Sunday, November 20, 2011

Concord Bridge or Fort Sumter Part III

Part I of my attempt to bring some order to my thoughts about politics and human nature is here, and Part II is here.

At the end of Part II, commenter Fast Richard raised an interesting point:

A civil war would only incidentally involve conflict between the government and the citizens. The primary conflict would be between factions of the citizenry. You present arguments which are substantially similar to what I have heard recently from the leftists of the occupy mobs. I suspect that the desired final state of society might be different.

He sees a three-sided conflict: more or less right versus left, with the government standing by as spectator/referee.

First, I think all internal conflict is always between citizens. The Bonus Army were citizens, and so were the soldiers who drove them out of Washington. The same for the New York Police and the occupy Wall Street protestors, and for that matter, the people on both sides of the fence at Waco were citizens.

I think it is a mistake to think of government as an entity in itself. Better to think of it as simply the means by which one group of citizens accomplishes its ends.

That is why I like the terms "those who must rule", and those "who don't need to be ruled" - they clear away the ideological baggage and let us get down to cases.

Assuming you are not self-employed, you have a boss who tells you what to do and holds your paycheck over your head to make you do it. Tough though that circumstance may be, you can always quit, and then if your boss kicks in your door at three a.m. to make you finish that project you left undone, you can kick him right back out. No more paycheck; no more work.

That kind of relationship is anathema to those who must rule. Take Elizabeth Warren for example. I don't have any specific brief against her, she is interchangeable with thousands of other brilliant, hard working, accomplished, professors emeritus of something or other, chairs of the president's council of what all and whatnot, and judging from her speeches, someone with a pathological need to rule. She is better than you, smarter than you, and knows what you need to be made to do for your own good. And when her need to rule results in your door being kicked open at three a.m., it is not going to be Liz Warren coming in, it's going to be people who don't take no for an answer - good luck kicking them back out.

As far as mine and the occupy folk's arguments being substantially similar: At its core, mine is that those who must rule are running out of other people's money and are going to use every means of government to squeeze the rest of us for what they need. While the people of Zuccotti Park believe that those who must rule are running out of other people's money and should use every means of government to squeeze the rest of us for what they need. That one word makes a big difference.

I suppose you could say the beliefs of those who must rule and those who do not need to be ruled are substantially similar - the same way you and the guy pointing the gun at you and demanding your wallet have a lot in common - both of you participating in an armed robbery and all.


Phillip said...

Assuming you are not self-employed, you have a boss who tells you what to do and holds your paycheck over your head to make you do it.

Self-employed people tend to trade one boss that does that for a lot of bosses who do that. I tell my clients what I can do for them, they tell me what they want done, I tell them how much it will cost, and they promise to pay when I do the work... Only difference is that I can fire my clients if they're totally unreasonable without losing the rest of them.

Kevin Baker said...

Breda chose well.

Will Brown said...

One aspect of the position the police might choose for themselves that hasn't been overtly examined in your series to-date is the degree to which law enforcement (in general terms, the armed segment of every level of the US civil and criminal courts system) might gravitate into creating its own "estate" (recalling your earlier reference to medieval societal demarcations). What if they effectively choose, "We The Cops, The Estate; To Protect And Serve Ourselves"?

On a different tack, "we who don't need to be ruled" are always going to be confronted by a comparatively overwhelming force in any such dystopian (un)civil confrontation with organised government forces. An Army Of One was a stupid recruitment slogan and in the context of your series is a certain loser in any conflict opposing a coordinated group effort. S/He may not go alone, but ...

Freedom and independence are wonderful experiences for an individual when viewed from within the mutual support and association of a like-minded group; they're a wonderful goad for one to dominate and lead as many others as you can otherwise. The people who have already made the choice to join the effort to provide for themselves at the expense of the rest of the citizenry (which is an admittedly unfair description of government employees) are actually faced with the subsequent choice of destroying their personal lives or continuing as they have already chosen to do. Does anyone really think there's much question as to their likely resolution of such a quandry?

Mike said...

Will Brown, you make good points.

Regarding the idea of the police carving out their own fiefdom, I think to some degree that is already happening - for example, many agencies already use asset forfeiture as an easy means of additional funding.

As far as freedom lovers being outnumbered, whenever someone claims police should fear the overwhelming power of gun owners, I ask respectfully (because the claimant is still on the side of the angels after all), when was the last time someone won a shootout with the police?

And finally, your last paragraph sums up what I also, believe. Many public sector employees - not just the law enforcement branch - are going to be surprised at the deal they've made with the devil. A deal made inch by inch, and year by year without realizing what paying up is going to require.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, but I am not sure about the validity of the statement 'those who don't need to be ruled'. Obviously, there are many people who don't need government as a large bureaucracy. But, the phrase implies to me, and I may be misreading it in which case my apologies, that 'rule' is a negative which has no benefit to the individual. The problem with that is that any sort of cooperative, social action, which is the sort of action that allows the development of human society, requires the community to agree upon rules. And at some point your interpretation of the rule and your friend's interpretation is going to be different. Or for that matter the best way to build the bridge, best place to dig the well, the irrigation channel... And someone is going to have to decide, because constantly flipping a coin to make critical decisions creates an element of risk that tends to discourage activity in the long run.

