Sunday Sermon: The Republic Goes to War


One of the responsibilities of a state, under the international system, is to provide protection for its citizens. That’s particularly important for a nation like Badgeria, which has unconventional economics and politics – historically nations trapped in aggressive forms of capitalism or fascism attempt to destabilize and conquer nations attempting to offer a more humane alternative. It is an unfortunate reality, but it’s a reality and Badgerians are, above all, realistic.

“You can tell a great deal about the purpose of a nations’ military by how it’s structured; by its logistics” [stderr] The Badgerians realized early on that an offensive military is vastly more expensive than a defensive military, so they focused entirely on making Badgeria difficult to conquer, extremely painful to hold, and an undesirable target, besides. Badgeria has modest mineral wealth, fairly good farm-land, and the spectacular vineyards where Badgerian Black Wine grapes flourish. Yet, Badgeria’s greatest defense is due to its non-accumulative economy: there’s nothing in Badgeria that’s particularly worth taking or conquering, there are no military secrets, there are no great accumulations of gold or valuables – a foreign power that desired to conquer Badgeria would mostly end up with a lot of art and wine, in return for massive casualties and a decades-long insurgency.

You Don’t Want This

Badgeria lifted its military strategy from Switzerland’s: invest purely in defense and take advantage of interior logistics. The Badgerian Department of Defense invested a great deal of time and energy in plotting fields of fire throughout approaches into the country, as well as critical locations internally, and has set up mixtures of concealed firing positions that can be manned, as well as remote-controlled firing positions. The remote controlled firing positions include things like cratering charges, anti-personnel charges, and cluster munitions. This is all very nasty stuff, and the Badgerians consider it an unfortunate necessity given that there are world-level superpowers that occasionally flex their muscles.

(via box wars) This is not a Badgerian hoplite

Remember what happened to the US troops in Iraq, when insurgents began destroying their patrols with emplaced improvised explosive devices (IEDs)? Imagine how much worse it would be if a military power was trying to occupy a country that had professionally installed, military-grade, munitions emplaced where there was no need for insurgents to be up at night digging and hiding explosives? Any given road intersection might be under covering fire from 1-2km away, with a wire-guided anti-tank missile or two, and an antipersonnel cluster munition or two hidden in the sewer system. The sewer systems, and urban subways of Badgeria were designed in consultation with military engineers in order to facilitate troop movement in the event the country is attacked; they are also designed for area denial, with charges in some locations to collapse tunnels if necessary. Again, Badgerians consider this all to be an unfortunate necessity, and the civilian population are fairly sanguine about it; they already expect that if Badgeria were attacked by a superpower, they would be devastated as a matter of course. The weapons and emplacements would be revenge.

Revenge is an under-appreciated part of international diplomacy. Several decades ago, Badgeria formed a mutual defense alliance with a number of other small nations. This alliance, named the “Small Nations Alliance” is based on the premise that when superior powers attack small nations, their actions are always “terrorism” – the members of the alliance have stated that any nation which attacks one of them will be subject to unconventional warfare attacks in return. The United States of America “freaked out” when North Korea joined the SNA in 2021 though one of the member-states of the SNA had already declared that it had a bio-weapons capability it would deploy as retaliation against any nation attacking one of the members. The WMD strategy of the SNA is something that the SNA states have repeatedly explained is “very unfortunate but necessary, when confronted with superpowers that have massive nuclear arsenals.” Israel is pointed to as a state that successfully navigated non-proliferation and WMD treaties by following a policy of deliberate ambiguity; the SNA have openly stated that their entire effort is to remain “not worth the bother.”

The Hoplites

Badgeria combines its militia, its police, and its search-and-rescue service into a single organization, the Hoplites. Within the Hoplites, some sub-specialize – some are primarily Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and others are part-time militia. The various units of Hoplites specialize, yet cross-train; every Hoplite is trained in basic battlefield emergency aid, can handle small arms, get old people’s housecats down from trees, drive service vehicles safely, respond to drug overdoses, and talk down a drunk. All Hoplites are trained in civil law and must pass an annual exam in order to maintain their certification as a Hoplite. They are expected to take seriously the Hoplite motto: “Do the Right Thing” and generally see themselves as servants of (and allies to) The People. Having been in the Hoplites is a good ‘resume stuffer’ and joining the Hoplites for a time is a fairly common starter-career for a young Badgerian.

Other units of Hoplites have additional training, such as explosives and demolition, heavy weapons/anti-tank weapons, long-range rifle-shooting, or hostage negotiation, crowd control, and handling domestic disturbances. Typically, Hoplite service is a full-time job, though there is a reserve component, in which a relatively small annual maintenance training requirement translates to an annual salary. Within the Human Resources Department, preference is given to staffing positions within the Hoplites from currently enrolled Hoplites, so it’s fairly common that someone might start off as a demolitions engineer and wind up switching to the Foot Patrol.

The Foot Patrol is the general service branch of the Hoplites, and are expected to be jacks-of-all-trades. Members of “The Footy” are proud of their creative approach to problem-solving and maintaining order; they’re the front-line interface between the government and The People and that usually means helping rescue cats from trees or pushing a stuck car out of a snowbank more than it does kicking in doors and arresting criminals. There are, naturally, criminals in Badgeria, and the Foot Patrol usually does not get involved in dealing with dangerous people; though they collar vandals, street thieves and venture capitalists – non-violent cases that can be handled non-violently. Since the Hoplites have a wide variety of service-members, there are virtually infinite response capabilities for their commanders; most Badgerian wrong-doers are perfectly aware that if they get violent with a Hoplite, they are only a radio-call away from a national-level response, so they prefer to avoid causing a ruckus so serious that it triggers a response of armed militia.

Since so many Badgerians have served in the Hoplites in one capacity or another, there is a built-in presence of a para-military discipline with a command hierarchy. Normally, Badgerians are suspicious of command authority and hierarchy, but they understand that – when an emergency is happening – sometimes someone has to stand up and start giving orders. Hoplites have limited authority to command citizens, though other Hoplites and ex-Hoplites will tend to answer the call if it’s loud enough. The function of Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Guard, and Highway Patrol are all rolled up in the Hoplite’s Foot Patrol – some units of the Foot Patrol are joking referred to as “The Bulldozer Patrol” because they have heavy equipment, fire equipment, and rescue equipment. A Foot Patrol Hoplite can, on their own authority, summon assistance ranging from a tow-truck to a backhoe and a unit of combat engineers. Hoplites are carefully indoctrinated to understand and appreciate the idea of “minimal use of resources” and any of them that appear to have difficulty understanding that concept are mustered out by their commanders. “Do the Right Thing!”

The command structure of the Hoplites appears like a mixture between a corporate management system, with different departments and department heads, and a military command hierarchy with rank. Rank is earned through performance and seniority, and there is an expectation that orders will be obeyed by lower ranks – unlike a 20th century military, however, the expectation that all orders will be followed does not hold; Hoplites are employees of the government but are not its indentured servants – they can quit if they are given an order that is illegal or abusive, and they can complain to Human Resources if they believe that an officer is abusing their authority. Such complaints are taken seriously whether from a corporate employee or a Hoplite; all are equal before the law.

