Political Violence

Socialist Jew: You mean to tell me all politics is meaningless?

Rabbi: In the West, a monster with a small mustache. In the East, a monster with a big mustache. This is all I need to know about politics.

– Conversation from the film Defiance

There is hardly a person, if a single one, who fails to notice the emotions that get involved when discussing politics. Like religion, it is one of those topics that is avoided as a manner of politeness when in mixed company or when the exact ideologies of the individuals are not known. The stereotypical Thanksgiving dinner has the father arguing with the crazy uncle about how one person’s politician is a lying SOB while defending their preferred politician until finally forced to concede they’re choosing the lesser of two evils.

What eludes squabbling factions is the possibility that the other side might have reasons for being so angry. What’s lost in the debate is that while their politics, i.e. the prescribed solutions for problems that they observe, may be erroneous, their base emotional condition might be a response to a legitimate grievance. Notwithstanding that sociopaths and narcissists are eager to use the state for their own ends, there are many that are victims of state offenses, even though they may not realize where it originates or who is responsible. Sadly, their frustration tends to be dismissed as irrational hatred, which only leaves them susceptible to joining the very ideologies their critics accuse them of supporting in the first place.

The absence of intellectual curiosity never leads them to investigate why these people feel the way they do. To do so would be to show empathy toward political enemies, something few have the capacity for. In they did, they might find that beneath all the rhetoric and screaming and outbursts, the person could perhaps have a reason beyond ignorance for their bitterness against those who vote on the other side of the aisle.

All Politics is Violence

Something lost on so many, including libertarians, is the fact that all politics, by its very nature, is violence. There is no such thing as peaceful political solutions when the state is the means to the end.

There is no way around this. When a tax proposal is introduced, it is in reality a call to steal from other people at the point of a gun. When a landowner is forced to pay more property taxes to fund a levy for the local school district, irrespective of whether or not he has children there or approves of the school curriculum, it is a violent act. Business regulations, minimum wage laws, bureaucratic policies, executive orders, welfare, the War on Drugs, affordable housing, public universities; all are acts of violence in one way or another. When your next door neighbor tells you they support free single-payer healthcare, free subsidized college or any other government-funded programs, they’re really supporting violence that produces an outcome favorable to them.

Inevitably, someone is a victim of this violence. That victim may not know who committed the violence, or that it was violence at all, but they respond to it on a subconscious level. They knew intuitively that they have been violated or coerced against. That they aren’t fully cognizant of what’s happening only adds to their vexation. Due to the sheer size of the government, it is impossible for anyone to have not been a victim of state aggression and coercion. The matter to be settled is how this aggression is carried out, as well as the most appropriate manner to rectify it without resulting in passing the offense over to another victim.

Most political groups attempt to remedy problems through the state, yet when they look at the same problem they offer wholly separate solutions because they perceive it through their ideological lens. Extremism doesn’t always spring from these circumstances, but too many do and are dismissed because their methods are considered illegitimate.

It is no small irony for people to accuse fringe elements, as we’ve seen recently, of threatening violence to achieve their goals while for years they’ve filled out an election ballot supporting a candidate or proposition or initiative that violates the rights of those same people. The chief difference between a man who uses a gun or terrorism to achieve his political beliefs and a man who votes to achieve them is that one directly carries out his acts of violence, while the other has theirs funneled and sifted and subdivided throughout the state apparatus so that by the time it is felt by its victims it has an air of legitimacy and there is no one person to pin the blame on. One is overt, the other convert, not to mention passive aggressive. Terrorists cannot claim they were just doing their job when they threaten to bomb a building or kidnap someone, but state agents who carry out warrantless searches or seize children as part of a CPS visit or any other acts of aggression can hide under such an excuse even though it is still just as violent. Judges can convict people with the excuse they’re merely upholding the law.

Masculine writer Jack Donovan so eloquently captured this observation in his piece “Violence is Golden” (emphasis added).

A lot of people like to think they are “non-violent.” Generally, people claim to “abhor” the use of violence, and violence is viewed negatively by most folks. Many fail to differentiate between just and unjust violence. Some especially vain, self-righteous types like to think they have risen above the nasty, violent cultures of their ancestors. They say that “violence isn’t the answer.” They say that “violence doesn’t solve anything.”

They’re wrong. Every one of them relies on violence, every single day.

On election day, people from all walks of life line up to cast their ballots, and by doing so, they hope to influence who gets to wield the axe of authority. Those who want to end violence — as if that were possible or even desirable — often seek to disarm their fellow citizens. This does not actually end violence. It merely gives the state mob a monopoly on violence. This makes you “safer,” so long as you don’t piss off the boss.

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

…..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.

Example: whenever parents hear that their son was suspended because he twirled his pencil in the air wrong (which happened), or that their daughter was taught how to put condoms on wooden knobs without their knowledge (yes, this also happened) the rage exhibited isn’t just from the fact that it occurred, but that they are quite powerless to do anything about it because they can’t get out of it. Employing aggression against them are the teacher union and the school district board and the Department of Education and the local and state governments collecting the taxes from them to pay for the school and making it perhaps too burdensome for them to also pay to send their kids to a private school.

