The Ethics of Resistance to State Injustice

The excellent Jason Brennan with a short introduction to his new book, When All Else Fails: The Ethics of Resistance to State Injustice:

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. 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 out of him, and continues to strike the back of his skull even after your friend lies subdued and prostrate. May you use violence, if it’s necessary to stop the father? 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 2017 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. In When All Else Fails: The Ethics of Resistance to State Injustice (2019), I 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.

I think it helps in answering this question to think of other countries say South Africa under Apartheid or China today among the Uighur in Xinjiang province…then be consistent. Note that resistance to state injustice may be unwise even when it is ethical.


Well you better like your neighbor, because intervening with an enraged cop may well get you killed, and certainly beaten or at least tased.

But the fun just begins, because you are likely to do a dime in prison for it, and lose your job, wife, and home in the process. As you will certainly be described as having attacked the cop as an accomplice to the unconscious guy who was resisting arrest

Well said. From a larger perspective, anything a monopoly does (here the government) tends to have a higher price (salaries) and a lower output (social justice) than the free market, hence, the so-called "monopoly of violence" that the state has must be curbed by having state governments waive sovereign immunity so they can be sued by citizens and be more accountable. And body cams (Axon, formerly TASER, makes some good ones).

Bonus trivia: the rich white guy in San Diego who was raided at home due to a mistaken warrant address by a SWAT team and shot dead when he tried to defend his family (thinking the police were bad guys) was striking, about 15 years ago. I wonder how much his estate got? Probably not much, I'd guess $5M, since such payouts are geared towards the lower 99% (when you're in the top 1% like I am, anything under say $30M as a payout is chicken feed, especially for a bread-earning family member in his prime)

Exactly right. For the most part, I think our best recourse against government is reactive and not pro-active. In the example given, tape the incident, call (other) cops, etc., but trying to intervene with violence will likely be too dangerous. Now the devil is always on the details, and I can see this changing if instead of neighbor that was a family member. But overall, the way we react against government (especially police) has to be different than the way we react against other civilians.

To be fair, if it was four motorcycle gang members stomping him, I might not jump in either. This falls into the very reasonable axiom of rescuers must first avoid becoming additional victims.

So for the OP to be a truly apples and apples comparison, it must level for likelihood of immediate physical retribution.

Yes, the scenario you're describing is like any number of others where you'd be morally in the right to intervene, but probably you'd just become another victim so it's smarter not to try. At best, maybe you can collect some evidence so that someone faces some consequences for it later; quite possibly, nobody will because it's very hard to convict a policeman for on-the-job misconduct.

Absolute nonsense. The danger of a rogue cop harming you in a white community is vanishingly low. If you live in a black neighborhood in one of the major cities, you are in much greater danger from criminals, including the large number of murderers who go unapprehended

Vanishingly low is not true. White people are sometimes abused and even killed by the police too. Happened in my hometown where we had the official (per state police rating) worst police force in Michigan in the 80s. Two white guys were shot, one in his own home under utterly egregious circumstances . I suffered some very minor abuse from a power-tripping cop during a traffic stop when I was 18. Yes it's true that black people are a lot more likely to suffer such things than white people, but there are white victims too and they are not rare.

Many poor rural whites can tell you that this is not remotely true. And I can verify it from direct personal experience.

I agree, and say that in the book. In many cases, defensive action would be permissible--you wouldn't wrong the cop by defending yourself--but it would be imprudent.

This is already well settled in law. In some states, the right to resist unlawful arrest is explicit. In all others, there is an affirmative defense. Under American law, a person never loses the ability to defend oneself. This does not imply that one may resist a lawful arrest.

You may ask, "How does one know it is lawful?" Or "What if you think it is unlawful but it isn't? "

The correct answer is that you resist authority at your own peril. When you resist, you had better be damned sure about it. More often than not, being completely submissive is the right response.

Unfortunately, while the law is quite comprehensive, the reality is that justice is flawed. The perpetrating officer will lie and his colleagues will cover for him. Many judges and juries are more likely to believe the officer (with good reason). Authorities are entitled to the same presumption of innocence in criminal proceedings as any perp, and their labor unions protect their property interests in their jobs. The deck is stacked in their favor. And it should be because their job thrusts them into situations that everyone else runs from. But it is disheartening when all the available evidence shows they are guilty and they still get away with it.

The same law applies to defense of others.

Claims of police brutality are often exaggerated or even false. Resisting arrest is not uncommon and often leads to a violent conflict. What a third party sees or doesn't see as "necessary" or what is an "injustice" is highly subjective.

