• Nick

Minimum necessary action

Updated: May 19

A responsible government will only do the minimum necessary amount in order to prevent utter chaos from occurring

In 1990 the United Nations published their human rights instrument Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials which contained the following principle:

Law enforcement officials, in carrying out their duty, shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms. They may use force and firearms only if other means remain ineffective or without any promise of achieving the intended result

In teaching, a similar concept exists with respect to discipline. I invite further insight on this point from teachers/educators, however, as I understand it Bennett and Smilanich came up with the following concept in their Classroom Management: A thinking & Caring Approach:

Where a student acts in a manner requiring discipline or intervention, the teacher or educator should respond using the minimum necessary force to adequately discipline or respond to the action. They referred to these as Low Key Strategies.

Such an ethos certainly does not exist in the political atmosphere. At least not any more. This article focuses on the basic principles underpinning this site. It isn’t that everyone has the right to do or say anything they wish and that their personal rights trump that of the collective. If there were an ethos to attribute it to, I would hope it would be along the lines of the following:

A responsible government will only do the minimum necessary amount in order to prevent utter chaos from occurring.


To explain this concept better, it is necessary to give some definitions, such as chaos. Chaos should be defined as complete lack of order, where the symptoms as a consequence are lack of faith in government, lack of reasonable safety to the public, and inability to adequately function (whether it is the person or society). Using gun control as an example, it can be seen how this philosophy differs slightly from a libertarian point of view.

In Australia, each state regulates their gun control legislation and the local police to the state are tasked with carrying out the law in this respect. All gunowner’s in New South Wales are required to be registered, then all firearms in their possession are required to be registered. Minor infractions attract significant fines and court appearances. Automatic weapons are illegal, police regularly inspect gun-safes, gun safes have minimum requirements and are often required to bolted to the floor (and often have bolts that are cemented into the floor. In short, to own a gun in the state, the framework is particularly onerous, requires multiple levels of checks and is subject to much ongoing scrutiny, where the penalties for non-compliance are significant.

In the Unites States, I am unsure how their legal system regulates firearms. From my research into US government statistics on gun crime, it appears that there are annually over 100,000 incidents under this banner per year (and closer to 150,000 some years). For the purposes of this piece, it isn’t necessary to go into specific detail on this point. Again, for simplicity let us say that the US has relaxed firearm regulation when compared to Australia but it also carries a much higher proportion of gun crime (again please bear with me, you will see that the statistical analysis, or an argument on causation/correlation isn’t required).

Perhaps some think that there is a link between relaxed firearm regulations and the increased prevalence of gun control in the US. Perhaps in Australia, our lower statistical prevalence of the same is a direct result of our tighter regulations. Perhaps these prevalences are more closely associated with their respective cultures and histories (Australia hasn’t had to fight for its liberty yet). What is apparent to me is that the US doesn’t meet the anarchy definition yet, and definitely not because of its lack of regulation of firearms. To be clear, I think it is appropriate and productive that a constant discourse on the regulation of firearms is had everywhere and this will result in the best outcomes as to the liberty and rights of gunowners and the safety of the public at large. I couldn’t truthfully state that the US is in a state of anarchy and that the US’s only recourse in the circumstances to rectify its anarchy is to adopt the Australian form of regulations. The US is still the worlds most prosperous nation, one of the most sought-after nations to live in and overall one of the safest places to live, it is far from being in anarchy.

Minimum necessary amount

The second element to define is the minimum necessary amount, which is more difficult concept to define and should better be understood as a subjective act of efficiency. Think of Occam’s razor or calculus when considering this.

It is probably easiest to consider what the minimum necessary amount isn’t, rather than what it is. In Australia over the past two years, each state has enacted its own legislation with respect to coronavirus in order to prevent, diminish (and for some) to eradicate the virus. Let us suppose that if the virus were to be left to go through the public it would spread widely, would destroy Australia’s healthcare system, millions would die and the country would be in anarchy (not that I believe this for a second). What would the minimum necessary amount of action be on the part of government to prevent utter chaos? Look at what some of the governments did:

In Victoria, the state spent over 250 days in some form of lockdown, where normal uninfected citizens were unable to exercise their complete freedoms (whether leaving home, going to work, going to gymnasiums, to exercise etc.). Gymnasiums, theatres, cinemas etc. were in some cased locked down for over a year in total.

