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The legacy of Stand Your Ground
June 8, 2012 9:19 AM   Subscribe

In 2005, Florida passed controversial "Stand Your Ground" legislation, allowing homeowners to defend their property with lethal force. While the Trayvon Martin case focused national attention on the law, roughly two hundred cases have used it as a key part of the defense. In a new investigative report, The Tampa Bay Times catalogs the past six years of "Stand your Ground" cases and highlights the law's troubling and unexpected results.
posted by verb (152 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not that I condone violence... but how long before one of the people claiming "stand your ground" are shot in a non-defensive manner by individuals who then claim the same thing?

It seems like the logical sort of (and apparently lawful) sort of retribution that someone seeking revenge would seek.
posted by Blue_Villain at 9:27 AM on June 8, 2012


A point of clarification: my description of "Stand Your Ground" laws as allowing homeowners to defend their property is not correct -- that's closer to the "Castle Doctrine." More controversial Stand Your Ground laws tend to extent the principle beyond one's own property, asserting that if a person is threatened they are justified in "standing their ground."
posted by verb at 9:28 AM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Unexpected results?" It's a law specifically designed to make it easier to kill people without repercussions.

I'm shocked to find gambling is going on in here because it means there are still people alive in the room.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:29 AM on June 8, 2012 [32 favorites]


A revealing set of stats:

Armed: 50 cases
Unarmed: 138 cases
Unknown: 12 cases
posted by saulgoodman at 9:32 AM on June 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Stand Your Ground aka Last Man Left Standing Legislation.
posted by snaparapans at 9:32 AM on June 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


You want handgun control? You want it fast?

Start an organization to encourage young African-American men to apply en masse for concealed carry licenses.

Watch as the GOP and Republican state legislators pivot on Second Amendment rights overnight.

Sadly, this can't work, because TUFF ON TEH CRIMEZ, WARZ ON TEH DRUGZ laws have criminalized being young, male, and African-American.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:36 AM on June 8, 2012 [56 favorites]


Race's complex role

A Tampa Bay Times analysis shows that people who claimed self-defense after killing a black victim were more likely to go free than those who killed a white victim
There is absolutely nothing complex about that.
posted by schmod at 9:37 AM on June 8, 2012 [56 favorites]


People have had the right to defend themselves from a threat as far back as English common law. The key in Florida and many other states was that they could not use deadly force if it was reasonably possible to retreat.

That changed in 2005 when Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law Florida Statute 776.013. It says a person "has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground'' if he or she thinks deadly force is necessary to prevent death, great bodily harm or commission of a forcible felony like robbery.
For instance: "the youngest [stand your ground defendant was] a 14-year-old Miami youth who shot someone trying to steal his Jet Ski."

What moral calculus puts property above human life? I checked the text of 776.013 to confirm the summary of the article, because I can at least see the reasoning in authorizing deadly force in the face of deadly force (though I strongly disagree with removing the obligation to retreat), but the wording in the law is "or...forcible felony" not "deadly force and forcible felony."
posted by audi alteram partem at 9:39 AM on June 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Let me guess, the shocking result is that people get away with murdering black people? Wasn't that the intention of the law?
posted by empath at 9:41 AM on June 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


There is absolutely nothing complex about that.

If you read beyond the opening paragraph, the linked article points out that whites who claim a "Stand your ground" defense are charged and convicted at roughly the same rate as blacks. The complexity comes from the fact that there were far more black victims -- with black and white defendants -- than vice-versa.
posted by verb at 9:41 AM on June 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Wisconsin doesn't have SYG but we recently passed concealed carry. Last year at the State Fair there was a melee/violent flash mob involving mostly black youths (their race is relevant as you'll see in a moment). Mostly white people were attacked, their car windows smashed, etc. I am sure there will be heightened security this year, but consider this hypothetical situation (note: Milwaukee is extremely racially polarized):

1. Some fighting starts amongst black youths - it's unknown whether they are armed.
2. The youths threaten an adult black male who is an innocent bystander with a concealed carry permit. He pulls out a gun to defend himself and shoots one of the unarmed youths.
3. A white guy sees a black guy pull out a gun, thinks he's part of the youth gang and pulls out his gun to shoot the black guy. He is not directly threatening the white guy at all, but white guy feels the need to intervene.
4. The cops arrive and see two guys with guns, one white and one black. Who is more likely to get shot?
posted by desjardins at 9:44 AM on June 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


News flash: the common law is a centuries-long institution, built up incrementally, over time, which represents the sum of the efforts of English-speaking people to do justice.

Messing with that is likely to lead to unexpected results.
posted by valkyryn at 9:46 AM on June 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


but the wording in the law is "or...forcible felony" not "deadly force and forcible felony."

You might want to look at what "forcible felony" means.
posted by timfinnie at 9:46 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thankfully, attempts by vampires to use the law to justify feeding on humans have so far been rebuffed.
posted by Naberius at 9:48 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


You might want to look at what "forcible felony" means.

Thank you. According that page force means: "use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual." I'm not seeing anything about defining forcible as facing a threat to life. Being pushed over would be a "physical force." Would Florida's law allow me to shoot someone who pushed me down to steal my bag but did not threaten me with a weapon?
posted by audi alteram partem at 9:49 AM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


3. A white guy sees a black guy pull out a gun, thinks he's part of the youth gang and pulls out his gun to shoot the black guy. He is not directly threatening the white guy at all, but white guy feels the need to intervene.

This is where "reasonable belief" comes in. Was the white guy in any danger at all? Did anyone with a gun threaten the white guy in the slightest? If not, then self-defense, whether the common-law version or the SYG version, doesn't attach. If person A shoots person B, and I just happen to be standing around, there's no justification for me shooting person A unless he makes some outward manifestation that he's got it out for me.
posted by valkyryn at 9:50 AM on June 8, 2012


I'm a MeFi outlier in that I don't actually oppose the basic concept of "stand your ground." But the implementation in Florida seems insane, if I read those those numbers right: 43 of 200 cases where the shooter initiated the confrontation? 61 out of 200 where the shooter pursued the other party? WTF?
posted by tyllwin at 9:50 AM on June 8, 2012


Would Florida's law allow me to shoot someone who pushed me down to steal my bag but did not threaten me with a weapon?

Only if you had a reasonable belief that you were in immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury. Given those facts, it's gonna be a tough sell.
posted by valkyryn at 9:51 AM on June 8, 2012


The complexity comes from the fact that there were far more black victims -- with black and white defendants -- than vice-versa.

How is that complex? I don't think the racists that came up with the law care who kills black people as long as black people get killed.
posted by empath at 9:51 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


How is that complex? I don't think the racists that came up with the law care who kills black people as long as black people get killed.

I'm against the Stand Your Ground laws, but I think this is a knee-jerk way of framing things that doesn't stand up under scrutiny. If you want to argue that the real problem is the sociological and societal issues that lead to a higher number of black-on-black murders than any other category, or you want to say that poverty is the reason that the number of black victims who were attacked while committing a crime was higher than any other group, go for it.

But simply saying that Stand Your Ground laws were created as an excuse to kill black people doesn't even make sense when you look at the actual statistics. It's a facile straw man that makes it much easier to defend a class of laws that are resulting in tragic outcomes.
posted by verb at 9:56 AM on June 8, 2012 [13 favorites]


Only if you had a reasonable belief that you were in immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury.

Then why aren't self-defense laws already on the books and/or judicial precedent regarding self-defense enough? What problem does stand your ground solve?
posted by audi alteram partem at 9:58 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a MeFi outlier in that I don't actually oppose the basic concept of "stand your ground."

I don't oppose the basic concept, and I don't oppose the basic concept of the death penalty. But I don't see any possible way either one could work in the real world, so I am opposed to both.
posted by inigo2 at 9:58 AM on June 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Extreme conservative ideology backlashes with unintended consequences. Who would have guessed it.
posted by stbalbach at 9:59 AM on June 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


i'm not against the notion that someone in his own home or business should have the right to "stand his ground" when threatened or confronted by someone who is committing a crime there

but in public? - that's insane - if you can retreat from the situation without getting into gunplay, i think you should be obligated to
posted by pyramid termite at 10:01 AM on June 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Stand your Ground laws were pushed for and put in place (or at least sold to the public) to reign in overzealous prosecutions in cases where self defense was justified. In more than a few cases people were prosecuted for defending themselves. While many resulting ulitimately in the victim who defended themselves it took years, resulted in innocent people spending those years in jail and bankruptcy. While i agree that self defense should be a high bar to clear there really are cases where it you SHOULD be able to defend yourself, you shouldn't then face ruinous legal proceedings and harm to your reputation. And why should someone who is legally going about his/her business be required to retreat from a criminal looking to do you harm to get what they want?
posted by bartonlong at 10:02 AM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


But simply saying that Stand Your Ground laws were created as an excuse to kill black people doesn't even make sense when you look at the actual statistics. It's a facile straw man that makes it much easier to defend a class of laws that are resulting in tragic outcomes.

Great point.. It is easy to conflate this particular law with the clear pattern of racism in the criminal justice system, but best not to jump so quick on race card with SYG.

Yes, some defense attorneys say that this law is helping black defendants.


• Overall, black defendants went free 66 percent of the time in fatal cases compared to 61 percent for white defendants — a difference explained, in part, by the fact blacks were more likely to kill another black.

"Let's be clear,'' said Alfreda Coward, a black Fort Lauderdale lawyer whose clients are mostly black men. "This law was not designed for the protection of young black males, but it's benefiting them in certain cases.''

Not all agree:

Adora Obi Nweze, state president of the NAACP, said she was not surprised that people claiming "stand your ground'' escaped penalty more often when the victim was black. But she sharply questioned whether "stand your ground'' really helps black defendants.

posted by snaparapans at 10:04 AM on June 8, 2012


Then why aren't self-defense laws already on the books and/or judicial precedent regarding self-defense enough? What problem does stand your ground solve?

Well, in theory, the difference is that if someone pulls a knife and tries to kill you, and you shoot them dead for it, under a pure "self defense" standard you can be charged with murder if you could have run away and didn't. Under "stand your ground, you're under no obligation to run away.
posted by tyllwin at 10:04 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Under "stand your ground, you're under no obligation to run away. and you become immune from prosecution, once a judge rules.

Usually the defense is raised just before the trial, after discovery etc.
posted by snaparapans at 10:14 AM on June 8, 2012


Stand your Ground laws were pushed for and put in place (or at least sold to the public) to reign in overzealous prosecutions in cases where self defense was justified.

I agree that prosecutors should be equitable and judicious (and I agree that they often aren't in prosecuting any number of crimes, self-defense included). I don't see how adding one more law to a set of statues prosecutors already have trouble fairly applying would reign in overzealous prosecutions.
posted by audi alteram partem at 10:14 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I just emailed everyone I hate and invited them to join me for a relaxing Florida vacation next month.
posted by dortmunder at 10:16 AM on June 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


I'm not seeing anything about defining forcible as facing a threat to life.

I suppose I just don't see why forcible should only include a deadly threat, in the context of SYG. For instance, a rapist may not threaten a victim's life (as in, the victim is simply overpowered), but I don't think the victim should be charged with murder/manslaughter if, while trying to avoid victimization, the attacker is killed.

I don't think the law as it stands in FL is the best implementation, mind you.
posted by timfinnie at 10:18 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


And why should someone who is legally going about his/her business be required to retreat from a criminal looking to do you harm to get what they want?

Because we give police officers tons of training and procedures to follow before they use deadly force and they still often do a shitty job.

In clear cut cases like someone breaking into a house looking to rape the occupant, fire away. I think the problem is that most cases aren't clear cut.
posted by VTX at 10:19 AM on June 8, 2012


I just emailed everyone I hate and invited them to join me for a relaxing Florida vacation next month.

Reminds me of the great Avenger episode (Steed and Miss Peel) Murdersville... ah Little Storping In-The-Swuff... Voted The Best Kept Village in the Country..
posted by snaparapans at 10:23 AM on June 8, 2012


I agree that prosecutors should be equitable and judicious (and I agree that they often aren't in prosecuting any number of crimes, self-defense included). I don't see how adding one more law to a set of statues prosecutors already have trouble fairly applying would reign in overzealous prosecutions.

Because the law changes it from requiring the defendant to prove he was justified to requiring the prosecutor to prove he wasn't. The law has some fairly strict guidelines as to when it can be applied which amount to you have to be engaged in a legal activity in all aspects. In light of the Zimmerman case i would say it needs a clause about also being engaged in a non provocative activity as well, but I am not sure how this could be done without reopening the door to malicious prosecution.
posted by bartonlong at 10:24 AM on June 8, 2012


I am strongly inclined to think that one has a moral right to stand one's ground in the face of violent aggression.

I've been led to believe, however, that the FL statute is bizarre, because every time I've heard it quoted--including in the TBT lead piece--I've heard it said that the statute only requires that the shooter believe that violence is necessary. Every time. Why no reasonable person standard?, I wondered. That's crazy!

Turns out that, as the link above shows, there is a reasonable person standard in the statute.

I've begun to wonder whether the media might be trying to make the statute seem even more problematic than it actually is. Just wondering, mind you. Incompetence is also a possible explanation.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 10:29 AM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Start an organization to encourage young African-American men to apply en masse for concealed carry licenses.

