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Sunday, February 9, 2014

"Violence is Golden"

I had a professor that remarked that all law is ultimately based on the threat of violence, because at some point there was the possibility that if you refused to pay a judgment or lien, men with badges and guns would come to arrest you or kill you. Jack Donovan expounds on this thesis in his article "Violence is Golden."

All governments — left, right or other — are by their very nature coercive. They have to be.

Order demands violence.

A rule not ultimately backed by the threat of violence is merely a suggestion. States rely on laws enforced by men ready to do violence against lawbreakers. Every tax, every code and every licensing requirement demands an escalating progression of penalties that, in the end, must result in the forcible seizure of property or imprisonment by armed men prepared to do violence in the event of resistance or non–compliance. Every time a soccer mom stands up and demands harsher penalties for drunk driving, or selling cigarettes to minors, or owning a pit bull, or not recycling, she is petitioning the state to use force to impose her will. She is no longer asking nicely. The viability of every family law, gun law, zoning law, traffic law, immigration law, import law, export law and financial regulation depends on both the willingness and wherewithal of the group to exact order by force.

When an environmentalist demands that we “save the whales,” he or she is in effect making the argument that saving the whales is so important that it is worth doing harm to humans who harm whales. The peaceful environmentalist is petitioning the leviathan to authorize the use of violence in the interest of protecting leviathans. If state leaders were to agree and express that it was, indeed, important to “save the whales,” but then decline to penalize those who bring harm to whales, or decline to enforce those penalties under threat of violent police or military action, the expressed sentiment would be a meaningless gesture. Those who wanted to bring harm to whales would feel free to do so, as it is said, with impunity — without punishment.

Without action, words are just words. Without violence, laws are just words.

Violence isn’t the only answer, but it is the final answer.
 
... It is when our ordered violence gives way to disordered violence, as in the aftermath of a natural disaster, that we are forced to see how much we rely on those who maintain order through violence. People loot because they can, and kill because they think they’ll get away with it. Dealing with violence and finding violent men who will protect you from other violent men suddenly becomes a real and pressing concern.
A pal once told me a story about an incident recounted by a family friend who was a cop, and I think it gets the point across. A few teenagers were at the mall hanging out, outside a bookstore. They were goofing around and talking with some cops who were hanging around. The cop was a relatively big guy, not someone who you would want to mess around with. One of the kids told the cop that he didn’t see why society needed police.

The cop leaned over and said to the spindly kid, “do you have any doubt in your mind about whether or not I could break your arms and take that book away from you if I felt like it?”

The teenager, obviously shaken by the brutality of the statement, said, “No.”

“That’s why you need cops, kid.”
 Read the whole thing.

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