There is a special form of crime in Badgeria that did not exist in 20th century civilizations: Abuse of Authority. The reasoning is thus: since The People (in the form of the collective) vest authority occasionally in an individual, an individual that abuses that authority has committed a serious crime against society as a whole. It is fairly rare for someone to be accused of Abuse of Authority, but if such an accusation is made and upheld, the guilty party invariably gets a free ride to the border. As you would expect, Hoplites are particularly careful not to abuse authority, especially the commanders – but the same applies to corporate executives. A corporate executive that attempted to sexually harass an employee under cover of authority would be risking not just their career, but their citizenship.

Notes

20th century countries like The United States of America did a bad job of deciding whether their justice system was retributive, redemptive, or deterrent. In Badgeria, there is basically no effort to exact retribution against a wrong-doer: they are either getting a free ride to the border, or they are going to be very careful in the future, and not make that mistake ever again. There are certain categories of crimes (violence, Abuse of Authority, Embezzlement) that are considered irredeemably anti-social, and apologies are not accepted.

[Edit: I neglected entirely to mention how external emergencies are handled. The default is for the Hoplites to deal with emergencies with an eye toward keeping the situation from falling apart until the legislative process can take over. There are relatively few emergency situations that would not be the Hoplites’ purview to deal with in the short term, though it would be clear that the Hoplites are never expected to be a long-term solution for anything.]

Jury duty is a paid career in Badgeria; if one wishes to be a juror, one can enter the jury pool by signing up at any Human Resources Department office. Jurors are well-paid for each case they serve on, for some people it is their full-time job. Jurors are subject to accusations of Abuse of Authority, and are generally very careful to be impartial and accurate. Jurors must pass a proficiency test on the law, annually, to maintain their juror certification.

The Badgerian judicial system de-emphasizes witness testimony in favor of circumstantial evidence. It is widely recognized that people “mis-remember” things frequently, and there has been a great deal of debate about replacing the jury system with an artificial intelligence. Usually, The People prefer the idea of replacing all the lawyers with AIs, though the technology for that is not quite “there” yet.

One of the big problems that the United States had in the 20th century was a state-based model in which Police, Fire/Emergency, Medical/Emergency, Federal law enforcement, and Military each had separate communications infrastructures. During Hurricane Katrina, for example, there were ad hoc command centers in which desks were covered with a collection of radios, and operators had to translate telephone tag-style between law enforcement and emergency response. Badgeria’s Hoplites have a completely common infrastructure since they’re all the same organization. This was a concern for some of The People who do not favor “militarized police” but the Hoplites and the government explained that it was less “militarized police” than it was “civil defense” In the end, it appears to have worked out pretty well, while saving a great deal of money.

unit logo of one of the Hoplite departments

(All Greek courtesy of Google Translate; mostly I am just trolling for classicists)

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This completes the exercise. I have placed a full link-page on Badgeria [stderr] for posterity, or something. I feel like I’ve been kind of self-indulgent, here, since it’s easy to come up with hypothetical civilizations (politicians do this all the time!) but actually doing it is another matter, entirely. Especially in an international system that holds a monopoly on political violence and that allows nations to treat their citizens as property. A place such as Badgeria could never arise, will never arise, unless there is some sort of horribly disproportionate power-change (think: the Q bomb from The Mouse That Roared) or a collapse so severe that all human civilizations experienced a great reboot.

Thank you all for your comments and thoughts; it’s been interesting and fun.

Comments

  1. Dunc says

    I’ve read this series with interest, and I quite like many of the ideas you’ve put forth, but I do have one question: What’s happening to all these people getting escorted to the border? Presumably Badgeria’s neighbours aren’t going to be happy to accept all those miscreants… Is there a big refugee camp or something, or are they just dying in the trackless wastes?

  2. says

    they are either getting a free ride to the border, or they are going to be very careful in the future, and not make that mistake ever again

    Free ride to the border will be problematic regardless of how you try to do it.

    Option 1: You inform the neighboring country about the fact that the person at their border is a criminal. The neighboring country refuses to let the criminal inside. You are stuck with a big camp/prison on the border. Basically, that means every criminal gets a life sentence in a prison that happens to be located on the border.

    Option 2: You do not inform the neighboring country about the fact that the person at their border is a criminal. The person gets inside together with a group of tourists. This leads to unfortunate implications. For example, the neighboring country unknowingly accepts a convicted serial child rapist. The criminal gets a job as a school teacher and molests a few dozen children before the neighboring country finally catches him for the second time. The neighboring country gets pissed off, closes the border and refuses to let in any Badgerian tourists.

    Moreover, it seems reasonable that the harshness of the punishment should depend on how bad the crime was. For example, somebody who shoplifts a bottle of vodka should get a less severe punishment than somebody who murders another person. As I understood it, under Badgerian system, the only punishment is the ride to the border. A caught criminal either gets away with no punishment at all (only a warning) or they get the only punishment option there is (ride to the border). There is no real possibility to adjust the severity of the punishment based on how bad the crime was.

    Besides, some former criminals do change and become better people. With a life sentence on the border you are giving no second chances at all.

  3. Ketil Tveiten says

    I got beat to the punch here: the dump-the-undesirables-at-the-border policy is bound to cause some diplomatic incidents. Perhaps a post on how Badgeria does diplomacy in general would be in order?

  4. says

    A couple things:
    I completely neglected to mention something I thought belongs in this discussion – but I think I neglected it because it’s something I have been on the fence about, all along. Which is:
    How does Badgeria respond to national-level emergencies?

    My assumption is that for normal diplomacy, The People would create a Department of State or Foreign Affairs, using the usual process by which a project is created, and they would charter it to carry out diplomacy. This would be an interesting problem since in many cases, the DoS would have to walk anything back through the legislative process. Suppose there is a request for Badgeria to join an anti-C02-emissions treaty: the DoS would negotiate what it could but ultimately The People would have to decide. Presumably the DoS would send a representative to the Proposing House and propose that the treaty be acted on, and then there would be specific proposals, and a vote. My suspicion is that this would not take much longer than other systems. The US, for example, still has not ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty that it signed (what does it mean to ‘sign’ a treaty but not ratify it?) in 1999.

    For special situations, like a national disaster or a war, I am torn: should ranking commanders of the Hoplites just deal with the immediate situation appropriately, and request legislation where necessary? I imagine that if some country attacked Badgeria the ranking Hoplites would immediately begin organizing a defense and insurgency, and there would be enough time to ramrod through legislation authorizing (whatever). Otherwise, the alternative is to have an Emergency Committee that normally does nothing, but which is authorized to make temporary decisions lasting up to a week, during which time the committee would rouse the Proposing House to suggest actions, then a quick vote? I don’t like the idea of a “fast track” vote system – we just saw in the US how that can be abused.

    My tendency is to expect that matters in which Badgeria initiates actions, would proceed at their own pace through the legislative process – and external emergencies would be the Hoplites’ problem to delay until a decision could come from The People. I think “Deal with it and Decide” is a good strategy for most emergencies: stop the bleeding then figure it out.

  5. says

    Dunc@#1:
    What’s happening to all these people getting escorted to the border? Presumably Badgeria’s neighbours aren’t going to be happy to accept all those miscreants… Is there a big refugee camp or something, or are they just dying in the trackless wastes?

    I completely forgot to mention that!

