Furthest Right

Broken Windows And Neoreaction

Neoreactionary ideas — and classic conservative wisdom — can be seen in effect in the policing of the New York transit system:

The newly clean and better-functioning trains set the stage for the fight against subway crime. As Joseph Fox, chief of the NYPD’s transit bureau, observes: “It’s a simple correlation”; the defaced trains and dilapidated system gave “the appearance that no one was in charge.”

…In his two years in charge, Bratton put the focus on reducing illegal behavior underground, not ridding the system of its squalor. Homelessness was not a crime; jumping a turnstile was. Going after illegal disorderly acts — what came to be known as “broken windows” or quality-of-life policing — would improve the lives of all New Yorkers.

…The Transit Police had an advantage street cops lacked: You had to pay to get into the subway. That meant the police could stop lawbreakers at entry points, whenever fare-beaters broke theft-of-services law. The transit system has its own set of rules, including prohibiting walking between cars or taking up two seats, and breaking these rules will invite police attention. Police made an important discovery: Fare-beaters and other bad actors were disproportionately criminals wanted for other crimes, and they often carried weapons. (The muggers who killed Brian Watkins had entered the system illegally, by not paying their fare.) Stopping turnstile-jumpers, in other words, helped prevent bigger crimes.

The first Neoreactionary concept is formalism. When government assumes power, but is not directly responsive to conditions because there is no positive feedback loop from citizens that government is obligated to pay attention to, as there would be in the free market, often neglect occurs. The solution is to create the appearance that someone is in charge and responding, and then both criminals and citizens see the situation as having a future instead of simply routing around it.

Next, the power of capitalism: when people are forced to pay, a contract is entered which obligates them to keep up their end of the deal, which criminals are unwilling to do. Furthermore, the contract gives government direct power over those who have entered the space that is regulated and allows it to crack down on those who refuse to abide by the contract; this could also be enforced by a private party with private security.

This contrasts the Leftist ideal of the time before this crackdown, which consisted of dumping money on special interest groups and ignoring vital parts of the city, like its transit system and other public spaces.

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