Thursday, April 17, 2014

The threat of force and the state

Let's say we disagree about some policy matter.  Let's make it something silly for the purposes of argument.  I want to paint my house green.  You think that all houses should be painted tan or blue.  You lobby the city council, and they adopt an ordinance codifying your opinion.  I paint my house green anyway because I like the way it looks.

What happens?  The end result of this argument is that you believe that the state has the right to lock me in a cage or kill me because you and I disagree on what color my house should be painted.

Think that is too extreme?  What is the power of the state?  The state has one way to enforce its edicts and that is by force.  You could try to convince me that my house should not be painted green but you can't lock me away or kill me if I continue to disagree.  The state can.  I paint my house an "approved" color because I am scared that the state will send armed men to shoot me if I don't comply.

You might argue that this is an extreme case, that the state would never do that.  You might argue that they would issue a fine and a court order to repaint the house.  What then?  What if I like the color of my house and refuse to repaint?   I don't pay the fine because I think it is unjust.  The state will arrest me and lock me in a cage.  If I resist being locked up, they have the authority to shoot me.

Ergo, you have supported my murder because you don't like the color of my house.

Yes, this is a silly example, but the principle is sound and logical.  I don't agree with the welfare state. You believe that I should be locked in a cage or murdered if I don't actively support your welfare state.  I don't agree with social security. You believe that a refusal on my part to actively support the social security program by dutifully paying my taxes each year should result in my being murdered by the state.  I don't agree with the imposition of tens of thousands of pages of regulations through a swarm of regulatory bureaucracies on what is supposed to be a free people.  You are willing to stand by while I am murdered by the agents of the state for merely disagreeing with what you believe.

What else am I supposed to think? I am not killing anyone,, I am not assaulting anyone, I am not endangering anyone, but if I refuse to go along with your program, I am worthy of nothing more than being murdered.

This is the danger of the state.  They have one power and one power only, that of life and death.  Letters, fines, courts, jail,  all are backed up with the threat of violence.  Disagree with what your neighbors have decided to do and we will kill you.  Does this seem like an extreme argument?  Tear it down?  Demonstrate the flaws in the logical progression I've laid out.  Show me where there is any course where I don't get murdered by the agents of the state for disagreeing with you. 

I would feel better if you could, believe me.  But if you can't, then maybe it's worth thinking about which of society's laws are worth the threat of violence implicit in their enforcement.  Which of the tens of thousands of laws and regulations that we live under do you believe are so indispensable to the operation of society that it is worth the threat of murder to enforce them?  If the answer is "very few" then maybe we need to rethink how we, as a society, get things done.

No comments: