Skip to comments.David Brat Is Right: Letís not shy away from the truth about what government is
Posted on 06/13/2014 11:43:50 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
With just seven little words, the freakout began: The government holds a monopoly on violence.
These were written by David Brat, a professor of economics at Virginias Randolph-Macon College and, now, the Republican partys nominee for the states seventh congressional district. Unusual and eye-opening was the New York Daily Newss petty verdict. In the Wall Street Journal, Reid Epstein insinuated darkly that the claim cast Brat as a modern-day fascist. And, for his part, Politicos Ben White suggested that the candidates remarks on Neitzsche and the government monopoly on violence dont make a whole lot of sense. As is its wont, the progressive blogosphere lost its collective marbles too: One contributor sardonically described Brats claim as a doozy, while another contended that such opinions were sufficient for one to question his, shall we say, cognitive coherence.
This reaction is rather surprising, for what Brat wrote is not merely a statement of fact, but a thoroughly neutral statement of fact. If, Brat submitted,
you refuse to pay your taxes, you will lose. You will go to jail, and if you fight, you will lose. The government holds a monopoly on violence. Any law that we vote for is ultimately backed by the full force of our government and military.
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. George Washington almost certainly never said that government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force, nor did he describe the state as a dangerous servant and a fearful master. But these maxims, attributed to him, gained wide currency because, imprimatur or none, they contain a valuable truth. Brats words are the heir to this recognition. In his supposedly unusual essay, he asks whether we trust institutions of the government to ensure justice; suggests that history teaches us to worry about the scope of the state; and, channeling a sentiment that would be extraordinarily familiar to the Founding Fathers and in accord with the philosophies and historical examples that inspired them, mocks the arrogant notion that we now live in particularly lucky and fortunate times where the State can be trusted to do minimal justice. He observed, too, that however secure the principle that Americans may defend themselves against violence if attacked, they will nonetheless eventually have to abide by a judgment from the state. When Brat argues that when push comes to shove, the State will win in a battle of wills, he is confirming that violence is only legitimate when the state says that it is. Thats a monopoly.
There is nothing incoherent or sinister about this. On the contrary: That a potential member of Congress is so elegantly aware of the remarkable strength of the body that he is seeking to join is little short of refreshing. Also bracing was that Brats contention was cast in bipartisan or, rather, nonpartisan terms. First, he asked whether his audience was happy to trust the extraordinary power of the government to the temporary custody of the Right or Left. Then he suggested that anybody who answered no to either question could well find themselves with a major problem in the future. In doing so, he joined a long line of forward-looking Americans who have, in Edmund Burkes felicitous phrase, tended not to judge of an ill principle in government only by an actual grievance, but have been disposed instead to anticipate the evil, and judge of the pressure of the grievance by the badness of the principle. The colonists, Burke espied, augur misgovernment at a distance; and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze. So, too, the architects of the nation. It was evident in the late 18th century that despotism was a perennial prospect, and, as Brat hints, the horrors of the 20th century should have served only to amplify that trepidation. Where, pray, is the problem here?
It may well irk those who would grow the state beyond all control that a public figure chose so directly to remind the people what government means. But it should vex almost nobody else. To refuse to subordinate language to politics is the first and most important duty of the free man. Alas, both Left and Right too often lean toward imprecision and pretense when it suits their ends, shooting sharpened daggers at plain-speaking sorts who dare to express the less pleasant truths of our society in harsh and unlovely language. The Left reacts with particular exasperation when one observes that taxation is forced confiscation of property; the Right when one points out that firearms are lethal weapons whose purpose is to kill. Euphemisms abound. No, we are told earnestly, taxation is the price we pay for civilization! Taxes pay for good things! Without taxes, the country would collapse! Perhaps so. But, wherever one comes down on the question, it has no bearing whatsoever on the nature of taxation. Whether one is taking 1 percent of a citizens income or 100 percent of a citizens income, one is still taking it. To acknowledge that this is the case is not to cast a political judgment but to recognize reality. Bravo!
So, too, it is with the debate over gun control. It is an incontrovertible fact that firearms are explicitly designed to kill living things specifically, to expel hard projectiles at such a speed that they will rip unmercifully through skin, bone, and organs and incapacitate, maim, or end the life of a living creature. It is true that a gun can be a defensive tool. It is also true that in many cases all one needs to do is to point a gun at someone and he will stop doing what he was doing. But that is because the gun is a lethal weapon and he knows this to be the case. One would not get the same reaction from a crook if one pointed a banana at him. Ever vigilant against the tyranny of delicacy, George Orwell observed in 1939 that truisms as that a machine-gun is still a machine-gun even when a good man is squeezing the trigger . . . have turned into heresies which it is actually becoming dangerous to utter.
If David Brats wholly inoffensive observations are enough to give a person the vapors, he might well look to reconsider the foundations of his philosophy. In certain cases rape, murder, defense of the realm the case for government force is an easy one to make. In others the hosting of cowboy poetry festivals, the banning of smoking, the hyper-regulation of small businesses it is downright farcical. Were I convinced that the state should be using its power to determine the optimum price of milk, I would probably recoil at the word violence, too. This, though, has no bearing on whether its use is pertinent. David Brat was correct: Governments of all sorts rely upon force and maintain a monopoly on fire, and thereby invite all of us to turn our skeptical eyes toward them. Lets try not to crucify a man for looking on them without favor and telling all who would listen the acrid truth about what he has seen.
He’s taking flak. That means he’s over the target.
>> To refuse to subordinate language to politics is the first and most important duty of the free man.
A quotable quote.
And that is exactly why in a free society the government itself cannot be a monopoly.
“Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”
I feel better about today already.
The article claims Washington never said it but it’s still a great quote.
Is this the same Charles Cooke who polls for democrats?
I have a slight qualm with the statement. I think it needs the word “legal” because manifestly, violence can be perpetrated by parties other than government. However, governments claim a monopoly on the right to use or license violence.
It sounds like his listeners or readers failed to understand two key points. First of all, he was saying that in certain interactions between citizens and the state as broadly defined, the state holds almost all the “cards” in terms of force. He surely was not saying, nor meaning, that in life in general, government holds a monopoly on violence. Millions of individuals are behind bars today because of the opposite of that condition, after they acted violently towards others or in a much smaller proportion of cases, against the state.
The second thing that was not understood was that anyone can go on from the initial observation (as intended, not as interpreted) to construct any moral or ethical argument ranging from “and that is a good thing” to “and that is a profoundly troubling concept” or something in between, a variety of responses depending on what the state is defending with such force. Most conservatives take that middle position. We like the idea of the state forcefully protecting national interests, borders, and valuable assets of government. We may question the degree of force used on a routine basis in some aspects of law enforcement, border security, or taxation. We may outright oppose the force of the law where it conflicts with our deeply held moral or religious beliefs (as in being forced to do as the state directs in matters of conscience).
I think that’s where he was heading, if he is as good an example of small-government big-liberty politics as we hope in this otherwise rather barren landscape of statists of all persuasions.
As to belonging to government or the state, that is the reverse of the intention of the founders. The government and the state it creates belong to “we, the people” (although I have to make the disclaimer that I am writing from outside the U.S.A. although the same general principle applies to all free countries, even though it is partly to mostly lost in the postmodernist haze of latter day Soviet thought where the citizen definitely was little more than an “asset” of the state.) This is the whole foundation of the term “public servant” as applied to both elected and hired agents of the state. They are in noble theory selected to serve our interests on terms that we dictate to them. However, we are now seeing that many prefer the opposite, that we should serve these masters on terms that they dictate to us. And that is the essence of tyranny.
I have come to the stark, simple accuracy this very realization on my own recently, though I expect many others got there before me.
What is government without laws? What is law unless it is enforceable? Notice the root word “force” in enforceable.
Something may be said to have “the force of law” behind it - law has force, and that force is ultimately firearms.
A “law man” is one who legally carries a gun, with permission to use it to enforce the law.
In the final episode of season two of House of Cards, the powerful tycoon is locked in a battle with Kevin Spacey, who by that time is VP or has just finessed the POTUS role. The tycoon, having been subtly threatened by Spacey, indignantly demands to know how Spacey thinks he can prevail over a man with the tycoon’s 50 billion dollars, to which Spacey pointedly answers that he’s the man who controls all the men with guns. ‘Nuff said.
How are taxes collected, if not ultimately at the point of a gun?
I stunned several eager young petition minions recently with the simple question, “And how will this tax you propose be collected?” When they stood there with mouths agape, I told them: “Ultimately, all taxes are confiscated at the point of a gun. Are you sure you want to support that?” They sort of staggered away silently like they were unsure of the solidity of the earth beneath their feet. I’m not sure they’ve yet recovered.
Bratt has his head screwed on very nicely. I’m glad he won.
Those who are uncomfortable with Brat's statement are trying to hide, either from themselves or from you, the violence behind every government action.
“A law man is one who legally carries a gun, with permission to use it to enforce the law.”
You have just stumbled upon the REAL PROBLEM.
What if the statement was changed to say: “A CITIZEN is one who legally carries a gun to use it to enforce the law?”
And just what exactly is legal?
I like Brat as we’ll and also think he’s doing a great job on the new season of “24.”
Our government is sliding toward fascism, in that every thing is controlled and no dissent is allowed and that is exactly what Brat and we don't want...
It sounds like the media is creating another Pat Buchanan “culture wars” moment.
I think the liberal reaction to this neutral statement of fact shows the conflict between the utopia of their good wishes and the reality of the only means they have to impose utopia.
Liberals are all about power, yet they are slackjawed and clueless when that power is turned against them. But that is the whole point of the conservative approach to government. Because it is a wonderful servant but such a horrible master, it must be kept as small as possible. The means by which it could become tyrannous must be kept from it, lest someone should come into power who refuses to be restrained by that “mere piece of paper”, the Constitution.
But when this is the case, the liberal person, who cannot have faith, cannot see how he can force society to progress to the utopia he just knows in his heart that he must impose on society. He can’t just leave us well enough alone, or attempt to educate and inform his fellow man on how to improve their lives. No, he does not trust his fellow man to make up his own mind. He does not trust in principles, so he is left to trust in power.
So here we are. We have made the mistake of allowing government to have the power to create its own money, so it can fund its own expenditures without having to ask the taxpayer for the money and thus get is grudging permission.
We do we have? We have near-infinite money via near-infinite debt and money-printing. What does that buy you? It enables near-infinite government. And given the Iron Law of Bureaucracy, where a bureaucracy will always expand its power and range of control until some other force stops it, when government can create its own money, there will be no end to the continual expansion of its bureaucratic power.
Who would have thought that in the land of the free that the government’s own landlord agency, the BLM could justify having its own private army with machine guns and snipers?
Every day more people are coming to the judgment that a carefully organized effort to repair the constitution via the States’ power to propose and ratify amendments has less risk to our liberty and prosperity than the present trajectory of the federal government and especially the federal bureaucracy.
The first order of business of an Article V Convention must be to limit government’s ability to spend and create near-infinite amounts of money.
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