I've been fascinated and dismayed by the recent dust-up over the arrest of Harvard's Henry Louis “Skip” Gates for being locked out while black. The bulk of the conversation—which has, of course, only been intensified by a presidential intervention—has focused on the degree to which racial profiling or actual racial animus might have played a role in the actions of the arresting officer. Given the history of police departments' abusive treatment of black people in the United States, that's hardly surprising. But I confess to being a little puzled at the defense of his actions the arresting officer has offered. In an interview I heard broadcast this morning, he maintained that Gates in effect triggered his own arrest by being belligerent and that he could have avoided arrest by behaving more compliantly. Nothing I have learned about the situation to-date suggests that Gates's conduct presented anything remotely like a credible threat of physical harm to the officer
Showing posts from July, 2009
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Most or all readers of thie blog likely frequently Roderick Long's Austro-Athenian Empire. Anyone hasn't done so this week is encouraged to check out Roderick's remarks here and here , which detail a disastrous financial emergency. Please help Roderick out if you can—whether as a matter of friendship, of loyalty to an excellent left-libertarian thinker, or of desire for an uninterrupted flow of great things from his pen.
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Consider the characteristic Hobbesian argument for the state: we need Leviathan to ensure, through the use or threat of force, that conflicts are resolved peacefully. (I do not say “justly”—there is no structural way to ensure that the outcomes of any state-based judicial system [or any comparable system in a stateless society] will be procedurally or substantively just, though of course some structures will be more conducive to just procedures and outcomes than others.) I. It is important to note how little this argument even seeks, on its own terms, to demonstrate: if it succeeds, it shows the need, at most, for a “night-watchman” or “night-guard” state. II. It has limited implications for the size of the state. Again, assuming the argument were correct, there would obviously be some such limitations: the population governed by Leviathan would have to be sufficiently large that the people with whom one were most likely to have disputes would also fall within Leviathan’s jurisdic