applies equally to all people, and in this instance, the majority of people have not necessarily consented to any such vigilante action, and there is no way for them to stop the punisher. If the government was doing this, they could elect new leaders, but this is not possible with the punisher. My example may sound extreme, but it does fit the resolution, so the affirmative must defend the punisher's actions. Also, such extreme crime-fighting vigilantes can appear in third world countries.

2.) Vigilantes cannot be trusted to use authority justly. People have given political authority to the government because the assumption is that the government will be a just governing body and respect in the individual rights of the people. Now, in the resolution, it's implied that the government is one that does in fact respect individual rights and has legitimate and democratic political authority, not one that is totalitarian or rogue. However, as I have already stated, no one has given any political authority to vigilantes. Vigilantes don't have any form of constitution or written guarantees that they will be respectful of the law or individual rights. As a result, vigilantes could easily become rogue or terrorist organizations, garnering their own personal agenda. I would like to reiterate my value or moral relativism, that everyone will have different morals. The members of a vigilante organization will have their own ideas of right and wrong and law, and those ideas may prove harmful to a society. Since there is no guarantee that vigilantes will be just in their actions, vigilantism is not just justified. Once again, we cannot trust the punisher to be just in his punishment. Another good example is that of the "Juarez Citizens Command", a vigilante organization in Juarez Mexico that has promised to kill one 'criminal' a day until 'order is restored' (essentially until drug violence ends)[1]. This is practically genocide. It is a massive murder and human rights violation that cannot be abided for any reason, not even 'social order'. Note that the criminals may not even be related to the drug war. My opponent is obligated to defed the Juarez citizens command and the murder that they are committing.

3.) Vigilantism could be dangerous to an existing and just democratic government. Vigilante groups that have executive authority are a recipe for civil war. Simply because a government is unable to enforce the law in one instance does not mean that that government is inherently useless and deserves to be thrown out. A vigilante group could threaten a legitimately just government. Imagine what would happen if vigilante groups appeared in the United States. It can be argued that the confederate states of America were a vigilante organization. They strongly felt that the government had failed to secure their rights, so they set out to fix the problem as they saw necessary. Look what happened.


1.) Simply because the vigilante has a goal of justice does not mean that his or her actions are automatically justified. As an anonymous person once said "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". The KKK believed that it was seeking justice. The KKK may very well have had the noblest intentions in the world, but that does not justify their actions in the least. The concept that having a "goal of justice" will automatically justify an action is foolish.

2.) Maintaining social order does not trump rule of law. My opponent assumes that maintaining some level of social order must be the greatest good. This is not the case. Maintaining social order cannot come before human rights. The actions of the Juarez vigilantes are not justified by the fact that it could possibly increase 'social order'. Additionally, there are many situations where vigilantism will detract from social order. The only thing that the Juarez vigilantes do is add an extra party to the Mexican drug war, further complicating an already complicated issue and making it harder for government officials to stop drug traffickers and resolve the issue. The idea that leads to social order can only be a short term solution at best. Vigilantism does not contribute towards the formation of a stable government, and over time, vigilantes will merely end up supplanting the anarchy that they were created to form. Vigilantism, as I have stated, is a recipe for civil war and regional warlords.

3.) My opponents third contention is unclear, but it seems like he is claiming that "standing there is death". This statement is exagerated. Note that vigilantes act out of a perceived lack of action or justice, not a legitimate lack of action of justice. As a result, they will be quick to overreact. Additionally, my opponent fails to draw the distinction that exists between vigilantism and self-defense. I argue against vigilantism, not against self-defense. I believe that you do have the right to defend yourself, should the need arise. However, you do not necessarily have the right to run around dealing out punishment for a 'perceived' lack of government action. The right to self-defense means that "standing there" is not going to be death.


Debate Round No. 1


First, Your value shows no clear understanding of what you are trying to uphold, If your value were true then, you would be upholding an inability to achieve morality due to the lack of a true line of concept or real definition. Your basis is illogical to the resolution too. If the laws are bad then we have to be above them. Ex. The law is all African Americans are slaves so since none are above the law they will forever be slaves.
Contention 1 Political Authority again is not necessarily just. Ex. The monarch does not allow a vigilante to give his people a cure to but the vigilante does so and his people are saved.
Cont.2 Trust to use authority
This is illogical vigilantes "will" as I stated is societal order and thus justice.
Cont.3 Dangerous, YES I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU It is dangerous to the government but I will remind you that this is a government that has abandoned its people, It does not apply directly to the resolution because of your proof the confederacy. They have not had a failed government, thus that is no longer a goverment.

