Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Why Governments Aren't All That Different from Street Gangs

gang membersAt some point, you may have heard someone call the government a "gang of thieves writ large," which is a generalization of a quote attributed to libertarian thinker Murray Rothbard. However, if you're not familiar with the philosophy behind that quote, you might mistakenly believe that it is nothing more than a clever observation on the wasteful and corrupt nature of government. That's because you may not be aware of the meaning of "writ large." It's synonymous with "clearly" or "obviously." In reality, Rothbard wasn't trying to make a clever statement. He was quite literally calling the government a gang.

Most people would have trouble wrapping their minds around that notion. Clearly there are differences between governments and gangs right? Agents of the state don't lie, extort money, murder rivals, train and initiate uniformed enforcers, go to war with their neighbors, protect the integrity of their borders, enforce protection rackets, or conduct any other activities that aren't permitted in their legal codes.

In case you didn't detect my sarcasm, governments and gangs routinely engage in all of the activities I listed above. That's because they are one in the same. The only significant differences between the two, is that gangs are usually smaller than governments, and their borders are a little more fluid.
If you still don't believe me, you might have one last counter to my argument: Criminal gangs don't protect people, or at least, not the average person that happens to reside in their territory. They're only interested in their own profitable endeavors, and staying alive. By contrast, protecting the people is the cornerstone of every effective government.

Instead of responding to that with another snide comparison between gangs and governments, I will say this. Gangs really do protect the people who live on their turf. Sometimes it's the kind of compulsory protection that governments provide, sometimes they wait for someone to ask them for help in exchange for money, and other times it's a completely incidental result of their business practices. But make no mistake, they do protect people, and they do maintain law and order (or at least, their quick and vicious version of it).

If you want proof, take a look at what happened in this Chicago neighborhood after the police busted a local drug operation.
"When the drug dealers had left, that's when everything started getting worse on this block," said Mariah Monae, 16, who didn't want to give her last name. "But when they was here, they was protecting us. They ain't let none of that shooting stuff happen."
About half an hour earlier at 9:55 p.m. Friday, a 19-year-old man had been shot while riding a bike in the 1100 block of South Central Park Avenue in the Homan Square neighborhood. He was hit in the back and taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in critical condition, leaving Mariah Monae and her 15-year-old cousin, who live nearby, to check things out.
"This block is just ridiculous," she said. "That's why I stay in the house."
A $3 million-a-year drug operation used to be centered nearby, according to authorities. In June, more than 40 people were charged in connection with the alleged heroin ring.
"They used to be right here, taking up the whole block," said Mariah Monae, spinning around to point at the intersections of Grenshaw Street and Central Park. "Ain't nothing happen over here, everything was cool."
Violence was bad for the dealers' business, they said. Mariah Monae had even seen the sellers break up big groups of people fighting.
"When they left, that's when everything started acting up," she said. "People come up here shooting for no apparent reason. … People probably scared to walk through here now. I am."
This case isn't a rare outlier either. In fact, crime rates routinely skyrocket in areas where organized crime has been removed. Some studies have shown that gangs actually reduce the violent crime rate in their neighborhoods. Although they do commit plenty of violent acts, the net result is a lower violent crime rate in the neighborhoods where they reside.

If you're wondering how this could be possible, it's because gangs enforce rules in areas that previously had no rules. In other words, they don't exist for the reasons most people think they do.
Gangs don't show up in nice neighborhoods with responsive and respectful police departments, and proceed to turn them into hell holes. It's the other way around. They usually show up in places that are already awful. Places that are rife with violent crime because the police, and by extension the government, have completely failed to protect the population. Gangs are initially created by people who are trying to band together to protect themselves in a dangerous world. It's only later that they start turning to illegal rackets, at first to support their protection needs, and later for profit.

Essentially they are just like the government. Their main job is protection, but they do plenty of other ugly things on the side to make money. They exist because they are filling a void that was left by the state, when the state couldn't protect them. They are in fact, little governments.

 And as for governments? They're just big ol' gangs.

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1 comment:

  1. Dear Joshua Krause,

    I found this article quite intriguing because it is not as far fetched notion to believe that the government does run in the same way as a gang would operate especially do to the fact that they are both governed with the same goal which is primarily money. I could also say that a gang could be related to a business and that the government is a business as well, which also has the same goal of making money.

    In my A.P. Government class we discussed the use of Super PACs and interest groups, both of these groups are able to support a specific candidate or issue in order to get their goals onto the policy agenda. A gang would have the same smaller sections in each neighborhood and they would do certain tasks in order to get their message heard. In relation to Super Pacs this money given to candidates can be received and given anonymously, which is a very shady process due to the thousands of dollars being circulated between a candidate and does not have to be recorded on what they use the money for. Similarly to gangs the money generated is most likely not keep track of aswell meaning that where they get their money from is also kept anonymous.

    Another example as to why the government is run like a gang is the use of iron triangles, basically an iron triangle is the relationship between congress interest groups and burancies. All of these three groups works together to create an unbreakable strategy on Triangle is a concept, not an institution. It is the idea that committees in the House and Senate, federal departments and agencies, and think tanks and interest groups all work together to develop and conserve their own power, and expand their political influence.There are agencies of the federal government, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, that are tasked with providing services to consumers—the American public. This DFA, for example, provides veterans with medical and financial benefits. In Congress, there are corresponding committees and subcommittees—such as the House Committee on Veterans Affairs—that make policy on matters relating to veterans affairs, including what types of benefits to give to veterans and how to disperse them. Outside of government, there are various interest groups, such as the VFW—the Veterans of Foreign Wars—that advocate for veterans. This advocacy includes performing research and issuing reports about veterans’ issues, as well as educating and lobbying Congress.
    These three groups—congressional committees, bureaucracies and interest groups—have a symbiotic relationship. They are the corners, or bases, of the Iron Triangle.
    I can definitely the relationship between the two, government and gangs, and how they could be viewed as “gang of thieves writ large.” I am not sure if we talked about the same government however, this is just the way that I interpreted your article. I do agree that their is a large money discrepancy in both parties of governments and gangs. I only mentioned the relation of gangs in the United States because I am currently taking U.S. Government however, it would be interesting to see the connections between foreign governments as well.
    Stephanie Garcia
    Valley High School Student