Imagine a situation in which a civilian commits an injustice, the kind against which you believe it is permissible to use deception, subterfuge or violence to defend yourself or others.
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For instance, imagine your friend makes an improper stop at a red light, and his dad, in anger, yanks him out of the car, beats the hell asma option binary of him, and continues to strike the back of his skull even after asma option binary friend lies subdued and prostrate. Now imagine the same scene, except this time the attacker is a police officer in Ohio, and the victim is Richard Hubbard III, who in experienced just such an attack as described.
Does that change things? Must you let the police officer possibly kill Hubbard rather than intervene?
Most people answer yes, believing that we are forbidden from stopping government agents who violate our rights. I find this puzzling. On this view, my neighbours can eliminate our right of self-defence and our rights to defend others by granting someone an office or passing a bad law. On this view, our rights to life, liberty, due process and security of person can disappear by political fiat — or even when a cop has a bad day.
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In When All Else Fails: The Ethics of Resistance to State InjusticeI argue instead that we may act defensively against government agents under the same conditions in which we may act defensively against civilians. In my view, civilian and government agents are on a par, and we have identical rights of self-defence and defence of others against both.
We should presume, by default, that government agents have no special immunity against self-defence, unless we can discover good reason to think otherwise.
By definition, a government has authority over you if, and only if, it can oblige you to obey by fiat: you have to do what it says because asma option binary says so.
It is quite another to show that you are specifically bound to allow a government and its agents to use excessive violence and ignore your rights to due process.
But peaceful methods often fail to stop wrongdoing. But invoking this point here principle, which says that when there exists a workable public system of justice, you should defer to public agents trying, asma option binary good faith, to administer justice. If the police themselves are the muggers — as in unjust civil forfeiture — the antivigilante principle does not yourself.
It insists you defer to more competent government justice, not that you must let them commit injustice. Some people find my thesis too dangerous. No one says we lack a right of self-defence against each other because applying the principle is hard. Rather, some moral principles are hard to apply.
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However, this objection gets the problem exactly backwards. In real life, people are too deferential and conformist in the face of government authority.
They are experimental subjects, gas Jews or bomb civilians when ordered to, and reluctant to stand asma option binary to political injustice. If anything, the dangerous thesis — the thesis that most people will mistakenly misapply — is that we should defer to government agents when asma option binary seem to act unjustly. Remember, self-defence against the state is about stopping an immediate injustice, not fixing broken rules.
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Of course, strategic nonviolence is usually the most effective way to induce lasting social change. But we should not assume that strategic nonviolence of the sort that King practised always works alone.
Is religion better than atheism as a coping mechanism?
You portray religion as a coping mechanism, or emotional crutch. But do we really need it?
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My argument is a Darwinian defence of religion. A specific reader of this interview might feel liberated and unencumbered by religion, but around the world a vast majority of people use religion like a life-preserver to get through the difficult days and weeks.
Many people are crushingly poor and do not have access to medicine, and when a loved one is dying of an injury or terminal illness — or the family is going hungry — then there is no other consolation but religion. Could they not adequately serve the same function as religion?
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But they never catch on with anybody besides a tiny, elite, educated clan because those philosophies lack the drama — indeed the melodrama — of religion. But the sceptic fails to appreciate that we humans see the world primarily in dramatic narrative terms, not in objective scientific terms.
And their power to console comes after years of rigorous intellectual study, psychological discipline, and even aesthetic refinement.
By contrast, most people trying to survive, to raise their families and possibly thrive need asma option binary right now. No doubt this is true in some cases, but.