… is from page 7 of Dan Moller’s 2019 book, Governing Least:
Just so, when it comes to political philosophy and what the state should be doing, the issue shouldn’t be our substantive concerns, but rather what kinds of things we should be using threats and violence to compel those around us to do.
DBx: What state officials uniquely bring to the table is their ability to credibly threaten violence on those who do not do their bidding, and to issue, and even to carry out, such threats with the widespread acceptance of members of society. That is, what state officials bring to the table is their ability, willingness, and authority to routinely engage in a primitive form of animal interaction.
Reasonable people can and do disagree on the question of just how extensive should be the authority of state officials to threaten and inflict violence on others. (A related, but ultimately distinct, question is what are the best methods for choosing which particular individuals will be invested with this authority.) But no reasonable and reality-based person is blind to the fact that what state officials bring to the table is their capacity to get what they want from others by credibly and authoritatively threatening to use violence.
And reasonable and reality-based people also see this: there is nothing glorious or uplifting involved either in investing people with this authority or in the actual use of this authority. Nor is there anything creative in the use of this authority.
So, for example, when Jones demands a tariff as a means of ‘protecting’ his sales, Jones demands that Jackson be allowed to credibly threaten to cage and, ultimately, to execute fellow citizens Smith and Williams if they refuse to pay the punitive tax that Jones demands and that Jackson enforces.
Ditto when Jones demands that Smith and Williams be compelled to save more for their retirements – to desist from paying for consensual sex – to not braid hair without government permission – to give money to people with lower incomes – to….. this list is as long as is the complete list of government activities.