If you were to visit a friend’s house and they asked you to take your shoes off before entering, or requested you leave your wet umbrella outside, would you comply? If you entered a business and they asked you to not play loud music or to wear shoes, would you comply? I think the answer virtually anyone would give in these scenarios is “yes”. Now consider this: if any of the people from the prior examples entered our home and requested the exact same things would we not, after staring at them quizzically, tell them to go fly a kite? Why the difference? Why in the former examples are the requests completely reasonable but in the latter they strike each of us as, if not entirely nuts, at least fairly rude? The difference is authority. Authority over a resource is an inherent right flowing from its legitimate ownership. We honor the request of our friend or proprietor because we recognize their ownership as legitimate. We desire the same respect of our authority and so we conform our behavior to a system where in order to receive such respect, we must give it as well. We are free to refuse the request but it is understood that necessitates exiting from that sphere of authority (ownership).

When someone connected to the state (i.e. government) is said to be an “authority” over us there is a rather sinister implication here: everything, even our very selves, is owned by the state. If the state did not truly own all, then one could at least safely retreat to their home and not fear an invasion by state agents. But alas that is not the case. Call us what you will; serfs, slaves, inmates – they are all treated the same by their owner. In every case of “authority agent” violence toward a citizen, the “respect authority” crowd offers the perennial excuse that if the victim had simply followed the orders of the agent, then their fate (often death) could have been avoided. It is the victim’s fault for not recognizing that they are not free men and that they have an obligation at all times to assume a supplicating prostrate pose if so requested. The slightest deviation from this principal is worthy of a death sentence.

The land of the free indeed: on some streets you can be stopped and searched for no reason whatsoever, you can be pulled over and have your car searched and all electronic devices seized if you happen to be within 100 miles of the US border (that includes the coasts) – no warrant necessary,  the contents of your home are subject to search and seizure on the mere suspicion of a whole litany of victimless “crimes” – or none at all if they get the address wrong, any “substantial” amount of cash is subject to confiscation for no reason whatsoever if it happens to be in your car if you get pulled over. These are experiences of livestock, not free people. Indeed, no one would regard it as unusual at all if a farmer treated his animals this way.

But even the farmer will treat his livestock better than the state treats us. If his animals misbehave he doesn’t just pull out a gun and shoot them. He doesn’t shove them to the ground and beat them into submission. Even if you believe we must give up some (or all) of our rights in order to have safety and “order” there should still be respect for the concept of proportionality. That is, if someone punches a cop, he can punch back, if someone shoots at a cop, he can shoot back. It does not mean a cop gets to shoot pets or people because they “might” pose a threat. If they can’t adequately evaluate risk, then they should find another profession; no one is drafting people into policing. Proportionality does not mean if someone is pulled over for not having their physical driver’s license on them they should end up dead from 7 bullets.  Instead send a ticket to the car’s owner (easily looked up by the license plate). It does not mean if a student refuses their teacher’s instruction they should be slammed to the floor and thrown across the room.  Instead drag the recalcitrant student’s chair into the hallway and close the door.

Even if one accepts the notion that we are but mere guests on the state’s plantation, it is doubtful such a person would accept having a bat swung against their skull as an appropriate response for refusing to wear shoes at a McDonalds. So if you are inclined to feel guilty about not supporting every single police action against the citizenry, remember, it is ok respect their authority if you choose to do so while still not respecting the disproportionate means they sometimes use. The “authorities” should never escalate non-violent encounters into violent ones merely because they are too shortsighted to find any other means to their ends.