> In righteous societies, police were not a separate, elite order.
> They were everybody.
Also in totalitarian dystopias.
The thing is, before you get to who the police is (and it being everybody can be OK), it's more important to know what to police for and what is considered an offense.
Do you have a reference for that? It doesn't jibe with my understanding of banishment, but my readings are from agricultural traditions. More specifically, outlawry under Germanic law, where someone was judge to be outside of the protection of the law. Full outlawry on Iceland effectively meant banishment from Iceland or death. (See https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/english/documents/innervate/09-... .)
I found https://books.google.com/books?id=9ZkIAAAAQBAJ&lpg=PA81&ots=... which says:
> By the end of the last ice age .... To be cast out of a band .. usually meant total banishment from the society and eventual death, either by starvation or as a result of aggression by members of another society (Salisbury, 1962).
And here's a reference concerning Aboriginal use of banishment, from http://www.ajic.mb.ca/volumel/chapter2.html :
> As in European societies, some crimes required the complete removal of the criminal from society. In most Aboriginal societies, this meant banishment. In such close, family-oriented societies, where survival depended upon communal cooperation, such sanctions were considered a humane alternative to death, no matter how traumatic they may have been to the offender.
Further, http://rsc2012hscls.wikispaces.com/file/view/Law+Reform+Coun... :
> Exile or banishment has been described as an extremely harsh punishment and was not embraced by all Aboriginal societies.
This does not sound compatible with your conjecture that pre-agricultural era banishment was not a real threat.
Further, I do not follow the logic to "Therefore, most of the time, banishment did not lead to starvation".
Consider this non-real scenario. Humans can survive only be eating buffalo meat. There are huge numbers of buffalo compared to humans, so there is a food surplus. However, it takes 10 people to kill one buffalo. In that scenario, exiling someone leads to certain death as a lone human cannot hunt a buffalo. While the human species is not resource-constrained, a single human is.
Similarly, in Intuit cultures there were strong specializations between male and female roles. For example, it was women who were trained in how to sew the skins to make clothes against the harsh weather, while the men learned hunting skills. If a male were banished, I wonder if he might not have the skills to survive on his own.
It doesn't have to be a real threat to be considered "extremely harsh".
That is, it's not just physical damage or potential danger that's "harsh". Isolation from the community you belong too could be considered just as harsh, from a social standpoint.
In this context I used "threat" as a short-hand for the previous poster's "Therefore, most of the time, banishment did not lead to starvation or even necessarily isolation". I did not mean it as a purely physical threat. Indeed, the link I gave to Aboriginal customary law uses 'threat' for both physical and non-physical punishments ("In addition to the threat of being killed for a breach of customary law it has been reported that in some cases the threat also involved the denial of mortuary rites"), so my broader use does not appear to be unusual.
Therefore, I agree with your comment, as it is a restatement of mine. But my experience is that comments with similar structure to yours are meant to point out incorrect or incomplete statement. Yet I don't see how that's the case here.
Would you kindly elaborate the intent behind your response?
Hunter Gatherers also find a strength and safety in numbers, even if only in avoiding the fatility of personal "catastrophes" like a broken limb.
Where danger can be found, banishment is death. Consider this quote from Sebastian Junger:
"What all these people seem to miss isn’t danger or loss, per se, but the closeness and cooperation that danger and loss often engender. Humans evolved to survive in extremely harsh environments, and our capacity for cooperation and sharing clearly helped us do that. Structurally, a band of hunter-gatherers and a platoon in combat are almost exactly the same: in each case, the group numbers between 30 and 50 individuals, they sleep in a common area, they conduct patrols, they are completely reliant on one another for support, comfort, and defense, and they share a group identity that most would risk their lives for." 
There is a lot of anthropological studies that confirm this observation.
From what I read on hunter-gatherers they were very egalitarian - and there was no need for strict rules controlling every aspect of the life of the members. Unlike in pastoral and settled cultures they did not have any way to accumulate wealth and they did not need to defend it later.
In fact the ways hunter-gatherers enforced their rules were often playful:
(lots of other interesting material at this site).
