Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 707, February 3, 2013

Government kills. Government steals.
Government kidnaps. Government enslaves.
Government lies. Government is vastly
worse than anything or anybody it was
created to protect us from.

Previous Previous Table of Contents Contents Next Next

What Monopoly of Force?
by Paul Bonneau

Bookmark and Share

Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

I was reading Sobran's excellent article The Reluctant Anarchist, in the context of the current imbroglio about firearms, when it struck me how inadequate the notion is, that "The essence of the state is its legal monopoly of force."

In virtually all articles where I have seen it mentioned, it is expressed as a given, as unquestionable, that the state has a monopoly of force or of violence. Yet how descriptive of reality is this notion?

I would like to suggest an alternative view, that the reason the rulers always want unarmed peasants, is precisely because without them disarmed, they don't have a monopoly of force! In fact in some senses they are actually very far from having it! The reason they push victim disarmament is to give them that which they lack, an actual monopoly. Notice the irritation during hearings in Congress, that the peons remained armed.

Sometimes the phrase includes the words "legitimate" or "legal", as in Sobran's "legal monopoly of force". This makes even less sense. Since aggression is by definition not legitimate, everything the state does is illegitimate. Even just constitutionally, almost everything the state does is illegitimate. As to "legal", since they ignore the Constitution, at best you could call their actions only "pseudo-legal". So we can dispense with "legitimate" and "legal" immediately.

Refer to Larken Rose's youtube The Tiny Dot. In the large sense, of 300 million Americans—half of them armed—how descriptive of reality is it to say the state has a monopoly of force? It's of course, completely absurd. William Pitt acknowledged as much when he warned Parliament about the colonies, "three millions of Whigs, with arms in their hands, are a very formidable body." How formidable then are 150 million "Whigs"? Where's that monopoly of force?

In a more localized sense, the picture is less clear. Imagine in the future that it was discovered Joe Blow has in his possession a 30-round magazine. A 20-man team, including SWAT, is sent out to take him down and throw him in a cage (at best). Then, it first would seem that "The Tiny Dot" does not apply. It doesn't matter that the enforcers are few, if their use is concentrated against a single man. One against 20 might be what people are talking about when they use the phrase, "monopoly of force".

But wait a minute—it's still not a monopoly! Joe still has his AR-15. At best all this is, is a disparity of force, in that particular time and place only. A localized disparity is not a monopoly.

Even worse (for the state), imagine Joe is not of a mind to put up with crap, and decides to resist. Say he manages to kill one thug before he himself is killed. Is that a monopoly of force for the state? How many times can they afford to make a one-for-one trade with a vastly larger population? In short order, they will run out of enforcers. (In fact I believe this is why so many county sheriffs have baled out on gun control enforcement—they don't even want to get started with such trades). This ignores the fact that, with even a few of these raids, people will respond by setting up ambushes—which makes the picture even worse for the state. What happened to the "monopoly of force", even in a venue most advantageous to the state?

Folks, there is no monopoly! That's just a meme planted in our brain by the Ministry of Propaganda, to keep us demoralized. All they have are localized disparities, and only in a certain sense, and only temporarily.

There is good reason for the rulers to be distressed with this situation. With no real monopoly, all they depend on is our self-enslavement, to allow them to continue their program of looting us and messing with our lives. Self-enslavement is not a sure thing; it can always be turned around. They sure would like to have a monopoly of force, because it is bothersome to have to worry about a bullet coming through the window at them, if they push us too far. Looks like the rulers have a tough problem on their hands. I don't see how it can go their way, ultimately. I hope they have their dual citizenship in Saudi Arabia ready when things get too hot for them here...

Was that worth reading?
Then why not:

payment type


Big Head Press