(Come on, how could I resist?)
posted by IndigoJones at 10:36 AM on June 8, 2012


I just don't see why forcible should only include a deadly threat

In instances of rape (or home invasion and other circumstances), I think it's fair for the target to presume the potential for fatal injury and I have no problem with him/her responding with deadly force.

In light of the Zimmerman case i would say it needs a clause about also being engaged in a non provocative activity as well, but I am not sure how this could be done without reopening the door to malicious prosecution.

So the question raised by the Florida law is how might it be revised so that the state can both reduce the risk of malicious/overzealous prosecution and reduce instances where the law excuses a killing that it otherwise shouldn't?

I ask this seriously, because, as Fists O'Fury says, there seems to be confusion as to what the exact questions being debated are when it comes to this law (especially as with the Zimmerman case it has become enmeshed in controversies of racism and law enforcement which are long standing in the US).
posted by audi alteram partem at 10:40 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


In clear cut cases like someone breaking into a house looking to rape the occupant, fire away. I think the problem is that most cases aren't clear cut.

So this law says the tie goes to the person arguably defending himself/herself. If you can pass that hurdle, you go free.
posted by resurrexit at 10:42 AM on June 8, 2012


I understand that. I just disagree with it as it creates situations like the Trayvon Martin shooting.
posted by VTX at 10:45 AM on June 8, 2012


dortmunder
"I just emailed everyone I hate and invited them to join me for a relaxing Florida vacation next month."


After which, you would... Commit mass murder? And you're confident that Stand Your Ground would be a viable defense?
posted by colinshark at 10:52 AM on June 8, 2012


In clear cut cases like someone breaking into a house looking to rape the occupant, fire away. I think the problem is that most cases aren't clear cut.

And even in a case like this, let it go through the courts. The first cop to show up does not have the education to be capable of, or time to properly deliberate a justifiable homicide case before rolling off and responding to the next call on the radio.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:52 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


BitterOldPunk: "You want handgun control? You want it fast?

Start an organization to encourage young African-American men to apply en masse for concealed carry licenses.
"

That's what happened in the 60s when Reagan was the one to call for gun laws after the Black Panthers marched in Sacramento wielding guns. Well - they weren't concealed, but you get the point.
posted by symbioid at 10:57 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


In April, 22-year-old Cordell Jude shot and killed Daniel Adkins Jr., a pedestrian who walked in front of Jude’s car just as Jude was pulling up to the window of a Taco Bell drive-thru in Arizona. Jude claimed Adkins had waved his arms in the air, wielding what Judge thought was a metal pipe – it was actually a dog leash. Jude shot the 29-year-old Adkins, who was mentally disabled, once in the chest. As of May, an arrest had not been made in the April 3 shooting. Arizona passed a Stand Your Ground law in 2010.

From ProPublica: Five ‘Stand Your Ground’ Cases You Should Know About
posted by mcmile at 11:02 AM on June 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


After which, you would... Commit mass murder? And you're confident that Stand Your Ground would be a viable defense?

As long as there were no other witnesses, how are you going to prove that dortmunder didn't fear for his safety?
posted by dirigibleman at 11:05 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


The recent Florida SYG defense where Quentin Wyche stabbed Kendall Berry to death was not granted. The decision is here.

Across Florida, The Stand Your Ground issue has been a thorny legal issue.

The 2005 law has been derided by police and prosecutors who say the law fosters a shoot-first, ask-questions-later mentality and gives criminals a pass on facing justice.

Since the Legislature did not specify how or when immunity from prosecution is granted, a series of court battles ensued. Finally, in December 2010, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that judges should be the ones to weigh the evidence under a looser standard than the “beyond the reasonable doubt” standard used in jury trials.

Since that ruling, South Florida judges have dismissed several high-profile murder cases based on self-defense claims.

posted by snaparapans at 11:06 AM on June 8, 2012


I didn't know that the law extended to the lawful killing of endangered species in self defense.

There are plenty of people so a few more or less doesn't really effect the population, but the fact that I can lawfully kill an endangered sea turtle in self-defense is just over the top crazy.
posted by three blind mice at 11:07 AM on June 8, 2012


Isn't the generally accepted self defense advice for people who are being threatened to remove themsellf from the situation? I thought this was a universal. Don't these laws actually encourage young and stupid people to behave in a way that puts them more directly at risk than they would be if they just ran?
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:07 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


valkyryn: "If person A shoots person B, and I just happen to be standing around, there's no justification for me shooting person A unless he makes some outward manifestation that he's got it out for me."


That makes me wonder
What if he was making an outward manifestation that he had it out for another? Obviously person B would have wished someone had shot person A a bit earlier.

Does the stand your ground laws allow you to kill a person who is about to do serious harm to someone else. I imagine one problem is how to know for a fact that serious harm is about to happen. There is always the chance that what looks like a threat from a distance isn't.
posted by 2manyusernames at 11:43 AM on June 8, 2012


A person can go from "not threatening me" to "shooting at me" pretty fast too.
posted by VTX at 11:47 AM on June 8, 2012


[Just in case one of our policies is not clear: do not do the "I'm being an ironic racist" thing to make a point about racism. If you are 1) actually racist or 2) trolling this is also a good point at which to stop. Thank you. You can hit us up via the contact form if you have questions.]
posted by jessamyn at 11:52 AM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Whatever you think about the NRA, google "nra stance on allowing weapons in public housing" and you'll find out they've consistently supported the rights of people in public housing to keep guns in them. Given that about 68% of people in public housing are minorities (http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/assthsg/picqwik.html), it's hard to paint the NRA as a hardcore racist organization, regardless of the stereotypes.

I'm a gun owner who is NOT an NRA member, because I got tired of their trying to ram candidates down my throat as a one-issue thing. I also think SYG is a bad idea because the classic common-law definitions of self-defense seemed quite adequate. So go ahead, try to pigeonhole me.... :-)

In re: the idea of, for example, rape as an example of a threat that isn't "deadly," I'm reminded of the dialogue in the movie "A Few Good Men":


Really, the question "were you in fear for your life?" is so easy. You know it when you see it. It's not complex and doesn't require a high degree of intelligence or a law degree. See punk taking your skateboard, no. See punk coming at you with knife at close range, yes.
posted by randomkeystrike at 11:54 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does the stand your ground laws allow you to kill a person who is about to do serious harm to someone else.

It's right there in 776.012 where it says "or another" (for FL). In my state, there is a similar point in the self-defense law. Not sure about all states that have enacted SYG.
posted by timfinnie at 11:54 AM on June 8, 2012


verb: "But simply saying that Stand Your Ground laws were created as an excuse to kill black people doesn't even make sense when you look at the actual statistics. It's a facile straw man that makes it much easier to defend a class of laws that are resulting in tragic outcomes."

I'm all for Hanlon's razor, but given our country's history of race relations, I do not think that this is a remotely unreasonable conclusion to make.

"Kill minorities" might not have been an explicitly stated goal of this law, but I'll bet that the hypothetical attackers in the minds of the people who drafted this legislation had dark skin. This is of course, an impossible argument to prove, but we're also not exactly talking about a state with a remotely-good record on racial equality.

randomkeystrike: " it's hard to paint the NRA as a hardcore racist organization, regardless of the stereotypes."

I don't think that the NRA, et al. care about who's holding the gun. They care about where the barrel is pointed. The "NRA Demographic" is traditionally not one that typically gets shot at (and I don't think that's a causal relationship).
posted by schmod at 11:58 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


The SYG laws--and more specifically, the Martin murder--have really illustrated how out of control our national fetishization of property and security have become, at least for me.

It's really really sad and depressing for me, and it makes me want to get the Hell out of civilization in this country.
posted by broadway bill at 12:35 PM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Last year at the State Fair there was a melee/violent flash mob involving mostly black youths...
posted by Huck500 at 12:39 PM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I agree that prosecutors should be equitable and judicious (and I agree that they often aren't in prosecuting any number of crimes, self-defense included). I don't see how adding one more law to a set of statues prosecutors already have trouble fairly applying would reign in overzealous prosecutions.

bartonlong: Because the law changes it from requiring the defendant to prove he was justified to requiring the prosecutor to prove he wasn't.

Which is unnecessary, and in fact not an issue, since IF charges were brought against someone who killed or injured another party allegedly in self-defense, the burden of proof is already on the prosecution to prove it wasn't justified.

I live in Florida, and if the Stand Your Ground Law is "controversial", it's only because, while everyone with any sense believes the self-defense laws in place prior to 2005 were perfectly acceptable, the NRA threw so much money into peddling SYG that it would take a miracle to get it repealed. The (bought and paid for) elected officials might as well just stick their fingers in their ears and sing, "La la la, can't hear you, I am too busy rolling around on my big Pile O' Money!"

It all boils down to money, of course. The gun manufacturers and arms dealers behind the NRA are willing to buy as many politicians as it takes to maximiza their profits, regardless of the consequences to the community. Any attempts to increase public awareness and safety, including measures most responsible gun owners would normally consider common sense anyway, are treated as unconstitutional, threats to the 2nd Amendment's 'Right to Bear Arms', and gun owners come out in force to protest the damned liberals who "Want to take their guns away."

Why it isn't obvious to the vocal, "You can pry my guns from my cold dead hands" contingent of the NRA membership that they have been manipulated for decades with this fear-mongering campaign is beyond me. The NRA knows it has a winning strategy and keeps pushing for more outrageous legislation to counter this supposed subversive movement to Deprive AMURRicans of their firearms, regardless of the effect on the community. So we get more people with guns, including crime families who can afford to arm themselves better than our poorly-compensated police force, racists just looking for someone to take their frustrations out on in this (Socialist, Obamacare) economy, and idiots with no concept of proper firearm safety (a small child locally just died after picking up, and shooting herself with, a loaded gun left lying on the family's couch).

It makes Florida look bad, it makes our judicial system look bad, it makes responsible gun owners look bad. But somehow, ironically, the NRA itself is bulletproof.
posted by misha at 12:46 PM on June 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


"Kill minorities" might not have been an explicitly stated goal of this law, but I'll bet that the hypothetical attackers in the minds of the people who drafted this legislation had dark skin. This is of course, an impossible argument to prove, but we're also not exactly talking about a state with a remotely-good record on racial equality.

"I'll bet that secretly the people who supported this law were thinking black people would get killed if it passed" is indistinguishable from "People who voted for Obama secretly hate whites and want Christians in concentration camps" in structure and purpose.

Arguing that the outcome of particular legislation disproportionately affects minorities is one thing. But that's not what is demonstrated here -- in fact, blacks got out of murder charges at a slightly higher rate than whites under SYG laws in Florida. Moving from that outcomes-and-statistics based argument to "But I totally bet the people who voted for the law THOUGHT it would hurt blacks!" is pretty much the epitome of bad-faith argument.
posted by verb at 1:00 PM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I just came here to say all you SYG haters out there are just wrong. It's a wonderful law because I can use my gun more often to shoot people. So there.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:20 PM on June 8, 2012


There is absolutely nothing complex about that.

The word "complex" is this context is normally code for something simple we don't talk about in polite company. My favorite version of this is "their complex relationship with their father" which means simply that the father wasn't around or was indifferent to the child.
posted by MillMan at 2:24 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Really, the question "were you in fear for your life?" is so easy. You know it when you see it. It's not complex and doesn't require a high degree of intelligence or a law degree. See punk taking your skateboard, no. See punk coming at you with knife at close range, yes.

Nope. I know to some people it's just that black and white but it doesn't work that way in real life. Punk taking my deck can, in less than a second, turn into whacking me upside the melon with my board to increase their income by snatching my wallet as well. That could kill me. At the least it's gonna be a grievous injury. Taking a person's life is a terrible matter that can be second-guessed til the cows come home and for someone to stand outside and pass judgement on something that had to be decided and acted on in less than a second is a bit hasty, to say the least.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 3:43 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just came here to say all you SYG haters out there are just wrong. It's a wonderful law because I can use my gun more often to shoot people. So there.

It's not up to us to choose which laws we want to obey. If it were, I'd kill everyone who looked at me cockeyed.
posted by Nomyte at 4:00 PM on June 8, 2012


I don't have any settled view of the FL statute, but I will say that, among my many and myriad worries is the worry that we are becoming a nation of wimps, pushed in that direction by laws.

I came from rural MO. Not an exceptionally dangerous place, but you did have to know how to fight. I see things about how women get accosted routinely on the streets of big cities and hear that no one intervenes. I hear that in many states one has a duty to retreat from aggression, and no right even to enter into a fist fight if harassed. The Chapel Hill yellow pages (when they existed) used to have little factoids/bits of advice randomly scattered among the ads. One said, roughly: if you are the victim of crime, do not resist! Give them what they want!

Too much violence is bad, but so are cowardice and timidity.

I think about the crazy advice about bullying we recently saw ("oh, please, please, stop bullying me! You're hurting my feelings!")

I puzzle over mass shootings, in which many fewer people would be harmed or killed if a few were more willing to risk their lives. I'm not saying I'd necessarily have the guts, nor that hunkering down and hoping for the best is never the right call...

I guess my worry is that we've got this weird culture in which a bunch of people are violent psychopaths, and the rest are being encouraged to just take it no matter what.

