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vigilantism is justified when government fails to act

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/17/2009 Category: Politics
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,995 times Debate No: 7433
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)




Allright, so I know this has been debated multiple times. But anywho I need to try out my neg case. So, it is ld format. aff goes , neg refute case and add case, aff goes refute/continue case, neg refute and continue case, aff refute


Capitalized taglines / important stuff.

I affirm.

VIGILANTISM, as defined by black's law dictionary, is the "the act of a citizen who takes the law into his own hands by apprehending and punishing criminals". Note the resolution is justifying the act of taking the law into one's own hands, not the extent to which the vigilante does so. Obviously we can't predict the result or extent of every act of vigilantism, instead simply the act of vigilantism is what we are attempting to prove justified or unjustified. WHEN THE GOVERNMENT HAS FAILED TO ENFORCE... means that:

a)The government has failed to punish a criminal.

Note that while the resolution only explicitly states A, if a person is a criminal then logically they have to have committed a crime so the resolution also tells us that:

b)There was a criminal who committed a crime.

From this we can observe that the resolution gives us the brightline between whether a crime was committed or it wasn't, and it is not up to the perception of the vigilante but rather objective truth tells us that the crime was committed. THE LAW means the system of punishment set up by the hypothetical society. The law in this resolution is not interpreted by the vigilante, rather it is a pre-existing standard that can either be met or not.

The Value is Justice, or giving each their individual due.

The Value Criterion is the Protection of Social Order

First: Social order and law require each other to exist.
Peter Wall writes, "If law and government are independent, then you can have one without the other: law without government, or government without law. If we assume some broad definitions for law and government—that law is an ordered system of behavioral norms and government is an exercise of power over others—then government without law would be a capricious exercise of power and law without government would produce a society where behavioral norms are followed so thoroughly that no enforcement is needed. In other words, if law and government can each exist independently and wholly without the other, then history should reveal some societies that are irrational and capricious dictatorships and some where hierarchy is utterly pointless because every member of the society already knows how to behave, and behaves that way. But no society looks like either of those", so we can conclude that law and government play a role that is intrinsically linked; government needs law to function, as law maintains social order, and law needs a government to enforce it or it becomes ineffective. Thus actions that protect social order, or actions that carry out the law will inherently strengthen the force of that law.

Second: Law is necessary in ensuring justice.
The purpose of law is to administer justice and to deter criminals from committing more crimes. Obviously if law acts a deterrent in structured societies and there are still crimes, then in an anarchical society where there is no deterrent factor for crimes then more of them would happen. Thus, by protecting the efficacy of the law one also preserves the inherent justness of that society.

Third: Thus, actions that promote social order and stability are inherently more just than actions that do not;
insofar as an unjust action that promotes social order protects law, whereas a just action that does not strengthen social order diminishes the efficacy of that law. Quantitatively, a single action being unjust does not outweigh the benefits of strengthening the efficacy of the law that cross-applies to every being within a society.

Thus the case is structured around the following syllogism, the major premise being Vigilantes are empowered to protect social order, the minor premise being that Vigilantism protects social order.


A.An individual always retains the right of self-defense

John Locke writes, "Men can never be secure from tyranny if there be no means to escape it…thus a thief, for having stolen all that I am worth, I may kill when he sets on me to rob me; because the law, which was made for my preservation, where it cannot interpose to secure my life from present force…because the aggressor allows not time to appeal to our judge. Want of a…judge puts all men in a state of nature." Thus, when the law is absent, actions that threaten and individual may be punished under the right of self defense. In order to prove vigilantes are empowered the first criteria is met, and that is they retain the right to act in their own preservation. The second criteria is simply that vigilantes do act in their preservation, and this is met by:

B.Crimes threaten the individual

Crimes, by their very nature, destabilize society. As Locke writes earlier, "Want of a judge puts all men in a state of nature." Matthew Herbert outlines the threat to each individual in the state of nature. He writes, "In the state of nature unregulated violence is a fact of life. The strong subjugate the weak, and power shifts unpredictably as alliances form and dissolve. It is an enervating chaos of constant attack and defense." Thus, everyone is in danger in the state of nature, and so by acting to eliminate that state of nature the individual acts in own interests of self-preservation which is justified under the right of self-defense. This being the second criteria for meeting the major premise of my syllogism, one can assume the major premise is met. Thus we move to the:


