How the State Works


Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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32 Responses

  1. Avatar BSK says:

    But on the flip side, when there is one person killing one person, 50% of the people involved are murderers. So, while the percentage of victims decreases, the percentage of murderers increases. Whoops!Report

  2. Avatar RTod says:

    No – is punditry, in one comic panel.Report

  3. Avatar tom van dyke says:

    True if war = murder, which is asinine.Report

    • Avatar BSK says:

      Why? What is the difference between war and murder?Report

      • Avatar The Fool says:

        Legality, unless you 1. believe in Natural Law and 2. believe war violates said law. Alternately believe that the war violates some other, higher, law, whether something like the War Powers Act, the Constitution, or International Law.

        But really, murder’s just unlawful premeditated killing. So long as it’s legal, it’s not murder.Report

        • Avatar The Fool says:

          Not to say that you couldn’t judge it to be wrong, of course, but moral condemnation doesn’t make something unlawful.Report

          • Avatar BSK says:

            But that is circular logic at it’s best.

            Why is it legal and not illegal? Because it’s war.
            Why is it war and not murder? Because it’s legal.

            How do we define war? If Al Quaeda viewed themselves at war with America, could they claim that the actions of 9/11 were not murders? Within war, are there killings that are still unlawful and, thus, murder (e.g., the killing of civilians)?

            I do believe there are some cases where killing is justified. But I’d be hardpressed to argue that killing on the scale as is typical for most wars is justified.Report

            • Avatar The Fool says:

              Welcome to the law! It’s all pretty much based on bullshit and power.Report

              • Avatar The Fool says:

                That said, there’s an argument to be made that the law of the United States has been violated and therefore we are illegally waging war, in which case it’s not truly war, and the actions are murder, but that’s aside from the specific point about war and murder.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      True if war = murder, which is asinine.

      In just war theory, there is never more than one legitimate belligerent side in any conflict. More often, and taking into account both jus in bello and jus ad bellum, we have to find that both sides are fighting illegitimately.

      So usually, yes, war is murder. It’s not asinine at all.Report

      • Avatar tom van dyke says:

        The cartoon is a jejune reduction. You stand by it, fine.

        “Usually” war is murder? The cartoon does not plumb such nuance. And let President Obama in on this re Libya. Sometimes, war isn’t even war.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

          The cartoon is a jejune reduction.

          Most are. Hate to break it to you.

          “Usually” war is murder? The cartoon does not plumb such nuance. And let President Obama in on this re Libya. Sometimes, war isn’t even war.

          No, no, no. I can’t break it to President Obama, because you’re already on record insisting on the very opposite. “War = murder is asinine,” you wrote.

          Make up your mind, my friend.

          (For what it’s worth, if you’ve paid any attention at all, you know that I’ve written several times about Libya and how we’re only there in violation of our own laws. On this I am being consistent, even if you are not.)Report

          • Avatar tom van dyke says:

            Well, I can’t argue with bumper sticker morality. Bumper sticker logic: murder is killing, war is killing, therefore war is murder.

            As for Libya, Jason, on such Greenwaldian issues I have never known you to be anything but principled and consistent. However, it’s hard for Greenwaldians to take BHO to task if W can’t be equally slagged on at the same time. Their hearts just aren’t in it.

            Is BHO’s Libya enterprise murder? The cartoon morality in question would have to say yes. Shirley you’re not prepared to accuse the president of murder.

            I’m just accusing him of sophistry, that a war’s not a war.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              You’ve retreated to, “Whatever! Obama’s a hypocrite, and antiwar liberals criticize him but it must eat them up inside.” That’s disappointing.

              I was, believe it or not, interested in your, take on just war theory, since you’re clearly either Catholic or staunchly pro-Catholic. But if you can’t argue with a cartoon (and I admit it’s a silly one), you become one, it appears.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

              You’re the one who brought up W. Please don’t accuse me of bringing in our former president. Your work, not mine.

