Via Radley Balko comes the news story of a father of three who, so he claims, attempted to be a good samaritan and offer two teenage girls caught out walking in a snowstorm without protection a lift home only to be charged with disorderly conduct for his trouble. The girls, you see, were “alarmed and disturbed” by the offer. They waved him off and, like good citizens, did as they were taught in public school — they wrote down his license plate number and reported him to the “authorities.”
Now, we don’t know what really happened. It’s a he-said/she-said situation in which no one was harmed, which makes charging the alleged good samaritan with a crime all the more ridiculous. Maybe the guy really did have bad intentions in this case, though I doubt it; but it hardly matters for our general point because more clearcut cases can surely be found to illustrate how our culture and the US legal system discourage and punish good samaritans.
This is a likely tragic example of the state’s corrosive effects on society as it breaks down social bonds, foments fear and distrust of strangers and even friends and family, encourages snitching and dependence on its protection and support, and punishes good samaritans. In America, the state can let no private good deed go unpunished.
Those who favor laws requiring people to be good samaritans should bear incidents like this in mind. You’re setting people up to be criminals no matter what they do or don’t do, and you’re employing the very institution responsible for creating the conditions that led you to perceive a need for such laws in the first place.
As an Aristotelian libertarian, I’m not a big fan of Immanuel Kant, his philosophy in general, or his take on world peace. But to say that I’m not a fan of Alexander Hamilton — that statist, bank centralizer, mercantilist, and crypto-monarchist — would be a vast understatement. (For more on what’s wrong with Hamilton, see Thomas DiLorenzo’s “What Hamilton Has Wrought” and Hamilton’s Curse.)
I discussed the democratic peace thesis and problems I see with the Kantian Triangle — resting on republican government, international trade, and international law and organizations — in my previous post, Triangulating Peace? Or, Three Foundations for Oppression? While trade is a peaceful activity and economic interdependence can promote peace among states, it can be perverted and used for corporatist and mercantilist ends by states and international governmental organizations (IGOs), which is why, though it pains me to say it, I must side with Hamilton’s take on the matter, excerpted from Federalist #6 below:
I offer to readers a term of my coinage: polidicy.
I construct it as “theodicy” was constructed, and I do so in the spirit of the copycat. A theodicy is a vindication of divine goodness in the context of the existence of evil. It is an important theological concept, and you will find theodicies embedded in most understandings of Providence, and nearly everyone who believes in a deity has some sort of theodicy in tow.
Polidicy, then, is a vindication of a state or government body in the context of its own obvious crimes. Most people who are loyal to some state and pretend to possess a moral sense, or conscience, have some polidicy in their head, some set of excuses for why the state’s many crimes do not amount to a moral case against the state as such, and how, even, the state can be said to be “basically good.”