Frederick Stanley, aka Lord Stanley of Preston, was a fixture of Britain’s conservative government of the 1870s and 1880s, including a stint as civilian head of the army, before assuming office as governor-general of Canada in 1888. Stanley’s most lasting contribution to Canadian society was his donation of a silver punch bowl he purchased for about $50, to be awarded to the country’s top amateur hockey team. Over time, the Stanley Cup became bigger and morphed from an amateur award to the prize of the professional, binational National Hockey League. Although Canadian-born players dominate the NHL’s ranks, no Canada-based team has hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup since the Montreal Canadiens in 1992.
That didn’t change last night, when the Boston Bruins won a decisive game seven victory over the favored Vancouver Canucks. Disgruntled Vancouverites — perhaps in a misguided attempt to embrace left-libertarianism — took the loss as justification to riot and burn downtown.
Now, Canada is hardly some anarchist paradise. It has plenty of monopoly government to go around. Yet federal, provincial, and city authorities seemed to be completely absent until it was too late. (The Vancouver police said the riot actually started when folks overturned a police vehicle.) Worse yet, this was not an unexpected occurrence. Vancouverites rioted the last time the Canucks lost a decisive Stanley Cup final game, back in 1994. Of course, government officials thought they had things in hand this time around: “Police had emphasized repeatedly in the days leading up to Wednesday night’s hockey showdown that they had learned from 1994 and knew how to contain crowds,” reported the Toronto Globe and Mail this morning.
Unfortunately, in a country that tends to worship government power, the real key to preventing this sort of thing never occurred to the people who claimed to be “in charge.” Murray Rothbard explained how to deal with this situation in the aftermath of the 1992 Los Angeles riots:
There is only one way to fulfill the vital police function, the only way that works: the public announcement–backed by willingness to enforce it–made by the late Mayor Richard Daley in the Chicago riots of the 1960s–ordering the police to shoot to kill any looters, rioters, arsonists, or muggers they might find. That very announcement was enough to induce the rioters to pocket their “rage” and go back to their peaceful pursuits. …
…whether the motivation or the goal is rage, kicks, or loot, the rioters, with a devotion to present gratification as against future concerns, engaged in the joys of beating, robbing, and burning, and of massive theft, because they saw they could get away with it. Devotion to the sanctity of person and property is not part of their value-system. That’s why, in the short term, all we can do is shoot the looters and incarcerate the rioters.
On a more encouraging note, social media — which didn’t exist in Los Angeles in 1992 or Vancouver in 1994 — could provide a more long-term deterrent to these sorts of violent outbreaks. The CBC reports that a number of groups on sites like Facebook and Tumblr have already popped up to help identify rioters (who were no doubt counting on anonymity in the crowd) and organize efforts to clean up downtown. Yet again, the market helps clean up a mess that government failed to prevent.