It does jibe somewhat with certain modern police practices, like 'kettling' peaceful protestors, and their insistence on calling it police 'force'
This makes sense to me. It infuriates me as a biker and pedestrian when police dangerously disobey the traffic laws. I see them do rolling stops, putting on their lights briefly to get through a red light, or speed up and pass me on the left as I'm making a left turn.
One way to do this would be to allow anyone to report traffic violations that they caught on video. So if I record the video of someone committing a violation, I upload the video to the town's website, they send the owner of the license plate a ticket.
That said, I thought that most of this article was pretty weak, a lot of meandering, incoherence, and conflation of different ideas.
One of the best articles I read on morality, game theory and evolution was here: http://jim.com/rights.html The author derives a theory of natural rights from game theory, and it makes a lot of sense.
The only problem with this is that the cop car probably deserves a class of its own, even riskier than the swerving distracted-driver minivan full of kids.
When they have the siren on, they're typically driving much faster than normal, but normally they're indistinguishable from a normal driver.
The one incident I did see was a motorcycle officer do a U-turn across four lanes to come ticket me (no seatbelt). He turned on his lights first, and the road was relatively clear.
To put this in the context of the article, if a Cop does something publicly stupid in a small town, there will be a social penalty levied against them when they e.g. sit down for a beer next to someone who saw them do something stupid.
I have no idea who any police officers are, nor have I ever (knowingly) sat down next to one...anywhere. I occasionally see a group of them at Arby's or something, eating with each other at lunch.
FWIW I have a very wide social circle in town, here (I own a bar)--but it includes no police officers.
I guess so. I've seen it more times than I can count.
The larger issue with urban corruption is how unions enable this corruption. All the technology and feel good sentiment doesn't mean a thing if unions continue to have this much power over the taxpayer. Police unions make sure the bad apples don't get prosecuted as well, so this goes way beyond mere traffic issues into human rights issues like being killed in police custody and having a 'code of silence' and all the powers and wealth of the police union against the victim's family looking for justice.
I also always look both ways crossing one way streets as I've almost been clipped by a police car going the wrong way down one.
There's probably a great deal wrong with this.
You want to incentivize the reporting of verified infractions, while de-incentivize false reports. A consensus system could be used to "verify" a report.
if someone you respect, directly or implicitly, performs the investigation, then you can respect the results of the investigation. if someone you don't respect does it, you can disregard it.
People aren't all logical, analytic creatures, especially when they operate in groups. They tend to act on emotion rather than logic and it often isn't clear which information is factual and which is rumor. People tend to be susceptible to groupthink, and often go with the crowd.
Having everyone dealing out justice might work if everyone was calm, rational, logical, and well-educated, which is often what game theory supposes, but that's not how things work. In reality, I would think that such a system would result in mob violence, sometimes triggered by good information, but often triggered by hearsay and rumors.
Not everyone agrees what is correct behavior and what isn't, so what would be acceptable to one person would not be acceptable to another. We'd get a lot of uncertainty whether our behavior is acceptable or not.
If we had a system where a mass of people decided via some sort of upvoting/downvoting, it would be a "tyranny of the majority", where minorities would be oppressed by majorities just because they had different standards of what is acceptable behavior. Goodbye civil rights, because those would count for nothing if a member of the minority did something that offended the majority.
It seems to me that this is what happens in anarchical places in the world where authority has broken down. Anyone can and will dispense justice. Violence because someone was offended by someone else's behavior (which I find completely non-offensive) is common and mob violence is common.
Strong authority often breeds corruption but a lack of authority can also breed disorder and chaos, an environment where people who can gather followers become a strong authority and become corrupt. It's bad either way.
For actual punishment, force isn't necessarily needed. A lot of societies manage it by social pressure, with "shunning" being an extreme version. Pressure for conformity already exists regarding things which are not illegal, so I'm not convinced that it makes things worse to rely on it more for things which are currently illegal.
One of my anthropology professors used to say there are two ways to keep order in society: by force, and by ideology, and the second is a lot cheaper.
We are already seeing this with the "reddit affect" where some poor soul gets targeted by "Hey this guy didn't tip me on a busy Friday night," and it all turns out to be bullshit. Even if it wasn't, thousands of angry netizens shouldn't be picking on lone individuals.
