A Speech On The State And Violence

I’m going to say something. It will only take a moment. And my time is at least as valuable if not more so than the state’s, the court’s, or that of the officers’.

You see, I understand something very important.

I understand that the state’s only power is violence. That power comes from its claim to a geographic monopoly on violence. That is what a state is. A group of men who lay claim to a monopoly on violence. All actions which compel a person to do other than he wishes in the use of his property, his body, and his time in the peaceful and honest exchange of goods, services, information, and affection, are acts of violence. Consequently, there is no action that a state needs to take, and therefore no action a state can possibly take, by the application of law, that is not an act of violence no matter the form or ceremony the state drapes over such actions. A state is the administration of organized violence. A court and its servants dispense violence.

The state exists, and possesses that monopoly on violence, because men like me, grant their capacity for violence to the state, so that it may dispense it as needed from a judicial bench. By granting our violence to the state we remove from ourselves the daily administrative responsibility of parenting society, defending life and property, and resolving conflicts over property, so that we may devote ourselves to the pursuit of specialization in our division of knowledge and labor, and thereby develop our skills so that we can achieve our ambitions, and amuse ourselves, in whatever way we see fit while decreasing the cost for others to do the same. By the act of granting our violence to the state, we assume that our violence is justly dispensed on our behalf. That is the term of our agreement with the state. It is what makes a man a citizen by choice rather than a subject or slave.

We are all capable of violence. It can never be taken from us as long as we live. We carry it with us as a constant potential. It grows, it matures, and it dissipates with age. It is not a right, or a privilege, because rights and privileges are things we give to each other. Violence is not given, it simply exists in all men at all times. Some of us are wealthier in violence than others. Some men are capable of very little violence, some men are capable of physical violence, some men capable of organized rabblery and protest, and some of us, men like me, capable of revolution and civil war. As such, we do not contribute our violence to the state in equal measure.

The state’s power to organize society by way of its laws, institutions, and processes is an illusion constructed by the accumulation of habits in the citizenry; habits which are perpetuated by the daily use of those habits, and where those habits are reinforced by small and instructional displays of violence by the state, so that it may maintain the illusion of a monopoly on violence, and therefore encourage among the citizens, the retention of those habits. The potential for violence within the citizenry vastly outweighs the limited violence that can be distributed by the state. It is a credit to our habits that so little violence need be distributed at any one time that the illusion of the state monopoly can be preserved so cheaply, by so few people, and using so little violence. The actors in the state, in whatever capacity, who make use of my violence on our behalf, are few and comparatively weak. And the state can only dispense my violence, on my behalf, from a judicial bench, because of the illusion of strength that comes from the presence of those habits, and its promise of enforcement by the grant of violence from citizens.

As long as any agent of the state justly parents individuals to reach their greatest potential, as long as any agent of the state justly resolves differences in property, as long as any agent of the state protects life and property — any agents of the state have my consent to maintain that illusion of strength, and to dispense my violence on my behalf to maintain those habits, and that illusion, so that all men may continue to participate in productive exchange, or in humble amusement in the activity of their daily affairs.

But if for one moment, you seek to treat me unjustly, and you begin to believe your own illusion, and you forget that you are dispensing my violence on my behalf, and you seek to treat me not as a citizen who bestows upon you my violence, to be justly administered, but a subject who must obey rules, and if you believe and act as though the law exists not as a convenient tool for the resolution of differences between peers, but a scripture that I must obey as a subject, then it is not only my right, but my duty to myself and others, to take from you my given violence, and to remind you if I can, and teach you if I must, that the source of that violence is in its citizens; so that the state understands those habits, their cause, and purpose.

If I must remind the state, I hope it is by this simple, gentle oratory. If that will not suffice, I will not resort to the display of petty personal violence, nor to the disorder of rabblery and protest. Because that is not the capacity of violence that I gave to the state. I will instead raise an army and show you what violence it is that I do restrain so that you are once again reminded that you are an actor on my behalf, and that of my fellow citizens, and nothing more. And if you doubt for a moment that I can do such a thing, I will be only so happy to prove it to you, by starting in this very room, on this very day, if necessary.

This duty is what it means to be a citizen. To grant your violence to the state so that it may be justly administered. And to dismantle that state should it unjustly use your given violence.