Would the author justify mob action? What if an officer tries to arrest an individual and that individual resists? Does the individual's friend's have the right to intervene in what they consider an unlawful arrest? Can street justice be used to replace the police? Can a community decide that drug dealing on a certain street should be lawful and prevent police from using force to enforce rules they don't like?

I knew two police officers who responded to a call from a mother asking for her son to be removed from her house. The son was wanted for violation of parole and questioning in a murder. When the police arrived the son had just backed a car out of the garage. As the police approached the car, the son fired a rifle through the front window of the car striking the lead officer in the chest. A gunfight ensued. Responding officers and the son fired over 100 shots. The son was killed. In the car were two rifles, three handguns, and a few knives. A bulletproof vest saved the life of the officer. Twenty witnesses came forward to say the officers used excessive force and that the son had been executed by the police. The mother filed a lawsuit against the officers and the city. Would those witnesses have been justified to open fire on the police to stop the use of what they considered "excessive" force?

"Responding officers and the son fired over 100 shots. "

Well, who fired how many shots? If, as I suspect, the police fired the vast majority of those shots, it was clearly excessive force. It sounds like this was in a neighborhood. Is it safe for the police to be firing their guns dozens of times in a neighborhood?

"Claims of police brutality are often exaggerated or even false."

I took a semester off from college at one point and spent three mornings a week volunteering for the Public Defenders’ office in Nashville-Davidson County, TN. They were so overworked, they soon had me doing felony entrance interviews—a short (10-15 min.) interview with arrestees who had just arrived from intake to get their basic info, a brief version of their side of the story, and any medical issues they had.

One thing I noticed early on was how many defendants complained of being roughed up by the police. I didn’t know what to make of it at first, and chalked it up to resisting arrest (indeed, they were often charged with that in addition to whatever their other charges were) or maybe overly dramatizing their arrest for sympathy.

But these complaints were so pervasive—I’d say about a quarter of all defendants—and the police accounts of resisting arrest nearly always appeared to be cut-and-paste jobs, I soon came to accept them at face value. In fact, a defendant would often say something like, “Man, I understand why I was taken in, but I surrendered peacefully. Why they have to bang my head against the curb when they puttin’ on the cuffs?”

My conclusion was that in Nashville (and probably anywhere), if you’re a poor person who gets in trouble with the cops, if you are anything but perfectly obsequious and compliant you’re getting your ass kicked, and possibly even if you are.

The suspect was reported to have fired about half the shots. The police fire, I was told, was cover fire to help officers get into position to prevent the suspect from escaping and fire to pin him down to a single location. If the suspect was allowed to flee into the community innocent people and the police are at greater risk. But could bystanders who think like you be allowed to shoot at the police?

For the vast majority of officers on scene that will be the only time in their careers they will shoot at a suspect.

So you have never seen police officers abuse arrestees? But you take claims by criminal suspects as truthful? Is that the standard for justice in your profession?

@Willitts - my B.S. detector went off when you said it's lawful to resist arrest, but since I flunked out of law school, I had to Google it to make sure, and sure enough, you're wrong, ever since after Bad Elk (1900), resisting arrest and claiming it is within the law, even when the arrest is unlawful, is bad law.

That court case appears to have ruled the opposite of what you implied. How about a court case where the court overturned bad elk?

@XVO - read the dicta, as they used to tell us in law school (I should have paid attention, I'd be a rich lawyer by now instead of a rich trust baby). The case stood but the states, as Wikipedia says, have overturned it.

Ahh, I see, most states have passed laws specifically stating that it is against the law to resist any arrest, and the court would likely uphold these laws.

At what rate does an income tax become an injustice that it is morally justified to evade? I say 50%, since the government is not entitled to more of your earnings than you are. Some Americans in states with income tax rates are already paying such a combined federal/state/local rate.

What you are really suggesting is an individual veto on society. I don't think that has worked, from Hammurabi forward. And of course in a democracy and/or republic revocation of commitment is a factor. It looks bad to enjoy citizenship until you get your tax bill.

Contrary to popular belief, US citizens don't live in a democracy.

The worst thing that ever happened to American democracy is the idiots started thinking this was a cool thing to say.

