Saturday, June 14, 2014

That Which Must Not Be Said

The war against candor is in full swing:

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 Virginia’s Randolph-Macon College and, now, the Republican party’s nominee for the state’s seventh congressional district. “Unusual” and “eye-opening” was the New York Daily News’s 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, Politico’s Ben White suggested that the candidate’s remarks “on Neitzsche and the government monopoly on violence don’t make a whole lot of sense.” As is its wont, the progressive blogosphere lost its collective marbles too: One contributor sardonically described Brat’s 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.

Well, it might not be deliberate deception. Most self-styled "journalists" are ignorant idiots who don't know how to use a dictionary:

monopoly n: The exclusive power, or privilege of selling a commodity; the exclusive power, right, or privilege of dealing in some article, or of trading in some market; sole command of the traffic in anything, however obtained.

The existence of a monopoly doesn't mean that there's no other source for the thing monopolized; it merely means that the monopolist has been granted the exclusive privilege of providing that thing legally, backed by State law and State other words, by State violence. Indeed, all monopolies are monopolies on violence. In particular, a State that isn't conceded a monopoly on the presumptively legitimate use of violence is merely one of two or more contenders for power in a civil war.

But somehow I don't think the carpers Charles Cooke cites in his article are quite that stupid or ignorant. I think they hope to obscure the quintessence of government:

Government is not reason, it is not eloquence -- it is force. Like fire and fear, it is a dangerous servant and a terrible master. -- George Washington, in his Farewell Address.

It was so in Washington's time; it is so today; and it will always be so, for as long as we tolerate the existence of the State.

One of the pressures that impels me ever nearer to absolute anarchism is the prevalent tendency to regard government as anything but a necessary evil.

From those on the Left, this sort of deceit is understandable. They want total power over all persons and all things, and that's much harder to obtain in a nation whose citizens regard the State and its activities with a suspicious eye. So they emphasize government "benefits" while obscuring or shouting down all evidence of government deceit, abuse, and oppression. Their motto might as well be "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."

(I'll bet you never thought of The Wizard Of Oz as a revolutionary pro-freedom tract before. Well, did you?)

From persons in the Right, it's harder to explain, though Frank Chodorov's concept of Rotarian Socialism is probably at the heart of it. In any political order, those persons will prosper most who contrive to get the State to function in their interest and against their competitors. There are self-nominated conservatives who scheme and maneuver to do that very thing, as assiduously as any left-liberal. The sole difference between them and their Leftist counterparts is the rationale they offer us: "national security" versus "the good of the people."

Any State is composed of persons who command the pre-indemnified privilege of wielding violence and the threat of violence against others. Given that we speak here of men who, in theory at least, would have as much chance of achieving anything men might achieve as any other men, it would be incorrect to say that the State cannot accomplish some adequately defined end. However, there are questions we can justifiably ask about whether to allow the State to work on such an end:

  1. How well will the State do such a job?
  2. What price will the State exact?
  3. Upon whom will that price fall?
  4. Are you sure of your answers to the above?
  5. Do they suit you?

Inasmuch as the State's defining characteristic is exactly what Dave Brat has dared to mention -- its monopoly on the use of violence -- we find ourselves confronted by a question so stark as to admit of no moderating periphrasis:

How much violence -- how much intimidation and rapine, and how many dead bodies -- are we willing to pay for the sort of shoddy job we invariably get from the State?

This is the unspeakable question: the one which must not be asked.

I number persons of every political alignment among my acquaintances. I've confronted most of them with the questions above. Some have reacted with outrage; others have become immediately sober and thoughtful, often with an embarrassed "you know, you've got something there." The most any freedom lover can do in polite discourse is to lead his opponent to those questions and leave him with them. From that point forward, he must retire from the field; the war has moved to the other guy's mind.

You see, among my more embarrassing discoveries is that it's useless to argue about rights or justice with an orthodox conservative or liberal. Those things are not at the pinnacle of their priorities. However, they might be willing to entertain questions about how to attain the outcomes they desire, and what they're willing to pay for them. And as we can see from the reactions to Dave Brat's "thoroughly neutral statement of fact," there are persons both on the Left and in the Right who are determined that those questions shall not be asked.

Shamanism isn't confined to the censorship of individual words.

By taking up cudgels against the accurate use of words and the candor demanded by political discourse, those persons have declared themselves the enemies of freedom -- enemies of you and me, Gentle Reader. Their war effort against us is total; ours must be so, as well.

Please permit me a few words on a personal subject. In contrast to the discussion above, this is something which must be said, as little as I like it.

You may have noticed that I've recently been taking more "days off" from Liberty's Torch than was my previous practice. God knows that's not for lack of topics to write about. Rather, I'm afraid my several maladies, in concert with the external pressures I must endure, are catching up with me in a big way.

I shan't go into details. Suffice it to say that I expect that I won't be able to continue posting an essay of my customary sort every day, as I'd like to do. I'll try my best, but I have no illusions about my advancing decrepitude. I doubt I'll retire as completely as Steven Den Beste. His is a special affliction, the suppression of which required powerful drugs and cost him heavily. But I do expect to slow down, at least for the foreseeable future.

Accordingly, and in keeping with the Law of Supply and Demand, the price of a yearly subscription here will immediately double. Seriously, I take great pride in my essays, and great satisfaction in providing them to you, but I'm up against forces I can't completely countervail, at least at the moment.

Please bear with me.


jeff said...

May the Lord bless you and keep you. Get well, soon.

lelnet said...

"One of the pressures that impels me ever nearer to absolute anarchism is the prevalent tendency to regard government as anything but a necessary evil."

Ironically, this is the main factor that _keeps_ me from going full-bore anarchist-wookiee. Given that we live in a world populated primarily by people who do not seem to perceive this truth (and we obviously do), it is effectively certain that anarchy is no more than a utopian fantasy...if the state were to disappear, some entity answering to the description of a state, even if not the name, would inevitably replace it in very short order.

Thus I must continue to assert that, while the state is indeed an evil, it also is indeed a necessary one.


I think I can speak for everyone reading this site on two points:

1. We are in favor of you posting essays as frequently as you are able to do so.
2. We are _against_ any course of events whose ultimate consequence is your permanent retirement from writing...including a course of you exhausting yourself beyond endurance in the task.

Do what must be done. You have our gratitude, for your past and present efforts, and also for your prudent stewardship of your own resources for the future.

KG said...

Thinking of you, Francis and saying a little prayer.

Russell said...

I agree with the second part of lelnet, do what you must, do what you feel you can, and know you have our gratitude.

Also, you are in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

God be with you and your family, brother.


Drew said...

Prayers for your good health.

As to the article, where is our X3J11