    So, here’s how I always imagined it working out: Badgeria would enter into some agreements with other countries to accept banished citizens, provisionally. That would usually entail a certain amount of money (for example, it costs $75,000/year to imprison someone in California) Getting rid of an unsatisfactory citizen would amount to saving Badgeria perhaps $1,000,000 over the lifetime of such a citizen. So, I assumed that there would be a process whereby someone who was thrown out of Badgeria would be ‘welcomed’ by a shithole nation like the United States in return for money. Basically, Badgeria would pay a fixed amount to get rid of them, since it’s cheaper than shooting them and there’s always going to be some country that would be happy to accept a new citizen that came with a fee.

    It’s tasteless, but, I agree: can’t just dump them and let them starve. I imagine it’d be more like the ex-citizen gets a free ride to the border, where they are met by representatives of whoever agreed to take them.

  6. Dunc says

    Otherwise, the alternative is to have an Emergency Committee that normally does nothing, but which is authorized to make temporary decisions lasting up to a week,

    “Special Circumstances”, perhaps? ;)

  7. says

    Ieva Skrebele@#2:
    Free ride to the border will be problematic regardless of how you try to do it.

    Yeah, that’s why I kind of tried to dodge around that question.

    But you all wouldn’t let me, would you?

    For example, somebody who shoplifts a bottle of vodka should get a less severe punishment than somebody who murders another person. As I understood it, under Badgerian system, the only punishment is the ride to the border.

    The free ride to the border is the last resort; it’s when The People have decided that someone is not qualified to be a citizen anymore, and is irredeemably anti-social. I don’t imagine that it would be the only response for all crimes – but I dodged around the whole question of “a justice system” because it’d be a project like any other: The People would have to propose and approve a system for dealing with crimes below a certain level. Presumably if someone did a petty crime, like stealing a bottle of Badgerian Black Wine, then drinking it and throwing up on the bus (that is several offenses, right there!) they would be grabbed by a Hoplite, written up, and their case would be referred to the Department of Justice which would then be responsible for meting out Justice. I would expect that for relatively minor crimes like throwing up perfectly good wine, a citizen would be expected to make reparations. But part of how the Badgerian system works is that I don’t really know how the Department of Justice might be constituted.

    I’d imagine (since this all an exercise in my imagination!) that the Department of Justice would be focused on Restitutional Justice. Usually, someone convicted of a crime would be asked “Do you want to try restitution, or would you prefer a free ride to the border?” If the criminal chose restitution, then the AI or the Jury or the Judge (I don’t know..?) would determine an appropriate restitution. They might wind up as unpaid bus-cleaner for a week. Perhaps the Department of Justice would oversee restitution, or perhaps the Hoplites would, or perhaps Human Resources would.

    This is my opinion, of course, but I think that any crime someone commits which is so severe that restitution does not make sense, is (by definition) irredeemable: they can’t be trusted or they’ve done so much damage that it’s inconceivable that they could counter-balance what they had done. In that case, they’re either no longer qualified to be a part of The People, or they are a medical case – a badly damaged ward of the state that needs care, protection, and maintenance.

    My understanding of how Norway has handled Anders Brievik is sort of like that: well, he’s irretrievably broken and nobody else wants him and he appears to be incapable of learning what he did wrong, so we can’t just throw him away, let’s make him comfortable and safe and keep him out of trouble, and keep him from causing trouble.

    What I, personally, absolutely do not approve of is the US model, where it can’t seem to decide if the Justice System’s job is to torture people into turning good (which manifestly does not work) and which pretends that after you’ve “done your time” you are somehow rehabilitated into being a permanent second-class citizen. Or it’ll “rehabilitate” you with a lethal injection? There are too many contradictory objectives in the US DoJ for justice to be an actual outcome of the process.

    I will note that the people of the US had basically no say at all in how the US DoJ and prison system have been constructed. If they had I would say they are covered in shame, but I see them more as prisoners of a political system that ran horribly out of control.

  8. says

    Dunc@#7:
    “Special Circumstances”, perhaps? ;)

    There is a unit of Hoplites that wear a patch with those words; nobody generally asks what they do. Although, since Badgeria has a radical “no government secrecy” rule, it is possible for a citizen to access their case files – which are bound in leather and tied with ropes, kept in a file cabinet in the basement of the Hoplite base, upon which is a piece of paper with the words “really you would rather not read this” in red ink.

    It’s sort of like The Laundry: every so often some young Hoplite gravitates toward finding out about that unit, and usually, they wind up recruited by it, which pretty much takes care of that.

  9. says

    Sunday Afternoon@#6:
    I can just imagine someone in Badgeria’s neighbours campaigning saying:

    We have become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. When Badgeria sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. And some, I assume, are good people.

    This is a flaw in nationalism which the Badgerians cannot fix: Everyone in the international system has to belong to a country. To a Badgerian, that’s a moral outrage, actually – it amounts to placing every human in a subordinate position to “their” country in which they become defenseless prey if they are not part of a nationalist jumped-up street gang (“nation”). In Badgeria, the idea is that you should want to be a citizen and you should choose to be one of The People – and if, by your actions, you show you are not capable or qualified, then it’s your problem to go find someplace that’ll take you. Of course, the other governments of the world don’t see it that way.

    One of the worst parts about the nationalist system is that the wealthy and powerful are able to buy dual citizenship in various parts of the world (did you know there are programs in the US where you can get citizenship easily by pledging to invest a few $million in funding a business?) it basically allows the rich to cement their control over the poor.

    But what are a people supposed to do with someone who does not want to be one of them?

  10. says

    Ketil Tveiten@#3:
    Perhaps a post on how Badgeria does diplomacy in general would be in order?

    I’d need years to think that through, and frankly it’s way above my pay-grade. There’s a general problem at work here, which I would describe as: “how to exist within an international system that you wish to reject.”

    I haven’t gotten any farther than the military doctrine of “leave us alone, or else” and the League of Small Nations. The LSN is problematic enough – I have been worrying through that idea for a long time and had to wrap my head around the question of whether mutual assured destruction (MAD) could be applied morally. I don’t expect any of you to be more satisfied than my answer, there, than I am – and I’m pretty unhappy with it. But, again, the question is: “how do you exist within an international system where there are WMD-armed superpowers that will not hesitate to engage in nuclear blackmail?” I’m afraid that, in that sense, MAD may have to work; I realize that I am, right there, vindicating North Korea’s strategy. But extend it further: would the US be engaging in any of its military adventures if the targets had WMD? If the answer is “no” then it begins to look like WMD become a sort of political/military sea-anchor.

    I imagine that one of the LSN’s scientists might publish papers in biology journals, regarding genengineered versions of smallpox that are exceptionally lethal. Then, one would only have to breathe the slightest word that cultures of that virus were stored elsewhere, say, Washington DC, and that’s why you would be crazy to launch a “decapitation strike” against us like you keep saying you’d do to North Korea.

    That idea is utterly abhorrent, but it’s basically MAD without nukes. Would it be any better if it were nukes? MAD is predicated on the idea that “if you kill our innocent civilians, we will kill yours.” It’s horrible all the way down – but what is a rational response to someone who says just “we will kill all of you if you don’t surrender” That is the US nuclear blackmail position.

    So I expect Badgerian diplomacy is “leave us alone; we’re happy to trade and tourist and our famous Badgerian Black Wine is, uh, famous, but we really prefer not to be fucked with.” It’s sort of what Switzerland has pulled off since the 100 years’ war.

  11. Ketil Tveiten says

    If Badgerians are such ardent anti-nationalists, who do they root for in the Olympics? How do they feel about team sports?