1. No, if the will is truly justice then he is trying to establish justice. If he has a misinterpretation of justice then his will is no longer justice and he is not a vigilante. As you offered no other definitions this has to be immediately accepted and thus the will and goal to achieve is justice.
2 Again this is disproven because of my attack on your vc, look above
3. I will admit that this is a bit exaggerated but this is supposed to be a poetic ending and I accidentally put a 3 there. SORRY

Thanks again for accepting my second debate.


Thank you for your response

Firstly, my opponent asserts that my value show no clear understanding of what I am trying to uphold. Allow me to clarify. Everyone has a different concept of right and wrong. That is my value--moral relativism. Let me give an example. Suppose that my friend Bob kills my neighbor John's dog. However, Bob is not punished because of a silly technicality. John is so angry about this that he decides to become a vigilante and take the law into his own hands. So he kills Bob, even though if Bob had been punished in a real court, he obviously would not have recieved the death penalty. Now from John's moral perspective, he did the right thing. However, from the perspective of most people, John did too much. This is why vigilantism is not justified. Vigilantes all have different values (moral relativism), and many vigilantes may feel justified in an action that is excessive, such as lighting suspected criminals on fire and throwing them off of cliffs. Note that in the example that I just used, John's actions are justified and supported by the resolution and my opponent as well. If you vote for my opponent, it's because you think it is just for people to run around killing whoever they want whenever they feel like government has failed them. Since it is obvious that it is not just for people to do that, you must vote CON.

My opponent goes on to say that philisophical basis/value criterion is illogical. I disagree. One of the most important principles of democracy and government is the concept of rule of law, the idea that no man is above the law. Rule of law has been of great importance ever since the signing of the Magna Carta centuries ago, and it continues to be relevant to this debate. Rule of law is the idea that all people are equal, and therefore, no person is above the law. In other words, no person should be allowed to exempted from laws that bind everyone else or have rights that no one else has. Vigilantes will undoubtedly fail to respect rule of law and impose unfair rules and punishments. My opponent attempts to discredit rule of law with the example of slavery. He says that any slave who respects the law will be treated unfairly, therefore rule of law is flawed. There are problems with his example. First of all, he interprets Rule of Law too narrowly. Any law that gives people rights denied to others is a violation of Rule of Law, becuase of its unequal treatment. The 'Law' in Rule of Law is a broad generalization of the natural rights endowed to all people, as well as the laws broadly designed to provide for the common safety and equality of society, not specific or tyrannical laws (such as slavery). The other problem with my opponents example is the context of the resolution. The resolution says "vigilantism is justified when the government has failed to enforce the law", not "vigilantism is justified when the law itself is unjust". The distinction is important, and my opponents hypothetical is the latter case.

My opponent refutes my first contention by saying "Political Authority again is not necessarily just." He is claiming that vigilantes will act more justly and have more political authority than the government. He has no evidence what so ever to support this assertation. Let us compare the political authorities of vigilantes and the government. I have already established the authority of vigilantes comes solely from themselves (making their authority illegitimate). My definition states that vigilantes act out of 'perceived' government action. Also, look at all existing examples of vigilantes. The authority of the punisher and the Juarez city command comes from themselves as well. The fact that vigilantes get their authority from themselves is included in the package of vigilantism. However, this is not the case for the political authority of governments. The resolution does not say what kind of government exists, but I have already stated that it implies a democratic one (read the parargraph on my second contention above). In a democratic government, authority comes from the people, not from itself. Therefore, its authority is legitimate, giving it more legitimacy than vigilantes and negating my opponents refutation. Also, I would like to reiterate that my opponent has the burden of proof. He must prove that vigilantism is always justified, even when the government is democratic and the government has more legitimate political authority than vigilantes.

My opponent tries to refute my second contention by saying that vigilantes will work for societal order and justice becuase they "will" to do it (in other words, they want to do it). Well, this is refuted by my value, moral relativism. Sure, every vigilante wants to work for justice, but every vigilante will do it differently. Some of those vigilantes are going to end up doing it the wrong way. Lets go back to my example of John and Bob. John wanted to work for justice. However, in his quest for justice, he committed an unjust and immoral act. We simply cannot trust people like John with real political authority. Remember that vigilantes are not impartial justices and executors of the law. Vigilantes will bring their own beliefs and baises about punishment and justice to the table, and we simply cannot trust those individual judgements. I would like to remind my opponent about the Juarez city command. They seek justice, but look at the crimes they are committing. My opponent has not yet justified or defended their horrifying actions, and he cannot win this debate until he does.

