The Instigator
Justinisthecrazy
Pro (for)
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The Contender
numa
Con (against)
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vigilantism is justified when the government has failed to enforce the law

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/8/2009 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,780 times Debate No: 7292
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (8)
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Justinisthecrazy

Pro

This will be an Ld Style debate.

"A government that fails to fulfill its responsibility is not a legitimate government, thus citizens aren't obligated to recognize its legitimacy," said John Locke a famous philosopher. If we recognize what this means in the current debate you must affirm the resolution.

Resolved: Vigilantism is justified when the government has failed to enforce the law.

For this debate my value will be justice. Justice can be defined as the maintenance or administration of what is just based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, fairness, and equity. Conception of justice is one of the key features of society because essentially justice concerns the proper orderings of people and things within a society.

My Value Criterion will be John Locke's Social Contract. The concept of protecting one's own rights must be looked at through the filter of the social contract, which is essentially an exchange between the government and its people. Locke's social contract, upon which all governing bodies are based, states that if the government upholds the laws and protect its people, the citizens will obey the law.

I also offer the following definitions
Government – The offices of a nation/political unit being responsible for direction/supervision of public affair
Failed-a state of inability to perform a normal function
Enforce- to compel observance of or obedience: enforce a law
Law-rule of conduct to enforce authority
Vigilantism – a person who acts as a last resort because of a failure of the established system (American University of Law System)

From this definition, we must see that true vigilantes only act to enforce the laws the government cannot or will not enforce. They are not revolutionaries, rather the opposite. True vigilantes strive to uphold the current legal system by preventing, deterring, or providing justice for crime.

Contention 1) has Failed limits the debate
Note that the resolution cites "when the government has failed to enforce the law", not "when the government has failed to make the right laws." Thus we must look to cases of vigilantism where it is in response to lack of enforcement of laws and not the making of the wrong laws. That means SA, and the KKK are irrelevant under the resolution, as they do not act because the government has failed to enforce the laws, instead they act/acted because they believed that the laws themselves were wrong.

Contention 2) Vigilantism reduces violence
The current status of society is already violent from a lack of government participation. By actually justifying vigilantism, we reduce the amount of violence because we are ensuring protection to those who are innocent. How can we stop people from harming each other you may ask? Well in a corrupted society like this, the social contract is not in effect because the government cannot protect the people. The only real way to ensure protection is vesting trust into a vigilante who promotes justice. If there is no one protecting the law, than life is brutish and short. By having a vigilante, we cannot only replace the lack of stability from the government but can also in regard to the laws. As I stated before, this resolution identifies with a corrupt society, that is a government that is not able to enforce laws, so therefore without a vigilante, we cannot protect the innocents.

Contention 3) the illegitimate government
The government is established to protect the rights of its people. It also establishes impartial judges to settle disputes. If it fails to protect the rights of its citizens, the government is illegitimate. In the absence of a legitimate government, a state of nature exists. In this state of nature, it's pretty much a free-for-all, everyone looking out for his or her own rights. Because of this, vigilantism is justified, because it's trying to protect yourself or others in the absence of a legitimate government. My opponent may say that a criminal is still a citizen, so the government still has to look after their rights. However, by committing a crime, they have attacked the social contract. By doing so, they have forfeited their rights.

Contention 4) Tyranny
Locke can easily imagine the conditions under which the contract with the government is destroyed and men are justified in resisting the authority of a civil government. When the executive power of a government is tyranny, such as by dissolving the legislature, and therefore denying the people the ability to make laws for their own preservation, then the resulting tyrant puts himself into a state of nature and specifically into a state of war with the people, and they have the same right to self defense as they had before making a contract to establish society in the first place. The founding fathers took this into consideration when they looked at the declaration of independence. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security" The founding fathers very well knew the social contract needed to be upheld to maintain a peaceful community. The authoritarian or totalitarian regime is a violation of this agreement. Locke and our founding fathers can imagine conditions under which one would be better off rejecting a particular civil government and returning to the state of nature, with the aim of constructing a better civil government in its place. In other words, the justification of the government is the protecting people's property and well-being, so when no such protection is granted, or when the government becomes tyrannical, citizens have a right, if not an obligation to resist its authority. The social contract is dissolved and the process to create a political society begins again.

