The Belmont Club offers its usual insight in regards to the anarchy in London and makes a key point: what keeps public order is not force, but legitimacy:
Since no police force has the numbers to be everywhere at once, it maintains order through the force of its name, the power of the uniform. This was once known as ‘prestige’; today it is better known as ‘legitimacy’. Although as insubstantial as air it is as vital as oxygen. Without it things become very dificult. Once the authorities begin lose their prestige they must rely ever more heavily on force, of which there is never, ever enough.
In one sense legitimacy is the fiction on which society is based. It is to government what confidence is to a bank. As long as everyone believes that the bank will pay the depositor no one will demand all his money back. As long as most believe that the King’s justice is effectively invincible, no one will challenge it. But when a government behaves in a supine manner for an extended period — or a bank refuses to pay out without a good reason — then doubts begin to grow. Both legitimacy and confidence are more severely tested and once it is known that there isn’t enough money in the bank to pay everyone nor enough cops in the station house to arrest everyone then the fiction is bust.
A deadly cycle begins to set in. Both the government — or the bank — have to make payouts in force or money more frequently than they otherwise would. There is a “run” on this key resource and their are bankrupted. Financially in the bank’s case and politically in the case of government. When confidence finally dwindles to its last remaining levels the declining institution must either risk everything on the last throw to restore it or face collapse.
This is one of the reasons the Posse has pointed out that looting in response to a natural disaster or civil disorder is the absolute worst thing one can do. It is also the reason we take a dim view of “survivalists” who think that hoarding bullets and canned food out in the country will make them immune from a society-wide catastrophe. In fact it will not and the isolation of a farmstead will make it easy pickings when roving bands – who will likely be well-armed as well if law-enforcement has been overwhelmed – decide to take what they have.
The key to preserving order is to support it from outside – to add a shot of adrenaline to the faltering system. In the bank run example, it is putting in a large deposit to help cover the bank’s needs – and also send a signal of confidence.
In the case of the police, it is to organize one’s neighbors and support the police by bringing them supplies (a bottle of cool water on a hot day goes quite far) – and if necessary additional manpower. This gives them renewed confidence and also additional resources. If they know your neighborhood is secure, they can concentrate themselves elsewhere.
It is a simple concept: If one person’s property is in danger, everyone’s is at risk. This is exactly how the mob thinks – if it can rob one store, it can rob them all, and so it will do as it pleases.
This was seen most clearly during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. While the New Orleans Police Dept. was shooting civilians and looting Wal-Mart, armed citizens came together and looked after one another. As one resident of the French Quarter put it: “Some people became animals, we became more civilized.”
The ultimate measure of the society’s strength is the willingness of its members to defend it. When citizens become passive onlookers to the destruction of their wealth, the society they have known cannot survive.
Yet Europe and UK takes the exact opposite view – with predictable results.
I am an optimist and I believe that the residual tradition of self-reliance is what will get the United States through the perils to come. Time and again, Americans have showed amazing resiliency and a remarkable capacity for self-help. When seconds count, we expect the government to get there late and bring a check book.
Civilization requires someone to defend it. Europeans have decided to leave that job to the "experts" and let events take their course. Here in the US - in the jurisdictions that still function - we are letting the people handle it themselves.