A Monopoly on Violence
The tribal urban protests happening in American cities bring most forcefully to mind this simple question:
Who, if anyone, is to have a monopoly on violence?
The Western provides the archetype:
A small town on the prairie, full of good, hardworking folk, is being terrorized by a roving band of horse and cattle thieves, or perhaps by a land baron forcing the community under threats of violence into selling their farms for well-below-market value. What are the good townspeople to do? They are not violent by nature, and even if one can find a few strong men to fight the good fight, everyone knows the dark truth: a defensive blow from their side would simply result in an even stronger blow from the cattle thieves or the land baron. Thus would be initiated an ever-escalating battle, with uncertain ends. Too much to lose.
In rides the Man With No Name. On horseback, six shooters at his side. He hails from nowhere and nothing. He takes up the cause of the townspeople. He rides out to confront the roving band of thieves or the land baron. Not only does he fight the enemy, he kills the enemy. He wins not only the one fight but all future fights, so that the town might live in peace even once he has gone.
And he must go. The Man With No Name must ride into the sunset. He cannot become part of the community he has saved; there is too much blood on his hands. He has saved the town through viciousness. He has saved it with bullets and with mortal wounds, the only way to save it, but luckily, The Man With No Name has saved the town not only from its physical threat but also from the moral threat of guilt. Thanks to the Man With No Name, the town did not have to summon its own monstrous viciousness to confront and defeat the monster.
The Man With No Name is a sin-eater. He has a monopoly on the violence which is necessary to save the town, so that the town needn’t deal with the truth, that moral terror is necessary to combat moral terror.
One of the central questions confronting any society is how to deal with the threat of violent individuals or groups that exist within it. The answer has generally been to give the state or some other centralized power a complete monopoly on the violence necessary to ensure protection against internal threats to harmony. Generally speaking, this monopoly is to be Nameless, hailing from nowhere and nothing, which is why the horseman in the Western has No Name and why the executioner wears a mask when he beheads the criminal. The executioner, like the horseman, is a sin-eater. He combats terror with terror so that the community or the individuals victimized do not have to, that they might remain innocent.
The alternatives to monpolized violence slide quickly toward vigilantism or mob rule, scenarios in which any community or individual may be called upon to resort to violence in order to combat violence.
Neoreactionary law would be minimal, protecting negative rights. The only acts punishable in a neoreactionary society would be acts that materially harm or that intend to materially harm body or property.
What, then, does the neoreactionary society do with a Michael Brown, or even a Tamir Rice? (A neoreactionary society would not have bothered Eric Garner, because a neoreactionary society would not decree laws against the free trade of cigarettes.)
What does the neoreactionary society do with internal threats? It is not enough to answer “Exit” for every internal threat, for there is no escaping the problems of internal criminality and violence. We must address those internal threats. How do we address them?
Do we give some central power a monopoly on the violence necessary to combat internal violence?
Do we outsource the violence?
Do we distribute it?