Contention 5) Why Single out the Vigilante?
Criminals being punished by death can be moralized because of the fact they have committed the crime. A criminal who is found guilty for a felony such as murder can still receive the death penalty. Capital punishment is a crime deterrent. It is 100% effective because the murderer will never commit another crime once he or she has been executed. The Death Penalty is not a cruel and unusual punishment it is granted by the 5th amendment. It is logically impossible to be cruel while punishing a guilty murderer for murdering an innocent victim. Why is it when a vigilante who protects the citizens and administers such justice, it is not justified? Yet, when a corrupt government enforces it, the government receives no complaints. So, I ask why single out the vigilante for doing what the government should be doing?

Conclusion
I strongly urge an affirmative ballot based on the value criterion of John Locke's social contract and the value of justice that can only be upheld through the affirmative side.
numa

Con

"I find the idea of vigilante justice very attractive. I like the idea that the murderer decides that this person has gone too far, and nothing will happen to him unless she does something to stop him." -- Donna Leon

leon's statement is dripping in sarcasm, obviously, and here's why: justice is not upheld through a vigilante system, and thus fails to support pro's position affirming the resolution. while pro defines justice as the maintenance of what is moral/fair based on certain values, what he fails to note is that ethics and morality (and therefore laws) are subjective of what is 'just,' or is based on what a majority thinks, which is not always correct. therefore if laws are bad or deemed unjust, and justice is maintaining those bad laws, then to uphold justice is to carry out unjust laws... it doesn't make sense. a better interpretation of the word justice can be detailed as equitableness, or moral rightness. in that case, it's easy to see why some laws are just and some unjust, and thus why it is sometimes just to not punish law breakers (hence no need for a vigilante system).

pro's v/c is locke's social contract. he writes, "The concept of protecting one's own rights must be looked at through the filter of the social contract, which is essentially an exchange between the government and its people." what pro says here is that the government must protect its people. if it becomes corrupt and does not protect its people, then the people owe no loyalty to the social contract as detailed by pro. in that case, it wouldn't matter if the government legitimizes vigilantism, because the people are going to rebel anyway. this is a flawed v/c.

i will use the value of justice and my criterion being the rule of law. government systems exist to execute certain laws and functions. by advocating vigilantism, you are weakening the government's authority to execute justice on behalf of the people at large (democracy). this is counter to the social contract/locke. to affirm would also disengage our constitutional right to due process. this is UNJUST; a counter to our value.

~~

we must first look only at pro's initial quotation to understand the discrepancies of his position. locke's statement that "A government that fails to fulfill its responsibility is not a legitimate government, thus citizens aren't obligated to recognize its legitimacy" does not coincide with what pro is advocating. pro is seeking for the government to legitimize vigilantism. however even if the government legitimizes it, and society doesn't agree with the concept (which they may not, and this round will explain why) then locke/pro are stating that society shouldn't recognize that 'illegitimate' government anyway. thus this entire debate would be a moot point based on that faulty opening.

1. "we must look to cases of vigilantism where it is in response to lack of enforcement of laws and not the making of the wrong laws."

my opponent cited locke's "social contract" as his v/c. it's interesting that pro is a fan of locke's; locke was also of the belief that "the possibility of revolution is a permanent feature of any properly-formed civil society." he felt that only the people at large could decide what laws were valued, and thus had the right *and* the responsibility to rebel any tyranny (oppression) via unjust or unwarranted laws (to be determined by society). in that case, pro's point that "we must look to cases of vigilantism where it is in response to lack of enforcement of laws and not the making of the wrong laws" doesn't seem accurate or in accordance with locke's ideals. locke would say that it would be wrong for the government agents (who are citizens, afterall) to enforce 'bad' laws. so, if not carrying out the laws is the right thing to do (according to pro's chosen political ideologist, locke) then why would we send a vigilante out on these upstanding citizens? that's not justice.