'Rule' isn't just about negative punishments, it is also about agreed upon standards to create a society, be it neolithic Scotland or 21st cities.

Anonymous said...

I would suggest reading into the details of Argentina's Dirty War 1976-1983 and how it was able to be carried out by the governement. The separation of the military from everyday society allowed it to become its own society within the society losing its integration and understanding of the populace it was supposed to defend. It was this distance that allowed them to carry out state sponsored terror. It went to the point that the Army would have a priest waiting for the troops coming back from having "disappeared" people over the ocean to absolve them of their sins.

Pumice said...

I followed a link from "The Smallest Minority" and enjoyed what you wrote. I posted a link on my blog. I have a similar train of thought running under the title "Plow and Crown."

I trust that our right to freedom of speech will continue.

Grace and peace.

Mark Alger said...


There's a difference between "rule" and "govern". We Americans are meant to be self-governing and not to need rulers, rather to have servants (in the persons of elected officials) to work our will.

One problem (if not THE problem) is, pace Mike, the elected officials, together with the bureaucracy and such hangers-on and sycophants as have managed to attach themselves have morphed into a freestanding ruling class.

That their metamorphosis is usurpatious can no longer be subject to debate. We already know what kind of girl they are; now we're haggling over price.

Is the price to be more of the same, or bloody revolution? There doesn't seem to be any backing down from either position. Some of us, clear-eyed enough to see the truth of it, still find it frightening. There will be blood. It will not be pretty.

And the impetus toward the abyss comes from people who will RULE others, and not allow them to GOVERN themselves.


GardenSERF said...

The vast majority of Americans have never seen war up close and they should pray they don't in their lifetime. But, if attitudes don't change they might have to.

aughtsix said...

As to the fear that "law enforcement" has force sufficient to crush those who will not be ruled...

There are less than 200,000 police, fed, state and local, in the entire country. (My stat may be off but not to any significant degree.)

There are seven million deer tags issued in the State of Pennsylvania alone, every year.

As per Mike Vanderbeough, even if "only" three million of us resist (3% of gun owners), "law enforcement" are hopelessly outnumbered. They are also outgunned.

And if they know they aren't getting paid or paid in worthless scrip, and if they also know that in doing their master's bidding they are likely not to come home that night?

"All it takes for Evil to triumph..."

Buck up.


fast richard said...

Good post, I wish I had noticed it sooner.

An aquaintence who is a big supporter of the Occupy movement had suggested that a key question for the police would be "Who do you serve?". She later unfriended me on facebook when I suggested that openly seeking combat with the police was not "Peaceful Protest". That focus on the police is one of the similarities I see between the current discussion and the occupy mob.

I think that you are right that the occupy folks are likely to line up with those who must rule, but many of them get there from a classical Bakunin/Kropotkin Anarchist position. Many of the occupiers would support the slogan "Public Need over Private Greed", and if told that it is a direct translation of the Nazi slogan "Gemeinnutz geht vor Eigennutz", would probably attack the messenger. The only way I know to implement such slogans is through totalitarian government.

I would hope that at least some of the occupiers would shy away from the logical end point of their demands, but I fear it would be only a few. The other large protest movement of recent years, the Tea Party, I think also cosists of a mixture of "those who must rule", and those "who don't need to be ruled", although with a majority of the later.

While I like your dichotomy, I'm not so sure an actual conflict would split neatly on that line. It might eventually boil down to that issue, but that might take a while. That is why I would expect three or even more factions to develop. I think the difficulty for Police in deciding where to place their loyalty would be extreme, especially early on.

We do seem to be living in "interesting times" of the sort refered to in the Chinese curse.

Dave C said...

From the seventh Lincoln-v-Douglass debate of '58, Abe said:

"That is the real issue. That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles-right and wrong-throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time; and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, "You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it." No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle."

He may not have seen it at the time, but he could add ", or from one class of men (Those Who Must Be Ruled) as an apology for demanding that their rulers (Those Who Must Rule) enslave another class (or at least a larger portion of their income).

Occupy Wall Street as tyranny? Weird.

fast richard said...

"Those who must be ruled"? I don't think that really needs to be a separate classification. It sounds like you are refering to a subset of those who must rule, people who demand that others be ruled. Yeah, that seems to be a large part of the occupiers demands.

When they are demanding that some ruling elite should not be allowed to take from the rest of us, I can support their goals. When they demand that government power be used to cancel their student loans, or other debts, or when they demand greater restrictions on how the rest of us can do business, that is where I object.

Some of them want to destroy everything, kill the rich, and go back to some mythical state of nature. Some of them seem to want to use a Hobbsian Leviathon to restore a Rouseauian state of nature, a project which always ends badly.