Streetwise Professor

August 27, 2020

Is-Ought on the Streets

Filed under: CoronaCrisis,Politics — cpirrong @ 10:19 am

The Cancel Klan is going after Tucker Carlson. Again.

His thought crime? This:

“We do know why it happened, though. Kenosha devolved into anarchy because the authorities abandoned the people,” Carlson said. “Those in charge, from the governor on down, refused to enforce the law. They’ve stood back and watched Kenosha burn. Are we really surprised that looting and arson accelerated to murder?”

For which he was accused with advocating vigilantism.

Rather than judging him on the basis of one part of a 7+ minute monologue, watch the entire thing:

The criticism of Carlson is a classic example of the is-ought fallacy. Carlson was, in essence, saying what is–explaining the reason for what is–by solving for the equilibrium. It’s not rocket science. It’s not game theory that requires elaborate equilibrium concepts or refinements.

It’s very basic: when authorities fail to keep peace and order, people will act in what they perceive to be self-defense. When the civil law breaks down, the law of the jungle–the state of nature, under some theories–takes over.

What’s amazing is that this sun-rises-in-the-east insight is considered an incitement. In fact, it is a lament. It is clear that Carlson is hardly happy at the prospect. Nor am I. He is not advocating it. Nor am I. He is saying, merely: you reap what you sow.

Is that so complicated?

And America’s cities are sowing a grim harvest of violence and despair as the result of two very bizarre and seemingly incompatible failures of the governing classes: the complete abdication of law and order in many major cities, combined with the draconian exercise of government power allegedly intended to achieve the (entirely futile) goal of eradicating covid-19.

That is, the governing classes in myriad states and cities have completely inverted the proper roles of government. They fail to exercise power and authority to perform their proper functions, but exercise the full power of the state to perform functions which are not just improper, but counterproductive. They kneel before the lawless, and crush the law-abiding under their heels.

The signs are everywhere. Look at Portland, which has been devastated by riots for nigh on to three months. Every night. (NB: protests happen during the day; riots happen at night.) The response of Oregon authorities–to shriek at the attempts of the Federal government to protect Federal property, and a complete unwillingness to get the riots under control. The mayor–with a sickly ironic choice of words–says that the riots will “burn out” eventually.

Yeah, Nero of the Columbia (ironic!): they will burn out figuratively because the city you allegedly govern will be burned out. Literally.

Or consider my hometown, Chicago, which has seen spasms of bacchanalia of violence over the past months. The looting has devastated the Magnificent Mile shopping district.

In a richly symbolic act, on several occasions the city raised the bridges over the Chicago River to prevent marauding looters from the South Side easy access to the ritzy north side of the river. Like a besieged medieval town raising the drawbridges over the moat in an attempt to stymie invading barbarians:

The devastation of riots and looting is tag teaming with the devastation wrought by the insane lockdown policies of local governments who compensate for their surrender of the streets by oppressing you, and the myriad restaurants, sellers of personal services (e.g., hair care), and small retailers that you patronize.

It was recently reported that 50 percent of the businesses in San Francisco have closed. Most will probably never reopen. If you live in the various Lockdown Lands–e.g., California, NY–you see boarded up store after boarded up store. 5th Avenue has become a shuttered ghost town. So have many other places.

Homelessness has exploded in many places–again, largely as a result of the abdication of civil authorities. San Francisco and Austin are two prominent examples.

It is so hard to build, so easy to destroy. I first went to NYC in the late-1970s, and traveled there a lot on business in the mid-1980s. It was a dangerous, dirty, dystopian place. In the late-1980s, the rejuvenation began. Notably, the first and crucial step of the process was restoration of public order, a process that hapless administration after hapless administration (crowned by the king of haplessness, David Dinkins) claimed was impossible. But the Giuliani administration started a virtuous cycle that made the city an attractive place to live (for people who like that kind of living) and a major destination for tourists.

And those three decades of progress have been erased, in a little over three months, due to a failure to keep order (e.g., the release of thousands of criminals back on the streets) and the imposition of a crushing order on the law abiding, especially law abiding small businesses. Crime has skyrocketed, and people–productive people–are leaving, almost certainly never to come back.