I worry that the one reasonable position, the one that encourages reasonable resistance against aggression, is being discouraged somehow.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 4:36 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I worry that the one reasonable position, the one that encourages reasonable resistance against aggression, is being discouraged somehow.

Well, one of the problems is that in a functional civilization with any sort of population density, "Fight 'em! Don't let 'em think you're weak!" frequently results in more collateral damage than what would have been lost in the first place.

The advice to not fight back is not based on the idea that a cowed, compliant civilization is safer. It's based on the fact that burglars are statistically much more likely to shoot you, knife you, or otherwise damage your person if you resist. If your life is in danger, by all means -- resist to stay alive! But the advice you're concerned about really just boils down to this: There is no need to turn a financial loss into an existential one.


I worry that the one reasonable position, the one that encourages reasonable resistance against aggression, is being discouraged somehow.

How does that match up with the post-9/11 shift in dealing with hijackers? The minute it became clear that a "new generation" of hijackers was looking to kill people rather than extract money, people started fighting back. That's not being discouraged, and is in fact lauded as heroism. Before 9/11, negotiation and compliance was the smart approach.

In many ways, the issue you're raising is the entire justification for SYG laws. "People need to stand up and fight" and "There would be less crime if the criminals were afraid" and so on. Some researchers claim that subtly shifting crime statistics in regions that legalize concealed carry and pass SYG/Castle laws prove the theory is correct.

I'm sadly not surprised that the folks who cry about the potential for "moral hazards" if people are given health insurance don't grasp that there is just as much potential for behavior-shifting in Florida-style SYG laws. The only difference is that with SYG laws, abuse results in death rather than too many visits to the GP.
posted by verb at 6:44 PM on June 8, 2012


This is a serious topic, with serious implications, but did anyone else get distracted halfway through by the absurdity of the case with the black bear?
posted by C^3 at 6:46 PM on June 8, 2012


This is a serious topic, with serious implications, but did anyone else get distracted halfway through by the absurdity of the case with the black bear?

Age at time of incident: Unknown.
Weapon: Claws.
HP: 300
posted by verb at 6:48 PM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Really, the question "were you in fear for your life?" is so easy. You know it when you see it. It's not complex and doesn't require a high degree of intelligence or a law degree.

I agree it's easy to answer (yes/no) but it doesn't make sense as an excuse for killing people. There's a significant portion of people who fear for their life whenever they see a black person walking towards them on the sidewalk.
posted by patrick54 at 12:38 AM on June 9, 2012


"Kill minorities" might not have been an explicitly stated goal of this law, but I'll bet that the hypothetical attackers in the minds of the people who drafted this legislation had dark skin. This is of course, an impossible argument to prove, but we're also not exactly talking about a state with a remotely-good record on racial equality.
"I'll bet that secretly the people who supported this law were thinking black people would get killed if it passed" is indistinguishable from "People who voted for Obama secretly hate whites and want Christians in concentration camps" in structure and purpose.

The fact that you have to reach for this totally implausible fantasy scenario that has never been an issue in real life while the other scenario has a well documented history of actually happening doesn't really support your point much.
posted by patrick54 at 12:42 AM on June 9, 2012


You completely misunderstand me, verb.

I have no doubt that people are generally safer if they are cowards. I didn't say anything to deny that. I didn't say anything at all about why it's bad to be a coward. I took that for granted. But the badness of cowardice and timidity have little to do with safety. They're very, very bad, but not bad because they make you unsafe--though they often do. Overall, though, you're safer begging the bad guys not to hurt you.

The 9/11 cases are meaningless here. Well, they're actually instructive in a weird way. People only fought back on 9/11 when they discovered that they had literally no chance to survive otherwise. And that doesn't count. (In fact, to call people who fight back when there is simply no alternative "heroes" is perverse in the extreme.)

So, no, you're talking about stuff that I'm not talking about.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 6:14 AM on June 9, 2012


You completely misunderstand me, verb.

The thread specifically discusses a law intended to eliminate the legal consequences of people killing other people if they felt threatened. It discusses the problematic ripple-effects of that law, and how it is being use in ways that its creators did not anticipate or were unwilling to consider. It is being used to help drug dealers who shoot children in the back avoid legal consequences for their actions.

As best as I can tell, you're expressing concern that the way our legal system functioned for centuries encourages cowardice and timidity in the face of casual threats. (Not existential threats, because you said those don't count.) I honestly have no idea how your statements connect to SYG laws; are you talking about them in particular, or just riffing on general societal attitudes about danger and crime?


So, no, you're talking about stuff that I'm not talking about.

I'm talking about the desirability of violence as a conflict-resolution mechanism in a functioning civilization. From your most recent post it seems that you're talking about the ideal of "heroism." These two are not the same. Do you believe that violence and heroism are inseparable? I'm guessing that no matter where you're from and what you believe, you don't consider shooting an unarmed child in the back an act of heroism.
posted by verb at 8:33 AM on June 9, 2012


It's based on the fact that burglars are statistically much more likely to shoot you, knife you, or otherwise damage your person if you resist.

As soon as someone else has power over you, your life is in danger, and your are limited in your ability to enact resistance when they finally decide to use their control to kill or harm you. The moment someone tries to take you into their control, you should resist them as if they were trying to strip you of your very life because if you do not stop them when they first move to seize you then you may never have another chance.
posted by TheKM at 12:30 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have no doubt that people are generally safer if they are cowards.

This is the most f'ed up statement I've ever read.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:38 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some researchers claim that subtly shifting crime statistics in regions that legalize concealed carry and pass SYG/Castle laws prove the theory is correct.

The only evidence is produced by a craven gun nut who won't submit his work to peer review and apparently doesn't understand regression to the mean. So I wouldn't go around repeating that fantasy.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:40 PM on June 10, 2012


I'm another MeFi outlier in that I fully support Stand Your Ground laws.

Then why aren't self-defense laws already on the books and/or judicial precedent regarding self-defense enough? What problem does stand your ground solve?

Here's the problem it solves.

Despite some people talking about how the best defense is to run away, this is factually inaccurate, particularly if you are physically weaker than your assailant - which is how this happens most of the time, because people don't usually seek people stronger than themselves to target. If you are physically weaker, you're not often stronger - and when you turn to run, you are taking precious seconds to turn around /and/ placing your back to someone who's already demonstrated a desire and wilingness to do you harm.

This is a bad idea. As is "meeting force with force." A lot of people are saying that it's only okay to kill someone if you directly know that they intend to kill you and not, say, rape you, or beat you until you're bloody but leave you alive.

I personally believe it's okay to shoot to kill in both of these cases, but we'll leave that aside for now.

Even if you think it's only okay to shoot to kill if you think the other person is likely to kill you, by the time you are at the point where they have made that obvious, you are often in no condition to fight back anymore. You're bloodied and battered. If you have a gun, it may have been taken away. You can no longer put up an effective fight. You are likely to lose: and if they're going for your life, you have most likely lost it.

It sounds noble to talk about meeting force with the exact degree of force that's being used against you, but in reality, the most effective force is actually a higher degree than is being used against you. Krav Maga, for example, argues that if you're going to try to run away, you should maim the opponent before fleeing, so that they can't follow you.


So with all this in mind: before Stand Your Ground laws, people were getting prosecuted in droves for successfully defending themselves. People were trying to nitpick: was there another way this could have ended without bloodshed? Maybe you could have run away. Worn a longer skirt and not shown so much cleavage. Maybe you could have fought them with fists and they would have stopped then. Maybe you should have given them your wallet.

I say, screw that. I say, defend yourself and your bodily integrity, and if you have to kill someone in order to do it, that's fine by me.

Your mileage may vary.
posted by corb at 7:48 PM on June 10, 2012


verb: "If you read beyond the opening paragraph, the linked article points out that whites who claim a "Stand your ground" defense are charged and convicted at roughly the same rate as blacks. The complexity comes from the fact that there were far more black victims -- with black and white defendants -- than vice-versa."

So the complex part is that societal violence disproportionately affects the black population?

And water is wet, you say?
posted by IAmBroom at 9:59 PM on June 10, 2012


people were getting prosecuted in droves for successfully defending themselves

Really? How many?
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:58 AM on June 11, 2012


The moment someone tries to take you into their control, you should resist them as if they were trying to strip you of your very life because if you do not stop them when they first move to seize you then you may never have another chance.

That sounds nice, until you realize that it collapses to: "kill people who threaten you." That may not be what you intend, but unless you're willing to nail down boundaries, that's what you're encouraging and discussing legalizing. Perhaps there's some nuance that was missed in the post you wrote? I don't honestly think you're advocating violent anarchy: I'm just urging you to look at the cases in the linked article, as well as what we know about how large groups of people act en masse, and think through the real world ripple effects of what you're saying.


Even if you think it's only okay to shoot to kill if you think the other person is likely to kill you, by the time you are at the point where they have made that obvious, you are often in no condition to fight back anymore. You're bloodied and battered.

Unfortunately, as we've discovered from the aftermath of SYG laws, legalizing "shoot first if you feel threatened" is a recipe for escalation and tragedy. It's not rocket science.


So with all this in mind: before Stand Your Ground laws, people were getting prosecuted in droves for successfully defending themselves. People were trying to nitpick: was there another way this could have ended without bloodshed? Maybe you could have run away. Worn a longer skirt and not shown so much cleavage. Maybe you could have fought them with fists and they would have stopped then. Maybe you should have given them your wallet.

I can't believe that you're really drawing that particular comparison; surely there are some qualifiers that you'd like to articulate but didn't make it into that post? I mean, without clarification you'd be saying that a drug dealer who shoots a 9-year-old kid in the back during a gunfight is equivalent to a rape victim.


I say, screw that. I say, defend yourself and your bodily integrity, and if you have to kill someone in order to do it, that's fine by me.

Again, if there are not reasonable legal guidelines around this principle, we basically have tribal vengeance systems and Mutually Assured Destruction. We're trying to have a civilization, and for better or worse "If you're feeling threatened, you're allowed to kill people" turns out pretty badly in modern high-density populations.
posted by verb at 9:01 AM on June 11, 2012



That sounds nice, until you realize that it collapses to: "kill people who threaten you." That may not be what you intend, but unless you're willing to nail down boundaries, that's what you're encouraging and discussing legalizing. Perhaps there's some nuance that was missed in the post you wrote? I don't honestly think you're advocating violent anarchy: I'm just urging you to look at the cases in the linked article, as well as what we know about how large groups of people act en masse, and think through the real world ripple effects of what you're saying.

I think it's a really hard thing. I think that "kill people who assault you" is honestly not a bad boundary, if I were trying to nail it down. But then, I also wonder about what point you have to wait for. I think that it wouldn't be hard to put down boundaries (reasonable person standard on threatening, for example), but that the problem is that when there aren't witnesses, it's really hard to sort this all out.

I've been flipping through the cases in the linked article, and in some cases I think that it's a shame more use of stand your ground isn't acceptable. For example, the fifteen year old girl who was being sexually assaulted by a 23 year old man and stabbed him to death. In my eyes, that's completely legitimate - but I'm sure some people thought it should not be. Which cases were you referring to?


Unfortunately, as we've discovered from the aftermath of SYG laws, legalizing "shoot first if you feel threatened" is a recipe for escalation and tragedy. It's not rocket science.


I would disagree. Shoot first if you feel threatened is not necessarily a recipe for tragedy. Not being able to shoot when you are being menaced and assaulted is a recipe for tragedy - as is supporting the notion that it's okay to be threatening, and you need not expect consequences. Looking through those cases, for example, I see one where a judge said "Well, yes, they did know the guy was coming towards him to beat him up, but that doesn't make it okay to kill him!" Allowing that - allowing people to meet force only with an equivalent force - privileges the physically strong and allows them to continue their bullying, violence, and assault with no consequences.

I can't believe that you're really drawing that particular comparison; surely there are some qualifiers that you'd like to articulate but didn't make it into that post? I mean, without clarification you'd be saying that a drug dealer who shoots a 9-year-old kid in the back during a gunfight is equivalent to a rape victim.

Looking at that case, it appears that the drug dealer was trying to defend themself, and the bullet went stray. It's a tragedy, definitely, and I hate drug dealers, but at the same time, I would never ask someone not to defend their life on the off chance that someone else might be injured or killed as a result of it.

We're trying to have a civilization, and for better or worse "If you're feeling threatened, you're allowed to kill people" turns out pretty badly in modern high-density populations.

Does it? Or does it turn out badly only because we have a lot of culture where threatening people is considered okay? I cannot see too many negative consequences from a culture where people are less willing to engage in this kind of behavior. I think it'd be a lot better for high-density populations, in fact.
posted by corb at 10:38 AM on June 11, 2012


corb:Despite some people talking about how the best defense is to run away, this is factually inaccurate, particularly if you are physically weaker than your assailant - which is how this happens most of the time, because people don't usually seek people stronger than themselves to target.

If an assailant has a gun, the size of the victim does not appear as if it would matter. Also, if there is no gun, usually victims that are larger than their assailant get brutally attacked before they know what hit them.

which is how this happens most of the time.

Is that an assumption on your part is this a statistic that you can cite?