Crimes threaten social order. Society can only flourish if the rights of individuals are protected, and thus those individuals work to maintain the institutions that protect their rights. Law is placed to protect the rights of individuals. We can determine the purpose of law to maintain order instead of to maintain morality because laws do not obligate citizens to behave morally; I can legally spit and swear at every homeless person I see, crushing their already weakened emotional state. I cannot, however, pick up that homeless person and throw him through a window, because that would threaten order. So at that point we can conclude that vigilantes, by acting to punish crimes, also punish the actors of perpetrate acts against society. By protecting against those that threaten social order, vigilantes and vigilantism inherently promotes social order. Moreover, by punishing criminals vigilantes prevent future acts from occurring. Crimes aren't an isolated thing, Christopher Manfredi writes, "A recent survey of 654 federal inmates found that this sample of current federal inmates averaged 29.5 convictions each. Moreover, 75% of the sample had amassed more than ten convictions during their criminal careers. The sample also included a significant number of inmates with more than FIFTY convictions each (13.5% of the sample)." At that point, we can conclude that criminal nature leads not to a single isolated act, but rather to several, so by punishing a criminal once a vigilante stops future actions that threaten the order of society.

Thus, affirm.

I now stand ready for cross-examination.
Debate Round No. 1


I strongly negate the resolution: Vigilantism is justified when the government has failed to enforce the law.
I offer the definitions
Vigilantism occurs when a person violates the law in order to exact what they believe to be justice from criminals, because they think that the criminal will not be caught or will not be sufficiently punished by the legal system. American University of laws
For this debate my value will be societal welfare. This can be defined as the well being of a society in matters of health, safety, order, and economics.
My value criterion will be The Rule of Law
Affirming the resolution threatens the rule of law, since it prescribes no real minimum for the government's failure to enforce its statutes. Allowing vigilantism to flourish devalues the very institution of the law, which is the closest approximation to real justice within a given society. If vigilantism is justified, similarly to the support above, the rule of law is at risk, and society is a few steps removed from anarchy. The proper response to an ineffective or apathetic government is to reform its institutions, not to tear apart the social fabric.

Contention 1) Vigilantism leads to anarchy
An imperfect democracy, yes, even an imperfect democracy, is still the best form of government that is known to humankind from America to Zimbabwe. The same is true of constitutions and constitutional imperfections; it is better to have rules, with some flaws, than not on have rules at all. Having and respecting rules, is what the rule of law and due process is all about. Good people sometimes, out of frustrations and accumulated disappointments and anger take the law into their own hands; they resort to what lawyers call self-help. Self-help is vigilantism; this enforcement leads to lawlessness and anarchy, because there is no set of rules. There are no dispassionate and objective arbiter or fact-finder; it is like a Basketball game without a referee. The teams may cheat or elbow each other, because there is no referee to enforce the rules. Therefore the aggrieved party becomes the judge, the committee or jury, and the executioner all in one. That is the equivalence of absolute power. We have a legal system for a reason. Who are they to decide what's wrong and right? Anything else is called anarchy, where only the strong survive. Think about it. What if I decided that your car was too noisy? So I decided to set it on fire. Would you be happy? Is that anyway to run a society.

Contention 2) Vigilantism interferes with constitutional rights(attack to his second contention as well)
Among the legitimate purposes of government is the punishment of those who violate the rights of others through the commission of violent or forceful acts, such as murder, rape, robbery, theft, burglary, or trespass. The Sixth Amendment reads as follows: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his Defence. But in vigilantism the offended party becomes the judge and jury and acts as they see fit for the crime. The constitutional right to an impartial trial exists no longer thus making vigilantism unjust and actually not ensuring justice.

Contention 3) The Rule of Law promotes Justice (attacks his value and)
We need to understand what the Rule of Law is and how to preserve it for the good of our children and the future of all humanity ... for upon the Rule of Law hang all our hopes for equal access to justice and preservation of human liberty. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said at a conference in Florida a few years ago that our Constitution and the Rule of Law it was designed to secure mean nothing without the Rules of Court by which alone the principles of justice and liberty for all can be enforced! Think about that fact for just a moment. Without Courts to enforce the Rule of Law, the U.S. Constitution is a meaningless document having no power of its own whatsoever! Nothing is more important to understanding the Rule of Law than knowing the Rules of Court the principles of due process without which the Rule of Law is an empty promise the Rules of Court by which alone we can preserve and enforce the Rule of Law for future generations. . The Rule of Law and the principles of due process are for the government of the People, by the People, and for the People! Without The Rule Of Law there is no justice. My criterion does a better job of promoting justice than my opponents.