  12. says

    Ieva Skrebele@#2:
    For example, somebody who shoplifts a bottle of vodka should get a less severe punishment than somebody who murders another person. As I understood it, under Badgerian system, the only punishment is the ride to the border.

    Let me put my Badgerian hat on and try to adjust your thinking, if I may… Engage propaganda device: NOW

    It’s not “punishment.” The Badgerian system is non-punitive; there is no benefit at all for causing hurt/damage in return for hurt/damage. Badgerian justice is entirely based on whether or not someone can make restitution for what they did. Restitution is a voluntary (*) choice to attempt to undo the damage you caused. We understand, of course, that things cannot be “undone” but this is an extremely important value: the wrongdoer loses any benefit that they may have gained with their deed, and then some. So, if someone steals a bottle of delicious and duly famous Badgerian Black Wine, because they don’t want to pay for it, they have defeated their own purpose if they wind up having to make restitution enough to have bought an entire case of Badgerian Black Wine for the store-owner.

    One of the big problems with punitive justice systems is that the embed the idea that making someone miserable somehow atones for their crime. That’s how you wind up with really bizzare things like Michael Milken being convicted of ripping off $600 million through sales of junk bonds, being fined $200 million, spending 3 years in a minimum-security prison, and being released to be a philanthropist with the remaining $400 million. In Badgeria, someone like that would lose all of the money that they stole so hard, thereby defeating the objective they had for committing the crime in the first place. A Badgerian in that situation would either: lose all their money and start again to try to be a worthwhile citizen -or- lose all their money and get a free ride to the border.

    (* “voluntary” in the form of Hobson’s choice: you make restitution or you get a free ride to the border)

  13. says

    Ketil Tveiten@#12:
    If Badgerians are such ardent anti-nationalists, who do they root for in the Olympics? How do they feel about team sports?

    Badgerians do participate in the Olympics, though Badgerian athletes wear whatever they want, choose their own podium music, and are sponsored by corporations, private individuals, or crowd-funding. They downplay nationalism and play up their team spirit. As you can imagine, this annoys the crap out of the Olympic committee.

    Since Badgeria is small, and Badgerian olympians are people that many have met, or trained with, or competed against or funded, naturally there is a tendency for Badgerians to cheer for the athletes they know, though they are fairly scrupulous to say things like, “I am cheering for my neighbor, the Mighty Blogg the Hoplite, who sure can toss a javelin! Can’t she?” One should be proud of individual or team accomplishments, while acknowledging that nobody owns another’s accomplishments simply because they are neighbors, or fellow citizens. Something like an Olympic effort is a collective accomplishment worth being proud of: someone made those shoes, someone lathed that javelin, someone got up every morning to be the javelin target, etc.: Badgerians focus their pride on their, and their team-mates’ accomplishment, they don’t owe any of it to Badgeria proper. That’s team spirit.

  14. Sunday Afternoon says

    Marcus asked, #10:

    did you know there are programs in the US where you can get citizenship easily by pledging to invest a few $million in funding a business?

    Yes I did. I couldn’t afford that, so I got my dual US-UK citizenship the old-fashioned way – brain drain to Silicon Valley post-PhD on a J-2 spouse visa, work permit, H1-B visa, green card and finally citizenship as green card was set to expire.

    But what are a people supposed to do with someone who does not want to be one of them?

    My short answer is: society has tolerate them. While they may reject the society in which they find themselves, society has to accept them and, to some level, provide for them.

    I came to this realization quite some time ago as I had an acquaintance with some of the protestors of the Newbury Bypass: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jan/24/newbury-protest-camp-bypass-legacy

    Among this broader circle of people, an interesting mix of “new age-y, right-on, crystals have energy, man!” and technological environmentalists there was a clear rejection of the broader British society. However, they still collected their regular giro (subsistence or unemployment payment cashed at the post office). I saw this as society understanding that it has a duty to everyone, even those who reject the society.

    This lesson does not yet seem to have been fully grokked by the USA. Progress has been made recently, namely the Affordable Care Act despite all the flaws in the US healthcare system, is a big step in the correct direction, albeit with a recent retrenchment.

  15. says

    Sunday Afternoon@#15:
    My short answer is: society has tolerate them. While they may reject the society in which they find themselves, society has to accept them and, to some level, provide for them.

    Agreed.
    Although, can we say that rejecting society is the very definition of “anti-social” and that society’s obligation to them is also constrained. Not limited, but constrained.

    However, they still collected their regular giro (subsistence or unemployment payment cashed at the post office). I saw this as society understanding that it has a duty to everyone, even those who reject the society.

    This lesson does not yet seem to have been fully grokked by the USA. Progress has been made recently, namely the Affordable Care Act despite all the flaws in the US healthcare system, is a big step in the correct direction, albeit with a recent retrenchment.

    I agree completely. Society ought to be able to tolerate a bit of rejection – although, at a certain point, antisocial behaviors become destructive of the common good. When that happens (for example, Michael Milken, Donald Trump, Ivan Boesky, Anders Brievik) then society’s responsibility shifts from protecting the individual to protecting the collective from the individual.

    Many of the ideas in Badgeria reflect my disgust with the US political system – the richest society in the history of the Earth, and they cannot provide for the needs of the least of its citizens; they’re too busy providing for wars, war profiteers, and the rentier class.

  16. says

    Badgeria would enter into some agreements with other countries to accept banished citizens, provisionally. That would usually entail a certain amount of money (for example, it costs $75,000/year to imprison someone in California) Getting rid of an unsatisfactory citizen would amount to saving Badgeria perhaps $1,000,000 over the lifetime of such a citizen. So, I assumed that there would be a process whereby someone who was thrown out of Badgeria would be ‘welcomed’ by a shithole nation like the United States in return for money. Basically, Badgeria would pay a fixed amount to get rid of them, since it’s cheaper than shooting them and there’s always going to be some country that would be happy to accept a new citizen that came with a fee.

    I see potential for human rights abuses here. Criminals are humans and therefore they happen to have human rights. And Badgeria is responsible for whatever happens with the criminals once they are sent away somewhere. If the criminal is simply somebody who attempted to pass inheritance to their children, a country like USA would happily accept money that comes with this person and let them freely roam American streets. After all, what they did isn’t even a crime by American standards.

    But what about dangerous criminals? Serial murderers, serial rapists, child molesters? Which country will want to accept these criminals (who statistically have a very high probability of reoffending) and let them freely roam the streets? They are outright dangerous and they have to be locked up in order to keep the rest of the society safer. At this point we encounter the inherent problem that comes with for profit incarceration. I believe that conditions inmates suffer in USA private prisons are outrageous and the very existence of such prisons proves that human incarceration should never be a for profit business. I imagine some shithole country would happily accept these types of criminals, put them in hellhole prisons where they die in a couple of months, and happily pocket money from Badgeria. Now, Badgeria could try to enforce some minimum standards, say, “You can incarcerate this former Badgerian citizen, but he must get adequate nutrition, medical care, a prison cell that has the minimum size of whatever and so on.” But the shithole state would still treat this as a for profit business, thus whoever is housing these former Badgerian citizens would be interested in cutting corners. And at this point we are back to the same problem USA has — inmates in for profit prisons suffer what I would call outright human rights abuses.

