December 5, 2014

CHARLES C.W. COOKE: Want to Limit the Use of Police Force? Limit the State: Progressives refuse to see the connection between government and force.

Ultimately, “the State” is a synonym for “organized violence.” “If you refuse to pay your taxes,” Representative David Brat recently noted, “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.” In consequence, Brat proposed, we should be careful about when and how that violence is utilized. Certainly, civilized nations need laws. But it is one thing to recruit armed men to prevent murder and rape and grievous bodily harm, and it is quite another to do so in order to regulate the manner in which cigarettes may be sold. Eric Garner was not killed while robbing a bank or starting a fight in a bar, but while selling tobacco on the street without a license. Is this really what the state is for?

If you judge people by what they do, rather than what they say, then that is what the state is for, more than anything else.

Plus:

Roughly speaking, this argument runs like this: 1) The state of New York wished to regulate the sale and taxation of cigarettes; 2) Eric Garner wished to violate those regulations; 3) As a result, he was subjected to the full force of the law; 4) In the process of its application, he died.

Was Garner killed deliberately? No, of course he was not. Whatever the protesters might be chanting today, intent matters a great deal, and we are quite obviously not dealing here with a premeditated murder. Nevertheless, we should all be willing to acknowledge that Garner would never have been so much as approached had the city not wanted its pound of flesh in the first instance. Because there are consequences to all laws — however minor — it is incumbent upon us to ask if those laws are worth the risks that they yield. What, I wonder, would the anti-tax rebels who threw off the British Empire make of the news that a man had lost his life for peacefully selling a “loosie”? Is this why governments are instituted among men?

Again, judging by actions, yes.

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