“Social Technology” /eyeroll

Neoreactionaries (at least, when they were still a thing and not yet swamped by the alt right) liked to make a big deal out of “social technology”. This summary by Harold Lee again is a decent description of how society can suffer even as it implements formal rules to fix its worst problems.

Start with a pleasant town, with a trusting, cooperative, watched over by professional, friendly policemen who knows the streets, and the townsfolk, like the back of their hands. Crime is rare, but when it happens, it’s news, and the people, from the concerned neighbor to the kid who reads way too many detective novels, eagerly overwhelm the police with their offers of help. With that information and cooperation, what crimes there are usually are solved without so much as a baton broken out, and the community is grateful for being protected.

Then, almost imperceptibly, things begin to change. There begins to grow an idea that authority figures are not to be trusted. At first it’s just a few kids at the local college with some odd political ideas, but pretty soon the town’s poorpick up on it too, with the notion that their loyalty is to their fellow poor rather than to the town’s government and police force. And before long, even otherwise law-abiding people are refusing to cooperate with any police investigations. At the same time, riding on a wave of new complaints about police oppression, the state starts passing laws that make it a harder and longer process to hand down long prison sentences. The police is backed into a corner, both less capable of gathering information to investigate crimes, and facing an uphill legal battle to prosecute alleged criminals. Crime starts creeping up, despite the promises of increasingly desperate mayors and commissioners. Being a beat cop looks like a terrible career choice, the smart kids stay away and so the ranks start getting filled with less qualified candidates, who care less about their work and more about their pensions. The force becomes increasingly alienated from the town, seeing the poor districts as enemy territory, and it starts seeming less bad to use a little enhanced interrogation to crack a tough case.

You graduated from the local college and settled down for the long haul. It’s election season, and you flip to the mayoral debate. Police reform is the hot button issue, and it’s something that’s been on your mind a lot lately. One of your friends had his car broken into a month ago. Just a few weeks ago you heard that one of your coworkers got mugged and you do a double take – that’s a street that you used to play on as a kid. Naturally, you resent the spike in crime. But at the same time, you’re disgusted at the increasingly boorish behavior of the police – it seems like there’s always a police brutality scandal in the news, and you know that’s only the ones you hear about. The moderator finishes his question and one candidate responds, saying that the only way to get a handle on crime is to give more and more powers to the police forces – which, a little voice whispers, you know they’ll just end up abusing. His opponent responds, saying that the real problem is the growing militarization of the police, leading to the citizenry understandably unwilling to work with them. The only way forward is to assuage fear of police brutality by giving more protections to those accused of a crime – many of which, the little voice whispers, are in fact guilty. No matter what you do, all that either candidate can offer is with higher crime and a more unpleasant justice system than you remember from your childhood. You turn off the television in disgust, and decide that this November you’re going to do the one thing that will really make a difference. You’re going to write a strongly worded letter to the editor.

Note the disclaimer tag. NRX types run into some serious “my cat is the best cat” logic when trying to describe why a simple value like trust actually requires 3000 years of Western Civilization and has never been replicated anywhere else. You don’t need to talk about “anarcho-tyranny” and whatnot when you’re just trying to say “wasn’t it better when we cared about and reflexively trusted one another?”

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