Rioting for More Charity

I get grief in hard core libertarian circles for supporting a basic, no-frills government safety net.  However, in watching Europe right now, I may change my opinion.  Folks in this country use the European rioting as a sort of threat to warn us that we need to continue to be profligate in government spending or else face the same kind of riots here.  I come to the opposite conclusion -- if people are going to riot when the charity they receive has to be reduced, isn't that a reason not to get them hooked on the charity in the first place?


  1. Ted Rado:

    Our financial problems can be solved by belt tightening. The social problems that have been created by all the USG giveaway programs cannot. We have generations who have come to believe that living on the sole is an acceptable way of life. We have destroyed those people. Shame on us.

    We should have been teaching the value of education and hard work, not writing books on how to take advantage of all the USG idiotic programs. How in the world do we now reverse this trend?

  2. caseyboy:

    Amen - "For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." 2 Thessalonians 3:10

  3. Brian Dunbar:

    if people are going to riot when the charity they receive has to be reduced, isn’t that a reason not to get them hooked on the charity in the first place?


    Also: Too Late. We seem to have reached de-facto addiction to the stuff, years ago.

    The government provides some money, pretends to officially care. In return there are no riots or racial baiting that upset the taxpayers. Who can pretend things are 'ok' in places like Annacostia.

  4. Man Mountain Molehill:

    My usual problem with libertarians. The question isn't what's an ideal political situation, it's how do we get there from here? We have a deeply entrenched, profligate welfare state. That doesn't go away overnight without social upheaval. Might be riots, might be economic and social collapse followed by a dictatorship. We already have riots over nothing at all. (black "flash mobs")

    To start with what we need is effective riot control and the resolve to use it. Otherwise all we have is a mob-ruled state.

  5. steve:

    @Man Mountain Molehill

    "We have a deeply entrenched, profligate welfare state. That doesn’t go away overnight without social upheaval."

    I agree.

    "Might be riots, might be economic and social collapse followed by a dictatorship."

    I agree.

    "To start with what we need is effective riot control and the resolve to use it. Otherwise all we have is a mob-ruled state."

    This part is tricky since you don't spell out much in the way of how to accomplish "effective".

    Statist solution:
    More police. More curfews. Tougher sentencing. Greater restrictions on weapons. More identity checks. Reduced legal requirements for police surveilance, detention and asset seizures.

    Libertarian solution:
    Remove existing barriers to shop keepers and private citizens ability to arm themselves and protect their property and person. Imagine shopkeepers on the roofs of their stores with rifles. A few shopkeepers did that in the LA riots after Rodney King. Their stores were untouched. The police of course can still do their bit without all the reductions in civil liberties.

    By the way, the police didn't go into the LA riots right away because they thought it was too dangerous. Those few shopkeepers did.

    Now given our current situation social upheaval of at least a mild sort would appear to be inevitable. So, the question becomes what happens on the other side. Will we be more free or less free possibly even ending up with a dictatorship as you suggest.

    All I can say is which of the two paths outlined above is likelier to lead to a dictatorship?

    Assuming you agree with me, how do we as a nation choose the Libertarian solution. Difficult I think, the deck is currently stacked against more freedom as a solution for nearly anything. The statist solution looks likelier to occur.

    But there is always hope, with the advent of the internet conversion to Libertarianism has been growing by leaps and bounds. Currently, their are two Republican primary candidates that qualify as libertarians. In tough times people start searching for new solutions, hopefully, enough people will be familiar with libertarian doctrines that they will recognize it as a bonified choice instead of just red or blue statism.

  6. Man Mountain Molehill:

    I'm a small l libertarian. Armed shop keepers are a start, but you need the police or other para-military to stop large scale violence. If the Greek authorities had machine-gunned a few dozen rioters the problem would have ended rapidly. Clear enough?

  7. Man Mountain Molehill:

    Oh yeah...
    If they put as much effort into riot suppression that they put into swat team raids on organic milk producers...

  8. steve:

    "If the Greek authorities had machine-gunned a few dozen rioters the problem would have ended rapidly."

    LOL, we can hope it is that easy. Undoubtedly, the demonstrations would have stopped. But, that might have just signaled the beginnings of the bombings.

  9. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA):

    Something like 95% of paper currency is also contaminated with cocaine. Fingertips are a very absorptive part of the body. Hasn't done me any good on my days at the register in our retail business ...

  10. perlhaqr:

    Armed shop keepers are a start, but you need the police or other para-military to stop large scale violence. If the Greek authorities had machine-gunned a few dozen rioters the problem would have ended rapidly. Clear enough?

    No. Why does it have to be "police or other para-military", rather than just shop owners themselves? "A few dozen" rioters is like, two full magazines, if I do a bad job shooting.

  11. Global Warming:

    Count me as a libertarian hanger-on who is aghast at the idea of police shooting anyone. I'm pretty sure I have seen some solid evidence on this website that political authority should not be trusted to use guns against the people in a moral and responsible manner.

    On a personal level, I find the image of a shopkeeper gunning down a rioter to be tragic as well, for both parties and on a number of levels. Sure, we have and should claim the right to defend ourselves, but this does not mean we should glory in death, even hypothetical death. The genius of libertarianism is its incendiary assertion that the rights of the "other" are no less than the rights of the familiar.

