In the old Wild West there were a few major items that won the West.
The locomotive, the Winchester rifle and barbed wire.
Now, you could argue there were other important ingredients like the law, and you may recall that the law of the West could be a little spotty.
You may have seen an old Western movie that portrays the gun-slinging sheriff with his gang of hoodlums that owned the town.
In this case, the law was what the Sheriff said it was. Now this is an ethics question for our readers. If the Sheriff made the “law,” was it the law?
Could it be possible that if something was right, but the Sheriff called it wrong it could be abolished, outlawed or confiscated?
Yes, it could.
Calling something wrong didn’t make it right, but now it was his “law” and that became the law of the town.
In this case, the Sheriff would go rogue, ignoring the law, in favor of his “law” which was self-serving and personally beneficial.
The Sheriff may have been elected or, in some cases, appointed.
If the Sheriff established the “law” it could, and in many cases would, exceed the law of the land.
This could lead to renegade behavior where the Sheriff confiscated property and land by making certain businesses or activities illegal. New taxes and fees could also be levied on ranchers and town folks, to fund the Sheriff’s agenda.
Since the Sheriff controlled the city funds, he could also use public money to further his agenda.
Creating fear of punishment, retribution or abolishment was instrumental in keeping folks “in line.” Law and order were effectively designed to benefit the Sheriff and his companions.
To assist in keeping these new edicts, the Sheriff would appoint specific helpers to make sure these new “laws” were enforced.
Insuring the general populous was pacified with the Sheriff’s behavior, several prominent people were brought into the inner circle. These could include a city treasurer, manager, a local newspaper, the town attorney, the city fathers and/or the town council. If the town council was controlled by him, the amount of controversial behavior by the leadership could not be challenged.
Often, long standing members performing city politics, would be replaced by “new” members endorsing the Sheriff and his associates. His objective was total control of the community by shifting full power to himself and those of like mind.
Public meetings always had supporters of the Sheriff speaking in favor of whatever crazy plan was being proposed. This gave the appearance of public support, which was a simple veil to cover his dastardly deeds.
On occasion, these tainted efforts would be stopped by tenacious citizens, who rose up in united opposition. It was usually the community that would seize back control of their town. It was not always a famous gunslinger like Wyatt Earp who came to the rescue.
This just seems to be the cycle of human nature and some things never change.
See you next week.
See last week’s Milestones here.