Wednesday, February 5, 2014

When is it Okay to Shoot Someone?

If I asked you to identify the most effective area of government, what would you say?  I'm guessing you wouldn't say the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, or the Department of Education.  I would probably say that the most effective area of government is the military.

The United States Armed Forces are very good at what they do.  What exactly do they do?  Their main function is violence.  The military exists to smash things, demolish buildings, sink boats, bomb cities, and put holes in people.  The exact mission of the military is debatable and particular strategies are questionable in terms of effectiveness, but the United States Armed Forces have proven their ability to cause destruction.  Do you find it odd that pretty much the only thing government is good at is causing violence?  I don't.  Not at all, in fact.  Government is force.  Government is violence.  The reason why any government in history has ever existed is to make people do things, whether it is justified or not.  To make people do things you need leverage.  The simplest leverage is to make threats of violence.  All the better if you have the means to back up the threats.  

To demonstrate that government is force I want to walk through a hypothetical situation.  Let's take a look at someone we'll call John.  John likes to make music.  He's very good at it and he has managed to make a good amount of money by playing in concerts.  John thinks he should be able to keep everything he makes so he doesn't pay his taxes.  The government finds out about our tax-evading musician and they decide to take action.  At first John gets notices from the IRS demanding payment.  John throws these letters away but they keep coming and become increasingly threatening.  Eventually the government realizes John is not going to pay.  That's when they decide to go to John's house to apprehend him.  John sees them coming and decides that he is not going to comply with the demands of the government's enforcement agents.  John gets his gun to defend himself and promptly gets shot by the agents.

Typically, people will choose differently than John did.  People will generally choose to obey the law because they know what will happen if they don't obey and if they resist every attempt to punish them.  They will get shot.  Whether a law is good or bad, if you break it, defy orders to stop breaking it, resist arrest, and use a weapon to fight any attempt to subdue you, you will get shot.  People, such as myself, don't like getting shot.  They will avoid it whenever possible.  Therefore, people generally obey government demands.  It's absolutely critical to know the very important fact that every law, whether decreed by a dictator or voted upon democratically, represents the threat of force.  Every law would use violence against anyone who disobeys.  Every law represents a gun pointed at someone's head.

The government acts on the behalf of the people, right?  So let's just have you, a person, do it all.  Let's take out the middleman and put the gun directly in your hands.  

Now imagine a man breaking a law, any law you can think of.  If he breaks the law, resists attempts to arrest and subdue him, and tries to fight you off with a weapon , you will have to shoot him because it's "the law", right?  Would you shoot him if he was smoking a joint in his house and wouldn't stop?  Would you shoot him if he had a fire burning in his fireplace on a no-burn day and wouldn't put it out?  Would you shoot him if he built his house too tall for the local zoning requirements and refused to tear it down?  Would you shoot him if he left garbage on his front lawn and didn't clean it up?  Would you shoot him if he hired a willing employee for less than the minimum wage and never gave him a raise?  Would you shoot him if he drove a car without a license and didn't pull over?

These are all legitimate questions since these are the exact things that we ask our police to do for us.  Very few of us are police officers so we avoid the messy part of law enforcement but we are asking them to commit violent acts on our behalf.  For each and every law, we have to ask ourselves, "Is it okay to shoot someone over this?"

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