An interesting thing about government – about government workers – is that they can legally do things that would be criminal under the law if we were to do them.
This begs the question about the morality of what government does – unless one takes the position that legality and morality are synonymous. In which case it is hard to understand why the leaders of National Socialist Germany – always important spell out the socialism that was at the core of that murderous regime – were prosecuted after World War II, given that the crimes they were charged with weren’t criminal, as a matter of (German National Socialist) law.
Government morality seems to boil down to this: If you do not follow its laws, government workers will – ultimately – kill you.
A young man named Chase Allen, who was 25-years-old, is dead because of a chain of events that began when a government worker decided to enforce a law requiring his car (all cars) to be “registered” with the government. Chase did not believe he had a moral obligation to “register” his car with the government and so he didn’t, apparently.
You may think the government has the right to enforce such laws, though it is difficult to understand how “government” – which isn’t a living being – can have any rights at all. It certainly has power, of course – but then, so did the National Socialists in Germany.
But, leaving the issue of might making right – or rather, legality – aside for the moment, do you think government workers have the right to shoot people who violate that law?
That is what ended up happening to Chase Allen, who was killed minutes after he was “pulled over” by a government worker for driving an “unregistered” vehicle. A sequence of escalating events led to his being shot in the head and chest by multiple government workers, who then proceeded to throw the corpse to the pavement and cuff it.
And it turned out to be a capital offense.
But let’s rewind the events and ask some questions.
Who had Chase Allen harmed or even plausibly threatened with harm by driving an “unregistered” car? Is it not of a piece with tearing that tag off the mattress it says you’re not allowed to under penalty of law? There is no allegation that Allen’s car was not his property – i.e., that it was stolen. There is no allegation he was driving in a manner that could be construed as dangerous to others. He had not even committed what is styled a “moving violation,” such as not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign, for instance. Or “speeding” – the term used to make a punishable offense of driving any faster than an arbitrary velocity maximum decreed by the government, irrespective of any harm caused thereby.
Allen’s death in a hail of gunfire began because a government worker saw him driving an “unregistered” vehicle (his own) and for no other reason. The government worker was armed and so – apparently – was Allen. This is not a crime, either. But it did lead to the finale of the sequence of events that began with Allen being “pulled over” over a legality.
Allen proceeded to question the legality of his being “pulled over” – asserting that he did not consent to any contract with the government and so was not bound to obey the terms of the contract. This is derided by many people – including people who say they are all for “freedom,” to the extent the government allows it – as “sovereign citizen” stuff. This brings up the question of sovereignty, which gets at the root of legal vs. moral. The government claims it is sovereign, which means of course that none of us are. It claims we are obliged to obey the law, because the government has made it the law.
Well, so said the government of National Socialist Germany. So says every government. It is an interesting thing to say. It is another way of saying, you and I are bound to obey whatever the government of the land we happen to have been born in – or live in – says is the law.
Just because it says so.
If you do not agree, then you are an outlaw.
Never mind whether whatever you have done is immoral; that is immaterial as a matter of law. Pointing out to an arbiter of legality – i.e., the government official styled a “judge” – that your having driven 67 MPH rather than 55 MPH as decreed by the sign erected by the government harmed no one has no legal bearing on the question of whether you “broke the law,” as the styling puts it.
Allen made the mistake of questioning the morality, rather than obeying the law. This resulted in an escalation of force – but not by Chase Allen. His refusal to “comply” with orders to get out of his car – so as to be manacled by the government workers for driving an “unregistered” (with the government) car and declining to accept the government’s right to “pull him over” for this led to government workers threatening to smash the window of his car and drag him out of it. In the course of this attempt to enforce the law – by any means necessary – one of the government workers apparently observed a gun or a holster for a gun on Chase Allen’s hip. No allegation was made that Allen attempted to defend himself using his gun, which it was not against the law for him to possess.
Probably nothing fatal would have happened had the government workers not initiated a physical scuffle with Allen. Instead, one government worker cries “gun!” which result in multiple government guns being leveled at Allen, who is almost instantly shot to death at near point-blank range, after which the bullet-riddled corpse is dragged from the “unregistered” car, hurled to the ground and handcuffed.
That is the question we ought to be asking ourselves, which can also be put another way: Do you think it is moral for government workers to use whatever force is necessary to compel obedience to every law, no matter how petty or arbitrary, simply because it is “the law”?
If you think so, then perhaps you ought to question why the leaders of the government of National Socialist Germany were considered criminals for enforcing the laws of National Socialist Germany – and many of them hanged for it.
But that would beg some difficult questions about the government of this country; about government as such.
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