I’m a political moderate. As a direct result of studying Philosophy and working blue collar jobs, I’ve developed the unfortunate capability of recognizing bad arguments while simultaneously avoiding the elitist attitudes to which many of my old college friends have succumbed. I say this not to brag – if anything, my experiences have taught me how little there is to brag about – but I want to be clear that my rejection of the collective “left wing” is based on a thorough and continuing examination of the issues.
I have significant issues with the positions of the far right, both issues of logic, a failure to understand the nature of the human creature, and the pragmatic and moral problems that come from the more anarchist sides of the fence. I will discuss these in a later post. Here, I will lay out the fundamental issue with Keynesian economics, wealth redistribution, and the elements of so-called “democratic socialism.” I reject these on a fairly simple basis, and that basis is laid out in Jack Donovan’s excellent essay, “Violence is Golden.”
I’ve referenced Donovan before, chiefly because I find his arguments consistent, his understanding of anthropology sound, and his conclusions on the nature of man consistent with the preponderance of evidence. I highly encourage reading this article in its entirety, but I’ll focus on the first bit. He writes,
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.
Order demands violence.
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.
The basic premise, which Donovan expounds on at length, is simple: laws are by their nature violent. In order for a law to be enforced, there must be the ultimate “or else.”
The finality of every law is – and necessarily must be – the threat of physical violence, and even death. Donovan and Orwell both note that laws without the threat of violence are mere suggestions. It is not a moral claim, or an idealistic belief. It is a simple matter of fact.
So this brings us to the question: which laws are worth using violence to enforce? We might consider traffic laws, and break down why they are important enough to merit the use of force. Traffic laws serve three basic functions, and I say this as an officer that will stop any vehicle for any reason – the first function is to address poor driving or equipment violations that pose a danger to others on the roadway; the second function is to generate revenue; and the third is to allow officers to investigate more serious offenses. For instance, an officer stops a vehicle for a broken taillight, which then reveals a large quantity of weapons and narcotics. In this last case, the minor law serves to provide reasonable suspicion and probable cause to officers who want to address serious crime, but otherwise would not have a Constitutional basis to do so.
There is plenty of space elsewhere on the Internet to argue about traffic laws. But as it relates to liberal policies (I intentionally do not use the word “progressive” because I hold that term to be a misnomer), the transfer of power takes on a special significance. Redistributive economics, for example, requires massive oversight and coordination, which requires more government spending, which requires more tax revenue. The massive and crushing effect on the American people from the so-called “Affordable Care Act” is another excellent example of a massive government operation. In any case we examine, as we argue about the relative benefits of the particular policy, the fact remains – when we redistribute wealth, the main beneficiary is not the poor or the wealthy, but the authority that wields the power to enforce the redistribution. Whenever we voluntarily give up our authority over the government, we give the government the authority to exercise violence against us in order to enforce their authority – and that is difficult to back out of at best, and irrevocable at worst.
I agree that we should all have healthcare. But I do not agree that anyone who does not have healthcare must submit to government violence against them.
The problem with the “democratic socialist” movement, which is not recognized by its proponents, is that you only get to give up your power once. You can’t come back later and say to the authoritarian government, “I changed my mind,” and the government will easily give power back. This has never been the case and there is no reason to anticipate this changing. As Donovan says, “All governments…are by their very nature coercive. They have to be.”
You only get to be a democratic socialist once. After that, you’re a socialist whether you like it or not – and all the hard-won rights we have, including the right to struggle, succeed or fail, will be lost. Changing that will require extensive bloodshed. And this is my fundamental objection: the whole of Western history since the Magna Carta was been a struggle to find the balance of power between the people and the governing authorities. That is centuries of progress that the “progressives” are fighting against. Let’s not be tricked into giving that away.