It certainly sound like you are eager to shoot someone. Hope you do not wind up killing anyone, as I can't imagine you would feel as remorseless as the guys in the movies appear to.
posted by snaparapans at 11:09 AM on June 11, 2012


It certainly sound like you are eager to shoot someone. Hope you do not wind up killing anyone, as I can't imagine you would feel as remorseless as the guys in the movies appear to.

Talk about assumptions! No, I'm not "eager" to shoot someone. Anytime you have to kill someone, you should do so with a solemnity and regret that their actions led you to the necessity. This is a really common trope, that anyone who is willing to kill must be eager to do so, but it is absolutely a false one.

If an assailant has a gun, the size of the victim does not appear as if it would matter. Also, if there is no gun, usually victims that are larger than their assailant get brutally attacked before they know what hit them.

If an assailant has a gun, it is absolute insanity to attempt to run away. You cannot outrun a bullet. It's possible you might luck out, if they're a bad shot, but it is the single most foolish thing you could possibly do. Also, where is /your/ information about how victims get brutally attacked before they could possibly know what hit them?
posted by corb at 12:27 PM on June 11, 2012


Corn, you are stating a lot of opinions as if they were facts.
posted by empath at 12:57 PM on June 11, 2012


corb -- thanks for posting, by the way and I hope I don't come across as too strident, or seem like I'm trying to pile on.
posted by verb at 2:26 PM on June 11, 2012


verb- you're totally fine, and I value your questions. It is sometimes frustrating to have a different opinion on MeFi, but you're not one of the people making it so. :)

empath: I don't think that's different than most of the thread - people state opinions based on their experiences. The difference seems to be that you agree with them, while disagreeing with me.
posted by corb at 2:32 PM on June 11, 2012


I'm just curious about this statement; is there any data to back it up?

before Stand Your Ground laws, people were getting prosecuted in droves for successfully defending themselves
posted by inigo2 at 3:21 PM on June 11, 2012


I'm just curious about this statement; is there any data to back it up? Well every case where someone was killed and the defendant claimed self-defense was prosecuted.

My understanding is that with Stand Your Ground Law the defendant is immune from prosecution if the Judge buys that defense.

From what I have read, usually the Stand Your Ground defense is not brought up until near when the case actually goes to trial. That is after the discovery is completed. If the judge denies SYG, then the case goes forward with the defendant claiming self-defense.
posted by snaparapans at 3:32 PM on June 11, 2012


I don't think that's different than most of the thread - people state opinions based on their experiences

You're making statements about the number and types of prosecutions, how likely it is to get away an attacker, and so on which should be verifiable with actual statistics and studies, if they're true. Those aren't really statements which you should just throw out there as facts without some kind of data to back it up.
posted by empath at 5:08 PM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


New Indiana law allows residents to shoot police officers illegally entering their homes.
posted by empath at 5:11 PM on June 11, 2012


New Indiana law allows residents to shoot police officers illegally entering their homes.

Well that is interesting... I got really excited when I saw the link because I thought it said

New law allows Indians to shoot police officers illegally entering their homes.

Anyway, good ole NRA, all they want to do is sell more guns. I would be happy if they lobbied to make legal a well regulated militia. Seems like never get to that part, when arguing 2nd amendment rights.
posted by snaparapans at 5:24 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


New Indiana law allows residents to shoot police officers illegally entering their homes.

The emphasis being on ILLEGALLY entering their homes. How many no knock raids have gone to the wrong addressess? and the swat teams who do them tend to shoot first and ask questions later. Then the prosecutors and judges seem to always find a way to let the cops off the hook for their negligence, even when it ends in a citizens death, and later no evidence of drugs or ANY illegal activity is found.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No-knock_warrant

Has more than one example of them, and If that isn't enough I can find more.

The Second amendment is MEANT to be a final check on the power of the state. And the police have been slowly turning themselves into agents of the state, not members of society who have a special role in protecting society.

Anyway, good ole NRA, all they want to do is sell more guns. I would be happy if they lobbied to make legal a well regulated militia. Seems like never get to that part, when arguing 2nd amendment rights.

The role of the militia, as meant by the farmers, was to maintain a source of force outside of state control, in the final extreme. And while our current government is nowhere near the level of needing that check, it can happen here just like it has happened elsewhere. The NRA has a strong emphasis on training and especially on firearm safety and responsible weapon ownership. For them this includes the use of deadly force in self defense, and maintaining that right for ALL citizens.

The history of gun control in this country is pretty much the history of trying to keep (mostly black) minorities down and unable to defend themselves.

The FBI released crime stats today that show the rate of violent crime is continuing to drop. meanwhile the rate of gun ownership and the number of guns has continued to rise. I don't claim that the rate of firearm ownership has solely, or even mostly, reduced the crime rate but I think it is pretty safe to say that it sure hasn't caused a rise in the crime rate.
posted by bartonlong at 8:57 PM on June 11, 2012


was to maintain a source of force outside of state control

well-regulated militia
posted by empath at 9:29 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're making statements about the number and types of prosecutions, how likely it is to get away an attacker, and so on which should be verifiable with actual statistics and studies, if they're true. Those aren't really statements which you should just throw out there as facts without some kind of data to back it up.

And people upthread are making statements about how the law is specifically designed to kill minorities, or that the "generally accepted self defense advice" is to run away. Or that there's a "significant portion" of the population who fear for their lives when they see black people walk down the sidewalk. Or that people who resist are more likely to have a negative result.

Why are those not statements that shouldn't be thrown out without data? Because you happen to agree with them? You may think statements without data are not personally convincing to you, and that's fine, but there's no way my bar to commenting should be higher just because you happen to disagree.

There are in fact studies on victimology, including the targeting of victims to include those who appear to be physically out of shape or uncoordinated. The Grayson/Stein study is the most well known of these. While I don't know of a particular study that then tests the ability of said uncoordinated or physically out of shape individuals to flee, I have engaged personally in self defense training with simulated escape attempts. They don't work out so well, particularly for women. Your best defense is to stand and fight - and if you don't know how to physically fight, or think you're likely to lose, your best defense is to use overwhelming force. This is also the case in many combat situations. You are most likely to keep yourself and others safe by using force before the other person can gain the advantage.

I honestly wonder how many people in this thread have ever either been in a physical confrontation, or fired a gun. I think that it changes your opinions on the situation when you know precisely what you're talking about through experience.
posted by corb at 3:44 AM on June 12, 2012


Well every case where someone was killed and the defendant claimed self-defense was prosecuted.

But is there any evidence at all that this was happening "in droves"?
posted by inigo2 at 4:57 AM on June 12, 2012


And people upthread are making statements about how the law is specifically designed to kill minorities,

Yes, and that's a crack-headed suggestion that I agree with you in opposing. However, the solution to "people throwing out unsupported assertions" is not "throw out equally unsupported assertions that you LIKE." ;-)


or that the "generally accepted self defense advice" is to run away.

Even the pro-SYG people in the thread have conceded that "if you're in danger, get away" is the generally accepted advice. Even on pro-gun-ownership sites, the idea that actively resisting an attacker is a better idea than running is presented as counter-intuitive, contradicting accepted wisdom. The objection that has been raised to that advice in this thread is that it breeds a culture of timidity. That's a moral and philosophical objection, not a statistical one.


Or that there's a "significant portion" of the population who fear for their lives when they see black people walk down the sidewalk.

I couldn't find that in the thread, but there's quite a bit of research about that specific issue; if you're actually objecting to it I'd be happy to dig some up. Or was that a rhetorical point about unsupported assertions?


Or that people who resist are more likely to have a negative result.

There's not much research that I was able to find immediately, but this 1982 paper suggests that resistance with a gun tends to result in more positive outcomes for victims, while unarmed resistance, attempting to intimidate the attacker, and attempting to get help all result in worse outcomes.

All of which still leaves me asking how it applies to SYG laws. "Self Defense" is not the same as SYG. I'm still curious whether you're willing to think through the ripple effects of SYG laws; so far it still sounds like wishful thinking to me. "Everyone will be safer if there's Mutually Assured Destruction" feels like a rather iffy way to make things better.
posted by verb at 7:17 AM on June 12, 2012


But is there any evidence at all that this was happening "in droves"?

This is fundamentally impossible to answer, as long as there is a nonzero amount of it. I personally, viewing the amount of prosecutions and sentencings for someone who fired or attacked in self-defense (to include burglars shot in the act of breaking into a home) to be unconscionably high. You, seeing the exact same numbers of cases, may feel differently. Or you may feel that such-and-such an action wasn't /really/ self-defense.

There has, however, also been a rise (which may be documentable) in civil lawsuits, which some (though perhaps not all) Stand Your Ground / Castle Laws attempt to address. The most noted example being perhaps Bernie Goetz, but there's always news stories coming out about such and such homeowner who is being sued by burglars, or such and such assault victim being successfully sued for defending herself.


I couldn't find that in the thread, but there's quite a bit of research about that specific issue; if you're actually objecting to it I'd be happy to dig some up. Or was that a rhetorical point about unsupported assertions?

It was here, but yes, I'd be interested. I think there are certainly people who are more concerned about the risk of crime from blacks than whites, but I don't think it's the majority, and I certainly don't think it rises to the level of deadly fear even in those who do.

There's not much research that I was able to find immediately, but this 1982 paper suggests that resistance with a gun tends to result in more positive outcomes for victims, while unarmed resistance, attempting to intimidate the attacker, and attempting to get help all result in worse outcomes.

All of which still leaves me asking how it applies to SYG laws. "Self Defense" is not the same as SYG. I'm still curious whether you're willing to think through the ripple effects of SYG laws; so far it still sounds like wishful thinking to me.


Yes, I would agree here. Unarmed resistance should only be a last resort, and it should totally be something like "gouge eyes and run." But armed resistance is particularly helpful, even against armed attackers. (I also think carrying and being confident in a gun helps reduce your risk of being targeted as well, through altering your stance, etc, but that's a slightly different story than SYG laws.)

In terms of Stand Your Ground laws, I think it applies in that people shouldn't have to spend time worrying about, "Will I do time for this?" when they should be worrying about defending themselves. I'm totally willing to think through the ripple effects of SYG laws, but I haven't really heard any compelling arguments in the thread. Mostly it seems like people are coming from a place utterly alien to me, where it is not okay to use deadly force even against an aggressor.
posted by corb at 7:50 AM on June 12, 2012


Conference today on Stand Your Ground Law in Florida:

TALLAHASSEE -- A 19-member task force assigned to review Florida’s Stand Your Ground law will get its first dose of help from the public during a hearing Tuesday, just miles away from the gated community in Sanford where Trayvon Martin was fatally shot.

More here
posted by snaparapans at 7:54 AM on June 12, 2012


In terms of Stand Your Ground laws, I think it applies in that people shouldn't have to spend time worrying about, "Will I do time for this?" when they should be worrying about defending themselves.

This is the part that strikes me as rather naive -- just as unrealistic as the idea that submissive victims will be perfectly safe and the police will rescue their stolen belongings.

One of the things that we can see from looking at actual cases rather than hypotheticals is that the line between agressor and victim is often blurry and hotly debated, particularly in self-defense and even moreso in SYG cases. Many of the SYG cases in particular were not the result of someone attempting to commit a violent crime and being killed by a victim. Rather, most were the result of someone being seen stealing property and then getting shot, or someone feeling threatened by an unarmed person and then killing the perceived agressor, or some permutation of those factors.

To some extent, the "Should a person have to think before they kill another person" question strikes me as bizarre. Of course they should. Even with SYG laws in place, they have to ask themselves, "will a judge accept my argument that SYG laws should apply here?" The answer might be 'No,' and then they'd be in trouble. The only way to prevent someone from having to ask that question is to make it legal to kill people, flat out. Even then, they would have to ask, "Does this person have relatives who would attempt to hurt me to avenge the person's death?"

That does not strike me as a desirable state of affairs.



Mostly it seems like people are coming from a place utterly alien to me, where it is not okay to use deadly force even against an aggressor.

The idea that it should be legal to kill someone because they were "being agressive" strikes me as utterly foreign, too. As I've said earlier in the thread, unless you're willing to articulate much clearer lines around legitimately and illegitimately perceived threats, you're basically arguing that every argument in a bar should turn lethal.

I believe that the use of deadly force to save a life is justified and acceptable. I believe that violent crimes in which a person is being attacked and seriously injured may justify the use of lethal force if other options (nonlethal force or escape) are not available. The problem I have with SYG laws is that they effectively legalize the use of deadly force in a much, much wider range of situations, ones that are even more subjective and open to interpretation than normal self-defense scenarios.

I believe that ending another human life should be an action of last resort. I'm not a pacifist, but I don't believe that death is desirable, either. I would hope that we can agree on that, at least?
posted by verb at 8:17 AM on June 12, 2012


This is fundamentally impossible to answer, as long as there is a nonzero amount of it

How many 17 year old boys being gunned down by people who find hoodies threatening do you find unconscionable?
posted by empath at 9:21 AM on June 12, 2012


This is the part that strikes me as rather naive

The mindset of those who believe the SYG laws are a good idea strike me as driven mostly by situations in movies and TV shows. In such dramas, everything is clear cut, the good guy and the bad guy are established and the good guy has a clear need to shoot the bad guy. Real life is much more messy and the last thing we need to do is to encourage testosterone laden gun nuts, just itching to use their toys, to go out a "feel threatened" so they can pop someone they consider the "bad guy". I'm pretty sure that description fits George Zimmerman, as well as some of the SYG supporters.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:14 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]



One of the things that we can see from looking at actual cases rather than hypotheticals is that the line between agressor and victim is often blurry and hotly debated, particularly in self-defense and even moreso in SYG cases. Many of the SYG cases in particular were not the result of someone attempting to commit a violent crime and being killed by a victim. Rather, most were the result of someone being seen stealing property and then getting shot, or someone feeling threatened by an unarmed person and then killing the perceived agressor, or some permutation of those factors.