There's also an element of bikeshedding here as an average Joe can understand being stiffed and be unreasonably angry about it, but perhaps cannot understand the intricacies of sexual assault or financial fraud. This is why police, lawmakers, prosecutors, lawyers, and judges are all trained, educated, and regulated in some fashion. This stuff is much harder than it looks. Anyone who has ever lived in a HOA knows exactly what happens when average Joes are given the authority to enforce random things. Its death by a million paper cuts and everyone is miserable and hates each other in the end.
We tried the snitch society in communist regimes (and still have it in places like Cuba and N Korea) and its hellish.
>Anyone who received too many independent reports would be investigated – police included."
Except the police have a powerful union behind them. 100 reports against me will lead to my arrest or a beating or whatever. 100 against a cop will merit nothing, maybe a rubber-stamped investigation that always leads to 'innocent.'
Basically what you see today on social media, where everyone is empowered to be an agent of "justice" (a public shaming and harassment-based justice system).
If there would be one set of rules that everyone would agree, then this idea could work. It works in ants, because there is no ambiguous ideas of what is right and what is wrong.
You could think that law suppose to be that set of rules that suppose to tell you what is right and what is wrong. But is not that simple, law doesn't ask you whether you agree with it, you just must comply with it. So if you disagree that listening to pirated mp3 is a unlawful, you might as well do it without feeling guilt. And even when law is already forced upon you, disputes still arise and disagreements has to be solved in court, simply because you cannot cover every possible situation in the rules.
Maybe. But isn't it an experiment worth trying? Does anyone really know what would happen in a modern, secular, money-driven society if you gave people more authority to enforce the law?
I suspect it would have a greater chance of being successful on a small scale and then break down on a large scale. Like corruption, I think it's somewhat dependent on the culture shared by the people who are involved, much like with successful companies vs disfunctional companies.
To get the best of both worlds, it would be good enough to make sure citizens are empowered to investigate and persecute abuse. Both through strong "rat squads" and good systems for reporting abuse.
I feel like, in tech, we have a bunch of those
An interesting article; still, I tire of seeing so many articles introduce and anchor game theory based on the PD or one particular configuration of it. The PD is frequently overblown, misunderstood, and misapplied. Game theory is much more than the PD.
I think it is also worth mentioning that game theory isn't the only game or theory in town when it comes to thinking about society and collective action. For example, systems dynamics is also quite interesting; see Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella Meadows.
To get a handle for police corruption, I'd argue a theory probably should explain how and why:
* corrupt police do/don't get caught
* corrupt police do/don't rat each other out
* police are/aren't monitored
* police are/aren't incentivized
The simplest version of the Prisoner's Dilemma succinctly explains both (1) why rational beings feel compelled to have a moral code in the first place, and (2) why they so often disobey the moral code that they themselves believe in. It's best for everyone to cooperate; but in the absence of a guarantee that everyone else will, it's in my best interest to defect.
Of course, you can't get from PD to police corruption in a single step. Lots of intermediate steps and computer modeling is needed to get there. But most of that is probably too technical for an Aeon article, so the article only mentions the first and last steps. A more detailed account of the models they used would be very interesting, but that's probably the job of actual scientific papers.
There are heaps of external factors that can affect this decision, from subtle to severe, and the PD doesn't model them well at all. As a base building block, it's not very solid.
You can add arbitrary constraints on PD, such as a 50% chance that a third party will punish you for defecting. More importantly, you can play PD many times in a row and have each round's incentive structure depends on the result of previous rounds, sort of like encrypting in CBC mode.
The rewards and penalties don't need to be jail time, either. You can gamble with money, your life, or anything else you value. Usually it's done with some representation of money, because money is easy to measure and more intuitive to people who've never been in a prison.
