Federal Judge Exemplifies the State

A supposed justification for a monopoly government is the need for an impartial judiciary to resolve conflict.The idea is that, in a conflict, people will be biased in their own favor, so an independent third party is needed so that a fair hearing can be had to prevent a further escalation.

Even taking that at face value, it is no justification why everyone should submit to the same party, including those conflicts in which that party is engaged. Of course, it is better if a government has checks and balances and divides power into separate branches of the government. But nonetheless, judges at the federal level are appointed, promoted and confirmed by the other branches, paid with the taxes legislated and collected by the other branches, rule on laws written and enforced by the other branches, and are subject to other various social influences.

There is no such property right that entitles someone to be the ultimate arbiter of disputes. People who claim this right for themselves rightly would be called mad, but somehow citizens are able to delegate to government a right they do not have.

What brings this to mind is a Fort Worth Star-Telegram story about federal district judge John McBryde, who has appointed himself to decide the verdict and punishment for an accusation he made against four men who supposedly “raised questions about his impartiality.” After this incident, who could blame them? It could hardly be called a fair fight if their accuser is the judge and jury.

If sanctioned, the men can appeal their punishments, which might possibly entail forfeiture or suspension of their law licenses. The appeal would still be decided by federal judges looking to maintain their professional and social reputations among colleagues for possible appointment to higher courts, among other reasons. The men who stand accused do not have the opportunity to mediate the conflict with a party of their choosing; the ultimate verdict rests with the government-managed court system.

A common alternative proposal to abolishing institutionalized aggression is to reform government in such manner as to account for its deficiencies. Some of the ideas like term limits, campaign finance controls, and government transparency programs are well intentioned for the most part. Those popular proposals, while often rooted in a worthy desire, confuse the approximate causes with the ultimate cause for why democratic governments remain unaccountable to the needs of the people they purport to represent. Some of the approximate (or immediate) causes are a result of an uninformed electorate, voter apathy, rent seeking on behalf of special interests, political corruption, and regulatory obstructions in the electoral process itself.

The ultimate (and for the most part unexamined) cause for government’s destructive nature is its popular legitimacy to aggress against others. So long as it remains viewed as proper among a predominant number of residents to govern over others, the government is irredeemable. If coercion is the answer to social problems, those most willing to coerce others will be elevated to power. Government is collectivist by nature and tends to centralize power, so those who are willing to use the powers of government are going to conflict with an individualistic ethics.

These four men accused of misconduct might be the lucky ones and escape with only a loss of their time and a slap to their reputation. Even if they avoid the judge’s wrath, the institution of government will function as it was designed to do all along — to maintain authority. Those under its boot or riding its coattails exist as ancillary players. Those in power serve themselves. When the government controls education and manipulates the mass media through patriotic ceremonies and propaganda, it is no wonder why so many long for peace and equality from an entity enshrined in coercion and injustice.

Image credit: Ragnar Jensen, with a Creative Commons license