A Libertarian Take on Vancouver’s Hockey Riot

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has issued a statement, expressing his “disappointment” with the mindless looting and violence. Vancouver, he said, “is a world class city.” SorryMayor. But it’s not.

Vancouver, what a disgrace.

Brian Hutchinson, National Post

Okay, first, enough of the collective shame crap: the people who destroyed others’ property, however hundreds or thousands they were, are exclusively responsible for what they did. Vancouver, as an abstract entity, is not. Vancouverites collectively are not. This is the kind of insipid thinking that leads to the very conditions that are the underlying reasons for what happened after the hockey game.

We all live an Orwellian lie. We’re told that we live in the free world, but where is this freedom? The state regularly steals our property from us through a form of extortion that it calls taxation. We all work hard to do as well as we can for our own lives and our families, but our efforts are constantly undermined by those who gain control over the coercive power of the state to impose regulation and tariffs that impoverish us. We all live lives of constant criminality; there are so many laws that we break them daily – sometimes from practical necessity and often without even knowing that we’re so doing. Our prisons are filled with those convicted for victimless crimes or actual crimes that only arise as a result of black market competition to fill the needs of people for the goods outlawed in the name of victimless crimes.

That people elsewhere in the world have less freedom than we do does not make us free, it makes us somewhat less unfree. According to my last look at the site of the Fraser Institute, the average Canadian pays over 40 percent of her income in taxes – once you add sales, property and import duties, etc., to the income taxes. In essence, for well over a third of our work time – nearly half for the average Canadian – we work for the state. Do we have a choice to not work for the state? If we refuse they send men with guns to abduct us and steal our freedom of movement. If we resist this attempt to steal our freedom, they use violence. If we resist their violence, enough, they can kill us. So, no, in the final analysis, the choice is working for them for nearly half our working life or being killed. Is there any other word for that than slavery? I propose that it is impossible to live under such conditions without feeling the weight of that repression and insidious violence. That most people cannot articulate these conditions and feelings does not make them any less palpable as life experience. Indeed, the inability to articulate them actually contributes to their sublimation into other avenues of expression – such as violent acting-out.

I do not in any way excuse or diminish the gravity of what the rioters did. What I do reject is the facile and foolish media commentary that treats the riots as either some fluke of nature or redolent of some collective failing and shame. Human beings are born free and our natural evolution has been toward freedom. Where that is repressed, however cleverly the Orwellian lie is woven, the top will occasionally blow. Inarticulate rage against “the system” or “the establishment” is a predictable outcome. It is though only more salient than the banal little rebellions in the form of minor violations of state law that we all feel justified in undertaking in one area or another.

These hockey riots are not to be glamourized as Vancouver’s Tiananmen Square. But that is largely because they lacked theoretical insight: it is precisely because the rioters don’t even understand their own conditions that they foolishly trash the property of others who are equally as much victims as are they. Furthermore, theoretical insight would have had another valuable contribution: it would have revealed to them that the resort to violence is always counterproductive. It simply further legitimizes the state’s use of force. The more that regular law-abiding citizens feel threatened by “irrational” forces of violence, the less likely they are to question the very institutions of unfreedom that create the conditions of resentment that continue to build up, day after day, until they eventually explode. The rioters, exorcising their chronic repression, simply provide the excuse for yet more repression still.

Events like the hockey riots reveal the need for education on the theory of freedom and slavery. It is not an excuse to lapse into statist apologia or collectivist mythology. Much work lies ahead; seeing events clearly though is the first step in getting the theory right.


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5 Responses to “A Libertarian Take on Vancouver’s Hockey Riot”

  1. BOB says:

    I would argue that Vancouver is not a socialist hotbed. But if you mean materialistic, and working man only means UNION worker, then yes. The last socialists only helped out the Unions at the expense of everyone else. ""The more that regular law-abiding citizens feel threatened by “irrational” forces of violence, the less likely they are to question the very institutions of unfreedom …. The rioters, exorcising their chronic repression, simply provide the excuse for yet more repression still."" AND that is why it was a designer melee.

    THe riot was started and egged on by the POLICE. The first police car to be burnt was by a man without a MASK. The group was lead to the downtown by the POLice smashing windows on the way. Police very carefully left one car per block to be damaged. (See GAry Mason, Globe and Flail, he agrees with my view) A real riot would have buildings being burnt. I guess they want more money. $1 billion for the Olympics and only got $600,000 for the CUP. So no police for game 7, but were there for other games. Makes no sense, but for the repression to come next time.

  2. Mark D Hughes says:

    Let's not forget the old joke "I went to the fights last night and a hockey game broke out" … Canadian hockey has always had an underlying culture of sanctioned violence not seen in any other sport (well, except for boxing and perhaps Box Lacrosse…another great Canadian sport). It's not surprising to me that testosterone/alcohol/drug fueled young male hockey fans (and yes, Mr. Mayor, they were hockey fans) seek to emulate their heroes.

  3. mstob says:

    Saying that the rioters lacked any sort of ideological basis for their dissatisfaction seems to be giving them too much credit doesn't it? How many were rioting against "the man" or "the system" or "the establisment" versus simply venting rage that their favorite hockey team lost.

    I don't know much about the whole incident.

  4. Michael Cust says:

    Vancouver isn't a socialist hotbed. I recommend changing your description.

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