    This is my opinion, of course, but I think that any crime someone commits which is so severe that restitution does not make sense, is (by definition) irredeemable: they can’t be trusted or they’ve done so much damage that it’s inconceivable that they could counter-balance what they had done. In that case, they’re either no longer qualified to be a part of The People, or they are a medical case – a badly damaged ward of the state that needs care, protection, and maintenance.

    There have been cases where people commit serious crimes where restitution is impossible (murder, rape), but afterwards they regret their deeds and after serving the jail time they no longer do anything illegal and live normal lives. I cannot agree with the idea that “everyone who has done X is irredeemable”.

    It’s not “punishment.” The Badgerian system is non-punitive; there is no benefit at all for causing hurt/damage in return for hurt/damage.

    I agree with this. I like the idea that criminals are ordered to fix whatever they messed up. I see no point in torturing criminals and just making them suffer. In my original comment I used the word “punishment” only because 1) that’s shorter than listing all the options you could do with people who commit crimes, 2) winding up as an unpaid bus-cleaner for a week is a form of punishment too.

  17. Ketil Tveiten says

    So what’s the plan after Badgerians inevitably reject the “export our criminals to Saudi black sites” policy?

  18. says

    Ieva Skrebele@#17:
    I see potential for human rights abuses here. Criminals are humans and therefore they happen to have human rights. And Badgeria is responsible for whatever happens with the criminals once they are sent away somewhere.

    I believe there will always be a potential for human rights abuse in any kind of justice system, because the justice system has to balance the individual’s autonomy against the collective’s. There will always be individuals who maintain that their rights superceed the collective’s (and to the degree that they act upon that, we can say they are criminal or anti-social) Naturally, a state has some responsibility to all of its citizens, even criminals, but in this case we are talking about a special class of citizen: a citizen that has rejected the mutual bond – the social contract – between them and society. A criminal saying “You are violating my rights by throwing me out!” is really saying “You are violating my rights for not living up to my duties!” which just means they are expecting all transactions to go in their favor. The state could argue that they have no rights, because they have rejected their duties and are no longer accepting the social contract – a contract they agreed to accept when they chose not to emigrate when they achieved a status of adulthood.

    I agree it’s problematic. That’s the problem with criminals: they are inherently problematic because they’ve made it clear that they are not interested in obeying any rules. Where it gets complicated for me is when they insist that I have a duty to them in spite of their insistence that they have no duty to me.

    But what about dangerous criminals? Serial murderers, serial rapists, child molesters?

    As I mentioned earlier, I would say that people who engage in that sort of activity, who show that they have no understanding of society’s idea of right and wrong, are anti-social and are either incapable of understanding how to behave in society, or are choosing to not understand. In either of those cases, they are for all intents and purposes unhealthy for society and they would be isolated someplace nice and comfortable but would not be allowed the freedom of society. (See my comments about Norway and Anders Breivik, above) – the framework I am trying to establish around that, however, is that there is an axis between social/antisocial, healthy/unhealthy, redeeemable/irredeemable, non-dangerous/dangerous and that none of the options for dealing with such a person include punishment. Retributive systems of justice, like the US, seem to believe that you can take a mentally unstable serial killer like Jeffrey Dahmer and somehow beat them into being a participant in society, and that the only metric that is relevant is time. That seems to me to be absurd.

    Perhaps Badgerian justice might have an option in it for when someone is judged to be irredeemably antisocial, they could have a chance to somehow demonstrate that they are not, that they have understood their problem and can be productive members of society, again. Personally, I think that certain types of crime, a society is not fulfilling its duty to the rest of its citizens, if it lets that person roam free again.

    At this point we encounter the inherent problem that comes with for profit incarceration. I believe that conditions inmates suffer in USA private prisons are outrageous and the very existence of such prisons proves that human incarceration should never be a for profit business.

    Yes, that’s a problem. A Badgerian who was given a ride to the border, to be met by representatives from the US Government (presumably to be shoved into a US SuperMax prison) is effectively being “extreme rendered” – tossed out to be tortured.

    It seems to me that Badgeria needs to have a prison system, or rather Hoplite Hotels, or something – as an option. Perhaps certain criminals would be given a choice of life in a Hoplite Hotel, or a free ride to the border and perhaps the “free ride to the border” option would require that the transportee would need to find a place willing to take them.

    I’ll note that a lot of this moral dilemma comes from one of the great unfairnesses in the international system – namely that people have to “have” a country and that your rights are reduced to, basically, zero, if you don’t. It’s a hobson’s choice forced on the planetary population by governments, as a way of controlling populations. I think that whole idea is horrible and criminal to begin with (the idea that North Koreans somehow belong to Kim Jong Un because he is head of state is as repellent as the idea that Americans somehow belong to Donald Trump because the electoral college picked him)

    Now, Badgeria could try to enforce some minimum standards, say, “You can incarcerate this former Badgerian citizen, but he must get adequate nutrition, medical care, a prison cell that has the minimum size of whatever and so on.”

    I don’t think that’d work any more than you appear to; countries lie. They’d just take the money and drop the guy in an oubliette somewhere.

    The question, to me, revolves around how much a collective owes to someone who rejects being part of the collective. My answer is “not much.” If there are citizens’ rights they are what you get by embracing the social contract as a citizen – the fact that other nations have set up this nationalist hobson’s choice… I am tempted to say “if you don’t want to be a good Badgerian citizen and you want to go jump into the wilderness, don’t complain about what happens to you.” If I were a Badgerian and I committed some kind of crime, I would do whatever it took to do restitution for my crime because, seriously, getting sent to the United States of America is a pretty fucking horrifying threat. It’s not really a “threat” it’s more ‘action: consequence’ – a matter of individual choice. If you don’t want the consequence, don’t do the action.

    There have been cases where people commit serious crimes where restitution is impossible (murder, rape), but afterwards they regret their deeds and after serving the jail time they no longer do anything illegal and live normal lives. I cannot agree with the idea that “everyone who has done X is irredeemable”.

    I’ll buy that argument. So there might be some crimes where the justice system makes a judgement that a person gets a second chance.

    The very idea of “jail time” however seems absurd. Why does parking someone in a cell make them a better person, and what is the meaning of setting a duration of time on that? If I am drunk and I steal a bottle of Badgerian Black Wine because I can’t find my wallet, and a Hoplite catches me, I don’t need to sit in a cell for a fraction of a second to realize that it was a Bad Idea and I’m not going to do that again. The same goes for accidental crimes – let’s say someone drives drunk (naturally on a bottle of Badgerian Black) and parks their backhoe on top of a pedestrian. There is no way to make restitution to the pedestrian, but the driver immediately realizes that what they did was a horrible mistake and I suppose they would throw themselves at the mercy of the court and ask for a chance to do some kind of service of restitution and that they will never, ever, ever, drive drunk again. Putting such a person in a cell doesn’t change their decision one way or another – it just punishes them. But then we have the problem that some people might be reasonably concerned if they saw the same person climb behind the wheel of a backhoe a day after they parked it on another pedestrian. I am assuming that part of making restitution would be a clearly voiced willingness to try, a clearly voiced understanding of what they did wrong, and a willingness to make necessary changes in their life in order to prevent a repeat offense. At some point, if someone repeats an offense, society must say, “OK, clearly you did not get it” and then they’re off to the Hoplite Hotel or a free ride to the border.

    I see no point in torturing criminals and just making them suffer.