Oh god, I can't believe I just did all this trying to get data for you, but looking at the fatal cases compiled by the Tampa paper above, I see:

People who were killed after assaulting the defendant: 36
Killed after forcing way into home/car/business/boat: 18 (Which many people consider to be a precursor to potential serious violence, and is undisputably a felony)
Killed after shooting defendant: 2
Killed after attempted mugging with gun/crossbow: 3 (and yes, crossbows can still kill, despite their awesomeness. I want to go into a side tangent, but will restrain myself.)
Killed during or after assaulting defendant's boyfriend/girlfriend/friend: 5
Killed after pulling/ threatening/aiming/reaching for/with weapon: 4
Killed after attempted assault: 3 (Which usually seems to be fists flailing and trying to hit, but not connecting.)
Killed after attempted mugging defendant: 2

So that's 73 who were killed in the act or after committing a violent felony.

"Gang shootout" collateral/other damage: 9 (These are by nature hard to judge: do you judge only the person who shot first? Everyone from the side that shot first? I'm counting this separately.)

Now moving on to the more "nonviolent" shootings.

Killed in the act of burglary/theft: 3
Killed after threatening the defendant: 2
Killed after banging on doors and windows: 1
Killed after disputing unidentified sheriff repossessing car: 1
Killed in the perceived act of pulling a weapon: 1
Killed in the act of pursuit: 1

So, all told, 9.

Now moving on to the "bullshit" shootings:

Killed assaulting friend of defendent after friend assaulted: 1
Killed while vandalizing car: 1
Killed trying to recover car: 1
Killed after engaging in extramarital sex: 1
Killed while being a landlord: 1

5 bullshit shootings, which the judge acknowledged as bullshit, and they were denied immunity, charged, and found guilty.

Disputed/Uncertain: 17
Many of these took place in situations with only two people, generally where assault was claimed by one, which means no one can be quite certain what happened. Which should apply here? Presumption of innocence or presumption of guilt?

However, even if we accept that all of the disputed/uncertain claims did not actually involve assault (a thing I don't believe, but am willing to go with for the sake of argument), that still leaves 80 people killed while trying to prevent violent felonies, with only 31 people killed in other circumstances. (And that includes the ones the judge tossed as bullshit.)

So overwhelmingly, most of the SYG cases were in fact defending against violent felony.

I believe that the use of deadly force to save a life is justified and acceptable. I believe that violent crimes in which a person is being attacked and seriously injured may justify the use of lethal force if other options (nonlethal force or escape) are not available.

I think here is the crux of our disagreement. I believe that a person's right to protect the integrity of their person should trump any rights of their assailant. Thus, if someone is defending against force, I believe they have an ability to defend themselves without being forced to attempt less effective options, and give up precious time, that makes them less able to defend themselves. There's this police thing, for example, I wish I remembered...referring to the "golden seconds" or "magic seconds" or some such, which you have in order to stop someone assaulting you before your ability to defend is compromised. I wish I could remember how many, but it's definitely under thirty, and may be under twenty.


I believe that ending another human life should be an action of last resort. I'm not a pacifist, but I don't believe that death is desirable, either. I would hope that we can agree on that, at least?


We can mooostly agree. I don't believe that death is desirable, but I also don't believe killing someone should be an action of last resort.

FWIW, though, I definitely don't denigrate you for having your opinion, and accept that it's totally possible that mine has been shaped by my experiences in a way that is different from many others. Most of the people I associate with are either former or current military or law enforcement, as am I. There seems to be a strong difference of opinion between civilians and people who have been in the business of defensive violence - which is why I said upthread that I think people's opinions here are often informed by whether they've been mugged and how familiar they are with guns.
posted by corb at 1:05 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


However, even if we accept that all of the disputed/uncertain claims did not actually involve assault (a thing I don't believe, but am willing to go with for the sake of argument), that still leaves 80 people killed while trying to prevent violent felonies, with only 31 people killed in other circumstances. (And that includes the ones the judge tossed as bullshit.)

So we're talking about a quarter of the linked victims in SYG cases being nonviolent. In addition, because SYG laws are something above and beyond existing self defense and/or castle doctrine laws, there's no need to present a false dilemma: the lack of SYG laws wouldn't have meant an immediate conviction in the other 75% of the cases, it would have simply meant that they would have had to defend themselves on more traditional grounds like self-defense.


I think here is the crux of our disagreement. I believe that a person's right to protect the integrity of their person should trump any rights of their assailant. Thus, if someone is defending against force, I believe they have an ability to defend themselves without being forced to attempt less effective options.

While I see what you're saying, there are two pieces of this that I find very problematic.

First, it effectively legalizes escalation of altercations. I shove you, you kill me -- legal. You can certainly say that I shouldn't have shoved you, but the potential problems with that system should be obvious.

Second, you've conflated theft and breakins with physical assault: I know a few friends who insist that stealing a man's ramen is morally and legally equivalent to physically attacking him ('Theft is violence') but I disagree. In a functioning civilization, the loss of property can be repaired but loss of life cannot. For the same reasons that the death penalty is problematic (imperfect judicial process results in innocent deaths, for example), setting up a system in which killing people because someone believes they are stealing something is, well... problematic. It's the escalation issue again.


FWIW, though, I definitely don't denigrate you for having your opinion, and accept that it's totally possible that mine has been shaped by my experiences in a way that is different from many others. Most of the people I associate with are either former or current military or law enforcement, as am I. There seems to be a strong difference of opinion between civilians and people who have been in the business of defensive violence - which is why I said upthread that I think people's opinions here are often informed by whether they've been mugged and how familiar they are with guns.

I don't have anything against guns, and my circle of friends is thick with ex-Marines, law enforcement officers, and other "non-civilians." Have you considered the possibility that as someone who legitimately wields legal violence, you may have a perspective that would be less workable when extended to the general population?
posted by verb at 3:09 PM on June 12, 2012


Shorter version: I don't believe my (or your) property is more valuable than the life of a burglar. Life trumps property. I understand that it's not a universally held belief, but I wonder if that might be where things really break down in our different views on things.
posted by verb at 3:15 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


corb: Killed after forcing way into home/car/business/boat: 18 (Which many people consider to be a precursor to potential serious violence, and is undisputably a felony)

Does that include break-ins, or does it actually mean forced (as in, physically forcing a person to give you access)? Because I think counting break-ins/burglaries as "violent" crimes is a real issue, and a mistake. That's not even getting into the problems that come along with the use of the insanely complicated and loaded term "felony."
posted by broadway bill at 4:05 PM on June 12, 2012


Does that include break-ins, or does it actually mean forced (as in, physically forcing a person to give you access)? Because I think counting break-ins/burglaries as "violent" crimes is a real issue, and a mistake.

If somebody breaks into my house and takes my stuff when I am not there, I don't think they should face the death penalty or anything like life in prison. However i do think that if they are willing to break into my house while I am there and threaten me with force, and if someone is coming into my house while it is occupied I am not going to stop and take a survey about their intentions, I am going to eliminate the threat to me and my family. I am going to assume they are meaning to or at least don't care about doing violence to me to get my stuff. I am going to do some violence to protect myself right back at them. Same goes for mugging, carjacking, etc. If i think retreating is the best option to get me and mine out without harm, I will do that. Protecting society from thugs isn't my job, nor my inclination. I am happy to pay taxes to let the police do that. However I don't want to have to face prosecution for defending myself from going about my business when some thug decides my stuff is more valuable than my life.

This is not to say SYG laws aren't problematic. As i said up thread some kind of provision that you give up any protection under SYG if you instigate the encounter, as George Zimmerman did, or are yourself engaged in illegal activity would seem to be a good modification to the law.
posted by bartonlong at 4:38 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Second, you've conflated theft and breakins with physical assault: I know a few friends who insist that stealing a man's ramen is morally and legally equivalent to physically attacking him ('Theft is violence') but I disagree.

Not exactly. I've conflated breakins and forced entry with physical assault; you'll note I deliberately kept separate the burglary cases that did not involve breakins or physical assault. This is primarily because I believe that a breakin is most often a violent crime - it takes place somewhere where the burglar can reasonably believe that people will be present (so he most often needs to be prepared for this instance.) It is somewhere where family is often present, and where the burglar has no legitimate reason to be whatsoever. While I do have issues around theft, this particular one is not one of them.

Have you considered the possibility that as someone who legitimately wields legal violence, you may have a perspective that would be less workable when extended to the general population?

Possible, but I don't think that it has to be less workable, or automatically is less workable. For example, Mr. Corb is one of the more responsible people I know with firearms, though he is neither military nor law enforcement. But in non-Stand Your Ground states, if he winds up needing to take a life in defense of our family, he will be arrested regardless of the circumstance, and likely go to trial. Self-defense is a defense to the crime, not an avoidance of arrest or trial - Mr. Corb in this theoretical circumstance might well be found innocent. But because of the way the law currently functions, our family would be down his bail money and the cost of a lawyer, with no recourse to get that money or time back from the state. That's not okay in my book - but it's how things often work at the moment in states that don't take legal means to avoid it.

I think I might support not extending it to some portions of the population - for example, people who are often prohibited from owning firearms by law, such as convicted felons or dishonorably discharged military. But I think that all citizens in good standing with the law can and should receive the training to become responsible with their weapon. (There's a long tangent about how disarming the population in general makes them less responsible with said weapon, but that's a derail for another day.)

Shorter version: I don't believe my (or your) property is more valuable than the life of a burglar. Life trumps property. I understand that it's not a universally held belief, but I wonder if that might be where things really break down in our different views on things.

I believe that innocent life is more valuable than property (I would give up property to save an innocent life.) But I think that you forfeit that valuation of your life by engaging in criminal activity designed to deprive others of their life or of their livelihood. In my (admittedly personal view), when you attempt to steal from someone else, you have forfeited societal protection by acting outside the laws of said society. This doesn't mean I think point-blank killing you is okay - but it does mean that I might value recovery of the property higher than I would value that individual's life. We do, I think, differ here.

Does that include break-ins, or does it actually mean forced (as in, physically forcing a person to give you access)?

Both.
posted by corb at 7:46 PM on June 12, 2012


I believe that innocent life is more valuable than property (I would give up property to save an innocent life.) But I think that you forfeit that valuation of your life by engaging in criminal activity designed to deprive others of their life or of their livelihood. In my (admittedly personal view), when you attempt to steal from someone else, you have forfeited societal protection by acting outside the laws of said society. This doesn't mean I think point-blank killing you is okay - but it does mean that I might value recovery of the property higher than I would value that individual's life. We do, I think, differ here.

Thanks for clarifying, corb. I do think that we've sort of zeroed in on the real heart of our differences. I definitely agree with you that someone who knowingly breaks the law has voluntarily forfeited some of their own rights in our society. If you do something that results in jail time, for example, it's understood that you've given up your expectation of freedom for the duration of your sentence.

I think there's a significant danger, though, in applying "well, you broke the law -- you don't have the right to live" equations to a broad range of crimes. The idea that the consequences of a crime are proportional to the crime itself is one of the hallmarks of our civilization, and one of the reason that we tend to recoil at stories of summary executions for things we would consider minor offenses in other "less free" cultures. The idea that even criminals have rights as human beings is an inherent part of our legal, moral, and ethical system.

I understand that you're also talking about "heat of the moment" events rather than reasoned, considered punishment for a crime meted out after the fact. However, the rationale you're offering for the use of lethal force seems -- unless I'm misunderstanding -- to translate to "if you commit a crime against someone's property, it is acceptable to execute you."
posted by verb at 7:29 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Disputed/Uncertain: 17

You do realize one of the parties was not present to represent his or her side of the case, right?
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:21 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


when you attempt to steal from someone else, you have forfeited societal protection by acting outside the laws of said society.

So the bankers, we can shoot them?
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:22 AM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I understand that you're also talking about "heat of the moment" events rather than reasoned, considered punishment for a crime meted out after the fact. However, the rationale you're offering for the use of lethal force seems -- unless I'm misunderstanding -- to translate to "if you commit a crime against someone's property, it is acceptable to execute you."

You're misreading me a bit. It's more that if shooting the offender is the only way to prevent further crime or prevent loss of property, then I feel it's an acceptable move. Kind of like:

X burglar grabs purse with the rent money and starts to run.
Y armed citizen pulls a gun and says, "Stop or I'll shoot!"
X burglar says "Fuck you!" and keeps running.
Y armed citizen is within their right to shoot if it is the only way they are likely to recover their rent money - and honestly, with the state of our police capacity, it probably is.