              Is the Libyan enterprise murder? No, because “murder” is the name we reserve for private illegitimate killing. It’s clearly an illegal and unjust war, however, and that’s the name we use for state-run illegitimate killing.

              Your challenge, should you choose to accept: Explain how an illegal and unjust war is better or more morally defensible than murder. I’m betting you can’t do it — not for Obama, anyway.Report

              • I really don’t want to wade too far into this but…the UN has, like, legal standing and stuff…Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                It does not have the legal standing required to authorize U.S. participation in a war. Only Congress has that.Report

              • Congress hasn’t done that in decades.

                Look — I agree that Obama should have and should still go to Congress with his case for intervention in Libya, and that his not doing so is one of the signature blemishes on his record thus far. But calling the war “clearly […] illegal” is hyperbole.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                Calling our action in Libya illegal isn’t hyperbole, it is a fact. Try reading the war powers act, the constitution and forget about the UN and Bush as you might learn something.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                I don’t like word games around the word “illegal.” If anything it lets the President off too easily, ie, if we can come with a reason why it’s not illegal then it’s ok. Legal or otherwise, it’s a bad thing. It’s the same with “unconstitutional.”

                Jason mentioned the key point, the UN can give it’s blessing or not, but it cannot commit US forces to be placed in harm’s way.

                And at this point, the President is in real trouble. If he went to Congress for authorization, he might well lose. I know if I had a vote I’d vote against him for sure, whereas I might have voted with him a month or whatever ago.

                This gets back to a point that the Republicans need to bring to the forefront: because the President’s default mode of operating is to short-circuit our republican institutions, the ability to derail one of the President’s policies must be exercised at nearly every opportunity.Report

              • Indeed. If the GOP won’t reign in a runaway Executive Branch, then who will?Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                Is there ever an instance when you don’t attempt to shift the blame for something to the GOP? It shouldn’t ever be the Congress ‘ job to make Barry or any other Pres obey the law. As a Harvard trained attorney Barry should make a minimal effort to obey the law.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                Your team, through the public acknowledgment that President Obama is worse than George W Bush ever was, and acting accordingly. That’ll fix Libya right away, and is probably the only thing that will.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                Koz wrote, on the question of who should fix the Libya mess….

                Your team [i.e., the Democrats] through the public acknowledgment that President Obama is worse than George W Bush ever was, and acting accordingly. That’ll fix Libya right away, and is probably the only thing that will.

                But this is something they wouldn’t have the courage to do. They might lose an election that way.

                Much as the Republicans, who were outraged at Bill Clinton’s civil liberties violations, cheered on more of the same and worse under George W. Bush — rather than rising up to fight it.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                Btw, I’m not with Scott’s last argument. It is important that the President follow the law. On the other hand, the “law” and the contingencies associated with it are complicated to the point that we could forgive the President if there were some plausible theory of the national interest supporting the President’s actions wrt Libya. But there isn’t, and we should insist on accountability forthwith.

                Btw, a lot of conservatives hear about the UN and think, “ZOMG, black helicopters.” Now, I tend to sympathetic to the idea of UN overreach and liberals tend to eyeroll. But Elias, this one really does have to be out of bounds. The UN cannot be allowed to conduct war with the US armed forces outside of the US political process. If we can’t agree on that one, we’re in more trouble than I thought.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                As far as Jason goes, I would certainly be willing to sell GWB down the river if the shoe fit. But I’m not aware of a circumstance where he extended the malfeasance of President Clinton.Report

  4. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    It’s quite true — the difference between the state and private enterprise is that only the state ever rationalizes its misdeedsReport

    • Avatar BSK says:

      Wait, wait, wait… that would required them acknowledging that misdeeds have happened! Defending wrong actions as right isn’t rationalizing… it’s embracing idiocy!

      The government never says, “Yea, we F’ed up, but here is why what we had tried to do was right,” or “Yea, we made the right call, but our execution failed for this reason.” They say, “Nothing to see here folks. Keep it moving,” or “Who you going to believe, me or your lyin’ eyes,” or “Dik, der, AMERICA!”Report