The iterated (many rounds) variant is extremely powerful, as it allows researchers to simulate all sorts of complicated constraints. For example, other players might become more likely to defect on you if you defect on them three times in a row (three strikes). Certain players (the mob boss) might be much more interested in your performance than others, and defect on you much more severely when disappointed. You might be given an opportunity to reset your records (rehab or pardon) after a certain pattern of defection and cooperation, or maybe it will be game over (death sentence) after a different pattern. Iterate a few million times, and you've got a pretty damn accurate picture of how effective each policy will be in discouraging defection (crime).
Iterated PD also allows researchers to study whether a given incentive structure is stable, i.e. doesn't change much over thousands of iterations. According to the article, the incentives that give rise to police corruption are stable, but tweaking the constraints in a certain way can disrupt them.
More information on iterated PD:
Not to mention the huge numbers of psychologists and anthropologists who provided data illustrating the numerous fallacies of game theory. In the early days, game theorists were laughably naive about actual humans.
Eh, modern justice systems have their fair share of that.
You may not have any direct power over the cop that just shook you down for a few hundred, but discretely recording that interaction and posting it on YouTube is likely to end his career in any society.
For filming police to be effective, we need more regularly enforced punishments (like actually being fired) for police brutality.
If you really want to punish a rotten cop, you need to prevent him from being rehired.
Isn't preventing rehire part of the premise behind jailing criminals? It makes me ill that it is so difficult to jail common criminals if they have worn a badge. They earn the name 'pigs' every time they obstruct justice.
Given that the video gains enough visibility of course but I would still take that with a grain of salt.
Is this saying that the justice system is the problem, not law-enforcement?
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
I'd say sometimes--like HN--it's a success. Good behavior is encouraged & enforced. Bad behavior is punished.
Other times--like reddit--not a success. The hive-mind is real there, and in particular well-mannered disagreement that is misaligned with the norm is punished pretty strongly there.
Plus we all have heard how their investigations of real-life events have turned out--witch hunts.
I think reddit's population is more reflective of the general population, unfortunately. I don't think self-policing would end well at all.
Mob stoning individuals for extra martial sex is an example of this behavior.
I don't think that would be desirable ..
By the way, this is one of the greatest article I have ever read in hacker news. Loved it.
By integrating themselves with the community, they would necessarily fall under the influences of some of the community's norms, and perhaps be better tuned, and also more accountable, to it's norms of righteousness.
That may work in many cases, but the article seems to assume that most individuals in any community will promote righteousness in the community's interest.
What happens if the community lacks the social norms to enforce righteousness, especially with respect to the property rights and justification of violence? What happens when the "community" is hardly a community at all, but, due to its socioeconomic circumstances, is a place where suspicions of neighbors and incentives to cheat the community are pervasive?
Whose job is it to establish the norms of righteousness where they are lacking, or significantly degraded?
It seems somewhat perverse at first glance, but might actually be a good incentive if carefully structured and actuaries are also one group of people that might actually get somewhere with demanding actual figures from police.
But this has been known for quite some time: Transparency can fight corruption. That's why it may be a good Idea to put cameras on policemen, and that publishing public budgets is an inevitable step towards reducing corruption.
The main strategy:
Here’s how it might look in practice. Imagine a city where police commit blatant traffic violations and never ticket one another.
The authorities could decrease power inequalities by developing an online system in which all citizens are able to anonymously report dangerous drivers. Anyone who received too many independent reports would be investigated – police included. This sounds almost laughably simple, and yet the model indicates that it ought to do the trick. It is, after all, essentially the same system used by many online communities.
That's the bad end of what we have to deal with. And it is easy to imagine every officer getting more votes than the city has residents... and we're back to square 1.
That's also a game-theory approach to corruption!
The article is lengthy but ultimately boils down to what one of the other comments mentioned: Game theory predicts that corruption is inevitable when only a subset of the population is empowered to enforce societal norms. Hence, the only way to eliminate corruption is by empowering all of the members of a society to enforce societal norms.
I was looking close, because I think the topic is very interesting. They legalized paying bribes only for services that one'd have the right to have anyway. If a person get any kind of advantage over what they already have a right, it's not legal anymore.
Overall, I think it's a very well thought-out law, and completely not radical. The entire world should copy it.
How can you expect any cop to be honest if they watch others break the law and say nothing?
You'll never change bad behavior if there is no penalty for that behavior.