Law and Order
Eugen Weber said that the people of Europe welcomed the establishment of absolute monarchies because they put an end to social chaos. Jon Kofas said it was the nobles who welcomed it, not the common people. Adriana Pena disagrees: The nobles in the Middle Ages did not look upon the King to defend their interests. They had their own armies. They were very keen on taking property from each other, or trying to become King. You can bet that the common people wanted an end to all that fighting, in which they were the ones who ended up suffering, and since the King was the one who could try to rein them in, they supported his grab for power. The idea of power sharing did not come to them yet. A chaotic situation is never good, no matter under which regime. There is no freedom when people cannot go out of their homes for fear of catching a stray bullet. As Roosevelt said, one of the four basic freedoms is freedom from fear. Any government which cannot provide it, be it democratic, authoritarian, of the Left, of the Right, or whatever, has failed, and failed governments sooner or later are replaced. As Norman Stamps put out, people want to be well-governed, and only after that, they worry about participating in the decisions of government. RH: Adriana is referring to Why democracies fail; a critical evaluation of the causes for modern dictatorship. University of Notre Dame Press, 1957
Adriana Pena said: The nobles in the Middle Ages did not look upon the King to defend their interests. They had their own armies. They were very keen on taking property from each other, or trying to become King. You can bet that the common people wanted an end to all that fighting, in which they were the ones who ended up suffering, and, since the King was the one who could try to rein the nobles in, they supported his grab for power.
Jon Kofas replies: Adriana Pena is correct, only if she is talking about the nobles before the crusades and Black Death, and primarily on some parts of the continent. Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584) provides a good example of a ruler who went after the Boyars as an attempt to centralize power, while Henry VII, coming to the throne at the end of the War of the Roses (1455-1487), adopted a political approach to centralizing power. European Feudalism books and articles published before the 1970s made generalizations regarding the contempt that nobles had for the monarchy, but research in the past 35 years indicates that the best method of studying European nobility is region-by-region, and generation-by-generation. What is significant for our generation regarding the issue of law and order is that all people want safety and security, but they also desire food, shelter, work that is not so oppressive that it contributes to chronic illnesses and early death, and a regime is that is fairly benevolent and caters to society's broader needs.
If all people wish from their government is safety and security, I ask if any WAISer would like to live under a dictatorship which invariably provides security, but at what cost? A recent study of crime in Europe indicated that Portugal, Greece, France, and Ireland experienced a sharp rise (about 16%) in crime since 1997. Even under such a sharp rise in crime in southern Europe, would any one like to go back to the good old days of Salazar, Franco, and the Greek Junta, or do we accept the rise in crime as part of the price we have to pay to live in a pluralistic society? Ultimately, this is a question of personal and societal values. While most people in the western world, and this is also true for the bourgeoisie in East Asia and the Third World, value the ideals of the French Enlightenment, there are those who would not mind living in Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan. There are also the 2 billion people on this planet who live on the edge of subsistence and who merely wish to survive. While they do not have the luxury of philosophizing about regimes providing safety and security, as they go hungry and ill on a daily basis, they naturally expect protection in order to go about their every day lives. Finally, let us not forget that Norman Stamps published his book against the background of the early Cold War.
RH: There comes a time when chaos triggers acceptance of a dictatorship as the price to pay for law and order.
Jon Kofas wrote: If all people wish from their government is safety and security, I ask if any WAISer would like to live under a dictatorship which invariably provides security, but at what cost? A recent study of crime in Europe indicated that Portugal, Greece, France, and Ireland experienced a sharp rise (about 16%) in crime since 1997. Even under such a sharp rise in crime in southern Europe, would any one like to go back to the good old days of Salazar, Franco, and the Greek Junta, or do we accept the rise in crime as part of the price we have to pay to live in a pluralistic society?
Christopher Jones replies: For me, the answer is unequivocally yes, although with some major reservations regarding the Colonels. A pluralistic society is no good if you are lying battered and bleeding the street. Salazar and Franco managed to maintain the appearance of hardline dictatorship while in fact they had passed onto what in Spain is know as the "dictablanda" [instead of dictadura]. I don't want to pay the price of drug dealing, rapes, wild driving down the wrong side of the street and a multitude of other disasters that "pluralism" and globalization have brought us. I want peace so MY democracy can thrive as well as everybody else's. The first remedy is to begin the repatriation of illegals who have no other recourse than criminal activity.
From New York, Hank Levin writes: You might check some surprising statistics. New York City has the lowest rate of crime of any major U.S. city, and it is below that of many European cities,including London. Some of the facts are at odds with popular impressions. Barcelona has so many robberies of tourists that the police do not even keep records unless the takings were immense, and the hotels tell you not to bother reporting them because nothing will happen (I live in Barcelona and New York.) This leads to a second issue, that of differential reporting among countries on their crime rates. Rapes among the poor in the barrios of Latin America are rarely reported to the police in my extensive experience in that part of the world. Robberies in Mexico are often done by the "police" with a warning not to report them or they will return. The same is true in Brazil.
I would rather walk along any street in midtown Manhattan at 2 AM than in comparable areas of Miami, Washington, Detroit, Houston, Cleveland, Los Angeles (which does not have any comparable areas), Denver, San Francisco (check out the Tenderloin). Your Asian, African, and Latin American specialists can report on their own experiences on those continents.
RH: As Hank says, crime figures are not consistent internationally. I imagine Interpol is trying to bring some order into this.
From: Ronald Hilton [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Sat 3/26/2005 5:48 PM
Subject: Law and order
Robert Whealey writes: I have no doubt that there is more street crime in
Madrid today than in 1956 and 1970, when I was in Madrid. But I find this
"walk in the streets argument" rather superficial.
1. I was able to walk in the streets of New York in 1948 and the streets of
Detroit 1956 with more security than today.
2. I was informed by two or three older land ladies in Stuttgart and
Freiburg in 1955 and in 1967 that there was less street crime under the
Nazi regime than in the booming wunder economy.
3. There was a much pornography in Madrid in 1977 as I saw in New York in
If you have an ideology, you can find what you want in any city. Since 11
September 2001, I have not been in any foreign country. If I were to return
to Germany, Britain, o r Spain (countries I have lived in), I would expect
more hostility. Unfortunately, ordinary lay people in all countries
identify foreign tourists as symbols of the elite or the governments of the