    I am utterly baffled by justice systems that make this weird equation that locking someone up in a small room makes them a better person, somehow. Especially given that the US prison system seems to do a pretty good job of making better criminals. But that’s so messed up it’s hardly worth talking about. The US justice system is hugely incoherent if not outright evil. OK, it’s both.

    If the Badgerian equivalent of Bernie Madoff threw himself on the mercy of the court and said he’d try to do restitution, then we’d all want him working his ass off trying to make his investors whole and recover the money he stole and hid – not having him locked up in a room somewhere.

    Perhaps here’s how Badgerian restitution might work: when convicted of a crime, the criminal has a few days (in a Hoplite Hotel, maybe) to think about what they did and they are responsible for proposing how they would perform restitution. They would present the judge and jury an action plan, and a time-line and criteria, and the judge and jury could consider their past history and accept the proposal on behalf of The People, or not. That would place the convict in the position of having to come up with something measurable and achievable and meaningful. Here, I am reminded of Socrates’ proposal for how Athens should punish him: “thank me, and give me a sinecure” – Athens was not amused. But imagine I stole that bottle of wine: do I offer restitution of 2 cases of wine, or do I offer to sweep and clean the store for 6 months? Which would the jury be more likely to accept?

  19. says

    Ketil Tveiten@#18:
    So what’s the plan after Badgerians inevitably reject the “export our criminals to Saudi black sites” policy?

    It looks like the poor Hoplites would have to run a hotel for the antisocial, somewhere. Not a place of punishment, just … kind of a Hotel California type place.

  20. sillybill says

    “since it’s cheaper than shooting them”
    Sorry Marcus, if you were to change the phrase to “cheaper than the present USian system of legal costs associated w executing a prisoner” you would be right, but – it’s always cheaper to just shoot them, or behead them, or hang them, or whatever. Which of course is one of the problems that this exercise is trying to correct for.

    I’m not sure if permanent jurors is a good idea, you would want to avoid folks who were attracted to the idea of having a permanent position giving them so much power over others. Kind of like not wanting any one to be president who really wanted the job enough to go thru all the associated bs.

    Re: emergencies. Most invasion scenarios (presumably by the rump US or Canada) would happen to fast to allow legislative contemplation and direction. Just preplant lots of caches of weapons, ammo, explosives, and money. Train some spec ops forces in skullduggery. And of course take advantage of all the good will that the Badgerian diplomatic corp has generated in poor neighbor hoods across the Americas to generate anti invasion propaganda and peace marches in the enemy capital. All those clinics and free medical supplies were worth it after all.

  21. says

    a citizen that has rejected the mutual bond – the social contract – between them and society. … The state could argue that they have no rights, because they have rejected their duties and are no longer accepting the social contract

    Not “no rights” — human rights are still there, those remain no matter what crimes a person has committed. If you say “once a person does X, they have no rights,” that sounds uncomfortably similar to the argument USA used to justify waterboarding terrorists.

    Where it gets complicated for me is when they insist that I have a duty to them in spite of their insistence that they have no duty to me.

    You do have a duty to them in spite of their insistence that they have no duty to you. You have a duty to not violate their fundamental human rights, you cannot do to them whatever the hell you want, you cannot torture them, you cannot kill them. If you choose to violate a criminal’s human rights, the end result is that you end up being no better than the criminal you just hurt. Just because somebody is an asshole doesn’t mean that you can behave like an asshole towards them in retaliation. If you do, well, guess what you become.

    Retributive systems of justice, like the US, seem to believe that you can take a mentally unstable serial killer like Jeffrey Dahmer and somehow beat them into being a participant in society, and that the only metric that is relevant is time. That seems to me to be absurd.

    Of course it is absurd. It is absurd in theory, and we also have plenty of empirical evidence to prove that this does not work.

    The question, to me, revolves around how much a collective owes to someone who rejects being part of the collective. My answer is “not much.”

    My answer is “a lot, but less than what a collective owes to those who obey its rules.” I’m fine with the collective limiting a criminal’s movements (locking the criminal in a jail cell) or ordering the criminal to wash busses for a week. I’m not fine with torture, execution or any other human rights abuses. Torture can be intentional (waterboarding) or an unintentional side effect of attempting to save money (throwing a prisoner in a tiny cell, in solitary confinement, with no working toilet, with inadequate food and no medical care). Both are unacceptable in my opinion.

    The very idea of “jail time” however seems absurd. Why does parking someone in a cell make them a better person, and what is the meaning of setting a duration of time on that?

    Sometimes people commit crimes because of drug addictions or lack of skills that would allow them to get hired for a real job. In some countries prisons attempt to cure addictions and teach prisoners some job skills that would allow them to get a job after leaving the prison. So theoretically jail time can make somebody a better person. In practice you might as well do the same addiction treatment or education outside of prison. So ultimately jail time is not only pointless, it actually makes things worse — after getting out of jail former prisoners usually struggle to return to normal life. Incarceration is useful only when you need to protect the society from a dangerous person who is likely to reoffend. Such people have to be locked up in a comfortable cell to keep others safe.

    Obviously your proposal of restitution makes a lot more sense than parking people in prison for a number of years.

  22. says

    Ieva Skrebele@#22:
    Incarceration is useful only when you need to protect the society from a dangerous person who is likely to reoffend. Such people have to be locked up in a comfortable cell to keep others safe.

    There is another horrible thing that occasionally crops up in the US: some congressperson or other gets up on their horse and says, “WHAT?! People in PRISONS have COLOR TELEVISIONS and BOOKS and Internet!” In other words: their stay should be as miserable and punitive as possible. This is in the same country that pretends that prison is rehabilitative.

    I have been referring to them as “Hoplite Hotels” because, presumably, it would resemble a mid-tier hotel, with a built-in library, rec center, cafeteria, health center, and it would he hard to leave.

    The US is a really horrible place. But it’s better than Saudi Arabia.

  23. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Marcus
    It seems that you think that murderers cannot be redeemed, or it would be irresponsible to ever let a murderer back into society. That just strikes me as unnecessary harsh. Again, maybe it’s my naive optimism showing through, but I believe that even many murderers can be redeemed, if only just through time in (a nice) prison.

  24. says

    EnlightenmentLiberal@#24:
    It seems that you think that murderers cannot be redeemed, or it would be irresponsible to ever let a murderer back into society.

    I don’t know what I think, really. Here’s my problem: if society knows that a person is a murderer, it seems reasonable to acknowledge that they are capable of doing such a thing – even if they are not predisposed to, they are capable of doing it. So, if they are released, knowing that, then doesn’t society get some of the blame if they kill again?

    Where do we leave that decision? What if a person just has a horrible, uncontrollable temper and a tendency toward violence? Even if they say they will keep themselves in check, we’d be fools to just go “sure!” and let them out, knowing that. On the other hand, if they really geniunely were going to be able to control themselves and never be violent again, we’ve done them wrong if we warehouse them forever. But, warehousing them doesn’t help either – it’s an artificial condition – someone who’s alone in a locked hotel room is not going to be able to kill, but they could become perfectly deadly the second they get out; maybe they spent years in that hotel room planning their next murder.

    I see these issues as intractable, which just serves to reinforce and justify my moral nihilism. So, I generally try to avoid them because I don’t want my moral nihilism reinforced any more than it already is.

  25. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Marcus
    Designing a society does involve hard choices and tradeoffs. I don’t have a cookie-cutter answer either.