The AMERICAN FOUNDERS put "indirect" or "representative" in "democracy." In this system, REPRESENTATIVES are chosen by the people to make decisions for them. The representative body, then, becomes a manageable size for doing the business of government. The Founders preferred the term "REPUBLIC" to "democracy" because it described a system they generally preferred: the interests of the peopled were represented by more knowledgeable or wealthier citizens who were responsible to those that elected them. Today we tend to use the terms "republic" and "democracy" interchangeably. A widespread criticism of representative democracy is that the representatives become the "elites" that seldom consult ordinary citizens, so even though they are elected, a truly representative government doesn't really exist.

In other words, mind your representative democracy if you want to keep it from the elites.

More on that, different source, same story:

There are many reasons for this dramatic decline: the Vietnam War, Watergate, Ronald Reagan’s folksy but popular message that government was not here to help, the Iraq War, and worst of all by far, the Trumpist mind-set. These jackasses who see “deep state” conspiracies in every part of government are a minority of a minority, yet they are now the weakest link in the chain of more than three centuries of our American republic. Ben Franklin was right. The Founders gave us a precious but fragile gift. If we do not protect it with constant vigilance, we will most certainly lose it.

more here

In my opinion it has little to do with the rate and everything to do with the purpose. If government were building an anti-asteroid missile to protect Earth from a known planet killer, then a 50% tax rate is not only justified, it is probably too low. Asteroid protection is a public good that we all consume in equal quantities.

When taxation is used to provide private goods to favored political classes, a single cent of tax is unjust. When a public good is provided by awarding a contract to a political crony, the ethics of tax evasion becomes muddier. A system of public accountability that works reduces the ethics of unilateral disobedience. But accountability is often enforced through elections which don't always enforce good government practices. Voting with your feet is always an option.

When marginal tax rates above 50% are assessed to fund a generous welfare state, I think it is justified to evade them. If you disagree, what is your number? Is someone facing a 99% marginal income tax rate morally obliged to pay it?

No taxation without representation is an American principle, but if 90% can vote to impose a marginal tax rate that hits only 10%, that principle is effectively violated.

Did you run out of brain energy before reading my second paragraph?

Yes, you are. Income tax is a price signal about the cost of living and working in a particular place, and you should inform yourself of income taxes before taking a job somewhere, for the same reason that I should look at prices before sitting down to a meal in an airport. You are free to work less or move elsewhere- actions that are fairly easy for anyone in the tax brackets you are concerned about. People with many dependants or much less earning power are much less free to move and change jobs, thanks to moving costs and labor market friction, so I'd agree with you if these high rates applied to them, but they never do.

Your whole argument falls apart because nobody asked to be born. You're making a utilitarian argument not an a priori ethical argument, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Nope, as long as you have a Chance to prevail your rights have not been violated. The notion that you are entitled to political victories is total BS: win some, lose some. And a decent safety net benefits everyone, up to and including billionaires, just as interstate highways do even if you don't drive.

I say 50%, since the government is not entitled to more of your earnings than you are.

In other words, you say 50%. Your "reason" is no reason at all, just a restatement of the 50% limit you advocate.

You're right, "ethics" can be slippery and relative. But practically, you won't work to satisfy someone else's preferences more than your own preferences. You'll just stop working or stop paying taxes. That's why the government has a hard time extracting more than a third of GDP in taxes without capital flight. That's also why slavery is presently uneconomic outside retrograde societies.

Nobody asked to be born here rather than Honduras or Venezuela, but everybody would if they could.

By the same token, we can just conquer Honduras and Venezuela and run them for the Hondurans and Venezuelans since, after all, nobody would ever ask to be born there. It would be less disruptive to the current American population who, as you note, didn't ask to be born here.

That bs doesn't work at all.

What we are really talking about is people who were Born In The USA, who benefited from it's history of enterprise (yes) but also infrastructure and tax, who went to the schools, enjoyed the public health, the protection of the armed forces, who suddenly says "wait a minute, nobody asked me."

I would say "what children" but children are actually smarter than that. They are trying to get in, right?

We actually have a process where we can say eff this, the taxes are too high, and change the government when we feel like it. We call it voting. It's better than the other process.

In fact, the country was founded on the principle that any time we want we can say eff this, the taxes are too high and we're deposing the sovereign.

There is only one coal-fired power plant in California. It is in San Bernidino County. The Argus Cogen Plant is owned by Searle who is owned by Nirma, an Indian company in Gujurat. That said, Wyoming is the largest producer of coal, though since most are upper basin, there are a low number of employees, versus the West Virginia Mines. Of course, Pennysylvania has the dirtiest coal (anthratite).

Were you homeschooled?

I am right now spending time with friends that had to leave Venezuela in exile, to avoid being put in a jail or worse. To them the issue is quite resolved.