Contention 5) vigilantism threatens democracy
Vigilantism has become a serious concern for government and civil society in South Africa. The problem is hard to quantify, but the largest and most recent survey conducted in 1999 in the Eastern Cape found that one in 20 people said they had personally been involved in vigilante activity and every fifth person said they would consider becoming involved. Vigilantism not only leads to an increase in the overall level of crime, but also influences how government responds to crime generally and most importantly, undermines the rule of law. The activities of vigilante groups like People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (Pagad) in the Western Cape and Mapogo-a-Mathamaga (referred to as 'Mapogo') in the Northern Province are cases in point. The activities of both these groups have seen a rise in gang related violence in the case of Pagad, and many instances of assault in the case of Mapogo. The brutal and illegal methods employed by vigilante groups have also forced reactions from the communities in which they operate, which in turn result in more crime. The key concerns are that vigilante groups take on policing and justice functions, often using violent means to illicit confessions and mete out punishment. As such, they function in opposition to the formal criminal justice system and threaten the rule of law—the foundation of any democracy. Democracy can only thrive under the rule of law. It is the role of the judicial power in each country to uphold the rule of law. In this wise, the 1996 Constitution of Cameroon states that "...the judicial power shall be independent of the executive and legislative powers...The President of the Republic shall guarantee the independence of the judicial power..."! Indeed, it is the President of the Republic who is the president of the Higher Judicial Council!

Attack on his self defense claim
If we allowed vigilante justice our society would be chaotic. What my opponent is describing is not vigilantism but defense of another. It is justifiable for a person to intervene and use violence if another person is being attacked. Defense of an individual occurs during an attack/rape/assault whereas vigilantism occurs after the fact. If you witness a rape or any other assault you are only allowed to use as much force that's required to stop the attacker and get the victim to safety and then call the police.

Scoietal Welfare is upheld through The Rule of Law. The Rule of Law and due process were married when America was born. This is our legal heritage. The Rule of Law asserts that men should not be trusted to govern others unless their rule is just, tempered by fixed laws to prevent tyranny, laws that stop individuals from accumulating wealth by force, laws that keep those in high office from exercising power over the populace without restraint, laws that deny the majority power to act without due regard for the rights and well-being of individuals who are a minority, laws that prevent the powerful from plundering the weak. Without the rule of law or societal welfare there is no justice, and life is


I'll attack the NC, move on to reaffirming the AC.

OV1: We're running similar impacts with different warrants. Note that whichever side proves superior logic wins the impacts and thus can effectively link into either value structure, winning the debate.

OV2: He argues that "vigilantism erodes the rule of law" but he fails to warrant this, so I'm going to overview his case quickly and knock out all of him impacts from here (i'll move on to each contention individually). I give you the following logical progression:

1) The government has failed to enforce the law, thus a "state of nature" is in place, where rights are not protected etc. We can assume that before the act of vigilantism occurs, there is no law.
2) The vigilante "takes the law into his own hands" by punishing the criminal who violated the law. (note: he acts within the parameters of that law; you can look to my definitions for this, but basically he invokes the pre-existing standard of punishment)
3) By punishing the criminal several impacts follow:

1 - he re-establishes the rule of law by promoting it through his own action
2 - he establishes order within society by protecting against those who seek to erode society.
3 - without this action we exist in the "state of nature" where there is no law; thus the only way to ensure law is to carry it out. as the government is not doing this, the only way to ensure rule of law is through vigilante action.

That said, that's a quick overview of his case that easily takes out his impacts and links them back to the affirmative. Now, I'll address his case specifically.

Value: Societal Welfare

1) A society cannot be well off if it is unjust, justice precludes societal welfare
2) You need society to protect societal welfare, link into my value structure at that point.

Value Criterion: Rule of Law

1) Rule of law is insufficient in upholding societal welfare, insofar as countries like Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany had iron law but obviously society wasn't well off. A better criterion would simply be the protection of law, which is what the affirmative advocates with his criterion.

C1: Vigilantism leads to anarchy

1) wait... what? That's ridiculous. Vigilantism prescribes law when there is no law; law is the exact opposite of anarchy. He gives you a flawed analogy of a "noisy car" but that IS NOT WHAT VIGILANTISM IS. This entire contention is based off of a flawed interpretation of vigilantism. As I talk about in my definitions, THE LAW is a pre-existing standard; thus the vigilante is NOT setting fire to random cars but rather enforcing the LAW which is, as he said, "dispassionate and objective."
2) Without vigilantism we erode social order; erosion of social order leads to NO LAW AT ALL. Thus, the affirmative protects society and protects against anarchy, his first contention can be turned in favor of the affirmative.