These are the wages of the most colossal government failure in American history. Failure from coast-to-coast; failure in the large cities on the coasts in particular.

You can cancel Carlson for pointing out the obvious, but you can’t cancel the obvious: when the duly constituted institutions of collective action fail to protect the lives, liberty, and property of large numbers of people, large numbers of people will take individual action, or emergent, unsanctioned, spontaneous collective action, to do what governments have failed to do.

In short, governments ought to protect lives, liberty, and property. When they do not, people will do so themselves. And that’s just the way it is.

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  1. Masterful summary of where we are today.

    Buckle up, folks, it’s going to get a little bumpy into November…

    Comment by djm — August 27, 2020 @ 10:46 am

  2. “And those three decades of progress have been erased, in a little over three months, due to a failure to keep order…” is a ridiculous comment. In 1990 there were 527,257 total crime complaints in NYC consisting of 2,262 murders, 3,126 rapes, 100,280 robberies, 44,122 felony assaults, 122,055 burglaries and so on. In 2020 through August 16 (63% of the way through the year) there have been 56,146 crime complaints consisting of 259 murders, 864 rapes, 7,664 robberies, 12,584 felony assaults, 9,255 burglaries and so on. See While homelessness has been growing problem in NYC, according to the NYC Department of Homeless Services and Human Resources Administration and NYCStat shelter census reports, the homeless population has fallen from 60,849 in June 2019 to 58,736 in June 2020, the latest month for which data is available.

    Comment by Dan — August 27, 2020 @ 12:19 pm

  3. For all their bragging and posturing, the American population seems largely to be too timid to protect itself. What’s the point of being armed to the teeth if you won’t use the bloody guns? It’s not as if they’d have to shoot lots of people: seizing a few Governors and Mayors might be enough to encourage the others.

    What does strike me is that the FBI must surely know who’s funding this debacle. But nothing gets done about it. So is it just another attempt at an anti-Trump coup? (That’s a question expecting the answer “yes”.)

    Comment by dearieme — August 27, 2020 @ 3:39 pm

  4. So, pray tell, what did Carlson say immediately after the shooting of Blake, or when the rioting broke out? Did he despair at yet another seemingly disproportionate police action, or lament at the injustices being heaped some sections of your community? Or did he only pip up when some gunned up white youth got involved in the action?

    Watching that video I did think, holy f*ck, does that actually pass for journalism in the US? And to think you all complain about CNN etc! Its gonzo journalism at best, lazy and knowing, complete with choice subtitles for the hard-of-thinking. Particularly noteworthy were the “facts” he casually threw out there, like any armchair CSI could tell what was going on from the clips, also his throwaway, jury-nobbling comment that the “court will decide” (sp – I damned if I’m going to watch it a second time to get his exact words).

    One other comment – you’re all going to have to get used to this sort of thing, given there seems little prospect you’ll get all elements of your law enforcement under a semblance of control – or stopping the circulation of videos showing their actions. As you say, it’s not rocket science. You reap what you sow.

    Comment by David Mercer — August 28, 2020 @ 3:45 am

  5. I am moving out of Chicago finally. We are going to Las Vegas. They have lost control of the city and the political attacks on the police have left them unmotivated and unempowered to get control. The Democratic Machine in Illinois costs taxpayers and businesses over $500MM annually. I was a huge backer of Chicago. I started and kicked off the startup ecosystem. I have been an out of the closet Republican, but alas, the Jacobin Mob that masquerades as intellectuals in the institutions of Chicago has gone crazy. Orange Man Bad and all Republicans are Nazis. It’s not a safe place anymore. Chicago will continue to burn and if Trump is re-elected, and let’s hope he is, it will burn fiercely.

    Comment by jeff carter — August 28, 2020 @ 7:50 am

  6. @jeff_carter “Who is John Galt?” It’s not only the captains of industry, Francisco d’Anconias but also non-prog professors, small business owners, restaurant workers, or idle “poor”

    Comment by Slav Hermanowicz — August 28, 2020 @ 8:56 am

  7. @David Mercer,

    Understand US media, especially cable TV, is entertainment dressed up as journalism. It is intended to throw out red meat to whatever side of the political divide the network is aimed at. There’s no pretensions about truth or fairness, which also describes the political class. It’s a “winner take all” tournament a la Game of Thrones where the winning side gets to use the levers of government to hand out goodies to their voters. Remove the government goodies, remove the Game of Thrones.

