The Law is a Death Threat

VD linked to a post by law professor Stephen Carter that makes a point that can not be made enough, so I’m going to reiterate it here:

That’s too bad. Every new law requires enforcement; every act of enforcement includes the possibility of violence. There are many painful lessons to be drawn from the Garner tragedy, but one of them, sadly, is the same as the advice I give my students on the first day of classes: Don’t ever fight to make something illegal unless you’re willing to risk the lives of your fellow citizens to get your way.

The government exists solely to force people to do something they wouldn’t do otherwise. No matter what the government is doing: public health care, economic redistribution, taxation, fighting obesity, etc., it is doing so by force. At the very least, they have forcibly taken taxes from the citizenry to pay for whatever activity they are doing.

Every law is a threat of violence: Do (or don’t do) this or we will sic the police on you.

The police’s sole purpose is violence, they exist solely to enforce the law through the use of the threat of violence and, failing that, violence.

But even further than that every law is at heart a death threat: Do (or don’t do) this or we kill you.

Don’t believe me, consider the one thing every government needs simply to exist taxation.

Pay your taxes or the IRS will fine (or jail) you. If you refuse to pay the fines, they send police to take you to jail. If you refuse to go to jail, the police will threaten you or forcibly move you to jail. If you do not bow to their threats or rseist them forcibly moving you, they will shoot you. If you resist being shot, they will shoot you until you are dead.

If we remove all the intermediary bureaucracy, the law is: pay your taxes or we will shoot you until you are dead.

Smaller laws and regulations hide this behind layers of bureaucracy. You might have to deal with the Department of Administrative Affairs, then the DAA’s enforcement arm, then the courts, then the Department of Justice, all before finally meeting the police, but if you refuse the law long enough, eventually the police will be there (if they’re don’t eventually arrive, then you simply don’t have to obey, but anarcho-tyranny is another topic for another time).

The police are the eventual enforcement mechanism of any law or regulation, however many layers government may use to muddy the waters, and the police’s job is, at base, to kill you if you don’t obey. Again, the police’s job is muddied as are society is soft and unable to deal with reality, but everything the police do, the Miranda Rights, the “please come with us”, the “do you mind answering a few questions”, the handcuffs, the tasers, the “stop or I’ll shoot”, all of it, is predicated on: if you don’t obey, we will kill you.

Most people in the West abide by the law and so they never go farther than a layer or two into the bureaucratic swamp; even most criminals generally obey the police before it becomes necessary for the police to kill them, so this reality is obscured by common social delusion. This delusion is how leftists can always cry for more laws but whine when the police enforce the laws on the likes of Michael Brown or Erik Garner.

Now, just because every law is a death threat and the police’s job is to kill you if you don’t obey, doesn’t make the law necessarily evil. Sometimes death threats and killing are justified. If someone was trying to rape your daughter, “stop or I’ll kill you” is justified, as is following through on the threat if necessary. Arguably, it’s the only just course of action. So, by calling the law a death threat and saying the police’s job is to kill is no indictment against the law or the police, it is simply a recognition of reality.

This reality is important to remember whenever we theorize on politics or call for more laws: more laws means more death threats and more reasons for the police to kill. It is also important to remember when someone gets themselves shot by the police: the police exist to kill, that is their job.

So remember for all political philosophy or law-making:

The government’s sole purpose is violence and every law is a death threat. Unless you are willing to kill for something no law should be made over it.


  1. Eric Garner had 30 different arrests for selling merchandise without a licence. I have spent a lot of time in Colombia. And I wondered why are they not as wealthy as maybe the United States. This is a complicated question.

    But one thing I gathered was that there are a massive amount of unlicensed street vendors selling anything and everything in the street, from pirate CDs, to food, to cigs, to fruit, to cell phone chargers, socket sets, clothing, you name it. They walk between cars at lights. They set up little boxes on corners and sell cigs and drinks, gum and candy. They little funky pushcarts with some gas canister fueling a burner or a grill.

    And they can undercut businesses by a lot. They remove the need for infrastructure, reduce commercial construction, tax collection, they, and if they have any sort of employees are “off the books”, meaning no sorts of benefits whatsoever. They exploit themselves and their numbers compete with each other and any other legitimate registered business.

    It was my observation that these street merchants damaged a legitimate form of business, albeit one that requirement capital for entry, in the end it compelled a low rent economic environment.

    Assume some regulations: That a restaurant not be on the street, that it offer its customers a bathroom, that it had to have sanitary conditions. Right there you create a form of construction industry, commercial lending, insurance, manufacturing for the stuff required to build the structure, doors, windows, bathroom fixtures, light switches, wiring, chairs, tables, signage.

    The same hold true for every legitimate business. And you create a sort of ecosystem based on finance, insurance, real estate, the whole FIRE complex of the economy.

    The business if it is licensed, then has registered and formal employees, and those employees are then protected under the dictates of the law. They earn a livable wage and they have money to then spend in other businesses.

    This also allows other business to specialize to server as feeders, services. Instead of the street vendor shopping for the ingredients for his street cart himself, food services companies bring it to him, all at a scale that provides the same price as if he buys it at small quantity at the supermarket.

    I can go on and on about this. But the regulation and licensing of business in America occurs at a major clip and it is on significant difference between latin america and the USA.

    Now Moldbug said:

    “Support the Police. They do not intend to violate your natural rights, only to uphold the law. If they do it is usually by accident, neglect, or malfeasance. Criminals on the other hand intend to violate your natural rights as the modus operandi of what they do.”

