The apparently unfeigned outrage comes because our legal and political culture largely agrees with Max Weber's old assertion that government is defined by a monopoly on the use of legitimate violence. The state may allow others to use force (for self-defense, perhaps), but that's at the discretion of government authorities, who always retain the right to initiate force themselves to achieve their goals, and can expect acquiescence on the part of the public. Basically, that means government officials get to boss us around, and we're not supposed to fight back.
So, when people react to legislation that threatens them with fines and arrest, backed by armed men, by tossing a few bricks through windows, they're stepping out of the cozy system in which members of Congress have grown accustomed to operating. Don't they know that the peasants are supposed to just lie there and take it?
This isn't to say that threats and vandalism are wise reactions to the passage of the health care bill -- or any other of the many intrusive and oppressive policies that officials from both major political parties have foisted on us over the years. If nothing else, it's playing on the government's home turf, since lawmakers can call on large cadres of people who are trained and paid to smash and kill. It also tends to be bad public relations in a world in which most people drink the same Kool Aid as their political masters. Americans may accept thousands killed by soldiers and police, but they tend to be horrified when individuals smash a few officials' windows.
Then again, as legislators engage in violence through legislation, perhaps there's a value in reminding them that not everybody agrees that the state should be unanswered when it pushes people around.
And we can hope we'll someday achieve a world in which nobody, not even government officials, gets to initiate force to achieve their goals.
Labels: sock it to the state