Foolish men find comfort in the sameness of life, without understanding that such constancy, and the illusion of control we have over our daily affairs, can be rapidly changed by one small spark, one man’s choice, one seemingly random act. Foolish men believe habits and rules are truths rather than conveniences, that their power is divine or systemic, and that their methods and rules are wise and scientific, rather than the accidental, pragmatic, and convenient efforts of simple men fitfully crafting an edifice in anticipation of the turbulent events of an unknown future. These rules and ideas are nothing more than the limited judgements, habits, and fantasies of such men, however well their intentions.

And if at any point such foolish men lose sight of the fact that these convenient methods and tools are less important than, and subservient to, the men whose lives are affected by the use of my violence on my behalf, or if such foolish men forget that rules have no wisdom of their own, without the wisdom to interpret them, and that the use of them must result in the betterment of each man, then, they have forgotten the purpose of those rules. That purpose is the perfection of each individual man, and in that perfection, to parent each generation that follows so that it may reach it’s greatest potential. The perfection of man is our only just purpose, not the perfection of our methods and tools, or the ease and efficiency by which we administer them. The man is important, not the rules.

And I will not allow my violence to be misused against any man. And in particular I will not allow the abuse of my fellow citizens or of myself for no other than methodological or procedural reasons, so that another man, an agent of the state, whose only power comes from my given violence, may be absolved of the difficulty and effort expended in justly administering the violence I so entrusted to him. I will not permit men to suffer for another man’s laziness, when it is my violence at the expense of my fellow men, that he wields in order to obtain such leisure.

And when a citizen is abused by the criminalization of administrative rules, of petty regulatory processes and efficiencies, or of manners and disrespect of the court so that it can maintain its illusion and habituation, or when he is abused by prosecutors who are the worst ideological acolytes and to whose advantage these rules are biased, or when he is abused by the state’s staff, composed of common people endowed by procedure with powers incommensurate with their abilities, and the ability to abdicate responsibility for treating citizens with manners and good service, the state engages in the most heinous form of laziness and the most intolerable misuse of our violence on our behalf.

Revolutions are not made from single heinous crimes but from the compounded layering of administrative abuses of citizens. It is not only citizens that must develop habits, but the state, for it is the state who must use greater manners when dispensing our violence, whether that violence is dispensed from the court, the prosecution, the staff, the police, and especially when doing so inspires the understandable and desirable disgust and displeasure of those men unjustly victimized because of the state’s laziness and irresponsibility with our violence.

If the state’s ambition is restitution of property, or the collection of collection for contract violations, even social contract violations, or procedural errors, for which such fines are simply a form of restitution, then this is its duty, so granted by us. But if it is punishment rather than restitution that the state seeks to render, then I do not, and no citizen should, permit any man to punish me, and will return that punishment in kind. Restitution is the means by which we correct errors, selfish weakness, and human frailties among peers and is the only reason we give our violence to the state to administer on our behalf. Punishment is the submission of slaves to an authority. If you seek to punish me, or my fellow citizens, rather than to give restitution, you seek to enslave us. And I will not suffer your enslavement, nor tolerate the enslavement of my fellow citizens.

Foolish men have come to believe that rule of law, is likened to the laws of physics: that they are tools that override our wisdom and senses, and which if followed produce scientific results. But this is an error. Laws are principles for wise men to refer to, no different from myths, traditions, and stories, to make use of in resolving conflicts among men, providing restitution in the case of loss, so that we may exchange property instead of violence, cooperate peacefully in doing so, and develop specialization so that we may increase productivity in safety, decrease the cost of goods and services to each other because of specialization and competition, and therefore improve the quality of our lives, at lowest cost and risk.

I say this because I love life. I love mankind. I love my fellow citizens. I love each one of them. Fit or not, wise or not, young or old, wealthy or poor, healthy or ill. And I would gladly give my life in their defense, rather than allow someone, in his foolhardy and misguided illusion, to use my violence against them unjustly. And it is that statement, its passion, and conviction, and its promise of consequence, that makes me a citizen and no other.

So, I ask you to understand this appeal: I do not fear you. And you need not fear me if you are just, and care for my people.

But if you are unjust, and do not understand what I have said, then fear me. If you do not fear me then I must make you fear me. I must teach you the accountancy of the state, and its currency of violence. So that you never forget the origin of the violence you wield on our behalf, and in doing so abuse or enslave me or my fellow citizens.

The state must fear its citizens. It is the duty of citizens to maintain that fear. That fear is fear of violence. I am a citizen by the granting of my violence. The violence that we give to the state, the violence that we possess as men, and is only granted to the state under the condition that it be administered justly, on our behalf, to parent the society, to protect life and property, to resolve conflicts over property, and to administer restitution for conflicts over property. For those reasons and no other.

Curt Doolittle
April 2009

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