Defining Libertarianism (was Defining Terrorism)

S. Dale Morrey sdalemorrey at
Wed Jun 26 21:53:40 MDT 2013

Reminds me of what I saw first hand when I was living in Ecuador.

I was living in a town called Montanita.  It was remarkable for how few
police were there despite the fact that it had a significant "transient"
Similar to Las Vegas, on the weekends the population would soar from
200-300 all the way as high as 20,000 with an average of 5,000 to 10,000.
During my stay there I saw it become so crowded that the roads would close
and people would sleep in the middle of the street, the beaches were so
packed that you couldn't walk without stepping on someone. (Admittedly that
level of compression was during Mardi Gras and not the norm).

Yet during this time there were ever only 10 police in 4 shifts of 2 people
with 2 floaters.
Imagine a town the entirety of which was confined to an area the size of
the Gateway in downtown Salt Lake.

I once asked a resident why the police presence was so small and he
remarked that the purpose of the police is not to protect the people from
criminals, but the criminals from the people.  I thought he meant
corruption until a few weeks later.

I was awakened in the middle of the night by something straight out of a
Stephen King style horror flick.  The entire town was marching in the
streets.  They were at the jail (1 block from my window) and they were
demanding the release of someone.

Evidently a group of gang-bangers had come in from Guayaquil and gotten
high on something.  That in itself wouldn't be a problem because drugs are
tolerated there although technically illegal.  The problem was that they
had taken to running through the town and literally began cutting random
people.  One even had a gun and had tried (unsuccessfully) to shoot someone.

The town turned out in force and had apprehended 2 of them, but the 3rd had
panicked and turned himself into the police.  The police were refusing to
hand him over.
Finally the police chief said "He's in the jail and under police
protection.  We need to close up shop for a bit and go to lunch.  We're not
allowing anyone to go in there, but if there is a fire or something, the
keys are in my desk, top left drawer" (not a verbatim quote, but pretty

5 minutes later the guy was let out of jail and dragged facedown by his
legs into the street.  The town elders declared a sentence of "equality".
All three people were bound hand and foot and each man aged 9 years and up
took a turn of hitting, spitting, kicking, punching or if they were someone
who had been cut they got a chance to make a slice of equal quality with
the perps own knife.

It was expected that each man over the age of 9 participate.  One guy
managed to free himself and run down to the Ocean.  The town followed him,
and literally dragged him back kicking and screaming for mercy, or the
police, or God to save him.
At one point during his punishment he asked for water.  The next guy up
asked him if he really wanted water and then urinated on the him.

The whole punishment was public and took about 6 hours.  There was an
ambulance on stand-by but the people would not allow the ambulance to take
any of them away until the "debt was repaid".  They allowed the paramedics
to check them, and even administer first aide.  But as soon as the perp
could sit back up there was blood, brain and gore.  it was on everyone's
hands, but this is how they punish violent crime in that area.  It is why
violent crime is so incredibly rare there.  Even robbery and petty theft is
all but unheard of.  It is because the town stops just short of beating
these guys to death.  Literally they were allowed to come within an inch of
their lives and I'm certain there was permanent traumatic injury.

I was told that this is actually the norm and not the exception.  When a
violent crime occurs, the community takes it's pound of flesh and then
whatever is left of the individual is handed over to the criminal justice
system.  It probably helps that the country has a world class system of
free medicine.  Anyone can go see a Doctor for anything free of charge and
get excellent treatment.  The small town hospital there is the equal of
anything I've seen in the USA and I can personally vouch for the level of
medical competency and care.

Back to the concept of Justice.  I do not condone this, but I did observe
it.  I had no stomache for it and it is one reason I decided that I would
not live there, shortly after which I went to a different small town, close
by but with a different sense of justice.

Nevertheless you cannot argue the results.  What went on there is a highly
effective means of justice and while I don't think it would necessarily
work here, it does work there.  Crime is all but unheard of and the police
really are just there to protect the criminals from the people.  That's why
they need so few of them.

It was explained to me with no great sense of pride by my host (himself an
town elder) that this was actually considered pretty light punishment.  One
time a city bus driver was running late, didn't slow down and ran over a
little girl.  The town stopped the bus, got all the people off it, then
tied the driver inside and torched the bus with the driver still inside.
He managed to make it as far as the hospital, but apparently did about as
well as the little girl he had run over.

Just some thoughts, but I guess justice can mean different things to
different people.

On Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 8:51 PM, Chris < at> wrote:

> Many interesting thoughts have been expressed in this thread.
> On the topic of government's legitimacy as the sole proprietor of the use
> of force, some of you might be interested in the point of view described
> here:
> David Friedman: The Machinery of
> Freedom<>
> Friedman's ideas were completely foreign to me the first time I heard them.
>  They still seem "different" somehow even now, but I can't shake the
> feeling that he's on to something.
> I would not be surprised if someone were to retort "it'll never work
> because it only takes one bad actor to spoil it for everyone".  Indeed,
> that viewpoint has already been expressed in this thread multiple times.
> I reject such notions due to their particularly dim view of humanity. :-)
> How is it that we place such a high value on cooperation, yet come to the
> conclusion that cooperation is or would be powerless to stop baddies in our
> midst?  We embrace the principles of the bazaar (open source) in our
> day-to-day lives, but cling to the cathedral (government) when it comes to
> the regulation of force.  I guess it's just one of those things that makes
> me go "Hmm...".
> I don't expect anyone here to change their mind about government upon
> hearing Friedman's thoughts.  I'll just mention that hearing his ideas did
> expand my own admittedly narrow conception of the world.  For me, it was 40
> minutes well spent.  YMMV, etc, etc.
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