Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Mad Max

Question from a commenter on this post:

How far does this track? Crossbows to revolvers to automatic rifles to grenade launchers to nukes.

Naturally, what is available to governments is not financially feasible to the average citizen. But the financial aspect aside, if citizens can afford the weaponry, is there a point where the principle breaks down in favor of minimizing casualties by crazy people?

This is something I have struggled with and I am curious where you would draw the line (if at all).

1. Good question, but hard to answer in general or answer in the abstract. It depends on the specific situation and what there is to work with. There are roughly three players:

i) Gov't

ii) Private citizens

iii) Criminal class

2. How the power dynamic plays out varies in time and place. Take fictional dystopias like Mad Max, Jericho, Revolution, or The Book of Eli, where you have a breakdown in civil authority. In that situation it's every man for himself. Private citizens must use whatever is available to protect themselves. 

3. Although that's fictional, it can have real-world analogues during revolution, civil war, and economic implosion. 

4. Sometimes it's two against three. Gov't officials may be on the take, so that you have an informal partnership between the gov't and the criminal class. Gov't officials get a cut. 

5. In some Western nations, the citizens have been disarmed, so the only foks with guns and heavy weaponry are the police/soldiers, and criminal class.

Sometimes the gov't fears the criminal class (e.g. Muslim rioters), so that you have a gentleman's agreement between civil authorities and the criminal class. 

6. In our own country, police often refuse to protect property. They let rioters go on the rampage, looting stories, burning cars and buildings. In that situation, armed private citizens must protect their homes and businesses. 

7. Sometimes there's collusion between gov't and the criminal class. Take the Jim Crow era, where some gov't officials were in bed with the KKK. I've read that some blacks took advantage of the ease with which guns could be procured to arm themselves. That became a deterrent. 

Likewise, suppose incidents like the Warsaw uprising had been widespread and occurred sooner? 

On a related note, 

“And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?... The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin's thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If...if...We didn't love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation.... We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.” 

― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956

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