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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 27 2014: I think, what ultimately makes humans successful as species is cooperation. Other species are capable of cooperation, and it also leads to overwhelming success. E.g. "Nearly 80% of all [African] wild dog hunts end in a kill; for comparison, the success rate of lions, often viewed as ultimate predators, is only 30%. Schaller found 9 of 10 wild dog hunts in the Serengeti ended in kills." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lycaon_pictus). But I can't think of any other species than humans capable to coordinate efforts of millions.

    I think, cooperation requires subordination and authority. In any organization, there is a leader directing and coordinating the efforts of other people. For an organization to be successful, other people must submit themselves to the authority of the leader. Ideally, when authority is based on expertise and respect, people would do this voluntarily. But how would you handle cases when people refuse to submit to authority?

    People start questioning authority from a very young age. My children did that as soon as they were able to stand up in their bed, holding to the rails. I thought about this question while thinking about the "morality" of physical punishment of children. What would you do with a defiant child throwing a tantrum in a mall, embarrassing you in front of strangers? Words and reasoning don't help. Toddlers do not reason like adults. Ultimately, what most adults would do is physically pick up the child and take it to a "naughty spot". That's violence right there. I think, all authority (an hence, all human organization) hinges on domination - ability to harm (fire an employee, garnish wages). Physical domination (violence or threat of violence) seems to be the most basic form of domination. I believe, all other forms of domination are backed by the threat of violence.

    Indoctrination is another way to make millions act as one. Hence, religion and propaganda.

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