Derailed

From the Washington Times:

PARIS -- A gang of more than 20 youths -- thought to be North African immigrants -- terrorized hundreds of train passengers in a rampage of violence, robbery and sexual assault on New Year's Day, French officials said yesterday.

The five-hour-long criminal frenzy was "totally unacceptable," French President Jacques Chirac told reporters. "Those guilty will be found and punished, as they deserve."

The gang of between 20 and 30 youths boarded the train, heading from Nice on the French Riviera to Lyon, in eastern France, early on Jan. 1, as it carried 600 passengers home from New Year's Eve partying overnight.

Once inside, they went wild, forcing passengers to hand over mobile phones and wallets, and slashing seats and breaking windows.

(bold added)

Not having been there, I know I really shouldn't comment on the dynamics of the situation, but... 600 passengers were manhandled by 20+ punks for five hours?

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Maybe there were really

Maybe there were really scary punks. Or maybe French train passengers are just scared of black people.

Whaddaya expect from a bunch

Whaddaya expect from a bunch of cheese-eating surrender monkeys? (Hat tip to Homer Simpson)

Handgun restrictions can be

Handgun restrictions can be a real bear, eh?

I am reminded of an

I am reminded of an apocryphal tale from many centuries back.

A caravan was making its way across the silk road when they ran into a handful of Mongol horsemen. The Mongols killed the caravan's guards, then ordered the survivors to kneeel in a line.

One of the Mongols began walking down the line of merchants lopping off their heads, obviously working on improving his technique. One of the merchants shouted, "This is foolishness. We still outnumber them. We must attack, not wait and allow them to slaughter us so meekly!"

To which another merhant shouted, "Quiet you fool! Do you want to make them angry?"

The story has the hothead charging the Mongols, which inspired his fellow travelers to join in, and through sheer force of numbers the merchants overwhelmed and killed their attackers.

I think the story is probably false, but it points out an interesting dynamic: fear of even worse fates (whether being tortured to death, or retaliation agaisnt family members, etc) can prompt people to meekly accept oppression at the hands of a minority whom they could overcome through concerted action

Welcome to the prisoner's

Welcome to the prisoner's dilemma of Government, tarran.

I am reminded of an


I am reminded of an apocryphal tale from many centuries back.

A caravan was making its way across the silk road when they ran into a handful of Mongol horsemen. The Mongols killed the caravan’s guards, then ordered the survivors to kneeel in a line.

One of the Mongols began walking down the line of merchants lopping off their heads, obviously working on improving his technique. One of the merchants shouted, “This is foolishness. We still outnumber them. We must attack, not wait and allow them to slaughter us so meekly!”

To which another merhant shouted, “Quiet you fool! Do you want to make them angry?”

The story has the hothead charging the Mongols, which inspired his fellow travelers to join in, and through sheer force of numbers the merchants overwhelmed and killed their attackers.

I think the story is probably false, but it points out an interesting dynamic: fear of even worse fates (whether being tortured to death, or retaliation agaisnt family members, etc) can prompt people to meekly accept oppression at the hands of a minority whom they could overcome through concerted action.

Welcome to the prisoner’s dilemma of Government, tarran.

How are the train story, the Mongols story, or govt a prisoner's dilemma?

If France is a Low Trust

If France is a Low Trust Society, implying that Frenchmen are not prepared to risk sacrifice in a common interest because of the risk of lack of reciprocity, then the affaire becomes comprehensible without any need to assume that Frenchmen are individually cowardly.

This train situation seems

This train situation seems to me to be a nice example of Mancur Olson's theory of collective goods. The rational individual will not contribute to obtain the collective good because he will, by definition, still enjoy the good just the same as whether or not he helped. I think 600 passengers can be classified as a "latent group" to which this problem is germane.

I too am at a lost as to why it would be a prisoner's dilemma.

If everyone attacks the

If everyone attacks the criminals there collective and individual payoff is maximized (cooperating in the prisoners dilemma.) But for an individual train passenger there an incentive to just sit back and watch(which would be confessing in the prisoners dilemma) as this allows them to reap higher benefits. The individual who does nothing gets out of the situation (assuming others attack the criminals) without getting mugged while not having to risk the thugs being armed, having black belts, etc. Therefore regardless of what the other passengers do each individual has a dominant strategy to do nothing (which would be equivalent to everyone confessing in the prisoners dilemma.)

How are the train story, the

How are the train story, the Mongols story, or govt a prisoner’s dilemma?

I guess I was speaking a little too sloppily - I was alluding to the following passage from one of JTK's essays:

In a sense we are all prisoners of government. Individually we can choose to cooperate with each other to dissolve government, or we can choose to defect and wield government against others. We'd be best off if everyone cooperated but we each only get to choose for ourselves. The incentive structure government provides is such that defectors can enrich themselves at the expense of those around them by wielding government. Or they can seek to protect themselves from other defectors by wielding government. Those who cooperate against government and decline to wield it are effectively at the mercy of those who do choose to wield it. This is why individuals overwhelmingly choose to defect and wield government.

I can't quite see something

I can't quite see something like this successfully happening in say; Utah, where concealed carry and self defense really mean something. Nor could I see this easily happening in a place where self reliance and individual responsibility were instilled in the culture. Despite the above noted psychological analysis. Im not denigrating some of the above theories, just stating that I think that they would not apply so strongly in certain cultures.

There is a bit more to this

There is a bit more to this story that is equally mystifying. The authorities boarded the train in some numbers, but arrested only 3 youths because the gang pulled the emergency switch and jumped off just before the next station.

Why didn't they conduct a car to car sweep and detain the assailants? Seems the police are just as cowardly as the general populace...

If you are the only

If you are the only individual on the train to fight back then you will be overpowered by the 20+ and face severe punishment. So, we have a first-mover problem, not a prisoner's delima. Individuals may seem passive, but we are all afraid of being taken for suckers, or as cowards for that matter. The optimal outcome for the individual rider is to take part in a massive popular uprising because then the risk is low (one out of 600 passengers) and you get to tell everyone you were a hero.

This is why street riots are an orgy of crime while in the absense of a riot crime is often rare.

This is where culture comes into play. On that same train of 600 people, if we inserted only a handful of individuals from Texas, to use a stereotype, which can be reasonably relied upon to always fight back, and did so, therefore breaking the first-mover problem and emboldening the other train riders to join in.

Trains are divided into

Trains are divided into cars, and most French trains further divided into compartments. 20 or 30 thugs is easily enough to dominate a car and far too many to even fit in a compartment. This is not a case of 600 people watching 20 punks have their way with them.

True, but philosophically

True, but philosophically speaking, if it had...

A further clue: Once inside,

A further clue:

Once inside, they went wild, forcing passengers to hand over mobile phones and wallets, and slashing seats and breaking windows.

The criminals were armed.

Clearly, what's needed is a law against criminals carrying weapons.

Yeah, a law that prevents

Yeah, a law that prevents them from carrying knives on French trains. That'll show 'em. It's "completely unacceptable", after all.

I guess Have a go Henrys are

I guess Have a go Henrys are not common in France.:beatnik:

It may be a stretch but the

It may be a stretch but the prisoners' dilemma can be applied in the following way: If one person tries to confront the mongols he gets killed immediately, and maybe tortured as well. If everyone rises up then they can beat the mongols with more limited casualties. But given the dynamics no single person would try to fight, and the collective cannot be organized to do so en masse: so a bad situation results for everyone....

FWIW, the French trains I've

FWIW, the French trains I've used where not compartmentalized.

This was in southern (Vichi)

This was in southern (Vichi) France. In northern France, the reaction might have been different.