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Bryan Maloney

Laboratory Coordinator, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi

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Must government rest upon violence? If so, what are the implications?

All extant governments rest upon violence. That is, there is no government that does not have at its disposal the means of violence, willingness to use such means, and desire to restrict or even monopolize the means of violence. Furthermore, these means of violence have always turned out to be used more than once in a self-serving fashion, of government against the people, even in countries where this is theoretically "impossible"--if nothing else, some official starts to treat a police or military entity like a private gang of thugs. What is more common is convenience of government is given automatic priority over rights of the people and the means of violence are used to enforce this convenience.
Is this a fundamental necessity of government? Must government have at its disposal not only means of violence but willingness to use them? If the answer to this question is "yes", will this always mean that these means of violence will end up at some time or another being used against the best interests of the people?

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    Feb 20 2014: I agree that violence has long been an integral aspect of patriarchal and paternal agents of governance. The primary thing the threat of violence has achieved over the eons is to ensure that governance remains in the hands of those who seek power, whether for their own purposes or for some perceived greater good. Governance that allows an individual and their cohorts/supporters to dominate the rest of the population and then to impose whatever legislative prejudices they wish upon the population. A model that has worked very well for monarchies, aristocracies, dictatorships presidents and prime ministers the world over for a few thousand years.

    Since most people will always seek the path of least resistance, that violence has had to be tempered for fear of rousing the masses into protests and even revolts. It is only a fraction of any given population that will openly challenge the status quo and even then they tend to have limited effect as long as the threat of violent state response is contained and moderated with humorous asides and marginalizing comments.

    However, perhaps this communication era that is sweeping the world will finally rock that structure back a bit. More and more we see people publically tweeting, face booking and messaging opinions and sharing ever deeper understandings regarding political events. More and more are calling for referendums and Direct Democracy as a way of leveling the playing field. Makes one wonder what will happen to the threat of violence then?
    • Feb 20 2014: The idea of people living in harmony, without leaders and without threat of force used to force compliance is NOT new.

      Communes and CoOpps have a VERY long history... Of dismal failure.


      Direct Democracy just means that we all get to vote on a law, and then we will use force to impose compliance.

      Here is AZ we have referendum process. We voted to make it illegal to smoke in a bar, stripping the right of the property owner to determine what customers could do in his establishment. If a bar owner allows smoking in his bar, we fine him. If he doesn't pay the fine, we shut down his business and can put him in jail.

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