The Root Cause

Roderick’s recent post on an unexpected footnoting links back to this essay against libertarianism by ridiculous conservative tool Jonah Goldberg. It’s an old essay, in blogging terms (i.e., it’s from back in June 2001), and mostly not worth mentioning, since it consists in little more of contemptuous abuse of people who are younger and smarter than Goldberg is, along with a series of very basic errors about anarchist complaints against the State. That said, I did notice this:

Force in and of itself is not evil, despite what you hear from the Kumbayah crowd. Parents ultimately must use force on the people whom they love most — their children. We start with persuasion, but no parent would hesitate to yank his child from an open window if it were necessary, and few would overly ruminate about whether a spanking was in order for a kid who shoplifted.

Which, aside from the first sentence, and the unjustified modal verb must in the second, is all perfectly true. Few parents ever would hesitate or think twice about using violence against their children, including not only trying to save them from immediate unrecognized danger — something few if any libertarians would express any qualms about — but also including the use of pain and humiliation, as a means for retaliating against a child for perceived wrongs and to try to control their child’s behavior through inflicting pain and terror. Goldberg’s also right that if you accept the propriety of that kind of violent domination, you have to conclude that the use of aggressive force against peaceful people is not in and of itself an evil; and accepting the propriety of the State’s violent domination over unwilling civilians isn’t far off.

And therein lies the problem.

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4 replies to The Root Cause Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Belinsky

    I think it’s true that it’s a slippery slope from exercising authority on one’s children to statism. Authoritarian attitudes develop in the family, where children are expected to regard their father as the ultimate figure of authority. “Father knows best!” Just like God…or government.

    The trick is to distinguish between justified authority and unjustified authority.

  2. william

    Liu Shifu and many of the revolutionary Chinese Anarchists identified family power structures — particularly parent over child — as a far greater and more essential evil than capitalism or the state, which were just those same assumptions writ large.

— 2009 —

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