In New South Wales, there were state-wide lockdowns (granted for shorter periods than in Victoria), some of which only applied to the unvaccinated, entire industries were subject to mandates that workers must be vaccinated to work in the industry, Gymnasiums, theatres, cinemas etc. were subject to rolling and vacillating lockdowns to their businesses.

Health workers are still required to be fully vaccinated in order to work. Doctors are being deregistered for expressing dissenting views from their regulatory bodies’ opinions as to the best medical practise in respect of the virus.

Considering that many governments worldwide have initially taken the step to mandate vaccinations for all (within a class, industry or the entire nation) or lockdown entire cities or countries as a first step, this intrinsically fails to meet the minimum threshold; the shoot first, ask questions later approach is the opposite of taking an inquisitive, sceptical and reasoned approach. The minimum approach in these circumstances would have been to quarantine the sick, provide healthcare resources, encourage open debate as to the best medical practice and allow doctors to do what they do best which is treat patients. Instead, what we got was aggressive moral ostentation from politicians in competition with each other to see who could take the hardest line approach to control, destroy dissent, and rule their citizens, all of which created a partial anarchy which they are employed to keep at bay.

Prevention and responsibility

The final elements to consider go hand-in-hand with each other. Prevention can best be understood with reference to the World Health Organisation’s (sorry) 1986 Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. This charter actually had its merits, and I suggest you have a look at it if you haven’t heard of it before. One of its tenets was reorienting resources to preventing diseases and promoting health. What the WHO had worked out is that it would be cheaper for governments long-term to make their citizens healthier rather than treating their preventable diseases in the future. What they didn’t account for was that it is a damn-sight harder to prevent disease, in terms of the work of governments, their bodies, motivating the public and fighting any number of private food-related corporations whilst at the same time depending on them both financially and politically. Since signing up to the Ottawa Charter, multiple countries have encountered an increase in diabetes, morbid obesity and hypertension in pandemic proportions which are all inherently preventable diseases.

Responsible government can be understood in two ways: firstly, that a government understands and accepts that it is the owner of its actions and omissions and the consequences of the same, secondly, that it is able to foresee the consequences of its actions and omissions and will act in a reasonably coherent and appropriate way in light of its foresight.

Looking to the first limb, lets consider that during the past two years Australia’s national gross debt has increased around 60%, one would consider that a responsible government would state something along the lines of we weighed up whether incurring this much debt was the best thing, and we consider that in light of X,Y & Z it was the best thing to do. Our plan to pay this off as quickly as reasonably possible is A, B & C. Lets now look at the actual words of Australia’s treasurer:

“In the December quarter, Australia’s economy grew by 3.4 per cent, the equal strongest quarterly growth in 46 years, with Victoria’s economy growing by 3.7 per cent in the quarter. This helped take Australia’s calendar year growth for 2021 to 4.7 per cent. Australia’s economy is now 3.4 per cent bigger than it was going into the pandemic”.

It is a fairly sunny outlook for a treasurer who has increased Australia’s debt in an amount never seen before. I’m not interest in a soundbite attack on an individual, however, the point I am making is that this first limb or responsibility requires accounting for one’s actions including both the merits and the costs. Please also note that the opinion piece of the treasurer this was taken for does not include the word debt, not once.

The second limb is foresight. This is a skill and a gift, the power and impact of which cannot be overvalued. Worldwide, the gift of foresight can be seen in mythology and legend and is often represented by the eye. The obvious allusion to sight, although it doesn’t literally mean the ability to visually see, it is more a reference to the rounded perception of what will occur in the future should certain circumstances unfold. A government with good foresight, which encounters a pandemic or a new disease already considered this occurring before it occurred. This government already put into place reasonable checks and balances and resources to be able to cope with a new pathogen. It doesn’t need to react harshly or beyond the bare minimum, in fact the minimum of this government is much lower than its underprepared counterparts, because it has acted responsibly.

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