I work in public transit and one of the most common complaints of riders, after missed trips and insufficient service, are safety and anti-social behavior. I lived in Atlanta for 10 years and one of the features of their transit system is an app where you could report anonymously to the transit police (a lot of agencies have this). I forgot why, but I was in a reddit discussion talking about how well it seemed to work and told the story of two teenagers playing loud music on a packed train and refused twice to turn it off. About two stations later, transit police walked on and escorted the teens off the train and hopefully they just got a lecture about why they shouldn't do that. After recounting this story. I was immediately branded as a racist (even though I never mentioned race and I'm mixed race myself) and endangering the lives of the teens and other platitudes like "don't start shit, there won't be shit", which I found to be extremely anti-social and corrosive to society. I then explained that I just witnessed it, I didn't report it, that everyone from the teens, to the women who asked them to turn it down, to the cops, were all the same race, at which point they said I was making that up. To relate it back to this story, there seems to be this growing sentiment on a part of the left that you're a "Karen" or busybody if you see anti-social behavior and want it to stop. It's as if working class people wanting to ride home in peace after a long day at work is a bourgeoise or WASPy luxury.

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The skyrocketing amount of antisocial behavior in public spaces makes me feel like I'm losing my mind. I do not have a car and have to take the train in Minneapolis most days and it's a mess. A woman was beaten within an inch of her life in the middle of the day on a train platform in the middle of the day on Monday.

People are completely unable to admit that they were wrong on the merits about the "no rules" thing. It's not working. Things were not like this ten years ago. We stopped enforcing the rules and conditions deteriorated, badly. It preceded the pandemic. You started letting people smoke meth on the train, you started letting kids throw chairs at teachers, you started letting people blow red lights, you started letting people carry trash bags of merchandise out of stores, and now this is what things are like. This is not complicated. It doesn't need to be unpacked by a six month series of public meetings organized by $1,000 an hour consultants that produce a 50 page PDF recommending another series of meetings. Jesus! Christ!

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Some folks might have already pointed this out, but I can't think of a more alienating posture than demanding we police every inch of culture, language, romance and friendships over their potential for emotional harm, while simultaneously sneering at anyone concerned about physical harm or intrusions.

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I've said this about the conduct of the local homeless population. It's male aggression and male entitlement. Economic deprivation does not absolve anyone of responsibility, nor does it nullify anyone else's expectations that other people follow rules. Mental illness is different, but that's not the topic.

Middle-class people have a right to expect that the rules they follow will be enforced. Their expectations are valid, and constantly telling them to follow rules when there are so many exceptions undermines the whole social contract. It's a power game, and it's obvious.

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Modern leftism is the idea that a person who smokes indoors in front of a baby has done nothing wrong, but a white person who said the N-word while singing along to a rap song when they were 13 must be cast out of civil society forever.

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Yes! Thank you! I am old enough that I remember a time when smoking was ubiquitous. My mom had eye surgery in the late 70s, and her roommate in the hospital was a chain smoker. People on the left worked hard to get smoking banned in indoor spaces so that people would be protected from smelly, toxic fumes on the job.

And now we seem to have backslid, to the point where some people on the left think it’s wrong to object to nasty behavior in public. But it is not a left position to allow some people to hurt other people; quite the contrary, we on the left should be speaking out against bullies, and praising those who, like this woman, spoke up for regular people who would like to get to work unmolested, by smoke, by harassment, or by anything else.

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Ugh. Again, as always, thanks for this. One should be able to handle multiple thoughts and feelings at the same time. I consider myself well-left-of-center. I believe that civil disobedience is right in some cases. And I also believe that the concept of rule-of-law, carried out fairly and consistently, rocks. Just rocks. I grew up in some pretty lawless places, and a) lawlessness sucks, specially for poor people; and b) when confronted with anarchy/chaos, the majority will always opt for a strongman to bring "order." So—no, thanks. (Yes, history: many of these "leftists" look back at the hippie/rowdy late 60's with nostalgia, but conveniently forget that Nixon won twice.) So yes, please do not effing smoke on the subway.

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I'm admittedly spitballing here, but it doesn't seem that long ago that the left believed their ideas could not only withstand debate but would triumph. The plan seemed to be to win people over with the power of their ideas. For whatever reason, that strategy seems to have been abandoned in favor of bumper sticker propaganda. It's as though someone decided winning on the merits is just not worth pursuing anymore. Not sure how we got here.

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I am a one issue voter: bikes off the sidewalk.

Whenever I voice this opinion online i'm shouted down as racist for giving the police the power to arrest delivery workers or something...but delivery workers are only a small slice of the problem. Walking to work involves 4-5 jump scares each time and I was hit last year. NYC is classically a pedestrian city, but having to dodge bikes, scooters and sometimes motorcycles ON THE SIDEWALK makes me want to move.

The long term solution is to make more/safer bike paths—but is that happening? Are the cyclists using them? Is the police enforcing this?

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"This was one of the very weird things about the period where every milquetoast liberal you know was suddenly braying to defund the police, the utter lack of any grounding in theory or research at all."

Damn, this was some Twilight Zone shit, in the midst of a very Twilight Zone time in history. I remember when suddenly every nice person wanted to defund the police: it made my blood run cold. Not just because I thought it was an impractical idea, but much more because it forced me to realize there were no bounds to what the media could make a person declare their support for.

