Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Hiding from the Truth on: Government is Force

If you haven't got that I have a real thing about "Government is force" then now is the time to get it.

Many liberals don't get it, and I understand why. If you read The New York Times and listen to NPR you'd easily get the impression that government is a matter of nice librarians trying to help our kids.

Ruling classes tend to do this sort of thing. They don't like to look at the dirtier side of political power, and they don't want you to do that either. They'd rather concentrate on telling you about the wonderful things their kindly librarians are doing for the people.

Now comes a delicious article from Robert Tracinski at The Federalist: "The Party of Coercion Doesn't Understand It." Says he:
[Y]ou would think they would have highly developed thoughts about what a law is and how laws are actually enforced.
But you would be wrong.
Sally Kohn recently argued, bizarrely [at Talking Points Memo], that law as such is not coercive.
But, of course, it serves the liberal purpose not to think too deeply about the subject. If they ever thought about how government is force and law is coercive they would find it more difficult to justify new government programs and coercions.

I'm slowly reading J├╝rgen Habermas' Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy at the gym. And he has the same problem as Sally Kohn.

Habermas developed a beautiful idea in The Theory of Communicative Action that, in a world of big business and big government with their dominatory systems, we need a place free of domination where people can communicate by exchanging truth values with sincerity and free of the threat of force.

But when he starts to write about his discourse ethic in the context of law and democracy he seems to forget that law and democratic politics are about coercion and domination. He talks, on page 314, about the long struggle to bring issues such as "the question of spousal abuse or the question of day-care facilities for the children of working parents" to public notice and then finally "worked into legislative proposals and binding decisions."

In fact, such issues are never discussed according to Habermas' ideas about discourse ethics.  Great public issues are always promoted as monstrous public scandals and injustices. The opposition is always treated as beneath contempt. And, of course, the "binding decision" is a majority vote that always involves log-rolling as explained in Buchanan and Tullock's The Calculus of Consent where the majority is created by buying the votes of the legislators on the fence, and then rolls over the minority and forces the majority decision on the minority.

Suits at law also have the color of coercion. You go to law when you feel you have been damaged by another person, and you are trying to persuade the government's law courts to agree with you and force your opponent to compensate you for the tort you believe he has committed.

After criticizing liberal cluelessness on coercion for a few hundred words, Robert Tracinski comes to this:
This is precisely why we need a principle that helps us figure out what really is coercion, who is the aggressor and who isn’t, and when force is permitted to protect us against an aggressor. If only there were some principle to determine when government force is legitimate and when it is not, a principle long recognized in common law and extensively examined by political philosophers. If only someone were to write this down in a document. Something like, “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men.”
Liberals don't want to do this, because pretty obviously it would go against them. Does the government have the right to force you to send your kid to school? Does it have the right to harass you if you let your kid play in the park unsupervised? Does the government have the right to force everyone to pay for day-care for working parents?

When you look at political issues in that way it puts a different color on them. And liberals would rather not have any non-liberal view of political issues freely and openly discussed in America. 

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