C2: Constitutional Rights

1) Drop this point at face. The resolution doesn't ask us to evaluate the United States, so his "constitution argument" is contextual and specific in a debate that asks us to be nonspecific.
2) Ensuring society is more important than the rights of one who was accused. Moreover, trial by jury is to ensure impartial CONVICTION but we've already established (in my definitions) that the accused is GUILTY so jury is irrelevant.

C3: Rule of Law Promotes Justice

1) Again, constitutionality is irrelevant.
2) Also, due process is also irrelevant; the accused is guilty in every circumstance the affirmative is justifying.
3) No, it doesn't do a better job of promoting justice because without linking to my criterion we erode the social foundation for justice in and of itself; without law we have no way to ensure justice, and so social order is always a precursor to justice in society. A disorganized society is free to act on whim, irrationally and capriciously, and the only way one can retrain this is through protecting the order of that society. The affirmative, and vigilantism, protects society.

C4: (he calls this C5?) Vigilantism threatens democracy

1) There's no link to his value criterion, this contention can be dropped at face. Neither of us care about democracy in this round, as is obvious by our value structure.

A2: Self-Defense

1) He disregards the "Self-defense" point entirely; I argue that with no law we have no way to ensure rights, and so everyone is endangered. In acting to promote law we act to eliminate the state of nature and ensure rights for all, but if we neglect the law and allow this state to thrive then everyone has unlimited potential to be stabbed, shot, robbed, raped, kidnapped, or have their water pipes broken (which is, indeed, a felony! :P)


Now, I wouldn't be doing this if he had specified otherwise, but in the original post he says we're going by strictly LD format. He writes, "aff goes , neg refute case and add case, aff goes refute/continue case,". In Lincoln-Douglas debate, if a point is dropped from one round to the next it can be "extended". An extension means that point is automatically given to the side that extends it. Moreover, YOU CANNOT ATTACK A POINT AFTER IT HAS BEEN EXTENDED. This is going to be key, as he's saying extensions are allowed and to be encouraged, and it means in his next speech he can ONLY ATTACK WHAT I'VE SAID TO HIS CASE, OR REAFFIRM WHAT HE'S SAID TO MINE.

Since he doesn't attack anything BUT self-defense, we can extend across ALL of the affirmative points. Some key points are:

1) The definitions I give you of LAW, FAILED TO ENFORCE, and VIGILANTISM. These are key as I use them to rebut his case. As I extended these definitions, all of my attacks on his case that derive from definitions can be carried through: HE CANNOT REBUT THESE.

2) The value structure. In LD debate, nothing matters in the round unless it has to do with value structure. For example, if we both value Martian Rights and his case talks about nuclear war on earth, then no matter how bad nuclear holocaust would be it DOESN'T MATTER IN THE ROUND unless it links to our value of Martian Rights. Since I cleanly extend my value structure, you have to look to my value structure in the round. This means all contentions have to link into it, and this will be important in refuting his case. The following Negative Contentions do not link to the affirmative value structure:



So these can be AUTOMATICALLY discarded.

3) The three conclusions under my value. The first two support the third conclusion which is that actions that maintain social order are more just than actions that may inherently be unjust. For example, if I decapitate a murderer, while it might be unjust because it protects society it is more just than me letting him go free. This cleanly eliminates the following negative contentions:




4) Subpoint "A" of the Major premise of my syllogism, and the minor premise of my syllogism. This is where the affirmative gives you a clear link to social order. If both of these stand the only thing I must prove is subpoint B of my major premise, however, if we look to the warrant I give you he doesn't actually refute it. So because of those two extensions and his incomplete and inadequate refutation of subpoint B we can assume the entire syllogism to be true. Once the syllogism is true, you default affirmative.


All arguments based off of extensions are:

1) Untouchable ( you cannot refute them)
2) Irrefutable (they are true)

He can't contest this, it's his framework.
Debate Round No. 2


Justinisthecrazy forfeited this round.


Extend everything, my opponent makes 0 rebuttal as to my case and I give you clear reasoning why the affirmative wins (at least I hope i'm affirming in this one... whatever side I am) etcetcetc

vote for me (the aff i think)
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by wjmelements 8 years ago
One-vote debates deserve to not count.
Posted by Mickeyrocks 8 years ago
I'll take this, I need to finish my affirmative case though (hah) and shorten it for the 8,000 character format.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Justinisthecrazy 8 years ago
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