Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Millennials: Why Government is Force

In my last post I took a look at a recent poll of millennials, and determined to open a conversation with my millennial friends.  Now we get down to serious business, the radical idea that government is force.

Congressional candidate Dave Brat caused a bit of a ruckus recently when some oppo researcher uncovered a paper the professor had written.  He wrote that "The government holds a monopoly on violence."

To our liberal friends this is shocking, but Charles W. Cooke isn't impressed:
Who among us genuinely doubts this to be the case? Only those, I would venture, who are so uncomfortable with the consequences of their philosophy that they seek the dull refuge of lazy euphemism and collective myopia. It is, it seems, decidedly easier idiotically to repeat that “government is the only thing we all belong to,” or that “government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together” than to acknowledge that, whether one is advocating a small government that takes care of the basics or a Leviathan that seeks to meddle in the smallest recesses of the human heart, one is invoking Thomas Hobbes.
Actually, I would argue, all ruling classes like to elide the truth about government.  That is why Russian peasants were taught to think of the Czar as their "Little Father."  That is why we symbolize the US government as Uncle Sam. Remember Soviet dictator Stalin as "Uncle Joe?"  The truth is that every government maintains power by the unspoken power of its force, whether it is led by a patriarchial feudal lord, an absolute monarch, a revolutionary leader or a democratic president.

The modern state is worse than most, and its power begins with its ruthless tax bureaucracy.  Try and mess with the IRS and see where it gets you.

Guess what?  The modern tax bureaucracy is not an invention of big government liberals, or the evil bourgeoisie but the absolute monarchs.  Back in the 1600s kings found that they needed more money, a lot more money, to prevent takeover by the neighboring monarch, so they invented the tax bureaucracy to drill down through the guilds and the lords so they could tax individuals and extract the money they needed for their armies.

In due course along came the modern democratic revolutions.  But the tax bureaucracy stayed and flourished, because the first thing a government needs is money.  Indeed, a democratic government needs much more money than an absolute monarch.  It needs money not just for armies, but money for its supporters, money to buy votes, money even for old-age pensions and vital infrastructure.

Moreover, every government we know of was founded on force.  Our own US government was founded on a successful rebellion, and the land we love was taken by force from the "native Americans."  Modern Russia was born in a coup against the Kerensky government.  Modern France was born in a bloody revolution.  Modern Germany was born through a couple of wars.  Modern Britain was born in a convenient Dutch invasion in 1688, known today by the lazy euphemism of Glorious Revolution.

Every government works overtime to show that it's not really all about force.  That's why every government works to show it "cares about people like me" and does everything "for the children."  And that's why our Democratic friends are always going on about Republicans being "heartless" when they want to cut spending.  But what about the heartless payroll taxes that take money out of the pockets of ordinary workers before they even see the money in their paychecks? What do you call that?

Put it this way.  Back in the days of Watergate and the Bush years, it wasn't hard to find a political writer worrying about whether Nixon or Bush was planning to cancel the next election.  Today we have conservatives worrying about Obama's illegal administrative actions.

It's pretty obvious what is going on. When you are in the opposition you are always worrying about whether the government will jump the tracks and start ruling by decree rather than the rule of law.  Instinctively, people know that behind its pretty words, government is force.  That's OK when our guys are in charge, because they have their hearts in the right place.  But when the other party is in power, every patriotic citizen should be eternally vigilant, watching for abuses of power and ready to protest against injustice.

I know this is all pretty radical.  So let's amp it up with the idea that government always wants a war, foreign and domestic.  Because, if government is force, it stands to reason that government will look for things to do that require force.

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