Policing; a question of philosophy?

Neill Lochery writing in the Jeruselem Post, frames the primary conflict within the state as a tension between those who follow Hobbes’ thinking:

“…humans were basically selfish creatures who would do anything to better their position. Left to themselves, he thought, people would act on their evil impulses. According to Hobbes, people therefore should not be trusted to make decisions on their own. In addition, Hobbes felt that nations, like people, were selfishly motivated. To Hobbes, each country was in a constant battle for power and wealth. To prove his point, Hobbes wrote, ‘If men are naturally in a state of war, why do they always carry arms and why do they have keys to lock their doors?'”

And adherents of JS Mill, the arch Utilitarian, who:

“…lays down ‘one very simple principle’ to govern the use of coercion in society – and by coercion he means both legal penalties and the operation of public opinion; it is that we may only coerce others in self-defence – either to defend ourselves, or to defend others from harm. Crucially, this rules out paternalistic interventions to save people from themselves, and ideal interventions to make people behave ‘better’.”

It might be said that this is one of the crucial underlying differences between the two sides over the policing proposals in Northern Ireland, with Unionists prefering a top down Hobbesian approach and Republicans espousing a more bottom up Utilitarian system.

Update: For some reasonable background on the two positions, try this article in The Hindu from last year.

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