My opponent attempts to dismiss my third contention by saying that the government has abondoned its people, therefore its okay for vigilantes to flaunt government authority. Well, lets look at the punisher again. In this instance, the government has not abondoned its people. The punisher just thinks the government has abandoned its people. Remember, vigilantes act out of a "perceived" lack of justice. This means that vigilantes may threatean the government even when the government has not abandoned its people. Also, my opponent dismisses the confederacy example by saying that the U.S. government had not failed yet. Well, I have a question for my opponent: How are we supposed to know when government has failed? The confederacy thought that government had failed. One could argue that the Union had in fact neglected the confederate states. My opponent must answer this question to win the debate.

My opponent states that if someone misinterprest justice, then he is not a vigilante. Well, my value shows that everyone naturally interprets justice differently, so my opponent's defense of his first contention is negated.

My opponent says his second contention is valid becuase my v.c. has been disproven. First of all, my v.c. has not been disproven, and even if it had been, this does not help his second contention

My opponent admits that his third contention was exageratted


My opponent has yet to defend the actions of the Juarez city command, the punisher, and John the angry neighboor (all angry and violent vigilantes).

How are vigilantes supposed to know when government has failed? According to you, if they don't know this, their actions can't be just.

What is the proper way to 'interpret justice'?

Thanks, I look forward to the next round.
Debate Round No. 2


Firstly, my opponent defended himself by saying he achieves moral relativism by the rule of law. But in his first rebuttal he himself is admits that moral relativism is bad. However, this turns on him because the link to his VC proves it as incorrect also. Second "If you vote for my opponent, it's because you think it is just for people to run around killing whoever they want whenever they feel like government has failed them." I believe this is completely exaggerated. Look a the "will" I established. The will of the vigilante is justice, however just because a vigilante thinks he's doing justice but hes not, its not his true will. Since this is a deviation of Will to Power is not afflicting my case. On to his VC.
If the laws are bad then we have to be above them. Ex. The law is all African Americans are slaves so since none are above the law they will forever be slaves. To react unto his defense is that a failed govt. is a bad govt. and bad govt. have bad laws.
Political authority is not just at all times. If we abide by a government that tells us to kill all the jews and my opponent claims this as just then I believe the world has gone upside down.
And again you rebuttal on your contention two makes no sense. The true will of the vigilante is societal order and justice. This further explains that any vigilante with misconceptions about his will is not achieving his true will. Or you true will is what you are truly tiring to achieve. If you don't have the true will of justice then you aren't a vigilante.
C.3 Understand that there is NO legitimate government LEFT. Since there is no Legit govt. left then it cant be dangerous to it. In your rebuttal you say that some people may have misconceptions about the failure of their government. This is completely illogical because of your vc.Rule of Law. As long as we abide by the law or are caught in most instances then we know the govt. is working. However, when the government is not working is easy to see. It is when most are above your criterion.


Thanks to my opponent for his response. It has been an interesting debate.

My opponent stated that "he himself is admits that moral relativism is bad." I did not state that it was bad. I merely stated that it is a fact of life, and because of it, vigilantism cannot always be justified. My opponent attacks the link between my value and my v.c.. Allow me to explain it. Since all people have different values, it is necessary that nobody is above "the law" (meaning things like broad human rights, not always specific laws), because if someone is above "the law", the will impose their values unjustly upon others and use cruel and unjust punishment (and they will be biased judges).

My opponent says that I have exaggerated any 'ill will' that vigilantes may have. My opponent claims that the "true will" of vigilantes is justice, therefore their actions are just. However, my value states that everybody has a different concept of justice, therefore, some people will commit actions that are extreme, overly violent, and undoubtedly unjust. Look at the Juarez city command. Their true will is justice, but they are committing murder in the process. My opponent tried to say that "just because a vigilante thinks he's doing justice but hes not, its not his true will." This makes no sense. If a vigilante thinks he's doing justice, that is his true will. He can't not be doing his true will if he thinks that he's doing his true will.