  12. steve:


    I agree that might have stopped the Greeks. But I think Man Mountain's ultimate point is true.

    Basically, he is saying that at some point organized violence perpetrated by the bad guys is difficult to defeat without organized violence from the good guys. In my view of a big L libertarian world that would be a militia and the police (think good guy paramilitaries vs bad guy paramilitaries). In my view of a little l world that would include the army as well. In a statist world it is the police and military vs the bad guys with the people just being everyones bitch.

  13. steve:

    @Global Warming

    If I appeared to be glorying, it was not my intention. I do, however, believe that the defense of person and property justifies an armed response. If I had my way, I would hold both the police and private individuals to the same standards in determining if a shooting was justified.

  14. steve:

    @Global Warming

    I had another thought.

    You mentioned that libertarians don't trust the police. I think this is generaly true. But, only a small subset of libertarians dreams of a world with no police.

    Personally, I believe that an armed populace and a general attitude from juries that police are just another citizen carrying a gun (who happens to get a paycheck) would go a long ways towards reigning in the abuse.

  15. me:

    Be careful not to throw all those rioters into one pot. Some riot just because they were jonesing for a good riot. Others riot because they are violently opposed to the idea that they ought to pay higher taxes to bail out banks that preferred high risk investments or other countries with a much more lax attitude to spending.

    That said, he US already is a giant welfare state. It's just not as noticeable because a significantly higher portion of taxes goes towards the private pockets of the overlords in charge of taxation.

  16. caseyboy:

    Civil disobedience is okay to a point, marches, strikes, boycotts, sit-ins, etc have their place. However, when a protester starts to destroy someone's property or abuse someone's person a society should react swiftly and with aggression. I wouldn't be too concerned about messing their hair or wrinkling their clothes. The consequences shouldn't be enjoyable.

  17. Man Mountain Molehill:

    A few responses to everything:

    1) Martial law is better than no law.
    2) Civil disobedience is fine as long as it remains civil. The Greek rioters thought is was just dandy to burn down a bank complete with employees and customers. That's about when the shooting should have started.
    3) How many shopkeepers are good shots? Every hour spent at the firing range is an hour not spent making money. Who sets standards? Is it OK to shoot a non-violent shoplifter? (I know it's tempting, but really???)Do we organize shopkeepers into a militia?
    5) The police, as they exist now, need some serious quality control improvement.
    6) If you want people to respect the law, the laws have to be respectable.
    7) Civilization takes a lot of effort to maintain. That includes organized violence when required. It takes a state to organize on that scale. This, more or less, and related reasons is why I stopped being an anarcho-libertarian. We can argue about the "when required" I certainly don't think that is very often, but the ability should be there.

  18. steve:

    @Man Mountain

    I agree with all of that. Except, I do have some afinity for Anarcho-Capitalists. I remain agnostic about it largely because I consider it a mute point. I will worry about the potential problems of too much freedom once the tide of seemingly endlessly decreasing freedom has turned.

  19. steve:

    @Man Mountain

    One minor thought.

    "Do we organize shopkeepers into a militia?"

    If they want to, let them.

  20. blokeinfrance:

    Which riots are we talking about?
    The Greek riots are clearly political (if doomed).
    The London riots last year (against raising student tuition fees) were also political.
    Both had a definable purpose: getting someone else to pay you to be idle.
    The recent English riots were just shopping with violence. To see the parade of losers in court (done for stealing a TV smaller than they had at home, shoes the wrong size, etc) from all social classes is to see how thin the veneer of civilisation is.
    Commentators in the UK grind their axes about deprivation, cuts, blah blah. Deprivation? in Sloane Square?
    The correlation that occurs to me the closest is that between the loci of the riots and major football grounds. But that doesn't work either, the soccer season has barely begun.
    Sometimes something that appears meaningless is, indeed, meaningless. Or maybe, as some (including policemen) have suggested, riots are just a way of having a fight with the cops.

  21. dhlii:

    There are two problems with Safety Nets.

    The first is that they create a disincentive to be productive. Maybe a small percentage of our population truly can not be productive - but our safety net goes well beyond those that could not work given they had an opportunity. It goes beyond even people who are down on their luck, and it has crept to the edges of the middle class. If everyone from the middle down is questioning whether they should work or take government assistance how do we expect society to work.

    The second is that the safety net has been an abysmal failure. Destructive of those it was intended to help. This seems to be true on a far broader scale than just the internal safety net, but appears applicable to charity in general. Our aide - both as a nation and privately to other countries appears to be more effective at corrupting them than helping them. Bill Gates has spent incredible amounts of money - only to prove that private charity can spend incredible amounts of money for no benefit as effectively (or ineffectively) as government. I am not trying to knock gates only point out that helping people is very hard.

  22. Smock Puppet, Noter of Self-Evident Facts:

    >>> If people are going to riot when the charity they receive has to be reduced, isn’t that a reason not to get them hooked on the charity in the first place?

    Indeed, the nature of the problem. By providing them with that initial level, you've given them one of two impressions:

    a) That they can vote for bread and circuses... so it's your job to listen when they vote for more bread and circuses.
    b) That society owes them something. That's going to inherently piss them off, when you tell them, "Hey -- I guess we don't owe you quite so much!"