    Comment by The Pilot — August 28, 2020 @ 9:08 am

  8. @David Mercer

    You might look up who has the political control and responsibility for the police in every American city and has had that control nearly everywhere. Hint: it’s Democrat’s and often for decades. It’s on them. NYC was brought to its state when Warren Wilhelm aka DeBlasio was elected by years of Giuliani and Bloomberg rule. Rule that was detested by the Jacobins for the entire time while the city became livable again.

    Comment by The Pilot — August 28, 2020 @ 9:14 am

  9. History shows that the times of great social unrest were quelled by strong and mostly unsavory men (unsavory is an understatement). Florence of Savonarola and bonfires of vanities in 1498 – Alexander VI (Borgia); French Reign of Terror – Barras and eventually Napoleon; fall of the imperial Russia – Lenin; Spanish Civil War – Franco; Germany in early 1930’s, and China in 1949 – we know who. Is that the future in America?

    Comment by Stan — August 29, 2020 @ 9:56 am

  10. @jeff_carter “Who is John Galt?” – is this the answer. Sadly, it’s not only the captains of industry who “retire” but also non-prog professors, small and medium business owners, restaurant workers, and even “idle poor”.

    Comment by Slav — August 29, 2020 @ 10:21 am

  11. You’ve left out one more egregious part to this nightmare. What do the people who try to protect themselves do when malicious prosecutors throw them under a legal bus without so much benefit of evidence or legal precedent? Minnesota, Atlanta, St Louis and Wisconsin are just the latest examples.

    At the root of this problem is the refusal by the empowered classes to distinguish between victimhood and criminality. Until someone publicly stands up against criminality nothing will change and more anarchy will ensue. That would require leadership, and a lot of closed minded power brokers to follow or get out of the way.

    Comment by Dmn — August 29, 2020 @ 2:39 pm

  12. While the Commies were trying to grab your guns they were also working feverishly to change the laws to make it impossible to defend yourself.

    A Trump landslide is assured.

    Comment by Joe Walker — August 30, 2020 @ 4:22 pm

  13. “A Trump landslide is assured.” If that happens we’ll all be told that BLM was funded by the Russians to ensure a Trump victory.

    Comment by dearieme — August 30, 2020 @ 4:51 pm

  14. ‘They kneel before the lawless, and crush the law-abiding under their heels.’

    As perfect a summary of anarcho-tyranny as I have ever read.

    I hope that these natural consequences of rank stupidity, ideological blindness and naked political opportunism – now revealed to be blood red in tooth and claw – will hammer some sense into the heads of the electorate. Can’t help thinking of Kipling’s ‘The Gods of the Copybook Headings’.

    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — August 30, 2020 @ 5:07 pm

  15. Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — August 30, 2020 @ 5:07 pm

    These days, I go back to re-read that one of Kipling far too often for comfort.
    The present circumstances (Democrats preaching a socialist utopia as their campaign rhetoric, national economic devastation resulting from over-broad covid-lockdowns, riot and mayhem unleashed in blue cities, etc.), and the [so far] quiet and patient waiting of middle America until November, makes me think of “The Wrath of the Awakened Saxon.”

    Comment by ColoComment — August 31, 2020 @ 3:27 pm

  16. Colo – Damn straight.

    We’re watching the repeat of an old film – the virtue signallers simply can’t help but kick and kick at the people who want to be left alone, and who bear the kicking with forbearance until one day they snap.

    ‘Beware the anger of the patient man.’

    And you can see, the instigators have gone past the point of no return. The only question now is how long until the ‘Saxons’ awaken.

    Blood chilling. I used to ask the Prof ‘Where are the adults?’, referring to the leaders of the Democrats, who could rein in this stupidity if they so wanted. Now, we see where they are: they are at the head of the mob, leading it and whipping it up into a bloodthirsty frenzy.

    Terrifying. I no longer see any way out but through the middle. Let’s hope ‘it’ is short and sharp, and we can return to sanity soon.

    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — September 1, 2020 @ 12:57 am

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