Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Are government workers "thugs"?

On his blog this morning, Warren Bluhm regrets that he’d recently referred to those in government as “thugs” because he was “describing mostly sincere people who honestly think our collective security is more important than each individual’s right to be secure in their own person and property.” Warren adds: “[W]hen my frustration spills into anger, I need to take a deep breath, not rush to publication. The word thug distracted too many readers from the point that I was trying to make. It lowered me in many readers’ eyes and elevated those with whom I have a deep and serious disagreement.”

While I understand Warren’s worry about losing a reader or two by using tough language — and agree with him that taking a deep breath before launching into argument is a fine tactic — I’d point out that calling government functionaries “thugs” follows a Grand Libertarian Tradition. More than a century ago, the great Lysander Spooner wrote that a tax collector (i.e., government worker) is not only no better than the common “highwayman,” he is actually less noble. Unlike the tax collector, the robber doesn’t have the chutzpah to claim he’s seizing our money for our own good.

We libertarians say “taxation is theft” and “war is murder,” radical as those phrases sound to most people, because we hold government (and its employees) to the same standard of morality as we do our next-door neighbors. If it’s not OK for Margie next door to tax us, pass laws regulating our private lives, or kill us, then it can’t be OK for government to do so. Government “thugs” can make claims on our lives only by elevating themselves above the standards of personal morality. It’s our duty as libertarians to constantly “demystify the State” (thanks, Wendy McElroy) by calling attention to this fact, even if it requires us to compare government pencil pushers, “sincere” or not, with thugs on occasion.
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At 6:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And we should remember the observation of H.L. Mencken, "The only good bureaucrat is one with a pistol at his head. Put it in his hand and it's good-bye to the Bill of Rights."

At 11:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ever got the run-around at the DMV, Dept. Housing, Emergency Ward of a public hospital etc? To endure the smug, lazy, care-nothing attitude of a bunch of public service bludgers, with jobs for life, as they CHEERFULLY fuck up your life. Thugs? The comment is too good for govt. beaurocrats. Fugem! Once OUR Public Servant, now our defacto rulers. My lip curls in a sneer. Sack 'em. Grinna.

At 7:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another pernicious legacy of the soi disant "Progressive" movement of the early 20th Century is the Civil Service, which has flourished and shape-shifted into a Fourth Branch Of Government, accountable to no franchise other than its own cadres. Its weapon of choice is the invidious whisper into a journalist's gaping maw, ever famished for the caterpillar of malfeasance that can be force-fed into an acid moth of scandal.

Each of the Branches of Government envisioned by the Constitution's Founders must be able to control the clerks and technicians staffing a specific Branch. Else, the servants must overthrow the masters and institute the base rule of oligarchy. Lo, fellow citizens, it happens even now.

At 7:34 AM, Blogger Vache Folle said...

As a literary device, calling bureaucrats thugs is effective. I have a harder time in face to face interaction calling a neighbor who happens to work for a government agency, such as a schoolteacher or a librarian, a thug. Cops I can openly despise, subject to prudence, and IRS enforcers.

At 8:24 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Even the proudest self-made man exists in a community.

As a civl servant, I must disagree with you.

In an ideal world, full of intelligent, loving, honest, hard working libertarians, your political philosophy would be more than reasonable.

Alas, we live in this world -- a place crammed full with the walking wounded.

Beware, also, that your ideals do not lapse into thinly veiled greed.

At 7:14 AM, Blogger Wally Conger said...

You being a proud civil servant, Mike, I must wonder what you of all people are doing here, cavorting with the anarchists!


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