X burglar breaks into home.
Y armed citizen pulls a gun and aims at said burglar, saying "Stop right there, bucko!"
X burglar continues to move forward.
Y armed citizen is within their right to shoot - X burglar has heard their clear warning and is proceeding anyway; they may be in personal danger.

Some of these are my personal feelings, though, rather than being enshrined in law.

You do realize one of the parties was not present to represent his or her side of the case, right?

Yes, that's why I listed them that way if there were no witnesses or evidence confirming the incident and the person who lived claimed assault.
posted by corb at 10:49 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the clarification, corb. I think the first category is the one where we aren't seeing eye to eye.


X burglar grabs purse with the rent money and starts to run.
Y armed citizen pulls a gun and says, "Stop or I'll shoot!"
X burglar says "Fuck you!" and keeps running.
Y armed citizen is within their right to shoot if it is the only way they are likely to recover their rent money - and honestly, with the state of our police capacity, it probably is.


I'm not sure you're doing it consciously or not, but you're conveying a sense of proportionality there. The idea that someone could be rendered homeless by the act of theft is a means of upping the stakes; would the principle hold true if the thief had shoplifted a street vendor's cup of ramen? Or if someone were stealing my XBox? Morally and ethically, all of those acts constitute a violation of property and personal integrity. Does a child who steals another child's toy forfeit his or her life?

Also, I'm curious if your formulation extends to the idea of getting property back, or simply preventing a theft in progress. For example, if the burglar makes it back to his home and the woman in question follows him, shoots him, and takes her purse back, was she in the right? Not trying to construct a "gotcha" question, just trying to figure out where the edges around these principles lie. I suspect that you're not advocating as hardcore a system as it sounds, but I want to make sure.

I'd also suggest taking a quick look at the Wikipedia entry on retributive justice -- it covers some very similar concepts.


X burglar breaks into home.
Y armed citizen pulls a gun and aims at said burglar, saying "Stop right there, bucko!"
X burglar continues to move forward.
Y armed citizen is within their right to shoot - X burglar has heard their clear warning and is proceeding anyway; they may be in personal danger.


In this situation, I think we're much closer to a classic self defense scenario; the burglar's continued approach despite the clear warning can be construed as a tangible physical threat rather than simply an attempt to steal property.
posted by verb at 11:18 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure you're doing it consciously or not, but you're conveying a sense of proportionality there. The idea that someone could be rendered homeless by the act of theft is a means of upping the stakes; would the principle hold true if the thief had shoplifted a street vendor's cup of ramen? Or if someone were stealing my XBox? Morally and ethically, all of those acts constitute a violation of property and personal integrity.


I'm sorry - I think I used this one because I recently witnessed a pursejacking right around rent time. For me, the principle would still apply if it was any recoverable object. A street vendor's cup of ramen cannot be recovered - once dropped, it's useless as food. An XBox is also not likely to survive the drop, so you would have to weigh that as well.

In my own personal scale, I would not shoot someone who, say, stole my book on the subway, or ran off with with a small bag of my groceries. But I also would try very hard not to judge someone who did - because I think that everyone should be able to judge where those lines lie for themselves. I don't know everyone's personal situation. I don't know who can easily afford to lose something and who can't - or who's saving for their mother's cancer operation and needs every penny.

If I was trying to recover, say, said rent-money wallet, I also personally would use (and advise others to use) escalation of force, which involves calling for a halt, showing the weapon, shooting a warning shot so they know you're serious and have an opportunity to drop the items and run, and then firing for something nonvital. But again, I also don't want to judge other people who may not have learned escalation of deadly force, or may not be as confident in their aim to shoot for anything besides center mass. I don't want to be in a position where my personal privilege is making me remove the choices of other people to defend themselves.

Does a child who steals another child's toy forfeit his or her life?

Now who's trying to anchor via proportionality? Obviously a young child should not be shot - they are not an adult, with an adult's capacity for decisionmaking, thus they are not responsible for their actions. If you're talking about older children such as teenagers, I think that they possess the capacity to both be a threat, and also it's difficult to tell them apart from adults.

Also, I'm curious if your formulation extends to the idea of getting property back, or simply preventing a theft in progress. For example, if the burglar makes it back to his home and the woman in question follows him, shoots him, and takes her purse back, was she in the right? Not trying to construct a "gotcha" question, just trying to figure out where the edges around these principles lie. I suspect that you're not advocating as hardcore a system as it sounds, but I want to make sure.

So, I actually have a friend who did something similar, minus the shooting. His business was robbed. The police did not have the manpower to investigate, and had failed to investigate or recover property from the string of business robberies in the neighborhood.

So he investigated on his own - paid local informants, and got information as to where the thieves were. He tried calling the police, but they said they couldn't act on a tip that they hadn't investigated. So he got his rifle, called a co-worker and asked him to bring his rifle, and they both went to the location, and asked for their property back.

They were able to recover the business property. And I admire them for it.

Were they going there to shoot the people? No. But they were going to recover their property, and they came armed for contingency. It's possible that the burglars might have taken actions to threaten them, and if they had then had to shoot them, I wouldn't think that they were wrong in doing so - even though some might say they "initiated the confrontation."
posted by corb at 11:49 AM on June 13, 2012


This thread contains some of the most troubling reasoning I've ever seen on metafilter.
posted by broadway bill at 12:49 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


This thread contains some of the most troubling reasoning I've ever seen on metafilter.

I am a very strong supporter of private gun ownership and self defense and i have to say I really, really disagree with you corb. In most of the scenarios you are outlining you would be going to jail for murder. If you catch someone fleeing after taking your property and decide to shoot him, that is manslaughter at least, and rightly so. If someone threatens you (even non-directly by breaking into an occupied home say) and you shoot them, that is self defense. if you shoot them for something they have already done, but are not now providing a threat, that is vigilantism and is no more right than them stealing from you.
posted by bartonlong at 1:16 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


If I was trying to recover, say, said rent-money wallet, I also personally would use (and advise others to use) escalation of force, which involves calling for a halt, showing the weapon, shooting a warning shot so they know you're serious and have an opportunity to drop the items and run, and then firing for something nonvital

You would go to prison for this, and rightfully so.
posted by empath at 1:32 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am a very strong supporter of private gun ownership and self defense and i have to say I really, really disagree with you corb. In most of the scenarios you are outlining you would be going to jail for murder. If you catch someone fleeing after taking your property and decide to shoot him, that is manslaughter at least, and rightly so.

You're right - the law as currently existing in many states provides for that. But I think that law is wrong. verb was asking me about moral preferences, not legal ones.

Since you do identify yourself as a strong supporter of private gun ownership and self defense (and thus perhaps more of a middle position between myself and others in the thread), can I ask you why you would feel that would not be an acceptable response if someone was stealing your rent money? Not talking legally, but morally: why you feel that would be wrong? And what you would feel the best option would be in that circumstance? And possibly why?
posted by corb at 1:56 PM on June 13, 2012


Corb, this is political science 101. The state has a monopoly on violence. You call the cops, and collect your insurance money.
posted by empath at 1:58 PM on June 13, 2012


Someone could just as well ask you why you feel it would be wrong to shoot a guy that's banging your wife, or why it would be wrong to shoot a banker that fucked you out of your house with a fraudulent mortgage.

Because we live in a modern, civilized society, and we use the law to settle disputes, not wild west bullshit.
posted by empath at 2:00 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Corb, this is political science 101. The state has a monopoly on violence.

You assume that this is a position which is shared by everyone. Not everyone agrees that the state should have a monopoly on violence, or should have a monopoly on a host of other things. Many people see these things negatively, and believe they make our society worse, rather than better.
posted by corb at 2:09 PM on June 13, 2012


There is a term for a society where property belongs to people with the biggest guns and the willingness to use them. A failed state.
posted by empath at 2:27 PM on June 13, 2012


Isn't that what state monopolies on violence are? A place where property belongs to a government with the biggest guns and the willingness to use them against anyone who disagrees, or doesn't want to pay them protection money anymore?
posted by corb at 2:40 PM on June 13, 2012


We got to where we were regarding use of force and such before the spate of SYG and open carry in reaction to the ills of a society run along those lines in what has become mythologically called the Wild West.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:47 PM on June 13, 2012


No, Corb, as I said, this is poli sci 101. You can't have an ordered society when violence by the general public is permitted by the state.
posted by empath at 2:50 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let's just play the scenario out where it's okay to shoot people that are say, stealing your car stereo.

You can't just pretend that only one person will do it. It's going to be something that lots of people do. And those people will make mistakes. Let's assume that we don't prosecute people for making 'honest' mistakes, and a few young black men get killed by amped up white guys with guns who didn't like them hanging around their cars.

So, I think it's reasonable, then, that young black men walk around with guns, to protect themselves, right? And wouldn't it be reasonable for them to shoot first if they have an aggressive interaction with a possibly armed individual?

And it just goes on and on.
posted by empath at 3:17 PM on June 13, 2012


empath, to be fair I was very explicitly asking Corb about the moral and ethical, rather than legal, principles involved. I don't think it's fair to point out the legal implications of his answers to those particular questions without acknowledging that.

I do think the problems you point out -- that in the real world acceptance of that level of violent escalation would simply normalize tribal violence -- are right on the nose.
posted by verb at 3:58 PM on June 13, 2012


But the legal ramifications ARE moral. One way that one can decide ethical and moral issues is to imagine a world in which everyone acted in the manner you propose. I think it's pretty clear that Dirty Harry World would be a dystopian nightmare.
posted by empath at 6:57 PM on June 13, 2012


I agree, empath, but I don't think what you're pointing out is inherently a legal argument. I'd everyone smoked pot, I don't think we'd see the collapse of civilization; that doesn't make it legal, however.

I absolutely don't want to put words in his mouth, but my guess is that corb would say that if everyone acted in the manner he proposes, there wouldn't be any problems -- because no one would steal anything, either out of respect or out of fear. With so many vigilantes and lethal-defenders-of-property around, the risks inherent in stealing anything would be much higher.

In the real world, however, I think the problems with those assumptions have been amply demonstrated. The history of three-strikes laws, manditory sentencing, the poor deterrent effect of death penalty laws, and so on suggest that ramping up the penalties for already-illegal, already-dangerous activities isn't very effective.

It really comes down, IMO, to a core ethical question - does human life lose its inherent value when the owner of that life commits a crime?
posted by verb at 7:13 PM on June 13, 2012


Well nobody in Somalia commits crimes since everyone is walking around with automatic weapons, right?
posted by empath at 8:17 PM on June 13, 2012


Well nobody in Somalia commits crimes since everyone is walking around with automatic weapons, right?

Actually, it looks like less than 10% of the population in Somalia owns firearms. The US, in comparison, ranks first on the list of per-capita gun ownership. I mean, I'm no fan of anarchy but "everyone in Somalia is walking around with an AK" doesn't match reality.
posted by verb at 9:47 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, Corb, as I said, this is poli sci 101. You can't have an ordered society when violence by the general public is permitted by the state.

There are a lot of political ideologies where ordered societies exist, but there is either no state or minimal state intervention. Many of those ideologies are even covered in poli sci 101 - at least, they were in my ultra-lefty institution.

I absolutely don't want to put words in his mouth, but my guess is that corb would say that if everyone acted in the manner he proposes, there wouldn't be any problems -- because no one would steal anything, either out of respect or out of fear. With so many vigilantes and lethal-defenders-of-property around, the risks inherent in stealing anything would be much higher.

First, not that it matters, but I have to confess I have lady-bits, so you don't keep inadvertently using the wrong pronoun. :) Second....soooort of. My ultimate ideology is for smaller communities - with no state monopoly on force, neighborhood watches could have real teeth. You don't need to have a state to have individuals banded together for mutual gain - but with smaller, intentional communities, you also don't have the tyranny of the majority that you see with a large federal government that keeps a monopoly on force.

So in this ideal system, your neighborhood watch would take on most of the patrolling and keeping law and order in the streets - but if you did happen to see a crime committed, and no watch were around to deal with it, you would feel empowered to do so on your own terms. Said force could also be nonlethal, too - such as tasers or similar methods.

In the real world, however, I think the problems with those assumptions have been amply demonstrated. The history of three-strikes laws, manditory sentencing, the poor deterrent effect of death penalty laws, and so on suggest that ramping up the penalties for already-illegal, already-dangerous activities isn't very effective.

I think that these penalties are rendered ineffective through other means. Keeping people in the prison system for lengthy periods of time is not an effective deterrent: the human brain is not really well equipped to understand how much worse being in jail for twenty years is than being in jail for five. Mandatory sentencing also tends to mean more that there's no discretion in sentencing than that people are forced to real consequences. And with our appeal system, someone on death row can linger for almost twenty years. These penalties are ineffectively enforced and administered - I don't think this means no penalties could be.

It really comes down, IMO, to a core ethical question - does human life lose its inherent value when the owner of that life commits a crime?

I think this is a core ethical value. And it's, again, one where we differ. I'm not saying that life loses all value when the owner of that life commits a crime - but it certainly does lose some of it for me, more depending on the crime. For me, for example, the life of a convicted pedophile holds zero value, and the life of a convicted rapist hardly any. The life of a burglar has some value - but the life of a burglar willing to harm a family to get what he wants? Very little indeed.
posted by corb at 9:55 PM on June 13, 2012


There are a lot of political ideologies where ordered societies exist, but there is either no state or minimal state intervention.