Suddenly, where had all the adults gone, those who understood why we couldn't just eat ice cream for dinner and live a sweet, sweet happy life forever? They seemed to be lending their support to the lost boys in their callow, righteous crusade to rid Neverland of a pack of man-eating boars using a sharp stick and a handful of rocks.

I felt vindicated when my left-leaning dad recently acknowledged that that had been a mistake.

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Had an online argument in a similar vein with a self described socialist. The argument concerned the need for public restrooms in an area, and his argument was that the local Starbucks should act as the public restroom for the area. I found this idea ridiculous and besides, how could a socialist support putting more work, not to mention demeaning work, on low wage employees, who would have to spend more time cleaning and maintaining the facilities? To which he exploded and I was showing my true nature by calling that work demeaning. To which I told him he should make his house a public restroom and hoped he enjoyed having to spend his days cleaning up other people's piss and shit. He kept harping on my comment as though it was some sort of gotcha moment. I really hoped his comments weren't endemic of today's left but after reading this article I suspect they are.

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The Facebook left is very OK with rules and enforcing them; the vast list of ever-changing rules is one of the things that makes online leftist spaces so wretched. Yes these are social, rather than legal, rules, but still definitely rules.

One of those rules is that you cannot call for legal rules to be enforced against members of marginalized groups. Do that, and your ass is grass. So absolutely nobody wants to advocate for a policy that would result in a Black person getting in legal trouble (which enforcing a no subway smoking rule would inevitably and predictably do), because that makes you a racist.

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I think the elephant in the room is that the kind of no-rules leftist you're complaining about knows full well that more enforcement of current community standards almost assuredly will result in disparate impact on BIPOC persons, since community standards are set by the dominant culture. And said leftist has been thoroughly captured by an ideology that says the worst possible thing for a white person to do is use their power in a way that makes a BIPOC person mad.

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This dovetails nicely with your piece on Monday on YIMBY-ism. I'm one of Freddie's conservative readers, but I am entirely sympathetic with the need for more housing and more density. I'd love to loosen the regulations and get more affordable (and walkable!) cities in the US. I've been to a few highly dense cities in Asia before (Tokyo briefly, and Seoul a number of times). I see the benefits, I'd love to have those options here.

HOWEVER, what those cities get right, and is lacking to make it possible at this moment in the States, is a high degree of social trust/cohesion, and a strong commitment to law and order. Looking at the tweets in the article sums it up nicely, the same people on 'the left' (broadly speaking) calling for more dense building, and by extension more public transportation options, are also the same people that scoff at the notion that any sort of minor law enforcement in necessary at all.

I've taken the the light rail and bus in my city (Cleveland) several times over the last few years. Half the time it smells like piss, the other half there's a clearly mentally ill person talking to themselves or menacing others. In one case an older gentleman sitting in the row in front of me nearly got jumped over nothing. As a result I no longer take our public transportation. In Seoul? I took the Metro everywhere, and never once was there an issue. I would love to have that option in Cleveland, but without the necessary rules enforcement to make it a decent experience, forget it.

There is absolutely a compromise here that would be broadly supported by a majority of Americans, but until the left gets its house in order on this issue and recognizes that yes, even minor rules need to be enforced, we will get nowhere. It doesn't need to be a choice, but if I can only choose one between law and order and density, I choose law and order.

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Mar 1·edited Mar 1Liked by Freddie deBoer

Thanks again for some sanity Freddie. Just so people know how far out of touch these self-proclaimed socialists are its worth pointing out that even extremely provocative and radical anarchists like Bakunin (considered a founder of the movement) obviously envision some sort of police.

Bakunin's Revolutionary Catechism 1866, which have been described by H. E, Kaminski (convincingly) as, “the spiritual foundation of the entire anarchist movement....” states

"The freedom of adults of both sexes must be absolute and complete, freedom to come and go, to voice all opinions, to be lazy or active, moral or immoral, in short, to dispose of one's person or possessions as one pleases, being accountable to no one."

However the next few paragraphs outline how 'political rights' will be dependent on work due to societies right to "defend itself from vicious and parasitic individuals" it is then clearly stated that:

"Persons losing their political rights will also lose custody of their children. Persons who violate

voluntary agreements, steal, inflict bodily harm, or above all, violate the freedom of any individual,

native or foreigner, will be penalized according to the laws of society."

Its just infuriating to see a lack of social enforcement even labeled as anarchist tbh. Its very similar to Stirner though, which I also assume they haven't read.

P.S. I have a minor objection to your reference to distinguishing anarchism and socialism. Anarchism as a political label first emerged as a type of socialism.

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I think a lot of this ties into what Freddie has discussed before about people who make being in New York the centerpiece of their identity, hence the "move to Iowa" command. Basic standards are a bourgeious value that city-dwellers are too sophisticated and tolerant to have, and are best relegated to the midwest. Real New Yorkers, on the other hand, jack it on the subway. Eight million stories! Fuhgeddaboutit!

It's the same impulse that leads wide-eyed ingenues to pretend that they actually like buying disgusting sandwiches from a dusty bodega that closes at 7pm instead of going to proper stores.

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