Recently, I just finished watching the new season of Daredevil that’s on Netflix.  There was one scene which really caught my attention: Daredevil basically gifted a beaten up Frank Castle — also known as the Punisher — to his cop friend so that the police officer wouldn’t arrest him, and to give  faith in the police department.  Daredevil told his friend to fabricate the story of what really happened, and for him to take the credit for the capture.  Daredevil proclaimed that “people need to know that the system works”, and for that to happen, his friend “had to take the call”.  This is remarkable because the police and Daredevil aren’t the best of friends, but I think Daredevil has an idea of the relationship he has with the government: he knows the government views him as competition and a threat to their control — even though he might not intend it to be that way.

 

No matter how much vigilantes help out their cities, communities, and governments, the government always looks to neutralize them.  A coexistence between vigilantes and government is something that every government opposes.  The question that needs to be asked is why does the government feel this way? Why does the government feel so threaten by vigilantes?

 

For the most part, it doesn’t seem that vigilantes want to overthrow governments, they just wanna help out their peers.  So what’s to worry about?  Why can’t the public be able to choose their law enforcement like they choose their gadgets, restaurants, tv shows and cars? If the government are as good as they say they are than a little competition shouldn’t frighten them.  Obviously, people within the thresholds of government don’t think this at all, so what does it tell us about them?  Maybe that the same traits which are also embedded in normal people are also embedded in the same people who hold positions of power?

 

The acts of vigilantes brings out the real nature of people with political power, and show us that people within politics are not that much different from me and you.  Normal people certainly don’t like people interfering in things regarding their self interest, and people with political power certainly don’t like anyone interfering with whatever their interests be — power being the primary interest.  Not only does it show us this, but it also shows us that politics is exempted from the reality of people being self interested and looking for ways to benefit themselves.  Once you understand that people within the government aren’t exempt from this fact, you start to understand why the government acts the way it does.

 

One branch of economic thought dives specifically into the relations of self interest and politics.  Public Choice economics gives us a great examination and a brilliant insight of how people act in the political positions.  It takes the assumptions that are usually granted to market actors — like self interest — and applies them to people in politics.  As Jane S. Shaw explains:

 

” Public choice takes the same principles that economists use to analyze people’s actions in the marketplace and applies them to people’s actions in collective decision making. Economists who study behavior in the private marketplace assume that people are motivated mainly by self-interest. Although most people base some of their actions on their concern for others, the dominant motive in people’s actions in the marketplace—whether they are employers, employees, or consumers—is a concern for themselves. Public choice economists make the same assumption—that although people acting in the political marketplace have some concern for others, their main motive, whether they are voters, politicians, lobbyists, or bureaucrats, is self-interest. In Buchanan’s words the theory “replaces… romantic and illusory… notions about the workings of governments [with]… notions that embody more skepticism.” ” 

 

With this insight, we can try to walk in the governments shoes.  Think of it from a governments point of view: if the government lets one vigilante perform his courageous acts of justice, then what’s to stop others from springing up? If you’re the government, you have to think that if there are plenty of vigilantes who are fulfilling the citizens desires for justice and order better than you are, your power would be at risk.  The more vigilantes become better at their craft, the more the faith of the government dwindles and drifts away.  The whole point of being a government is being the absolute arbiter and enforcer of laws in your territory, and every time a vigilante performs an act of justice, you loose credibility.  This means that you have to do whatever is necessary to retain your position.

 

Auberon Herbert describes the relationship between power and the person who has the power extremely well with this quote in his essay A Plea for Voluntarism:

 

If you mean to have and to hold power, you must do whatever is necessary for having and holding of it.  You may have doubts and hesitations and scruples, but power is the hardest of all taskmasters, and you must either lay these aside, when you once stand on that dangerous, dizzy height, or yield your place to others, and renounce your part in the great conflict.  And when power is won, don’t suppose that you are a free man, able to choose your path and do as you like.  From the moment you possess power, you are but its slave, fast bound by its many tyrant necessities.” 

 

No matter what position you hold within the political realm. whether it may be the President of the United States or a commissioner of a police department within a city or town, your position of power must be defended vigorously in order to retain your power.  And even a brief moment of disregard — like letting a vigilante perform acts of justice —  can greatly damage the government’s authoritative aesthetic qualities that it greatly relies on.  Vigilantes — whether they intend to or not — show us the dangerous aspects of concentrated power, and that when you mix self interest with concentration of power you’re going to have a bad time.  Once this power is mixed with self interest, you know there’s only a matter of time before the institutions themselves self destruct.