Do any of these actually exist out side of the fevered dreams of Ron Paul supporters?
posted by empath at 10:23 PM on June 13, 2012


I mean, just read this article about Lagos -- isn't that the society that you want? A mostly powerless state, where everyone seems to do whatever they want, and safety only exists for those carrying guns?
posted by empath at 10:25 PM on June 13, 2012


Do any of these actually exist out side of the fevered dreams of Ron Paul supporters?

Any ordered societies? Sure! Here, until the communists came and destroyed it. Here, on a small scale for twenty years. (I actually knew someone who lived there!) Here, for about twenty five years.

I think it'd be really interesting to see how such a community would get along if it /didn't/ constantly have massive government interference.
posted by corb at 10:40 PM on June 13, 2012


Essentially, I also think that it'd be a very different thing to institute a stateless or minarchist society here in the US, for example, with a lot of land and relative prosperity, than looking at ares where the state has dissolved in part due to their minimal resources and relative lack of prosperity.
posted by corb at 10:41 PM on June 13, 2012


Well, first -- sorry about that gender mixup. I blame the English language, ahem. Thanks for the correction!

Second, I think your comment about curiosity re: small-scale social experiments is similar to my own curiosity about collective living. I know quite a few people who've lived in a forty-year-old commune in downtown Chicago; it's a functioning entity inside of the city, is self-sustaining in some ways but connects with the surrounding community in others, and is living proof that communism works.

Well, sort of proof. The problem is that it (like the unincorporated town-ish zones you linked to as examples) is basically a cycling group of hundreds of like-minded people who are bound by similar ideology, and have the luxury of kicking out anyone who decides they don't want to abide by the shared principles. There's a much larger surrounding society to "absorb" the exiles from their community without the need for violence. As much as I admire and respect their exercise -- and as much as their concrete ways of living reflect my underlying values better than the fundamental brutality of the free market -- I do not believe that their way of living is sustainable at scale.

There have been no successful examples of either anarchist or communist societies at scale, unless we're willing to play it very fast and loose with the definitions of "scale" and "success." IMO, that should tell us something. Either they've crumbled under their own weight, succumbed to the internal rot of human corruption, proven incapable of defending themselves from external threats without compromising their inherent nature, or failed to hit sustainable population numbers and faded away.


I think it'd be really interesting to see how such a community would get along if it /didn't/ constantly have massive government interference.

Well, first there's the niggling detail that in a direct or representative democracy, government interference is a community decision. Moving beyond that, it's a bootstrapping problem. Our planet is basically populated and colonized to the point that any location with resources sufficient for self-sustained living of middling to large groups is already claimed, populated, and so on. Even if there were no "governments" per se, anyone attempting to live in those areas has to abide by the social contracts of those areas -- and that means that other people will be interfering and setting the consensus. At best, we can move to places where there are few neighbors and it is possible to live "off the grid;" and that is mostly about living beyond the attention of the community rather than beyond its reach.
posted by verb at 5:03 AM on June 14, 2012


How do these small communities work in the following example?

You have two communities, Fooville and Bartown, located across a river from each other. Fooville has a resource Bartown doesn't have (foo) and Barville has (bar), which Fooville doesn't have. The river's too swift for boats, so they need to build a bridge over it so foo/bar trade can happen.

Who pays for the bridge? Well, you might say it's split 50/50 between the towns. But some residents of Bartown decide they'd rather live without foo than pay their share. Without their contribution, the bridge cannot be built. Without the bridge, the economy of both communities will suffer. The people will suffer.

How will the bridge be built without taxes? How are taxes collected and the funds dispersed without a government?
posted by desjardins at 6:46 AM on June 14, 2012


Well, sort of proof. The problem is that it (like the unincorporated town-ish zones you linked to as examples) is basically a cycling group of hundreds of like-minded people who are bound by similar ideology, and have the luxury of kicking out anyone who decides they don't want to abide by the shared principles. There's a much larger surrounding society to "absorb" the exiles from their community without the need for violence.

Yeah - I think I very strongly believe in the principle of exile. I don't know if it's not allowed at this time, or if it's simply not thought feasible with really large cities, but I really like the idea of saying, "You've violated the mores of this community. We will escort you to the boundary of this community, and from there you are free to go. Find your own way in the world.

Where this becomes problematic is when no one wants to take them: where do they go? You see this a lot in national immigration, when no one wants to take people in. (You saw this with Jews fleeing the Nazis. There were not a ton of countries who were welcoming them in.) This is something I really do want to consider and figure out. I don't have an answer yet: if pressed to give one immediately, I'd like to say that cities can only control land immediately within city limits, and that there would be no such thing as state-level government.

I know that most communities have failed, but I think it's primarily because each community has attempted to take over land that other entities have claimed, which causes conflict. (Also, I can't believe I didn't mention the Amish! Dude, the Amish! They've been going for hundreds of years with very little formal government! And they're still mad that the FBI intervened in that beard-cutting debacle!)

Well, first there's the niggling detail that in a direct or representative democracy, government interference is a community decision. Moving beyond that, it's a bootstrapping problem. Our planet is basically populated and colonized to the point that any location with resources sufficient for self-sustained living of middling to large groups is already claimed, populated, and so on. Even if there were no "governments" per se, anyone attempting to live in those areas has to abide by the social contracts of those areas -- and that means that other people will be interfering and setting the consensus. At best, we can move to places where there are few neighbors and it is possible to live "off the grid;" and that is mostly about living beyond the attention of the community rather than beyond its reach.

I think representative democracy has moved well beyond communities - because it enforces the desires of people from completely alien cultures on the whole. For example, the amount of states not allowing gay marriage have meant that the federal government doesn't recognize it. But without that need for the sort of "majority rules" stuff, each community could decide its own rules. I think also that with smaller communities, it'd be easier to leave, essentially. Currently, most nations make it extremely difficult to leave, because there's this idea that the place you're born is the place that had dominion over you. But if people were arranged in terms of what ideologies they favored, or where culturally felt at home to them, I think it'd be a lot better.

In terms of locations and resources, I think that there are some interesting ideas being floated around this. I think that the idea of floating cities outside national coastal jurisdiction is probably the closest one feasible at the moment, but I would like us to try to figure out ways to make this work on a large scale in the oceans - which have far greater amounts of space than in existing, already claimed countries. Ultimately, though, I think space exploration is the only way to really make this work in the long term. We need to jumpstart our technology - and ultimately, I think that is what will do it - frustration at the laws and strictures and cramped nature of living on Earth, and a desire to move it beyond. Many of the people interested in this are extremely rich, with the ability to develop this technology.

You have two communities, Fooville and Bartown, located across a river from each other. Fooville has a resource Bartown doesn't have (foo) and Barville has (bar), which Fooville doesn't have. The river's too swift for boats, so they need to build a bridge over it so foo/bar trade can happen.

Who pays for the bridge?


That's a legitimate and thoughtful question, and I appreciate it. In my ideal society, the answer is that it wouldn't be a matter of the cities paying for it. It would be a matter of individual subscription - similar to the way that a lot of monuments were raised in the 1800s, or Kickstarter processes today. Joanna Bridge-Builder wants to build a bridge and plans to oversee the project. She then goes around trying to secure funding. Citizens from both Fooville and Bartown can decide on the merits of the project, and decide whether or not they want to fund it. Joanna Bridgebuilder must lay out clearly exactly what will happen with the bridge for the next Y years, and answer any concerns interested donors have.

Joanna, in turn, might decide that she only wants people who contribute to her bridge to be able to cross it without paying a toll. As long as she's disclosed that in her request for funding, she's within her rights to do so. But, let's say the bar in Bartown really wants that new business from Fooville. They might offer to give Joanna a larger contribution if she makes it freely open to everyone. Joanna would have to decide on that, weighing her costs in doing so versus her interest in securing funding from the Bartown bar.

So, in essence, there aren't any taxes, just voluntary subscriptions to things.

Now, to anticipate future arguments: it is entirely possible that Citizen Josephina in Fooville doesn't want to pay for the bridge. She doesn't want to pay for anything, in fact. Citizen Josephina hasn't contributed a dime for any of the nice improvements that are going on in her town, but that she's benefiting from. What to do? The current model is, if you don't pay taxes, you go to jail. But in my ideal society, Fooville has a different answer. Subscriptions are a matter of public record. Individuals in the community aren't forced to treat Citizen Josephina any particular way - but if they are frustrated that Citizen Josephina isn't contributing, they're within their rights to shun her. They don't have to talk to her, or include her in their parties. But beyond that, they also don't have to do business with her. They don't have to fix her plumbing, or sell her clothing, or even sell her food. If her house catches fire, they don't have to put it out. They don't need to investigate who's been stealing food from her garden. They aren't forced to support her in any way, just as she isn't forced to support them.
posted by corb at 8:15 AM on June 14, 2012


corb, I think the kind of approach you're describing is (again) something that's much more workable when populations are more diffuse, and where there are fewer problems with behavioral and communal externalities.

"You're within your rights to not put out her house when it catches fire" is one thing when folks all live a mile or so from each other, and the fire is a glow in the distance. In a population-dense area, if one resident decides they will not care for their property, will not pay their Fire Department Tax, will build a coal-powered generator in their front yard rather than pay for power, and will dig a well rather than paying for water, it gets complicated. Significant externalities are incurred. Everyone is at risk from fire, the water table is being affected, and so on. The community ends up carrying that person's responsibilities because a weak link puts everyone else at risk -- much like herd immunity.

In addition, Josephina is benefitting in numerous concrete ways from Fooville's collective work. The safety of living in a community -- versus living in a cabin out in the middle of nowhere, and risking death if someone catches you sleeping -- is a nontrivial benefit. The neighborhood watch may not be willing to protect her house in particular, but if they're still shooting outsiders who skulk around wearing ski-masks, Josephina benefits from their protection. If Fooville decides to clear the nearby swamp to reduce the risk of malaria, Josephina enjoys health benefits. And so on and so forth. These kinds of things are unavoidable; eventually it seems that Josehphina would have to be exiled, and a 'boundary of benefit' would have to be established to ensure that free riders don't reap the benefits of Fooville's work without contributing to Fooville's bottom line.

In a lot of ways we're back to the 'Communes vs Anarchist collectives vs Benevolent Monarchies vs Novelty System' kind of debates that I enjoyed in my teens and twenties. Almost any party can make the case for one of those options being the moral and ethical ideal based on their starting point framework, but scaling them requires we live in a fundamentally different world with different kinds of humans and different kinds of population patterns. They make for really interesting speculative fiction, and I think these discussions are very useful for figuring out what systems are our ideals versus our compromises, but at the end of the day systems that work have to account for the real complexity of bad-faith actors and the expense of policing externalities.


They don't need to investigate who's been stealing food from her garden.

This is actually something that brought it back around to an earlier thread, for me. Let's say that Citizen Josephina knows who has been stealing food from her garden. And she goes over to their house, shoots them, and takes the food back. Is Josephina a murderer, or a legitimate defender of her own property? Is there any requirement that she demonstrate the other Foovillian's guilt to the rest of the community to avoid prosecution as a murderer? Would the burden of proof be different if she subscribed to Fooville Platinum Elite Status? Again, not gotchas -- just trying to think through the ramifications.
posted by verb at 8:40 AM on June 14, 2012


Any ordered societies? Sure! Here, until the communists came and destroyed it. Here, on a small scale for twenty years. (I actually knew someone who lived there!) Here, for about twenty five years.

Hmmm. Where did their infrastructure come from?
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:48 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


They aren't forced to support her in any way, just as she isn't forced to support them.

The point that libertarians often miss is that it's in their best interests to support other people even when those people don't support them. I mean, why should I have to pay taxes so some poor fourth grader can go to school? I don't have kids! What's that kid ever done for me? His mom works, but doesn't make enough to pay taxes, so what's she ever done for me? Fuck them, man! Except... that fourth grader is going to grow up. He's going to need a job. It's in my best interests that he be an educated member of society and not someone who can't find work and may resort to crime as a result.

My parents moved to the suburbs from the city neighborhood in which I was born when I turned 5 because they perceived the city as becoming unsafe. Tens of thousands of white people did the same in the 1970s and 1980s. On an individual family level, it made sense - you want your kids to grow up in a safe neighborhood with good schools, right? But it completely destroyed entire neighborhoods and cities as the tax base was decimated. City budgets were slashed. Yay, smaller government, right? Except that there are (mostly black) neighborhoods with 30-40% poverty rates, the public schools have turned to shit, the parks department stopped after-school programs, the bus routes were cut, furthering unemployment. White flight contributed to suburban sprawl which contributed to higher levels of pollution. All because of individual decisions that made sense to those particular families.

I am not saying that families should have been forced to stay in certain neighborhoods; I am saying that no decision is made in isolation, and Josephina's decision not to fund community projects can and will have effects on the community as a whole. So in her case? Yes, she should be forced to support the community or forced to leave it. The US government puts you in jail in part because they can't kick you out of the country. Exile, if no one will take in Josephina, may actually be worse than jail. So she is effectively "forced" to contribute... just like we are with taxes.
posted by desjardins at 11:55 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


The point that libertarians often miss is that it's in their best interests to support other people even when those people don't support them.

