Good discussion in the comments section here about my often-repeated claim that the government does everything that it does at the point of a gun.
I, like perlhaqr and several others in the comments section of the link, have tried to have the “I do something that harms no one else that happens to be illegal… …various steps in the process… …and then they shoot me” discussion with a lot of folks, and very few of them have allowed it to sink in to any great degree. The fact is, if you defy the government, and you refuse to give in, the eventual result is that they will eventually fucking shoot you because you didn’t comply. Just ask Randy Weaver. Everything that they do, from enforcing the Endangered Species Act, to collecting taxes, is done with the implied full force and violence of the federal government behind it.
Let’s take a hypothetical, as perlhaqr did, and take as given that the citizen in this hypothetical will not comply with the law in question because he sees it as wrong that it is illegal, and go from there. Using the hypothetical example of not purchasing health insurance under Obamacare, because I just love the irony of it all, let’s see where we go:
Average Joe does not buy health insurance because he doesn’t think he needs it and doesn’t think the government has any right to make him buy it; leads to…
Government penalizes Average Joe for not having health insurance by fining him; leads to…
Average Joe, still not believing that the government has any right to make him purchase something, refuses to pay the fine; leads to…
Government issues a warrant for Joe’s arrest; leads to…
Government attempting to arrest Joe; leads to…
Joe resists the government’s attempt to arrest him for something that he does not think they have a right to arrest him for; leads to…
Government actors, in fear for their lives (and probably rightly so, assuming Joe is doing it right) shoot and kill Joe.
The root cause for this is because Joe did not want to buy health insurance and did not think the government had a right to tell him to. This is not ludicrous: it is the implied chain of events that will occur any time, and for any reason, when the government tells you what to do. The fact that it doesn’t happen more often than it does is merely the result of humans being rational actors and realizing that sometimes, it is better to just buy health insurance than to die trying to avoid it.
Because of that last point, a lot of folks come back at me and say that this entire chain of events is Joe’s fault, because he kept escalating and should have given in at some point. I usually respond with a pointed “why was it Joe’s responsibility to give in and stop escalating? Why is it okay when the government escalates but not when Joe does it? Why would you rather have a country where guys like Joe are beaten down subjects that give in rather than face their own execution, as opposed to free, self-determinate men? Why is it so damned important to the government (and by extension, the rest of us) that Joe have health Insurance that they would fucking kill him rather than let him choose to go without?”
This is why I don’t like having the government dictating anymore than is absolutely necessary to the Average Joe, and why I think that we should have this discussion every time we pass a new law. Is the law that you are passing important enough that you’re willing to kill someone over it? If not, then let’s have a real serious discussion on whether we should make this law or not.
How long do you anticipate it will be until we, as a collective, have killed someone for not buying health insurance now that Obamacare is the law of the land? Does anyone else see the bitter irony in killing someone because they didn’t have health insurance?
This is not an endorsement for anarchy. It is a realization of the brute nature of the institution that we’ve placed among us in order to regulate the things that we can’t regulate ourselves. To a certain extent, we will always have that rough beast among us, and we need to deal with that – everything in life is a sacrifice. You give up a little and get something in return. We give government a monopoly on violence and coercion so that we live more comfortable, more certain lives, and in return, we expect that government use those powers to the absolute bare minimum necessary to maintain a functioning society. We keep our guns as backup, just in case the government forgets its place, and we keep watch on it to make sure that the monopoly that we’ve granted it does not get used for ill-will.
But what we fail to do well is to stand up and decry the use of this monopoly to force and coerce when it either benefits us, or does not hurt us in any way. You don’t own a business, so when they passed a law saying a business owner can’t allow smoking inside his establishment, you forget that what you, and the rest of society is telling that person is that if they don’t stop allowing smoking in their place of business, you will fucking kill them.
Or if I don’t wear my seatbelt while driving my car, or a helmet when I’m riding a motorcycle, you will fucking kill me.
If you talk about a law, and put “or else I’ll kill you” after the law in question, and it doesn’t sound reasonable, then we all need to sit down and have a long discussion about whether we really need that law, or not.
Don’t rape women, or else I’ll kill you. Check!
Don’t steal (thereby taking away whatever portion of life that person spent earning the item you stole from them) or else I’ll kill you. Check!
Don’t drive your car without a seatbelt, or else I’ll kill you… FAIL!
I will grant that sometimes, the acid test above doesn’t work:
Don’t fail to help pay for public streets, or else I’ll kill you! FAIL!
But that’s my point – not to never, ever have the government do something that doesn’t pass this test, but to allow them to do so only with lots of careful thought and deliberation, discussing whether the result is worth it, and whether there are other methods to achieve the result without passing a law. Apply the “individual” test that I’ve discussed before: “If it is wrong for an individual to do something, then it is wrong for a group of individuals to do something, also, no matter how large the group, or how popular.” Keep that in mind when you consider new laws. We’ve given them this monopoly in trust – this isn’t a permanent state of affairs, but as long as it is to all of our mutual benefit to maintain the status quo, let’s maintain it from both sides – by not taking it back, but also by not allowing the scope to creep while it is in their hands.
The passage of a new law should never be easy, and should never be done without considering whether there are other options besides killing people to achieve your goal.