    PS: It seems that I missed the series of posts somewhere that led up to this. It should make for interesting reading.

  26. Dauphni says

    it seems reasonable to acknowledge that they are capable of doing such a thing – even if they are not predisposed to, they are capable of doing it.

    The same is true of your hoplites. While you keep describing them as mostly rescuing cats from trees, the fact remains that they are also trained to kill. And then you go on to say that a large part of the population would want to be trained like this, so you have a lot of people running around capable of killing, if not necessarily predisposed to. How do you reconcile that?

  27. Knabb says

    On the opening post – the whole structure of the Hoplites is deeply flawed for a few reasons. The applicant pool for each individual aspect gets artificially winnowed by tying it to the other aspects, largely as an overcorrection. There’s absolutely no need for search and rescue workers to also be prepared for armed combat, and requiring that of them is a good way to get fewer (and likely less competent) search and rescue workers. Shared communication infrastructure doesn’t necessitate any of that.

    As for restitution based criminal systems, among other things those fundamentally represent a way for a state to forcibly extract free labor from its members. It recreates the problems of for profit prisons, and as a structure is inherently dangerous. The use of violence should be resource negative, so that at the very least there’s no incentive to use it on an innocent person for profit. Instead, there’s a disincentive – it has to actually be worth using those resources to imprison/exile/whatever someone. If they’re sufficiently dangerous then it could be, if they’re not then that’s a good reason not to do it.

  28. Dunc says

    Here’s my problem: if society knows that a person is a murderer, it seems reasonable to acknowledge that they are capable of doing such a thing – even if they are not predisposed to, they are capable of doing it.

    I tend to believe that everybody is capable of murder, given the right circumstances. (Or the wrong circumstances, depending on how you look at it.)

  29. says

    EnlightenmentLiberal@#26:
    It seems that I missed the series of posts somewhere that led up to this. It should make for interesting reading.

    There is a main jump-page for this series [stderr]

  30. says

    Dunc@#29:
    I tend to believe that everybody is capable of murder, given the right circumstances.

    Yes, me too. I can see I wasn’t clear about that – I draw a distinction between someone who has shown that they are capable of murder, and someone who has not. We (obviously!) can’t lock people up for being capable of murdering someone, but we’re reasonable to look askance with someone who has a track record of murdering people. I’d also argue that the number of people someone murders is relevant – especially if it’s in a variety of circumstances. A person who has a history of killing everyone who beats them at chess is someone I might not want to play billiards with, either.

    This whole thing gets very squishy for me because it’s about how people interpret cause and effect and I’ve got real problems with that, and our ability to perceive it accurately.

    I’m adding “design a justice system” to my list of strategic blunders, along with “land war in asia” and “get passive/aggressive with a cat”

  31. says

    Knabb@#28:
    There’s absolutely no need for search and rescue workers to also be prepared for armed combat, and requiring that of them is a good way to get fewer (and likely less competent) search and rescue workers. Shared communication infrastructure doesn’t necessitate any of that.

    True. It could turn out to be a poor strategy but I’m basing that idea on the observation that for emergency response, broad training and emphasis on nimble organization work better. It’s always more efficient to specialize, but specializing doesn’t seem to work as well for first responders, unless you have a huge pool of talent. So, part of the idea is to accept that the Hoplites wouldn’t necessarily be efficient just broadly competent. The first response teams I’ve worked with – the good ones – tend to be gung-ho generalists.

    You’re right, too, that a shared communication infrastructure doesn’t necessitate that, it’s more that a unified communication infrastructure doesn’t get in the way, so much. People died in Hurricane Katrina because there were resources that were not adequately deployed (e.g.: a huge lot of school buses that stayed locked up because nobody was willing to take responsibility for cutting a lock, loading them with people, and evacuating them) because the comms infrastructure broke down and there was a division of command structures – when people stove-pipe into areas of responsibility, you can get this situation where everything becomes someone else’s problem. Part of the idea of the Hoplites is to have an organization that is the stove-pipe: people could reasonably go “well, call the Hoplites” because the Hoplites are the first and last line of response and their internal command infrastructure would have to reflect that.

  32. says

    I draw a distinction between someone who has shown that they are capable of murder, and someone who has not. We (obviously!) can’t lock people up for being capable of murdering someone, but we’re reasonable to look askance with someone who has a track record of murdering people.

    With such reasoning you might as well lock up all the war veterans. And while you are at it, why not lock up all the gun owners who argue that they need guns for self defense. Judging from what these people say, they are perfectly willing to use their guns against other human beings, basically, they themselves announce that they are capable of murder.

    I’m comfortable locking up serial murderers who have killed multiple people for the sake of pleasure. There the probability that they will keep on doing bad things is high enough to warrant staying in a prison cell. Beyond that it gets a lot more problematic. I don’t like the idea that murder in general warrants getting warehoused for life. And I seriously doubt people’s ability to correctly determine others’ emotions. A murderer who happens to be a good actor can fake being sorry. A murderer who really is sorry but happens to have a stoic personality and few facial expressions can appear as evil and thus get locked up for much longer. Is this really fair?

  33. says

    Dauphni@#27:
    The same is true of your hoplites. While you keep describing them as mostly rescuing cats from trees, the fact remains that they are also trained to kill. And then you go on to say that a large part of the population would want to be trained like this, so you have a lot of people running around capable of killing, if not necessarily predisposed to. How do you reconcile that?

    The problem around killing, it seems to me, breaks down into categories:
    – People who are capable of killing (that’s everyone)
    – People who are trained to kill, and don’t or haven’t
    – People who have killed (in socially sanctioned ways)
    – People who have killed (in socially inappropriate ways)
    We want to not lump anyone into the latter category incorrectly. I don’t see being any of the first three categories as making it more likely that someone would jump into the fourth.

    Richard Rhodes, in Why They Kill explores a theory (which sounds pretty solid to me) that violence is a learned behavior, in most cases, as a response to stress and – according to the research he cites – some people appear to learn this early on and others appear to learn it thoroughly. So there are people who become “inured to killing” – but it may actually be worse: they learn that it’s a good way to handle certain types of emotional situations, or emergencies. Dave Grossman, in On Killing makes a similar argument but he’s approaching it from the perspective of why militaries indoctrinate recruits with specific techniques that prime them to kill in response to certain problems. On the flip side, there are martial arts theories that counterpose that idea entirely and train their students to automatically preference deconfliction (a sort of “peace through superior firepower” approach) where the practitioner has the capability to be more violent and can have the confidence that they control the situation and don’t need to kill. That’s all a bunch of round-about, but the point is that there are a lot of people who have thought hard about how to create warriors that are less likely to be lethal and (conversely) create warriors who are likely to be on a hair trigger. Guess which one of those US policing practices produce? Yeah. The Hoplites (in my imagination) would take the opposite approach: train in unit response for non-lethal response. Techniques like Jiu-Jitsu are much more time-costly and effort-costly than just learning how to pull a 9mm and put some holes in a guy. The strategic problem then breaks down if you have a Jiu-Jitsu expert who also has a 9mm they have a lot more options than a less trained practitioner who only has a 9mm and only knows how to use it.

    I’m not afraid of people who are trained to kill. In fact, I spent a lot of time around them, and I did some training myself. What I’m afraid of is people who kill easily (aka: sociopaths or psychopaths) or people who don’t train deeply enough that they develop any strategic options other than violence.