2. "The current status of society is already violent from a lack of government participation. By actually justifying vigilantism, we reduce the amount of violence because we are ensuring protection to those who are innocent."

lack of government participation is not the reason crime/violence exists. poor socio-economic conditions and perhaps a lack of moral foundation in some youth, maybe, but not a lack of government. in fact, many people feel that the government even interferes *too* much already. i don't see how having a vigilante would decrease violence in any way. it would only legitimize the use of violence by outside agents, which may even *promote* violence. moreover, pro advocates putting trust into a vigilante and says that by having a vigilante, we can protect the innocents. well if a government can be corrupt and fail to protect the innocents, what's to say that a vigilante won't be or become corrupt and/or fail to protect the innocents? further, pro asserts that this resolution identifies with a corrupt society; a government that is not able to enforce laws and thus protect the innocents. well, i don't think there is *any* country by that definition who wouldn't be considered "corrupt." every nation slips up on not punishing a person *every* time they broke the law (running through a red light, for instance). pro's calling for a vigilante to exist in every country, including the US.

3. "Because of this (free-for-all state of nature), vigilantism is justified, because it's trying to protect yourself or others in the absence of a legitimate government."

pro fails to explain why a vigilante is the best way to protect individual rights instead of a more libertarian value of each man protecting his own person (family) and property. further, in valuing the social contract and philosophies of locke, pro proves that he prefers a legitimate government (democracy) over a state of nature so-called free for all. in that case, it should be noted that vigilantism is completely counter-productive to the establishment of a proper working democracy.

4. "the justification of the government is the protecting people's property and well-being, so when no such protection is granted, or when the government becomes tyrannical, citizens have a right, if not an obligation to resist its authority. The social contract is dissolved and the process to create a political society begins again."

...pro's point on government tyranny...

as suspected, pro is advocating in one breath the rebellion of following unjust laws... but didn't he say that vigilantism should exist when the government fails to enforce the laws, regardless of their right or wrongness? in other words, he just made his first contention invalid.

5. "Why is it when a vigilante who protects the citizens and administers such justice, it is not justified? Yet, when a corrupt government enforces it, the government receives no complaints. So, I ask why single out the vigilante for doing what the government should be doing?"

morality is subjective and people are corrupt; these are facts. and if we've already established that pro idealizes people taking control of their own government/destiny and acting morally in accordance to their own values and not just what the government dictates (note his jabs at authoritarianism and totalitarianism), then it's only logical to conclude that the vigilante could do harm to the justice system if that one individual(s) decides to take matters into their own hands and corrupt the system further (as the system would have legitimized vigilantism... which, according to democratic values, is invalid as it's counter-productive and hypocritical). in other words, a vigilante system is more likely to be corrupt; there are less checks and balances than with a 'regular' legal system. plus, the corruption is likely to be minimal or else over-turned by the society at large as history as shown. it's hypocritical ideal to allow government enforcement + vigilante enforcement to coexist.
Debate Round No. 1
Justinisthecrazy

Pro

Justinisthecrazy forfeited this round.
numa

Con

my opponent has failed to respond to my arguments so please extend them til the next round. thank you.
Debate Round No. 2
Justinisthecrazy

Pro

Justinisthecrazy forfeited this round.
numa

Con

numa forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by i_defy_the_norm 7 years ago
i_defy_the_norm
numa, when you say "to affirm would also disengage our constitutional right to due process. this is UNJUST" you are focusing specifically on the united states. the resolution does not focus on just the US, so neither should you. :)
Posted by Justinisthecrazy 7 years ago
Justinisthecrazy
god damn 24 hours is to short lol
Posted by rougeagent21 7 years ago
rougeagent21
truthat
Posted by Justinisthecrazy 7 years ago
Justinisthecrazy
locke had several different contracts including one on civil government and several other political affairs as well as the social contract. Rousseau's social contract is just plain ridicilous. And hobbe's is very bleak and angry at best.
Posted by rougeagent21 7 years ago
rougeagent21
actually, there are several contracts. locke's is the most renowned, but rousseau and hobbes also had their own.
Posted by wpfairbanks 7 years ago
wpfairbanks
Oh by the way, I wanted to argue this, but you did one hell of a job laying out your case. You even pursuaded my to your side. Congrats
Posted by wpfairbanks 7 years ago
wpfairbanks
Rousseau wrote the Social Contract
Posted by Danielle 7 years ago
Danielle
I'll take this debate up later on, maybe, if someone doesn't get to it first.
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