My opponent continues to attack rule of law, saying that we should not obey the law if the law is something like slavery or genocide. Once again, my opponent interprets rule of law far too narrowly. Rule of law refers to basic human rights and laws that support equality, not specific laws, especially ones that encourage inequality. As I said before and I say again "Any law that gives people rights denied to others is a violation of Rule of Law, because of its unequal treatment. The 'Law' in Rule of Law is a broad generalization of the natural rights endowed to all people, as well as the laws broadly designed to provide for the common safety and equality of society, not specific or tyrannical laws (such as slavery)." My opponent also says that we can't always follow rule of law because political authority is not always just. Well a basic component of rule of law is that if political authority isn't just, then rule of law has been violated.

My opponent continues to stress his "true will" argument, that I have already refuted in the second paragraph of this rebuttal. My opponent states "If you don't have the true will of justice then you aren't a vigilante.". Well, what is the true will of justice? My value tells us that all people have a different idea of the true will of justice. Without a common idea of the true will of justice, there is no way to tell is government has really failed. Without a way to tell is government has failed, vigilantism is never justified, and the resolution is negated. Remember, I define vigilantes as reacting to a "perceived" lack of government action.

My opponent says "Understand that there is NO legitimate government LEFT.". I see where he's coming from, but he has no evidence to support this claim. The resolution says the government has failed to enforce the law. This probably just means one law, as in the case of John the angry neighboor. No where in the resolution is it specified that the legitimate government has disapeared.

My opponent says " In your rebuttal you say that some people may have misconceptions about the failure of their government. This is completely illogical because of your vc.Rule of Law.". This makes no sense. Rule of law states that no man is above the law. How does this imply that people won't have misconceptions about the failure of government? It is true that vigilantes can have misconceptions about the failure of the government, and it is also true that vigilantes will violate rule of law. These statements are not contradictory, if anything, they support each other. My opponent claims that we know there is a failure of government when Rule of Law is violated. However, some people will disagree about when Rule of Law has been violated, so his point is null.

My opponent has not addressed any of the considerations from my last rebuttal. Also, he has not adressed many of my other points and contentions. Because he has failed to do this, my case stands supreme.

I urge a CON ballot for all the reasons I have stated in this debate.

To my opponent, thank you for starting a good debate. To anyone who voted, thank you for voting.
Debate Round No. 3
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Metz 7 years ago
Do you still need a breakdown on the Will to Power? If so message me... I have read quite a bit of Nietzsche and I can send you a digital copy of Beyond Good and Evil, Zarathustra, and Will to Power
Posted by TheCategorical 7 years ago
Ok thanks for the apology, though. :0 :( :) :} :]
Posted by feverish 7 years ago
Oops, sorry for double post.

Wow Categorical, in response to your comment, I am truly sorry if I hurt your feelings.

My comment was not intended to be offensive either to LD or to you personally and you are right that I have no grounds for calling you a fanatic.
I am a novice myself, I have certainly never been on a debate team and I did not mean to seem arrogant.

All I was trying to say is that whenever I see this debate topic on this site it always seems to be instigated by LDers and I don't know why that is. Check it out, there are loads of debates with this resolution on here.
Posted by feverish 7 years ago
Posted by TheCategorical 20 hours ago: (to my profile)
I find your comment on my debate offensive. Though I may be a novice and this is my first real LD debate, I am officially on a middle school team. This gives you no reason to claim me as an LD fanatic. Please consider that before you underestimate the effort I have put into debate.
Posted by TheCategorical 7 years ago
Can anyone explain will to power. Seriously, i've asked like 20 times.
Posted by SuperPerfundo 7 years ago
This looks like it could have gone in a much more interesting direction..................
Posted by feverish 7 years ago
I think this is a really interesting topic but don't understand why it always seems to be LD fanatics instigating the debate, I tried to debate a guy on this site recently and it was hard work trying to deal with the LD style.
Check it out if you have time (not just because it's the only one I'm losing right now) and want a demonstration of how NOT to debate LD!
Posted by Justinisthecrazy 7 years ago
no offense but your case kinda sucks if thats all there is
Posted by Danielle 7 years ago
I'd debate this, but I'm not too comfortable with LD style. I may argue this from just a "regular" opposing POV, if that's okay.
Posted by Clockwork 7 years ago
Have you actually read Nietzsche? Nietzsche cases either result with opponents who have no idea how to argue against him or opponents who have actually read into him and will give you a good debate. If you run into the latter and don't know what you're talking about, though, you'll look like a complete idiot.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by TheCategorical 7 years ago
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