Gang warfare without the warfare

This is from the Wikipedia entry about Chinese triad gangs:

Gang fighting

When triads have a "show of force" (known as ??, sai ma in Chinese), they are only trying to negotiate with one another, they do not actually want to fight, so they do not usually bring along weapons. Each party's bargaining power depends on the quality and quantity of people on its side as well as its structural integrity.

In terms of figures, a "show of force" with over one hundred people might seem a big thing, but quite many attendants either are mercenaries - paid just to turn up, or come simply to help out. For example, In 1990, one of the gangs attempted to monopolise the queues for purchase of new apartments and had a "show of force" with 700 people. The police arrested 119 people, but later found that most of them were hawkers or drug addicts who were employed from various districts and did not know one another – the gang leader had all of them wearing a right-handed white glove for recognition, so they were later called "The White-glove Gang".

One reason that triads try to avoid fighting is the possible incurrence of high costs. Generally speaking, ammunition is expensive and the basic cost of hiring a person for a "showing of force" is HK$100, which could increase up to HK$500 for larger events. Other accessory expenses, including meals, logistics, medical, condolence and legal charges may also be incurred.

This should give us a little more cautious optimism about a system of non-monopolistic security provision.

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Interestingly enough, these

Interestingly enough, these kind of displays were a common element of stateless arbitration in medieval Iceland, as well. Here's Jesse Byock, in Viking Age Iceland:

The absence of pitched battles does not mean that the island inhabitants eschewed all forms of militant show, only that they ritualized the actual use of force. Parties to a dispute that was moving toward resolution frequently assembled large numbers of armed baendr [freeholders]. Sometimes these groups confronted each other for days at assemblies and at other gatherings, such as when a successful party was trying to enforce a judgment at the home of the defendant (féránsdómr). Althought opposing sides often clashed briefly, and a few men might be killed, protracted battles were consistently avoided. It was not by chance that the parties showed restraint. Leaders really had few options if they hoped to retain the allegiance of a large following, since the baendr were not dependable supporters in a long or perilous confrontation. They had no tradition of obeying orders, maintaining discipline, or being absent from their farms for extended periods. The godhar, for their part, were seldom able to bear the burdens of campaigning. They lacked the resources necessary to feed, house, equip and pay followers for more than a brief period.

Rather than signalling the outbreak of warfare, a public display of armed support revealed that significant numbers of men had chosen sides and were prepared to participate in an honourable resolution. With chieftains and farmers publicly committed, a compromise resting on a collective agreement could be reached. (p. 125)

Hm. Leaders gather people

Hm. Leaders gather people who aren't necessarily commited to the cause but are willing to show up for a token gesture?

A.k.a. "voting".

Except for one problem,

Except for one problem, eddie. Shows of force evolved from actual warfare, where the participants were actually willing to fight for their cause. Voting has no connection whatsoever to the expression of willingness to fight (or pay) for a cause.

A “show of force”

A “show of force” reduces the chance of violence. They do not really want to fight. “Triads try to avoid fighting because of the possible incurrence of the high costs”
What happens if a triad puts on a show of weakness?
Quick, forward this information to members of the Democratic Party, especially John Murtha, as soon as possible.

I don't have the book in

I don't have the book in front of me, but _The Sicilian Mafia: The Business of Private Protection_ by Diego Gambetta discusses the circumstances under which a show of force is used by the Sicilian mafia, and when actual violence breaks out. Usually there has to be some actual violence in order to gain an appropriate reputation for ruthlessness, at which time the reputation can serve the purpose.

Sean Lynch: Shows of force

Sean Lynch: Shows of force evolved from actual warfare, where the participants were actually willing to fight for their cause.

I have no particular opinion about the connection between warfare, ritualized shows of force, and voting, but as an empirical description of warfare, I am quite sure that your comment is false. Historically wars in which there was a discernible "cause" for which most or even many of the foot soldiers "were willing to fight" have been extremely rare. Most common soldiers throughout history have fought either (1) in order to share in the spoils, such as they could, (2) for pay from the commander, or (3) in order not to be maimed or killed by the warlord for refusing to fight on his side. The warlords and commanders may have had different ideas about what they were fighting for, of course, but they have almost always been in a very small minority on the battlefield, if they were on the battlefield at all.