Today we have a guest post by author Matthew W. Quinn who ran a deep study into history and philosophy. A very interesting essay. Enjoy!
“Monopolies of Force” and My Newest Books
By Matthew W. Quinn
One key characteristic of the modern state is what German sociologist Max Weber claimed was a monopoly on physical force. Essentially, only the government has the right to initiate violence — arresting and jailing criminals, collecting taxes, and waging war. However, some supporters of gun control take this further — they seem to think citizens should not be able to use force even in self-defense, instead solely relying on the deterrent and investigatory power of law enforcement. This comment from a British member of Quora claims people should rely solely on police due to being part of “civil society.” Back in high school I recall a fellow student, when I said people should be able to own guns to protect themselves from criminals, responding by claiming people should instead call the police, while someone on DemocraticUnderground once claimed all they should need to be safe was a copy of the US Constitution in their pocket. A fellow member of an online alternate history forum even suggested that in society citizens surrender their right to violence to the state because the state can bring on more violence than any individual.
The notion that a state’s monopoly on legitimate violence means citizen disarmament and sole dependence on the state is a very foolish and dangerous one. Not only can the police not be everywhere at once and it takes time to respond to 911 calls, but courts have repeatedly ruled that the police have no responsibility to protect individual citizens. “When seconds count, the police are just minutes away” is a valid maxim, something I touch on in my novel The Thing in the Woods when an Indian-American family is besieged in their home by racist Cthulhu cultists. Bonus points if a slow or completely nonexistent police response is motivated by maliciousness rather than simply not being able to respond in time, overwhelmed in a riot situation, or simply being cowardly and incompetent. I return to this theme in my newer works, the horror-comedy Little People, Big Guns and my new independent steampunk fantasy novel Battle for the Wastelands.
Little People, Big Guns begins with a little person (they prefer not to be called “midgets”) being killed by badgers. The head of the county’s little persons’ association tries to work within the system and contacts local animal control to deal with the problem, only to be ignored due to budget cuts. There are additional attacks — in one instance a little person fights off the badger with the Taser he’d bought after another little person had been robbed — and the little people and their bigger friends have to arm up and deal with the problem themselves. It turns out there are far darker forces than budget cuts at work, making the little persons more akin to the Deacons for Defense and Justice who fought the Klan during the civil-rights era when (white) law enforcement at the very least didn’t care and at worst was collaborating with the enemy.
And in Battle for the Wastelands, the monopoly on force is even more sinister. The ultimate villain of the Wastelands world is Grendel, a Norse warlord who rules over most of a continent. He has claimed for himself and his supporters a monopoly on “Old World” (pre-apocalyptic) weaponry all the way down to pistols and grenades. Not only does this allow him to equip a large equivalent to the late and unlamented Iraqi Republican Guard with modern-day assault rifles, artillery, etc. but it prevents anybody not part of his system from challenging him. This is reminiscent of the “sword hunts” of Japan in which a warlord who has seized power sends his armies throughout the countryside to confiscate weapons so nobody else could seize power like he did. Furthermore, the “sword hunts” of Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi had a more sinister purpose — enshrining the domination of the samurai as a social class over all others. Although the edict is couched in the language of religion and concern for peasants’ well-being, it explicitly states disarmament is to facilitate tax and rent collection. In Battle, Grendel makes it clear his system rests on having a bloated military living off the productivity of civilians who, though they might possess rifles for hunting, are forbidden the armament that might be effective against the dirigibles and machine guns commanded by Grendel and his subordinates.
So beware the incorrect idea that a state’s monopoly on violence means civilian disarmament. Those who advocate this at best are very naïve (to be fair that’s probably most of them) and at worst have ulterior motives.