Andrew Fulford Archive Authors Nota Bene

The Value of Temporal Authority

The About page of TCI describes one aspect of our activity, which we aim to continue:

Working from the political philosophy of the Reformers, we have begun to turn the conversation from “high church” to “high commonwealth,” caring for the city and providing for non-apocalyptic solutions to civic concerns.

One recent book on what one might call “social justice” issues (but also politics and economics) that seems to me to express and justify the value of such a goal is The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence, by Gary A. Haugen and Victor Boutros. Consider the following:

It turns out that dysfunction in criminal justice systems is normal. Reasonably functioning law enforcement systems do not descend from the heavens fully formed with effectiveness, fairness, honesty, and functionality, rather, they are built and fought for out of environments of corruption, absurdity, dysfunction, brutality, and incompetence. Uniformly, this seems to be the story of history: Wherever you now have a reasonably functioning criminal justice system that provides common citizens with a basic level of protection from violence, at some time in history, in that exact same place, you once had a criminal justice system that was thoroughly corrupt, abusive, incompetent, in exclusive service to a political or economic elite, and a failure at protecting the poorest and most vulnerable from violence. 1

Over time, we have noticed a dynamic we call the 15-70-15 Rule. The rule has no real scientific precision, but it expresses the observation that, within criminal justice systems in the developing world, it seems that about 15 percent of the personnel wake up every day intent on using their coercive power and authority for purely predatory purposes. Another 15 percent wake up every day with an earnest intent to do good and to serve the public. The vast majority- the remaining 70 percent- are simply waiting to see which of these two factions is going to prevail… . Indeed, if it appears to the middle 70 percent that the virtuous 15 percent are going to prevail… then they will, with surprising alacrity, begin to clean up their acts and to stay out of trouble… . A virtuous circle can emerge in which the political will to support a reasonably functional justice system develops and is strengthened 1) by cadres of progressive national leaders, 2) by a middle class that is sick of endemic corruption, and 3) by the competitive advantages that await developing economies with functional rule of law. 2

And note the common themes that recur in the history of cities that constructed viable criminal justice systems:3

  • Each movement of criminal justice reform required local ownership and a leadership of a very intentional effort to transform the justice system
  • Each public justice system had its own particular problems, symptoms of dysfunction, and obstacles to reform that required highly contextualized solutions
  • Committed community leaders and reform-minded elites played a critical role
  • Effective criminal justice systems improved the working conditions of the people working in them
  • The priority goal of effective transformation efforts was a criminal justice system that prevented violence and crime and built trust with the public
  • Building an effective, professional, well-resourced law enforcement capacity was risky
  • Transformation of a public criminal justice system can happen faster than expected–but usually in punctuated bursts, and frequently with two steps forward and one step back

In general, the theme of the latter chapters echoes Edmund Burke’s famous observation, and it is one that surely accords with a political theology aimed at securing a properly formed secular order:

Whilst men are linked together, they easily and speedily communicate the alarm of any evil design. They are enabled to fathom it with common counsel, and to oppose it with united strength. Whereas, when they lie dispersed, without concert, order, or discipline, communication is uncertain, counsel difficult, and resistance impracticable. Where men are not acquainted with each other’s principles, nor experienced in each other’s talents, nor at all practised in their mutual habitudes and dispositions by joint efforts in business; no personal confidence, no friendship, no common interest, subsisting among them; it is evidently impossible that they can act a public part with uniformity, perseverance, or efficacy. In a connection, the most inconsiderable man, by adding to the weight of the whole, has his value, and his use; out of it, the greatest talents are wholly unserviceable to the public. No man, who is not inflamed by vain-glory into enthusiasm, can flatter himself that his single, unsupported, desultory, unsystematic endeavours, are of power to defeat the subtle designs and united cabals of ambitious citizens. When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.4

  1. The Locust Effect, 219-220.
  2. The Locust Effect, 254-255.
  3. The Locust Effect, 229-240.
  4.  Edmund Burke, Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents 82-83 (1770) in: Select Works of Edmund Burke, vol. 1, p. 146 (Liberty Fund ed. 1999).

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