No, we're all just individual cowpokes ridin' the range with our shootin' irons, livin' off the land. No low-down, free-loadin' goldbrickers are gonna get any a mah nuggets I dug outta the ground by mahself. They kin git their own nuggers, dagnabit!
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:59 AM on June 14, 2012


Is it okay if I picture you as Yosemite Sam from now on?
posted by desjardins at 12:02 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


What this thread needs is Fooville/Josephina fanfic.
posted by verb at 1:11 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


In addition, Josephina is benefitting in numerous concrete ways from Fooville's collective work. The safety of living in a community -- versus living in a cabin out in the middle of nowhere, and risking death if someone catches you sleeping -- is a nontrivial benefit. The neighborhood watch may not be willing to protect her house in particular, but if they're still shooting outsiders who skulk around wearing ski-masks, Josephina benefits from their protection. If Fooville decides to clear the nearby swamp to reduce the risk of malaria, Josephina enjoys health benefits. And so on and so forth. These kinds of things are unavoidable; eventually it seems that Josehphina would have to be exiled, and a 'boundary of benefit' would have to be established to ensure that free riders don't reap the benefits of Fooville's work without contributing to Fooville's bottom line.

I think you're correct in many ways, that ultimately, it might seem like the best thing for the community if Josephina were exiled. But the difference is that I don't think a formalized system needs to be set up, wherein we say, "Once X person reaches Y point, they are exiled." I think that it needs to be thoughtful, and agreed on by an overwhelming majority of the community - not just 51 percent. I'm personally a big fan of the supermajority system - if 2/3 or 3/4 of the community agree that this person needs to go, they probably do.

This is actually something that brought it back around to an earlier thread, for me. Let's say that Citizen Josephina knows who has been stealing food from her garden. And she goes over to their house, shoots them, and takes the food back. Is Josephina a murderer, or a legitimate defender of her own property? Is there any requirement that she demonstrate the other Foovillian's guilt to the rest of the community to avoid prosecution as a murderer? Would the burden of proof be different if she subscribed to Fooville Platinum Elite Status? Again, not gotchas -- just trying to think through the ramifications.

Again, we're talking "in my ideal system here," so there's no real consensus on this, and realities could play out differently, but I would think that anytime violence is enacted, the community would have the right to inquire why it happened. So Citizen Josephina would indeed have to show the other Foovillians that there was a reason for the shooting, or face consequences. (I'm, again, a big fan of exile for crimes, but that's me.) The burden of proof probably would be higher than if she was a well-respected member of the Foovillian community - people would be quite likely to say, "I know Citizen Josephina, and she takes the benefits of living in our community without giving back. But as soon as somone took her vegetables, she went and shot them? I don't think she was acting in good faith - because she never does."

The point that libertarians often miss is that it's in their best interests to support other people even when those people don't support them. I mean, why should I have to pay taxes so some poor fourth grader can go to school? I don't have kids! What's that kid ever done for me? His mom works, but doesn't make enough to pay taxes, so what's she ever done for me? Fuck them, man! Except... that fourth grader is going to grow up. He's going to need a job. It's in my best interests that he be an educated member of society and not someone who can't find work and may resort to crime as a result.

I think that this is not quite the case. I think a lot of people often conflate moral interests, and logical interests. For example, it may be in the moral interest to ensure that everyone has an equal chance to school. But it may not actually be in the real best interest of individual citizens or even society as a whole to educate everyone. In your hypothetical example, it may be in the best interest to educate only the fourth graders who show the most aptitude, so that those people can get a really good education. It might be in your best interest to sort out people who have more mechanical aptitude early, and offer to train them in those pursuits. Now, again, there are a lot of moral reasons why people might not think this is a good idea, and those reasons are totally valid in many ways. But the argument that it's in everyone's best interest is strongly flawed - and people see that flaw in logic.

My parents moved to the suburbs from the city neighborhood in which I was born when I turned 5 because they perceived the city as becoming unsafe. Tens of thousands of white people did the same in the 1970s and 1980s. On an individual family level, it made sense - you want your kids to grow up in a safe neighborhood with good schools, right? But it completely destroyed entire neighborhoods and cities as the tax base was decimated. City budgets were slashed. Yay, smaller government, right? Except that there are (mostly black) neighborhoods with 30-40% poverty rates, the public schools have turned to shit, the parks department stopped after-school programs, the bus routes were cut, furthering unemployment.

Right, and again - there are moral reasons why some people might feel that this is bad. But other people might feel differently - that moving to the suburbs from the city enabled them to create better schools, better neighborhoods, and better living. They might feel like this is their own way of dealing with the Citizen Josephinas of the world - because they can't exile them, so they move away and begin to form their best attempt at intentional communities without them. They might feel that they are better able to use their resources in a positive way, without having them spread too thin, with the weight of too many people they couldn't sustain.

The US government puts you in jail in part because they can't kick you out of the country. Exile, if no one will take in Josephina, may actually be worse than jail. So she is effectively "forced" to contribute... just like we are with taxes.

Why can't they? I mean, I understand why they /don't/, but why can't they just escort you to the border, allow you to liquidate your assets in order to fund your boat, or give you an extremely small boat with some food in it, and have you push off?

What this thread needs is Fooville/Josephina fanfic.

It's like playing chicken with a TRAIN.
Another terrible day in Fooville. Citizen Josephina peered angrily through the blinds, scowling at the citizens who passed along the streets. Always asking her to support their projects, improve the city, help people. Her fingers reached for her flea-infested cat. "We don't need them, do we?" she asked, trying to work the knots out of his fur with her long nails. If only she could buy something! It was a point of pride with her. Citizen Josephina didn't care how many shopkeepers refused her, but no matter how many vegetables she could grow, she couldn't grow steel, or shape it to make scissors. Looking woefully over at her dresser, she sighed. "I guess I'll have to sacrifice another drawer to carve you a comb out of the wood again, Fluffles.."
posted by corb at 1:04 AM on June 15, 2012


Why can't they? I mean, I understand why they /don't/, but why can't they just escort you to the border, allow you to liquidate your assets in order to fund your boat, or give you an extremely small boat with some food in it, and have you push off?

Because for most people this would be a death sentence, but I guess you're okay with that.
posted by desjardins at 4:53 AM on June 15, 2012


Because for most people this would be a death sentence, but I guess you're okay with that.

Well, presumably there's still a trial process, and a sentencing process, and a time-until-carried-out process. Plenty of time to teach someone the fundamentals of sailing, and it's incredibly less expensive to provide someone with a small but serious boat and supplies for fishing and desalination than it is to keep someone in prison. I have two friends who just spent six months at sea on a small boat, and loved every moment of it. And they can then try going to other countries and seeing if anyone will have them.
posted by corb at 4:56 AM on June 15, 2012


I'm someone who identifies as an anarchist, and your (corb) view of a good world is what makes me really really really glad that I have the 'socialist' part tacked onto my identification of choice. The things you're envisioning are awful and terrifying to me.
posted by broadway bill at 8:02 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


corb ... I ... just do not know what to say to you at this point. If you ever run for office, please memail me your real name so I don't accidentally vote for you.
posted by desjardins at 8:19 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm someone who identifies as an anarchist, and your (corb) view of a good world is what makes me really really really glad that I have the 'socialist' part tacked onto my identification of choice. The things you're envisioning are awful and terrifying to me.

Well, in my ideal world, you would also be free to form an anarcho-socialist city with like-minded individuals and be free of interference, as would the anarcho-communists, the primitivists, etc. etc. ad nauseum. Still terrifying? If so, in your ideal society, how do you deal with the anarcho-capitalists? Would you let them have their own city, or impose your will?

corb ... I ... just do not know what to say to you at this point. If you ever run for office, please memail me your real name so I don't accidentally vote for you.

I'm sure the feeling's mutual, but don't worry, it's not likely.
posted by corb at 10:12 AM on June 15, 2012


What do you when the capitalists decide to let all their pig farm run off and raw sewage flow into the river that the socialists downstream depend on for water? Send them a nasty letter? Round up a posse and break some kneecaps?
posted by empath at 11:15 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, in my ideal world, you would also be free to form an anarcho-socialist city with like-minded individuals and be free of interference, as would the anarcho-communists, the primitivists, etc. etc. ad nauseum. Still terrifying? If so, in your ideal society, how do you deal with the anarcho-capitalists? Would you let them have their own city, or impose your will?


I don't know how my personal vision of society would handle anarcho-capitalists (I hate that phrase and it makes me sad to finally see it on mefi, BTW). That's kind of the big question for me and a lot of other anticapitalists and antistatists. I just don't know. I would like to think that through egalitarian education and conversation that people would be disabused of the notion that capitalism without a state is an awful and oppressive system waiting to happen. But, I'm kind of a realist, and I know that it is pretty damn unlikely that anything like that is likely to happen.

And, yes, your ideas about autonomous communities are still frightening to me even with the concession that communities outside of your ideological framework could exist. I feel, to paraphrase Debbs, that as long as there is an underclass or criminal element, I am of it. I don't hope for a future where I alone am/feel free; I'm more interested in a world where all of us are free. I don't ever want to be in a position where I am forced to impose my will on anyone like that.

Of course, I understand that we are talking about personal visions of an unlikely utopian future here, and so I allow for an infinite amount of room for whatever, but it still scares me to imagine a world of violence, punishment, and exile. I don't want that, and I suspect you don't either.

In fact, as much as my general ire is aimed at statism, I think full-on statist socialism would put me closer to my ideal than your vision of society would.
posted by broadway bill at 1:07 PM on June 15, 2012


"...through egalitarian education and conversation that people would be disabused of the notion that capitalism without a state is an awful and oppressive system waiting to happen."

Got a little messy there, eh? Sorry, posting on my phone while taking a break from work!

"... through egalitarian education and conversation that people would be disabused of the notion that capitalism without a state isn't an awful and oppressive system waiting to happen."
posted by broadway bill at 1:10 PM on June 15, 2012


At what point do we start talking about watery tarts throwing swords being no basis for a rational government?
posted by bartonlong at 4:08 PM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


What do you when the capitalists decide to let all their pig farm run off and raw sewage flow into the river that the socialists downstream depend on for water? Send them a nasty letter? Round up a posse and break some kneecaps?

It's a good question - but not one that's solved even today. This is one we're constantly debating, how to handle other countries dumping into the oceans, or having nuclear runoff in them, or overfishing. So a legitimate challenge - but one that has less to do with ideology, and more, how do you deal with having different nations or nation-states?

I don't know how my personal vision of society would handle anarcho-capitalists (I hate that phrase and it makes me sad to finally see it on mefi, BTW).

What do you prefer, market anarchist? Or invididualist anarchist? (It's always interesting, the terms we use...like, I've never heard the term "anarcho-socialist" before. I know anarcho-communists and anarcho-syndicalists, but no other anarcho-socialists.

That's kind of the big question for me and a lot of other anticapitalists and antistatists. I just don't know. I would like to think that through egalitarian education and conversation that people would be disabused of the notion that capitalism without a state is an awful and oppressive system waiting to happen. But, I'm kind of a realist, and I know that it is pretty damn unlikely that anything like that is likely to happen.

Yeah, I think we all would like to think that - but I genuinely think that short of indoctrination, people are going to have different values that spur their different ideologies, even if they have the exact same education.

I don't hope for a future where I alone am/feel free; I'm more interested in a world where all of us are free. I don't ever want to be in a position where I am forced to impose my will on anyone like that.

See, it's interesting, because I completely agree with you. But I think our concepts of freedoms are different. In my concept of freedom, people are able to choose to harm themselves, if they wish - they're free to contribute or not, if they wish - and they're also free to defend themselves, if they wish. They're free to associate with people of like mind, or to remain alone if they choose.

I mean, these are the hard questions of anarchism that are going on right now, right? Do you allow people the freedom to exclude others who violate the rules of the community? Even if you're engaging in consensus decision-making, do you allow one person to block every proposal forever? What do you do when you have different ideas about how to achieve your goals? What do you do when the syndicalists are calling for a general strike, and the insurrectionalists are arguing for smashy-smashy?

Of course, I understand that we are talking about personal visions of an unlikely utopian future here, and so I allow for an infinite amount of room for whatever, but it still scares me to imagine a world of violence, punishment, and exile. I don't want that, and I suspect you don't either.

I don't. But I don't see any way around it. I don't see any way for freedom to exist without negative freedom as well: the freedom to not associate, the freedom to not share. And for me: any world but this world is a world of the threat of violence and punishment. Your socialist state would, for me, be a state of violence imposed by force, forcing me to do things I didn't want to do, without the freedom to keep myself safe.

So I think it's always a world of choices. If you allow people the freedom to live, does that also include the freedom to die?
posted by corb at 9:19 PM on June 15, 2012


"... through egalitarian education and conversation that people would be disabused of the notion that capitalism without a state isn't an awful and oppressive system waiting to happen."

No, but it will eventually evolve that way. Game theory shows pretty simply and starkly that without intervention, the most advantaged player will unavoidably end up with everything (well, almost; even the rich need someone to clean the toilets and make the beds) and as we saw with royal lineages, someone along the line of inheritance of this monopolistic hoard of wealth will not be a nice guy.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:24 AM on June 18, 2012


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