Nowhere in this scenario is their direct consent required; no matter what they say, they are still forced to financially support these institutions and most likely continue to send their children there. They are being coerced by a variety of entities, which all claim to be “doing their jobs” and insisting they’re doing it for the man and his family.

Now some might write off a screaming father reacting to these scenarios as overcome with emotion, but would we say this if instead he had had his money stolen, along with his son and daughter, only to have them returned after the kidnapper had taught them things that went against his beliefs, all financed through the money they stole from him?

Or consider the Planned Parenthood scandal and the abortion debate. Democrats and the Left simply cannot grasp how much the current setup so thoroughly infuriates people who are pro-life. Not only is abortion permitted, but it is funded by their tax dollars by an organization that then sells the unborn child’s body parts.

In other words, they are literally robbed to pay for something they believe to be morally reprehensible, only to be told by abortionists that their desire to prevent these thefts constitutes a “War on Women.” Either let them rob you to fund the slaughter of the unborn or you hate women. That is the depth of intellectual thought in that debate, but then again because they use political violence to get their way they don’t need to convince anyone, especially pro-lifers, to agree with them while at the same time hypocritically crying bloody murder whenever someone commits direct violence against one of their clinics.

Mitigating Political Violence

A major contention among libertarians is how to respond to state policies such as borders, immigration, welfare, government jobs. We have to keep in mind while going about searching for answers that because all politics is violence, and this violence can affect many aspects of life, libertarians frequently find themselves in a situation where the absence of state action in one area allows unfettered state violence in another if not properly counterbalanced. For example, local jurisdictions are still violent like a central government, but through the use of nullification, their violence can mitigate the violence of the central government. To say this is not permissible as a libertarian proposal is to argue that it is better to leave the state to those not seeking reduction in its power.

Better put, it is like saying that it is more libertarian to have poorly maintained state-controlled roads than to fund their maintenance, even if they are the only ones available and those funds are instead used for non-vital services. Or, a state-controlled park funded by taxpayers should not have any rules for visitors in order to ensure its preservation because such rules constitutes state violence.

If a scenario does not realistically allow the elimination of state violence, if it is unavoidable, then the question becomes 1) how to mitigate it best so that the fewest number of people’s’ rights are violated rather than how to remove it altogether and 2) How to mitigate it in a way that it allows for a possible elimination of state violence somewhere in the future.

This is no small task, for it requires comprehending the full scope of state violence, both seen and unseen, and how many different acts of state violence are interconnected and impact the other when they are either removed or added.

Understanding that all politics is violence allows us to better analyze and interpret political trends as well as craft more viable and effective long-term solutions to problems created by state violence. It also smashes the perception that the source of anti-government sentiment is based on ignorance.

Too often, it is entirely justified.

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5 Responses to Political Violence

  1. Thanks for this post.

    Some thoughts regarding this:

    (1) Since as an anarchocapitalist i believe in the absolute right of revolution, I have no problem with political violence that is inherently defensive.

    (2) I have no problem with violence from either a Christian or a libertarian standpoint – only with aggressive violence. The Old and New Testament endorses defensive violence as consistent with God’s standards, and the libertarian philosophy, consistently applied, allows even brutal violence to end the threat of aggression.

    (3) while proponents of nonviolence and pacifism like to point out how violence leads to more oppression, it is a fact of history that violence is more successful than nonviolence, that many violent revolutions have been more liberating than nonviolent revolutions (e.g. the French Revolution, for example, was far more libertarian in both ends and means than the Iranian Revolution of 1979 ever was). If we understand it this way, violence is better than nonviolence (for the most part).

    (4) I’m personally skeptical about introducing some forms of state violence to offset the bad effects of other forms of state violence, like enforcing national borders to offset the possible aggressions resulting from welfare-mooching and voting migrants. While deporting the migrants may very well be better than allowing them to vote, I’m still upset about either solution. I think a “pure” libertarian approach would be much better in this case, because what good are our principles if they can’t withstand such complex, troubling problems caused by the State

    Like

    • The Question says:

      Agree with what you’re saying, though I wanted to elaborate on this statement:

      I’m personally skeptical about introducing some forms of state violence to offset the bad effects of other forms of state violence, like enforcing national borders to offset the possible aggressions resulting from welfare-mooching and voting migrants.

      The problem with people like Trump and others is they want to close the borders or create fences but this doesn’t address why they come here. The controversy would end if they would decentralize and get rid of the welfare state. They don’t seem to have a problem with Americans living off welfare, just people from other countries. At the same time, others say we need the borders open no matter what but completely ignore how the welfare state and our centralized government lead to state violence against people. Also, nobody talks about how the Fed’s artificial credit allows people, particularly low skilled younger people, to avoid working jobs migrants and immigrants do.

      The pure libertarian solution would be much better yet for some reason it seems to elude most, including libertarians themselves. They want to get rid of the state violence they don’t like but either ignore or tolerate other state violence when they’re all interconnected.

      Like

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