It is very debatable instead if oter State actors have a right to intervene in other people affairs (“humanitarian interventions”). Most Venezuelan, in their desperate situation would say yes. I am personally totally against it.

I oppose it too. If the Venezuelans want good governance then they can fight for it like everybody else. Unfortunately, I'm guessing your friends are in the upper percentile of Venezuelans in terms of intelligence and time preference. The Venezuelan rabble will literally starve themselves and everyone else to death arguing over who gets to administer the dole. I don't understand the fetish for the universal franchise.

Maybe they should not have ruined their own country!! I do not see why I should have pay for their bad decisions!! Now hordes of Venezuelans are trespassing their neighbours' borders, commiting crimes and costing billions of dollars!! I am tired of working hard to support the barbarians who are making life living hell for Brazilians in Brazil's northern states!! They can go away the easy way or the hard way.

The injustice Mr. Brennan describes is, fortunately, rare. Tabarrok mentions South Africa and China, and injustices against those who only wish to exercise their fundamental rights. Here in the U.S., in the 1960s law enforcement routinely attacked those who only wished to exercise their fundamental rights. What the attacks in South Africa, China, and here in the U.S. have in common is the effort to maintain a system of injustice held by persons of wealth or political power, with law enforcement all too often a willing participant. As in the 1960s, today white grievance is the biggest threat to "our rights to life, liberty, due process and security of person", a threat that has been encouraged by the highest law enforcement officer in the country. Alas, the injustice of violence in public view is far surpassed by the injustice of corruption hidden from public view.

You didn’t mention the Nazis!

Odd political examples. How about South Africa today, with Boer farmers as the victims? How about Pakistan or Egypt with Christians as the victims, instead of the one place in the world where Muslims are playing the oppressed-victim role?

The examples cited are action by the state, rather than action by civilians (admittedly, with possible sympathy and support from the state).

Ethics doesn't have much to do with the question, practicality does. In most cases it's impractical to expose oneself to the violence of agents of the state regardless of the ethics involved, since the outcome is ultimately unlikely to be in your favor.

You might notice that it's rare that law enforcement administrators criticize aggressive, criminal behavior by their agents that later results in awards of thousands of dollars to the victims. This is because law enforcement wants the "civilians" (as they refer to them) to fear their agents. This state, like all states, controls through fear.

It's remarkable that a society with the capability of sending a device from one planet to another that can then send information back to the sender over millions of miles and extended periods of time, that can change the genetic content of humans, must still use the 14th century technology of a rapid chemical explosion to drive a small metal pellet through a human's body to get their cooperation. Or set vicious dogs upon suspects. It can only be because humans actually like maiming and killing other people. If ethics are involved, maybe it's permissible to kill and maim people that haven't been convicted of anything. Or maybe it's not.

Eh, ethics are relative. There are plenty of arguments that a compulsory income tax is unethical. There are plenty of arguments that it's a reasonable civic duty.

It's not really a matter of ethics but sovereignty. And sovereignty's always up for grabs. If you lose, you're shot for treason but if you win then they call you the Father of your Country.

I would hope the book gets into this aspect but it have been largely (completely) ignored in the discussion. In reality this type of "personal defensive resistance" in the open fails miserably.

What ends up happening is the covert, revolutionary attack on state official. This is then terms terrorist action and frequently results in a serious back lash that ends up putting the innocent by-standers in greater harm's way.

What are the ethical aspect there? Can you resist the oppressive, unjust power when it's known that the actions will generate additional harms to innocents?

I wouldn't do it, and that's the inertia that keeps a lot of governors alive. The related impulse is the natural revulsion members of the military would have to killing their own countrymen. Toward the end of Ceaucescu's reign, he had to import Palestinians to protect his government since he could no longer count on the Romanian military to kill Romanians.

That's come to be a quaint concept, "countrymen," but it's really quite valuable. A country that's just a collection of strangers settled in a region for financial reasons don't have any civic sense to keep the military from shooting uppity taxpayers. As long as everybody's fed and entertained and has no sense of country-hood, then the government will stay in power and extract trillions in wealth to wage foreign wars and import more tax serfs and pat down grandmothers in airports. I'm not sure why supposed libertarians want to explode the concept of "country."

And that was the last job opportunity for Palestinian mercenaries?

I hope so. I hope they were hung from bridges.

Whatever happened to them seems to have sent the right message, because we don't seem to have any problems with Marxist dictators hiring Palestinian mercs any more. If they got the point without having to be lined up and shot, that's all the better.

A country that's just a collection of strangers ....

