The Instigator
Con (against)
7 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
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: 3/9/2009 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,011 times Debate No: 7313
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (1)
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I will defer to Aff for constructive


What have men voluntarily surrendered their lives, liberty, and property all around the world to coercive organizations known as governments? It is because they expect governments to protect these treasured rights better than they could themselves. A government's primary purpose is to uphold the rule of law.

Political thought dating from the Enlightenment asserts that when a government either positively seizes the people's inalienable rights or allows these rights to be taken away through inaction, it is the right and duty of the people to either abolish or alter that government.

In a democratic government, representatives of the people create a set of laws that their constituents believe are necessary or beneficial in guaranteeing rights to life, liberty, and property. The aforementioned inalienable rights may be infringed upon if and only if the infringement protects another inalienable right to a proportionally greater degree.

When a government fails to enforce the laws it has created, it has failed the people who legitimize it. Justice is a concept more fundamental than government. The rule of government cannot be put before the basic principles of fairness and reciprocity.

Crimes cannot go unpunished. One of the main differences between reasoning men and crude animals is that men, as a collective, punish individuals for behaving in reckless or destructive ways. Humans have been able to create societies not because they are intelligent and thoughtful enough to perceive the consequences of their actions for others, but because they have developed systems of morality and ethics that guarantee individuals are able to keep what is rightfully theirs. If a government fails to create a system of justice, the people are bound in the name of human civilization to punish offenders proportionally for their crimes, and restore a society where there is the rule of law.

Not all vigilantism is acceptable. The vigilantes should never punish criminals out of proportion to the crime, and they should never enforce justice so arbitrarily and capriciously that they themselves fail to enforce the rule of natural law. But the general concept of extra-governmental judicial action remains acceptable.
Debate Round No. 1


I will first post my argument, then scrutinize (?) my opponents contentions...

Tacitus once said," Solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant" Which means they create desolation and call it peace.

My core value for this debate will be societal welfare. Societal welfare is the well being of a society in matters of health, safety and order. The definition of vigilantism or vigilante clearly defies the boundaries of societal welfare. Vigilantism also poses a threat to the concept of the rule of law as people are being allowed to take the law into their own hands and seize power of nation. If vigilantism is allowed, 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.

My first contention is that the state of nature does in no circumstance justify vigilantism. State of nature is a political philosophy used to describe the condition of humanity before the state's foundation. Acting as a vigilante, is the act of a citizen who takes the law into his or her own hands. Such an act would be reverting to an age before the state's foundation. Acting as a vigilante, is the act of a citizen who takes the law into his or her own hands. Such an act would be reverting to an age before the creation of society and civilization. Hobbes contended that in the state of nature every man has a right to everything. The state of nature,then, encourage both disruption and disorder and consequently a society in which vigilantism is accepted encourages the same. For example, in Northern Ireland vigilantism has been observed against drug dealers and pedophiles. In one such case, a known pedophile had been released from prison early. kidnapped by a group of men dressed in black clothing and balaclavas, much like the Provisional Irish Army or Ulster Volunteer Force. He was then stabbed twice, put in the back of a Ford Transit van where four bull mastiff dogs were waiting for him. He was then driven around Belfast and Derry for two hours. After the dogs mauled him, he was dumped in the verges of a dual carriageway. These men reverted to their natural instincts and subsequently brutally and unnecessarily mauled one of their fellow citizens. Because these men reverted to their original state of nature, their lives and the lives of their peers became as Hobbes described, "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."

My second contention is that sovereignty is placed in the hands of governmental officials for a reason - to protect the societal welfare. Vigilantism often goes awry very quickly and can wind up creating more disorder than restorative justice. For example, Bernard Goetz fired an unlicensed revolver five times seriously injuring three people and rendering one a paraplegic. He believed that these men were intent on mugging him, they were merely following behind him in a subway station... In addition if citizens were allowed to apprehend criminals it would bring a nation or statute etc. to a state of nature or a state of disarray and chaos. The reason that the government exists is to make sure that there isn't a single group that uses their plurality to seize control of a nation and take it over and in a sense vigilantism is a violent and often times hostile take over of a nation. Take for example the current drug war in Mexico. Citizens are involving themselves in this drug war believing that their government is not doing a decent job - as a result hundreds of Mexican civilians die everyday due to the fact that they are participating in a war that they should not be involved in. Instead of getting involved with the drug wars, the Mexican citizens should be appealing to their government to allow reforms to be addressed and made so that peace and tranquility can be restored in Mexico. By allowing private citizens to enact their own law by murdering or punishing those they think are perpetrators the country is becoming more disorganized and further susceptible to exploitation of human rights. This is why sovereignty must be entrusted to the hands of the government, regardless of whether the government has failed to enforce the law.

I would now like to pinpoint some irrationalities in my opponents argument and would appreciate responses to the questions.

* My opponent states that justice is valued higher than government and to this I must disagree. In order for justice to be present a government must be there to insure that just rights are allowed and not infringed upon. When we allow a vigilante to obtain power in a government we are laying justice in the balance - mere collateral for crimes committed. Often times vigilantism itself is unjust further perpetuating crime and disorder.

* He also brings up the point that crimes cannot go unpunished, I would like to illustrate that vigilantes like police officers cannot be every where at once. Due to the fact that we can assume that a vigilante is one citizen he too will be unable to enforce all laws and deter all crimes, though the police do the same as well.

* My opponent also states that not all vigilantism is acceptable and that it should be proportional to the crime. I must ask, how is this decided when a vigilante disregards instated statute? It is impossible to gauge whether or not a vigilante will prosecute a criminal in a proportional manner, I am not saying that all vigilantes are blood - drunk mayhem centered mass murderers but seeing as there are often no parameters to their boundaries they generally do not institute fair and equal punishment.

* My opponent offers the idea of extra - governmental action being acceptable. I protest, how is this acceptable? When extra governmental actions are taken they enter into a state of quasi - legitimacy or pseudo - law enforcement. Either way rendering the nation or state into a place of odd balance between citizen and law enforcement.

My questions are as follows:

* Is it just to ensure the most expansive scheme of universal liberties that we can?
* How does one get to be a vigilante?
* Don't vigilantes need some way to make others obey (Force, Guns, Etc.)?
* What checks are there on vigilante power?
* What recourse does an erroneously convicted person have?
* How do we know that vigilantes will enforce the laws of society, and not just their own moral code?
* Are there alternatives to vigilantism that preclude vigilantism as a solution?
* In situations where there is no overarching government (The World) is national action such as the invasion of Iraq vigilantism?
* Wasn't the KKK a vigilante group?

I apologize to The_Arms_Of_Krupp for this late response... I've been swamped.


The_Arms_of_Krupp forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


Seeing as my opponent has failed to repost... I need to wait for his rebutall prior to my next submissions.


The_Arms_of_Krupp forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


Again, my opponent has failed to repost. I must urge a negative ballot.


The_Arms_of_Krupp forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by gamingmaster42 9 years ago
It's really annoying when people forfeit debates. I mean, you've got a great debate coming along, and then, BAM! "Blah-blah-blah forfeited this round".
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by methodicalmadness00 9 years ago
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