Despite what we hear about crime, the American crime rate declined during this past decade and few Americans have ever experienced violent crime. The same is true in Western Europe, with the exception, in both societies, of certain inner-city neighborhoods.
In this country, Black and Hispanic gangs fueled by drugs, drug money, and no future, terrorize their neighbors and, often, their schoolmates. The police try, but as in New York, their efforts to stop and search likely suspects have been blocked by those who wrongly consider that the stopping is racially based and not based on the likelihood of suspicious activity.
In Europe, particularly in France, the residents of inner cities are first and second-generation immigrants from countries with no law and order. The radicalized second generation is so bold and dangerous that the police hesitate to go in to protect the innocent. There are hundreds of “no go” zones in France.
Our civilization's basic requirements are: literacy; equality under the law despite race, religion, or gender; respect for private property; participatory democracy; and rule of law. Rule of law means that a society has created rules to live by that are the values commonly accepted as basic to our culture. These rules, produced by our Constitution, enlarged and modernized by our elected officials, and validated by our courts, are our bedrock. In this country, the courts rarely have to call upon the justice arm to carry out a court order. We obey the law. Until now, that is.
A scofflaw deadbeat rancher in Nevada has grazed his cattle for decades on government land refusing to pay the grazing fee that all law-abiding ranchers pay. He has summoned a posse of anarchist thugs to stand armed against the federal agents. We miss the point when we condemn this idiot for his opinions on slavery rather than on his actions. The government must intervene with force to protect rule of law.
There are government-haters at the other end of the political spectrum too. In Santa Cruz, a group has organized to stand off government officials who, under the Patriot Act, can detain terrorist suspects without trial (think 9/11). They deny that we are at war with Islamists, despite daily reminders that this is a global war. Santa Cruz cannot become a “federal law free zone.”
David Brooks recently wrote about rule of law and what it means. This is the first, not the last, institution that makes our civilization function. Because most of us live in safety, we forget how horrible it is not to have that certainty. Our police sometimes overstep and sometimes yield to corruption, but we have very good mechanisms to catch and punish them. The same for our representatives and judges, who, when they forget their duty to be honest, are caught, disgraced, and jailed.
Eighteenth-century London was a crime-ridden hell where citizens could not go out at night without torches and bodyguards. In 1833, one Prime Minister, Robert Peel, addressed that issue by creating a remarkable new police force (named the “Bobbies” after their founder) that transformed London into the best, most law-abiding city in the world, a model that followed them into every colony in which they ruled. Today, fear of offending ethnic sensibilities hampers security, with predictable results.
Brooks commented that well-meaning philanthropists (such as Bill Gates) who pay for malaria-reducing mosquito nets for African countries could better spend this money to train and pay for decent police. African countries (all of them) suffer from lawlessness: bullies who prey upon poor, ordinary citizens, or go after other bullies in murderous civil wars. Security must come first.
One of the better but little known US aid programs was that of the Justice Department sending police trainers to Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately they were not there long enough to change the wretched older culture of corruption, ignorance, and endemic violence
Law and order is the means through which all other good things come. We need to remember this.
Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, and author of God’s Law or Man’s Law. You may contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com or www.globalthink.net.