    In America, we are taught to revere cops as “heroes” and then they turn around and kill a citizen and say “I was scared.” I’d imagine the Hoplites would actually try to be heroes, and wouldn’t hire people like that. Another side-effect of the Badgerian economic system, with a basic subsidy, is that people wouldn’t have to get a job if they didn’t want to. So, hopefully there would be fewer people joining the Hoplites because they just need a job, and more because they were genuinely interested in serving the community.

  34. says

    Ieva Skrebele@#33:
    With such reasoning you might as well lock up all the war veterans

    OK now we have to start dealing with linguistic nihilism and defining terms.
    I define “murder” as “not socially sanctioned killing” and generally I think most people treat killing in war as something different. If we want to extend the definition of “murder” to killing in warfare, sure, but then we’re probably using a private language to communicate. Hey, why not define “murder” as stepping on a bug, too? Then we can utterly destroy our ability to communicate without spending an hour defining our terms before we proceed.

  35. says

    I see hardly any difference between killing an “enemy” during war and just killing somebody. The only difference is what citizenship the victim has. And that’s not an important difference in my opinion. I do see a big difference between killing a human and killing an insect though. The fact that some murders are socially sanctioned only shows that our society is fucked up. Even if you are forcibly sent to the battlefield and ordered to kill, it is possible to just refuse to do so and shoot over the enemy heads. People always have a choice not to kill. I think I already wrote in this blog’s comment section that I’m collecting “how I avoided mandatory conscription” stories. I’m also collecting “how I was forcibly sent to the battlefield but didn’t kill a single enemy” stories. I wish more people did that. Then wars would become impossible.

  36. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    The fact that some murders are socially sanctioned only shows that our society is fucked up.

    People always have a choice not to kill.

    I’ll be happy to argue in Marcus’s defense, but I assume Marcus can do that. Still, I want to draw attention these remarks: Are you actually advocating for strict pacifism? Or is violence, and potentially-lethal force, sometimes acceptable in some cases of self defense?

    I’m not a strict pacifist. I believe that it is morally permitted to use violence in some situations that do not permit reasonable alternatives, and I believe that there are plenty of reasonable situations which permit only potentially-lethal force to resolve.

    Consider a person who has a loaded gun and is walking around a school campus shooting everyone, and he refuses to surrender. The only reliable way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Of course, this situation is extreme, and the police should be trained and required to pursue less-violent approaches to handling situations, but there are real situations like this one which don’t permit any resolution besides shooting them on the spot.

    In response to this, I’ve had people cite a video from Britain where the cops deal with some guy who has a knife by surrounding him and using giant shields (more or less) to box him in and restrain him. I say that’s not comparable to my situation, which does rarely happen, for at least two reasons. One, if the guy has a decent rifle, then no practical hand-held shield is going to stop the bullets at close range. Two, in the Britain situation, the guy is just milling about, and not in a crowded area presently occupied with killing people, whereas, in my situation, which does happen, there is a need to act immediately to save the lives of others, and there is no time to try to bring out 2 dozen people with overly bulky shields and try to surround the guy, and the guy in the school shooting is presumed to not be cooperative enough to just sit still and let several dozen police with giant shields surround him.

    I hope we can agree thus far. If not, then I have to say that I have severe moral disagreements with strict pacifists, and I think that strict pacifism is morally abhorrent.

    PS:
    Now, if we ever invent a cheap and mass-producible “Star Trek set to stun” phaser, then this changes. Unfortunately, we don’t have such a thing yet.

  37. says

    Ieva Skrebele@#36:
    I see hardly any difference between killing an “enemy” during war and just killing somebody.

    I’m not arguing that point at all. My point is that you appear to be calling something “murder” that many people do not – it is a question of vocabulary. If you want to use “murder” in that way, then you’re either talking about something quite different than I am saying, or you’re adopting a private vocabulary in order to make a point on a comment. I’m not concerned about that, either, I’m just pointing out that now, if we want to continue the discussion, we have to establish a mutually agreeable vocabulary between us, because otherwise I’m saying one thing and you’re hearing something else. [stderr]

    Let’s not.

  38. says

    EnlightenmentLiberal@#37:
    I believe that it is morally permitted to use violence in some situations that do not permit reasonable alternatives, and I believe that there are plenty of reasonable situations which permit only potentially-lethal force to resolve.

    One could probably make a pretty good moral argument that there are some situations where it would be immoral not to use lethal force.

    Kant argued that lying is never appropriate, and much philosophical ink has been spilled in various trolley-car scenarios: “what if you were hiding some jews and a gestapo squad came to the door and asked ‘are you hiding any jews?’ is it OK to lie?” Those sorts of scenarios seem to me to be an inevitable byproduct of trying to create moral rules – what you get is endless rule-lawyering, not a moral system. This looks like one of those issues.

    Lois McMaster Bujold gets some good mileage in her Barrayar books, postulating a future in which there are harmless stunners (which leave only a headache like a hangover) and a drug called Fast-Penta, which is a form of super truth-serum that works on almost everyone except for where it needs to not work as a plot device. She presents a socially sensible policy, which is “stun them, and let Fast-Penta sort it out” for most complicated situations where someone is causing trouble.

    Alfred Bester goes way farther in The Demolished Man by postulating a future in which there are functional mind-readers. Now, a criminal has a problem: how do you plan a crime? The Demolished Man tells the story of Ben Reich, a brilliant and powerful executive, who plots a murder. It’s a classic.

  39. says

    EnlightenmentLiberal @#37

    I’m fine with killing in some very specific circumstances, however my standards for when killing is acceptable are a lot higher than the standards American population seems to have.

    Consider a person who has a loaded gun and is walking around a school campus shooting everyone, and he refuses to surrender.

    What about not letting this person get a gun in the first place? I live in a country where it is extremely hard for a person to get a gun. We have never experienced even a single such incident. Same goes for police killing suspects during attempted arrests. That has happened, but, unlike in USA, here such incidents are extremely rare. When people aren’t allowed to own guns, police officers can no longer defend themselves saying that they got scared, thus they also behave themselves during arrests and don’t just kill suspects. A suspect with a knife cannot do anything against multiple police officers armed with batons and shields. It is perfectly possible to avoid lethal violence even with current level of technology. In fact, that’s exactly what most civilized countries are already doing.

    Overall my attitude about your “a person who has a loaded gun and is walking around a school campus shooting everyone” example could be summarized as: shoot him now, but the very next day you should start drafting new legislature make gun ownership illegal to ensure that similar situations never repeat.

    On a personal level, if I was threatened by a mugger, I’d just give them my wallet. I’d try fighting only after it became absolutely clear that a peaceful solution is completely impossible.

    As for wars. Firstly, the excuses USA gave for invading all the places they have invaded were miserable to begin with. All these wars were avoidable. Secondly, current war tactics involve killing civilians. Sure, USA can claim that all the civilian deaths were accidents, but, come on, what did you expect when you decided to drop explosives on cities?

    I don’t see veterans as heroes. At best they are unlucky victims who got fooled by warmongering politicians’ rhetoric. At worst they volunteered, because they actually enjoy the job. When it comes to “war heroes,” I see people like this guy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C4%81nis_P%C4%ABnups as the real heroes. Despite being forcibly sent to a battlefield, he didn’t shoot even once and outright refused to kill people.

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