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Liberty only for the Libertine

Articles Apr 25, 2023

Does anyone get the sense, as I do, that modern America, writ large on social media and in public policy, seems concerned with the liberty of the libertine; with the fringe elements of society unshackled by moral or ethical constraint than about the general population?

This essay is not concerned with the terrible examples of late where a handful of citizens have been unjustly harmed by homeowners mistaking innocent people for intruders. Those are terrible stories, but in no way typify or even topographically approximate the nature of crime in America. The nature of crime in America is as follows: a very small number of highly aggressive and dangerous men brutalize their local communities and take random trips to the surrounding suburbs as well to murder and steal. Most of us in The States are on guard in our minds against these true villains. Studies on psychopathy show that these men are born with a genetic mainline of criminality and that ecological influences in life are not enough to quell the psychopathic mind. For that, there is only deterrence through strength, which takes form from an intolerance of crime. Believe me, as a former prison psychologist, you are no match for these men in terms of sheer brutality and in a willingness to harm.

And yet, we have movements in the country since the 1960s that aim to minimize our penal codes and which attempt to humanize the inhumane elements of our primitive criminal underworld. How else does one explain the fact that a criminal can break into a home, the homeowner rightfully kills the intruder in self-defense, and the family of the deceased criminal can and almost always does sue the homeowner in civil court. This is why any of you who own a firearm and plan to protect yourself if need be also need sidearm liability insurance.

This single issue has represented a disturbance in the collective American psyche in modern times. Civil liability for protecting yourself should not be a possibility and I cannot imagine why we have not amended our constitution to ensure that no American can be held liable or accountable in any fashion once it has been proven in a criminal court that the newly deceased in fact broke into the home. Once that has been established, there should be no other process. Everything criminal and civil should grind to a halt at that point.

What is a homeowner to do in the night? Should protocol be to interview the intruder for his intention? “Hello, dear sir…may I ask the nature of your dropping in? If you simply mean to walk around in a drug-induced delirium and take random items, I will just lock my bedroom door and call the police and hope that you are not so chemically psychotic that you decide to attack me. But, if you are intending on killing me and my family straight away, I will need to fetch my trusty firearm, but would you mind signing this attestation that you plan to harm me? I will need it in court, you see. Thank you kindly, good sir!”

Various states have taken legislative action to protect against this absurdity. These measures are not perfect and possibly embolden brazen or insane people to “protect” themselves when they need not. Texas and Florida of course stand out with stand your ground laws, and there are others. These states and peoples seem to understand that there is more virtue and value in erring on the side of law and order than on empathic attunement (self-psychology phrase) for the sweet little misunderstood criminal.

The overextension of understanding is not empathic when it deprives the individual of personal sovereignty over his behaviors. The criminal cannot become otherwise unless he acts on account of whatever semblance of morality remains in him. More often than that, deterrence is the only effective manner to contain the animal elements of our violent underbelly.

There are some issues in life where there can be no negotiation. There seems to be a purely pathological overuse of empathy on the part of those who declare themselves on the side of the marginalized. How did we seem to include criminals in marginalized groups? Well, we did so by over-contextualizing them and removing the element of choice from their actions.

So here we are again in my writings focusing on the issue of the contextualist’s obliteration of the individual and of the element of agency, responsibility, and choice in determining personal paths. Once you convince a nation that everyone in it is a product of the environment, it is not a long leap to make the case that criminals are simple misguided products of misfortune. Once that case has been made, it is a hop skip, and a jump to legislate that they can force entry into abiding citizens’ own homes, and if the homeowner does anything about it he will lose everything he owns. So he either risks death, or he loses everything in civil court.

This issue may represent an operational dividing line between a balkanizing America. As crime surges beyond anything in memory, as we have regular “street takeovers” (as if that should be a normal phrase), when certain combinations of assailants and victims are suppressed from media coverage while others are over-covered by orders of magnitude far beyond reality, we are in a dystopian descent. I submit that the way things are going does not help us form greater cohesion or more gentile group dynamics, but divides and imperils us to paranoia and inhumanity.

Well, there’s a lovely little uplifting note for your Tuesday!

The Real Clear Podcast with Dr Lucas Klein is the in-depth analysis and commentary on current political events through a psychological lens. The Real Clear podcast covers a wide range of topics, from the latest election results to policy debates, to exploring the impact of current events on the political landscape.