In the era of the nation/state all countries are a collection of strangers. When such a collection is composed of over 330 million souls a majority opinion on almost anything is liable to be impossible and when it does happen can be catastrophic. That's why the world-wide elation that followed the re-unification of Germany was so nonsensical. When that geographic area was split into tiny principalities, duchies, kingdoms and electorates it was no threat to the rest of the world. Once united it was a principal instigator of universal war. Evidently we wish to see similar events occur in the future. Better that an entity like Luxembourg be the pattern. No one seems to be oppressed by them. No alliances are needed to defend the rest of the world from them.

I'm down with that.

Rule utilitarianism dictates that (i) the State generally have a monopoly on the lawful use of force and (ii) any resistance to State injustice be conducted by military action in accordance with the laws of war (i.e., by men under command, in uniform, etc.). Countries where these rules have been generally followed for several centuries (i.e., basically, the West) are countries where everyone wants to live and where citizens generally enjoy the good life; countries where these rules have not been followed are not.

Right, but Western governments can fall by the utilitarian rule as well. If my preferences differ from the government's preferences and enough people agree with me at a visceral level, then we get to overthrow the government.

We actually have a system where we get to throw out the government every few years without taking to the streets. But fundamentally it's still enshrined revolution. Naturally, the bureaucrats take the self-interested position that voting should not be allowed to change the government.

The places people like to live are where the authorities are accountable to the citizenry. From that accountability comes the state sovereignty, or a general agreement that government rules are best followed.

In practice rules and enforcement are constantly adjusted. In fact, any western country would be brought to it's knees very quickly if laws were applied as written. Anyone dealing with regulatory agencies knows this. A change in inspector or management means a whole new set of rules, even if nothing written has changed. It is called regulatory risk, and businesses have a whole suite of tools to keep a lid on the regulators. Recently a new inspector showed up here who seemed to think that he could rewrite work practices. The affected businesses conspired to challenge every decision he made in writing, making him ineffectual and tied up. He backed down and came to a more workable arrangement.

Sanctuary cities are an example of the citizenry of an area deciding that laws are not going to be enforced.

Smart regulators and police agencies know that having the cooperation of the majority of the people they deal with is effective both in changing practices and having an effective regime. They work for the citizenry, and if they don't know that, they will learn very quickly. Countries where that feedback is listened and responded to are places where people want to live.

If a police officer is breaking the law, the citizenry in a functioning polity will take action one way or another. Confronting someone in a tense situation is dangerous, but eventually it will be dealt with in some way. We had a bylaw officer who was absurd and over the top in his actions, from hollering at people going about their business to making up infractions. The citizenry of the town made it very uncomfortable for both the elected politicians and everyone else working for the city. I had people working for the city apologising for his behaviour. That is the characteristic of a functioning polity.

Exactly, and for this reason citizens of Western countries do not generally confront the agents of the state with individual violence. Other forms of resistance, including those mentioned here, are more conducive to the good life in the long run. Academics love to fantasize about violence, but ordinary people are smarter.

Just to put a finer point on part of comment #26.
Police & law enforcement in general, are civilian.

"we may act defensively against government agents under the same conditions in which we may act defensively against civilians": when Sir Robert Peel set up the Metropolitan Police (the second oldest police force in Britain) he was firm: the police are civilians.

A summary of his thoughts on policing, probably brought together by the first two Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police, is here:

The problem is when conceptions of justice are non-compatible. And that is why citizenists can rightly be concerned and even furious about importing immigrants and illegal aliens to change the makeup of the population. It doesn't just violate the social compact that says adherence to law is critical it directly smacks of deliberately changing the population to change the laws and norms of the land.

Uninformed citizens, who haven't seen the map of Spanish Territory in the North America in 1800, or internalized how their idea of "the population" might be wrong as a result.

Cry me a river. We took it from the Spanish, who took it from the Indigenous, who periodically wiped out each others' Y-chromosomal lines over territory and women.

True or False: all proffered systems of ethics said to be in force in respective locales worldwide have NO "prescriptive" force whatsoever--ALL proffered systems of ethics being consulted today are merely "descriptive" (arguably, the ability to name or properly describe moral context is itself already elusive).

Now that we live in an era of "ontological ethics": where might our inestimable ontology be hanging out? Begins to look almost as transient as our "ethics".

I've always found these types of arguments a little hollow. Sure, but then under the same logic the cop has a right of self-defense, and the politician who wrote the bad law has a right of self-defense, etc etc. So, basically all of this devolves into right-by-force anyway, so in that sense, the cop, with the force of government behind him, does have more rights.

