[Ed. – Cooke — and Brat — are right. In fact, it is a rarefied form of ahistoric, anti-realistic naivete to suppose that the basis of government is not the implicit monopoly of violent force. There’s no enforcement without it.]
With just seven little words, the freakout began: “The government holds a monopoly on violence.”
These were written by David Brat, a professor of economics at Virginia’s Randolph Macon College and, now, the Republican party’s nominee for the state’s seventh congressional district. “Unusual” and “eye-opening” was the New York Daily News’s petty verdict. In the Wall Street Journal, Reid Epstein insinuated darkly that the claim cast Brat as a modern-day fascist. And, for his part, Politico’s Ben White suggested that the candidate’s remarks “on Nietzsche and the government monopoly on violence don’t make a whole lot of sense.” As is its wont, the progressive blogosphere lost its collective marbles too: One contributor sardonically described Brat’s claim as a “doozy,” while another contended that such opinions were sufficient for “one to question his, shall we say, cognitive coherence.
This reaction is rather surprising, for what Brat wrote is not merely a statement of fact, but a thoroughly neutral statement of fact. “If,” Brat submitted,
you refuse to pay your taxes, you will lose. You will go to jail, and if you fight, you will lose. The government holds a monopoly on violence. Any law that we vote for is ultimately backed by the full force of our government and military.
Who among us genuinely doubts this to be the case? Only those, I would venture, who are so uncomfortable with the consequences of their philosophy that they seek the dull refuge of lazy euphemism and collective myopia. …
When Brat argues that “when push comes to shove, the State will win in a battle of wills,” he is confirming that violence is only legitimate when the state says that it is. That’s a monopoly.
There is nothing incoherent or sinister about this. On the contrary: That a potential member of Congress is so elegantly aware of the remarkable strength of the body that he is seeking to join is little short of refreshing.