    Inevitably, yes, the government exists partly to have a monopoly on violence, and to use violence in the enforcement of the law. But in a collective society, we subsume our individual desires for communal benefit. Arguably much of that benefit accrues to elites. And elites have the power and resources to affect the law in manners that benefit elites primarily.

    To assume that enforcement of any and every law results in potential death and thus “to not make a law unless you are ready to kill for it” is a very minimalistic outlook for the law. I would say to criminals, “Don’t break the law and then resist enforcement of it in a manner than that cause you to be killed.”

    The Garner situation was unfortunate. And one could question why such harsh arrest measures were used for “selling goods without a license”. But I will say this, I imagine the city of New York has arrested well over a million people in the course of its history. Arrest procedures probably have some learned profiling incorporated into them. They have deemed unlicensed vendors to be a serious problem.

    I used to live in New York in 1984. You could literally go down fifth avenue and purchase anything on the street. I did all my Christmas shopping once, and never entered a store, buying neckties, a leather briefcase, purses, tennis shoes, you name it, all in the shadow of Bloomingdales. I asked people where the merchandise came from. People said, “They steal it out of warehouses”, or “it’s cheap stuff from foreign factories”.

    And they blocked the sidewalks, jamming pedestrians, forcing people out into the street to get around jams. It lead to loitering, panhandling, pick pockets, purse snatching, and multiple things that lead to a worsened quality of life for the normal people of New York.

    There was a cat and mouse game. When enforcement would come from some direction, alerts would go off from all the vendors, and they had set everything up so the cut quickly shove it in a bag and then scatter. Many were black guys and in mass if they encountered NYPD, they would attempt to run them over like a running back and keep going, dart out into traffic, cross the streets. If actually caught, they would kick and fight like the dickens, hoping for a way to get free, and keep running. Probably over time, this favored and enticed bigger black males into the street vendor life. So NYPD evolved ways to outman them, get three guys on them, get one guy around the neck, one to immobilize the feet to keep the guy from kicking people in the face to get free, then one to get the handcuffs on him.

    So in the end, a person can wake up in the morning and ask themselves if they will respect the natural rights of others, and obey the laws of the community.

    Eric Garner said no.

  2. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

  3. If someone was trying to rape your daughter, “stop or I’ll kill you”, then following through on the threat if necessary is justified, arguably, it’s the only just course of action.

    As a red piller this example you used for illustration was the thing that jumped out at me more then your point on law being a death threat. Seems we just can’t get away from our instincts to protect the feminine above all else. Until shit like this changes then of course the government death threats will continue. Women believe in violence more then men do because most of the time they are not the ones doing it or receiving it. They are the ones voting for all these laws (death threats).

  4. But one thing I gathered was that there are a massive amount of unlicensed street vendors selling anything and everything in the street, from pirate CDs, to food, to cigs, to fruit, to cell phone chargers, socket sets, clothing, you name it. They walk between cars at lights. They set up little boxes on corners and sell cigs and drinks, gum and candy. They little funky pushcarts with some gas canister fueling a burner or a grill.

    @MM. Who owns the street though? Your comparative examples do not mean higher quality facility, services and goods are produced by government regulations and licensing. The 3rd world is a horrible mix of government thug law and anything goes. It should not be used as an example of how GOVERNMENT (non free market regulations) is the most efficient system. The only reason you don’t see more of those people buying and selling on the street in the 1st world is because of the massive welfare state backed by the ever increasing debt, which is financed by an increase in free market productivity (read relaxed government regulations and law/death threats) in places like China, India, South America etc. Add in the productivity that is created by computer (the least government regulated industry) and other tech as well. It’s all a shell game, an illusion that death threats (laws) work.

  5. 30 arrests? So what? How many convictions? Because in America, that’s the only thing that matters when considering someone’s criminal past. 30 arrests only goes to prove Garner’s point of, “you guys are always messing with me! It ends today!” If you can’t figure out that he was saying “give me liberty or give me death,” turn in your American card and sign up with the State living progressives.

  6. Your post is more than a bit hyperbolic; I might even say disingenuous. All human enforcement is of course ultimately a death threat. All plant and animal matter is also ultimately solar energy; this doesn’t mean that when I ate salad for dinner I was chewing on a piece of the Sun. A law might charge us to stop at red octagonal signs that say “Stop”. Besides the added risk of traffic accident, we might enforce such a law by requiring the perpetrator to pay a fine, or even by revoking their privilege to share public roads. Yes, if they really persist in pressing the issue, after killing 3 people during the high-speed chase and shooting and killing a LEO, then I suppose it might (depending on the state) be the case that the law is a death threat. But there is quite a lot of room between there and the means of enforcing basic traffic laws.

    Let me reiterate an important point: all human enforcement is ultimately a death threat. As we are (in part) material, temporal beings the last line of argument is the knife. Or pistols at dawn. There is nothing special about State-prosecuted legal enforcement in this respect. In fact, the “law’ only mitigates the threat of death, by codifying the specific situations in which that death threat may legitimately be made, and by thankfully limiting that threat to the individual rather than to their heirs and dependents.

    Like you, I believe the scope and term of secular law grossly overreaches its proper milieu. However we don’t do our side any favors if we wantonly accuse the law of being a death threat without pointing out the true situation.

  7. It’s interesting how many have taken your accurate descriptive statement and treated it as if it was some sort of argument for pacifism. Such people are not to be trusted.

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