The two words are cognates, coming as they do from the same Greek root. But, looking at today’s West, and especially Britain, you wouldn’t know it.
Politics, the correct variety, puts handcuffs on our police, reducing their numbers and curtailing their ability to do what they’re there for: fighting crime.
The ensuing statistics are highly predictable: the crime rate goes up. When the number of British policemen on the beat was reduced by a third, violent crime went up 21 per cent last year.
Moreover, only 13 per cent of police time is spent on investigating crimes. The rest of the time is more profitably devoted to ‘support functions’, ‘community work’ and, as an afterthought, chasing speeders.
The courts do their bit by refusing to send down thousands of criminals, including multiple recidivists, or at best passing derisory sentences. This admirable cooperation between the various branches of law enforcement has made London one of the most crime-ridden capitals in the West.
Now I’ve tried to argue at various venues that the government is thus in default of one its few inherently legitimate functions: protecting law-abiding citizens. One such venue was the BBC TV morning programme, where I was collectively outshouted on two separate occasions.
This, along with many similar experiences, has made me realise that it’s impossible to argue about law enforcement.
For a meaningful argument, as opposed to a slanging match, to take place, the two sides have to proceed from the same, or at least roughly similar, metaphysical premise. If they don’t, a brawl is possible, but an argument isn’t.
For example, one can’t argue against abortion from the sanctity of human life if one’s opponent insists that human life is no big deal. Likewise, one can’t argue against demographic Muslim colonisation, if the other chap likes the idea of Britain becoming predominantly Muslim in a few decades.
Now there exist hundred of opinions on justice and law enforcement, but only two principal metaphysical premises.
Premise 1, which is my starting point, is that our whole civilisation is based on the concept of individual sovereignty.
Unlike the originators of the words ‘police’ and ‘politics’, we believe that, because every human being is created in the image of God, he’s endowed with certain rights based simply on his being human, rather than on his origin, wealth or achievement.
But all rights come packaged with responsibilities. Every human being is also endowed with free will, enabling him to make a free choice between good and evil. Making that choice is his responsibility and no one else’s.
We also recognise with chagrin that, as a result of that little indiscretion in the Garden of Eden, man is fallen and therefore fallible. That’s why, left to his own devices, he’s at least as likely to make a wrong choice as a right one. Yet his will remains free in either case.
Hence, whenever he chooses evil over good, he must bear consequences for going wrong. The consequences take the shape of punishment commensurate with the crime. That’s the essence of justice.
It’s to serve justice by administering such punishment that we have police, judges and prisons. Such institutions have a two-fold purpose: punitive and, derivatively, deterrent.
You’ll have noticed that Premise 1 has distinct Judaeo-Christian overtones, and most people these days don’t believe in either part of that combination.
That, however, is irrelevant because the whole Western system of justice rests on the metaphysical foundations of Premise 1. The presuppositions that follow from it have for two millennia been shared universally, with no competition anywhere in sight.
Such competition exists now, as metaphysical Premise 2.
According to it, man is created in the image of the ape, rather than God, and I compliment those who believe that on their capacity for frank self-assessment. Thus man is just another animal, although marginally smarter than others.
Just as a cat is morally neutral, so is man. He’s born perfect and, according to Rousseau, tautologically perfectible. And if he doesn’t end up good, it’s society’s fault.
Hence a man’s choices in life are dictated not by his free will, which doesn’t exist anyway, but by his environment. The tougher the environment, the less free he is to make his own choices.
Now it’s hard not to observe that most crimes are committed by uneducated people who grew up in poverty, usually without the presence, or even knowledge, of their fathers. Such people are from an early age exposed to drugs, alcohol and violence.
Therefore, it’s really their environment that turns them into criminals. Hence, it’s the environment that needs punishing, not the poor victim of his circumstances.
But, since it’s impossible to punish the environment, most criminals should go scot-free and fall into the tender embrace of social and community services.
On those rare occasions when such environmental victims have to be sent down, authorities should realise that prisons are above all educational, rather than punitive, institutions. They’re there for the benefit not of the good people on the out, but of the (temporarily) bad people in.
The success of the penitentiary system is determined by its ability to rehabilitate criminals. If the judge feels that this or that defendant won’t emerge from incarceration a better man, he won’t pass a custodial sentence – even if the poor victim boasts a dozen similar convictions.
As you can see, the two premises, and the presuppositions resulting therefrom, don’t have a single common point on which they overlap. They can’t be reconciled; one or the other has to emerge victorious.
Looking at the appalling growth in crime plaguing the West, especially Britain, which premise do you think dominates today’s system of justice? (No prizes for guessing.)