To break out of that cycle, you need to come up with some fairly complex system that determines the appropriate response in all situations, eg a code of laws. Of course, it is impossible to have perfect laws. So, if you think the laws are right enough, you act within the law. If you don't think so, then you are an anarchist and function on right-by-force.

This all seems to have been worked out long ago, so I never see anything new in this branch of philosophy.

Ethically, you'd be justified to intervene, but right now in the U.S., from a practical standpoint, if you attempted to do so and the cop shot you dead, they'd certainly not be charged or convicted of a crime (cops are only occasionally charged and convicted when the person they shoot is posing no threat at all). Your best bet would be to videotape the beating as inconspicuously as possible (and then get the hell away before the cop snatches your phone, smacks you around too, and charges you with 'interfering with a police officer' and 'resisting arrest' for good measure).

In South Africa, there where two groups violating the territory of the San/Bushmen, white settlers, and Bantu settlers. The white settlers won, for 3-400 years. How did the Bantu somehow gain moral authority? If anything, south Africa should have been given back to the San at the end of Apartheid.

Why would the world assign moral authority to a group engaged in genocide against the original inhabitants?

Under-remarked point. One could argue, therefore, that we should return everybody to the original, unclaimed territory settled by their genetic haplotype. This is obviously impractical and unethical to the people currently alive who had no input on their ancestors' decisions, so something else is going on.

On the sovereign plane, the rules are anarchic, not civic. If you have it, and can hold it, then it's yours.

If that's true then there's no relevant application of ethics or morality on a collective level anywhere. The end justifies the means in that case. Of course national mythology always casts the victor as being the moral superior in any conflict. It was OK for the 18th and 19th century American colonists to kill the natives and steal their land because they had supposedly done the same to others and they were barbaric and uncivilized, unlike the New World sons of Cromwell's New Model Army that had no problem killing Irishmen and taking their property as well. That theory not only explains but justifies world Islamic jihad, if they succeed they will have been "right".

You should stop wringing your hands over the American Indians. The hunter-gatherers are always in trouble when the farmers show up, and the farmers always show up, and they should thank God it was the Anglos instead of Leopold's Force Publique. The Anglo-Americans aren't very good at genocide.

If that's true then there's no relevant application of ethics or morality on a collective level anywhere

There's plenty of collective morality; it's just not everybody agrees with you and your in-group. You seem to be just now finding out that the world isn't made of those ideas in your head.

The native Americans were the farmers but they were farmers without immunity to smallpox and other diseases and were at a neolithic stage of technological development. Where do you think corn, potatoes, tomatoes and other crops now common world-wide came from?

Even the current descendants of the native Americans can accept the fact that they've been reduced to a small and insignificant percentage of their peak numbers. What's harder to take is the hand-wringing over the plight of Americans of African ancestry. Once regarded valuable as property, they're now valuable as reliable Democratic voters and players in professional sports and politics. A faux African-American, in the sense that none of his forebears wear held as slaves in North America, has actually been president of the country and scores of blacks occupy positions of power and wealth in business, government, entertainment and the military. There are no native American ex-presidents or CEOs of Fortune 500 corporations, although possible candidates attempt to swim in that gene pool. In fact, the standard mythology of the war between the states declares that it was fought to free the blacks. As soon as the South succumbed those newly freed slaves were voluntarily mustered into military units whose mission was to subjugate, dispossess and kill the remaining native Americans, the famed "Buffalo Soldiers".

Perhaps the Anglo-Americans failed to destroy the natives in their entirety but it wasn't for lack of effort.

Of course, the point is that the majority of south African blacks arrived knowing that they would not be citizens in the Boer states, but still came for the economic opportunities. Giving them the power was effectively disenfranchisement of the original settlers, and a return to the dark ages.

It seems like, while it may not be limited, we owe the state and its agents a level of deference and benefit of the doubt which we would not owe to private citizens. We depend on the Leviathan to secure social peace by exercising a level of force which would be unacceptable if exercised by ordinary citizens. I do not think this should be unlimited, but it seems that the guarantee of certain procedural rights means that I can't just shoot at the police because I think that their reasons for detaining or arresting me aren't valid. The level of force/injustice needed to justify resistance to the state should be much higher than for that of a private citizen.

Should the police get involved in political disputes between politicians and protesters? In Chicago, Yes; in Portland, WA, No.

That's Portland, OR.

What about arresting Ms. Meng’? Free country....Such a joke!

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