Ceding the Power of Violence

Many years ago, in an undergraduate philosophy class I once took, the professor (whose name and rank are lost in the mists of time, but I’m sure he was tenured) told the class point blank that “we the people” have no right to violence. On condition of citizenship, we ceded that right to the state, which is therefore empowered to do violence in our name. (He went on to ask, then if civilized people never, ever had the right to kill, from whence does the state get the right of capital punishment? But that is not this discussion.)

So what happens when the state cedes the power of violence to private groups, or even religious groups? The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that England may have to “accept certain aspects” of Shari’a law.

Conservative parliamentarian Enoch Powell’s warning that concessions to alien cultures would cause “rivers of blood” to flow in the streets of England. Times columnist Minette Marin accuses the archbishop of treason.Coercion in the Muslim communities of Europe is so commonplace that duly-constituted governments there no longer wield a monopoly of violence. Behind the law there stands the right of the state to inflict violence, and the legitimacy of states rests on what German political economist and sociologist Max Weber once called “the monopoly of violence”. Once this right is conceded to private groups, the legitimacy of government crumbles. No one appreciates this more than the British, whose tradition of protecting individual rights under law is the oldest and strongest in the West, excepting the United States, which inherited English Common Law.

By proposing to concede a permanent role to extralegal violence in the political life of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury pushed his phlegmatic countrymen over the edge.

Emphasis mine. The legitimacy of government crumbles. Believe it.

And exactly how is this relavent to us in the US? We face in the coming months a general election where there seems to be, now, only one-and-a-half issues under discussion; the economy and illegal immigration. When was the last time you saw the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on the network news? Or anything about the continuing war in Afghanistan? For me, it’s been a little while, and the articles were not emphasized.

The GWoT is still an existential battle. Voters and especially candidates need to act like they know this.

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