When Will They Figure It Out?

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The response
of political figures and members of the mainstream media to the
killing and wounding of a number of people in Tucson, was not surprising.
Had the victims been "ordinary" people alone, the event
would have been quickly noted as but another symptom of a conflict-ridden
society. There would have been no daily hospital press conferences
to update their conditions. But this shooting resulted in the killing
of a federal judge, and the grave wounding of a member of congress:
now we're talking "serious" offenses!

Shortly after
the shootings occurred, local and national politicians issued press
releases that focused on government officials being the targets
of such violence. To the politically-minded, the "ordinaries"
(or "mundanes") who were killed or wounded were what they
have come to regard as "collateral damage."

In coming days,
the politically-correct chatter will consist of an endless string
of non sequiturs: private gun ownership, Tea Party politics, angry
rhetoric, the Internet, people who "hate" the government,
television violence, et al. Even Sarah Palin has come in for criticism!
Like the magician who uses brightly-colored cloths and quick movements
in his act, such explanations are designed to distract our attention.
As the Wizard of Oz angrily reacted to Toto's knocking over the
screen that revealed his systematic bamboozlement, "pay no
attention to that man behind the screen."

The reality
to which increasing numbers of people are becoming aware, is that
politics is a violent and corrupt racket that functions on generating
fears among those to be ruled. Politicians and other government
officials are attracted to political careers not because
they want to serve others, but because they have their own
visions of what would be "good" for such others, and desire
the power to enforce by violence — which is the essence of every
government — their expectations. Such people easily find — usually
within business organizations and labor unions — people who, unable
to prosper in a free market grounded in voluntary transactions,
are eager to resort to state violence. "Invisible hands"
must be replaced by the "iron fist."

Every piece
of legislation enacted by congress, every order issued by a court,
every action undertaken by government officials — whether at a state,
local, or national level — has behind it the power to enforce such
edicts or acts by the most violent methods to which such officials
deem it necessary to resort. From the cop on the corner, to SWAT
teams, to men and women who torture others, to assassins, to those
who conduct capital punishment, to military personnel armed with
the deadliest of weapons, the state — supported by the special interests
who have no qualms about employing such methods to further their
interests — is nothing if not the institutionalization of violence.

Those who choose
to repress an awareness of the vicious, violent, and dehumanized
nature of the state will doubtless succumb to the self-serving claims
of politicians who fashion themselves noble "public servants"
who are victimized by the very violence they have made the central
theme for their careers. Political systems — from the local Weed
Control Commission to the Pentagon — are defined by their monopoly
on the use of violence. Those who use lawful coercion to enforce
their wills on others, should be the last heard to lament the "environment
of violence" afoot in the land. They have been active participants
in the continuing expansion of such life-destroying powers; they
insist upon others respecting such authority for their own sense
of identity and well-being.

Whenever I
hear politicians bemoan such violence, I am reminded of a scene
from one of the Godfather
films. As Michael Corleone is in church participating in his
grandson's christening, the priest asks him if he rejects violence,
to which Corleone answers "yes," even as his henchmen
are going about murdering his adversaries. How politicians can,
on any moral or intellectually honest grounds, condemn the violence
that they daily legislate and fund, is beyond me. When John McCain
angrily weighed in on the Tuscon shootings, I was reminded of his
2008 presidential campaign song-and-dance that went "bomb,
bomb, bomb Iran."

who, like this gunman, resort to violence in response to whatever
grievances they hold, have reduced themselves to self-destructive
acts of utter desperation. I have always rejected the use of violence
— whether against the state or other individuals — not so
much because of what it would do to them, but what it would
do to me. I oppose political systems because I believe that
a free, productive, and peaceful society can arise only through
the voluntary acts of cooperative individuals; that efforts to impose
order by violent means will always work to the destruction of society,
as is now occurring. Were I to sanction violence as a solution to
the problems our thinking has created, would be to admit that I
have been wrong in my assumptions. As I have told a few people who
work within political systems, "if I thought that violence
could be used to accomplish my ends, I'd join you guys!"

The men and
women who not only profit from the political racket, but whose identities
are so entwined with the state as to be unable to imagine a life
without an attachment to coercive power, are unlikely to make any
intelligent changes in their lives. A few might begin to figure
out that the "public" — for whom they like to pretend
they serve — has a growing resentment of them. For the politically
minded, the expression of such anger is seen not as a warning
that the state has reached too far, but as another "problem"
to be dealt with by a further extension of state power. A few members
of the class of "ordinaries" may become so frustrated
by all of this that they will see violent reaction as their only
option. But for the rest of us – weary of the burdens of obedience,
the costs of our being looted, and the deadly violence to which
our lives are increasingly exposed — peaceful, non-destructive alternatives
must be found. We would be better served not by physically attacking
the state or its sociopathic operatives, but in walking away
from them. Our survival as free men and women requires a secession
of our minds from the chains of violence.

11, 2011

Shaffer [send
him e-mail
] teaches at the Southwestern University
School of Law. He is the author of the newly-released In
Restraint of Trade: The Business Campaign Against Competition,

and of Calculated
Chaos: Institutional Threats to Peace and Human Survival
His latest book is Boundaries
of Order

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