Shut up and row, or, good leaders are rock star divas

March 4, 2017 § 68 Comments

Good leaders make unreasonable demands; and good followers meet those demands obediently, without making a lot of static.

In the comments below, Mike T writes:

 …in ordinary circumstances there is likely no defensible reason why something which is good or neutral should be prohibited by an authority.

I couldn’t disagree more.

There is a now-famous story about the rock band Van Halen.  The band members were such entitled divas, the story goes, that they would bury a rider in their contracts for a bowl of M&M candies in their dressing room with all of the brown candies removed.  If the bowl of M&M’s wasn’t there, or if it contained even a single brown M&M, the band would (or was contractually entitled to) cancel the show and engage in general acts of destructive mayhem.

David Lee Roth explains the real reason for the M&M contract rider:

The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function. So just as a little test, in the technical aspect of the rider, it would say “Article 148: There will be fifteen amperage voltage sockets at twenty-foot spaces, evenly, providing nineteen amperes …” This kind of thing. And article number 126, in the middle of nowhere, was: “There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.”

So, when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl … well, line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error. They didn’t read the contract. Guaranteed you’d run into a problem. Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show. Something like, literally, life-threatening.

A good leader always makes a few unreasonable demands here and there, and rightfully expects his followers to pay close attention, shut their pie-holes, and do what they’ve been told to do.  Loyalty which is never tested isn’t true loyalty.  Obedience isn’t obedience when you are only ever told to do what you want to do or agree you ought to do.

Decent civilizations require good followers.  Some leaders are genius enough to herd cats, to be sure. But they are few and far between, and genius has no succession plan.

So if you want to live in a decent civilization, you’ll learn how to shut the **** up and row.

§ 68 Responses to Shut up and row, or, good leaders are rock star divas

  • halt94 says:

    Did Van Halen ever cancel a show after finding a brown M&M in the backstage area? It seems somewhat like a bad idea for an authority to make unreasonable demands and then refuse to follow through on the punishment for them when the unreasonable demands are not met; of course if he were correct then there would be other contract violations and it might be more prudent to pin cancellation of the show with full compensation on those failures rather than the brown M&M. That’s a great story though.

  • Zippy says:

    halt94:

    According to DLR there were shows that were cancelled, and specifically because of inspections triggered by the presence of brown M&Ms. But those inspections always found other problems.

    Human nature being what it is, I would expect failure in meeting deliberately unreasonable demands to be accompanied by more substantive failures. Personally I would almost certainly punish failure to meet unreasonable demands alone. If anything someone who was careful enough to meet every reasonable demand but failed to meet the unreasonable demand has done something worse: he isn’t merely careless, he has engaged in an act of defiance.

    Actively refusing to doff your cap to the king is a serious matter: much more serious than a moment of human carelessness or simple incompetence.

    Stupidity and incompetence are pervasive and unavoidable in human affairs.

    Disloyalty, unfaithfulness, and betrayal though are unacceptable.

  • halt94 says:

    Also, being a good follower, even when leadership is bad, was something that struck me about St. Thomas More in reading “A Man for All Seasons.” In it, his loyalty and respect for King Henry VIII could not be denied; indeed it seemed that it almost pained him to have to disobey his king, but he could not disobey his God, and so he went to his death. I think he’s a great Patron for those under bad leadership.

  • Roman Lance says:

    This reminds me of that old catholic adage: Pay, Pray, and Obey!

  • halt94 says:

    Zippy:
    That makes sense. There seems to actually be a cultural aversion to punishment at the most basic level of society, at least in my generation. My first job was as at a day care (they called themselves a school) running the summer program for the first and second graders. The day care had a policy that there was to be no negative consequences to behavior; only positive reinforcement was allowed to correct behavior.
    Which means kids inclined towards bad behavior and defiance could not be effectively disciplined.

    I’ve also had conversations with peers who I would normally consider reasonable making the claim that spanking a child is intrinsically evil. I really don’t know how you can expect to parent or lead any group if punishment is considered a necessary evil to be avoided wherever possible.

  • Zippy says:

    Roman Lance:
    You can tell to whom the old admonishment most applies by the extent to which they find it outrageous and/or insist that it doesn’t apply to them.

  • This was well said. I also enjoyed the, “No free power lunches” post.

    “Shut up and row,” is a good analogy for how I am feeling about our country right now. Or at the very least, stop smashing windows and having tantrums.

  • donnie says:

    “Shut up and row,” is a good analogy for how I am feeling about our country right now. Or at the very least, stop smashing windows and having tantrums.

    To be fair, conservatives hardly “shut up and rowed” during the Obama years, sometimes because it was morally obligatory not to (e.g. ACA contraceptive mandate). But not all conservative fury hurled at Obama was over clear violations of the moral law. And I’m fairly certain if it wasn’t for that eight year-long conservative wrath we would not be sitting here today with President Golden Wrecking Ball.

  • CJ says:

    Because it isn’t always possible to differentiate between incompetence and sh*t-testing, my general approach is “speak up and row,” or alternatively “know when to shut up and row.” I expected the same back when I had subordinates.

    Just last week, my boss’s boss inserted an absolutely unreasonable extra layer of appoval on one of our tasks. He explained to her why it was a problem and she still wants it done her way, so we’re doing it her way. In my experience, leaders who balk at that sort of exchange (in non-emergency situations) aren’t good at what they do and don’t last long.

  • vetdoctor says:

    Sounds like it’s time for me to get on the global warming bandwagon or so says the rock star running my church.

  • CJ says:

    One for the rock star diva files, I reviewed a contract for my client to book the rapper Ludacris. One of the items in the rider was a box of condoms; Magnum XL size of course. We struck that term from the contract and they still signed it. I suppose he realized that he could buy his own rubbers with the $55,000 booking fee.

  • In the context of a loving marriage, it’s very easy to understand the need to shut up and row sometimes, or to go forth and pick all the brown M&M’s out.

    Things get much harder when you have a really crappy boss or a political leader that’s doing massive harm. In the power lunches thread, Zippy said, “Being good followers doesn’t guarantee good leadership. But being bad followers does guarantee bad leadership.”

    We’re fortunate that in the US we can change our job or vote out our leaders, because when you can no longer see the potential of following them and living in a decent civilization at the same time, it’s over, at least for me. I’m more prone to just bludgeon someone with an a oar than to row, metaphorically of course.

  • halt94 says:

    Consent of the governed attempts to confer authority on the governors, but the governor is only allowed to use this authority when the governed want to do what they are being asked to do. Since that kind of authority is no authority at all, what the governed are then trying to “sell” to their governors does not exist. the consent of the governed philosophy of authority is therefore similar to usury, so no wonder it makes everyone gay:
    https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2015/11/07/usury-is-so-gay/

    Consent of the governed, Consent of the Usuree (Q24 of the usury fan), Consent of the sodomite. Consent makes everything ok.

  • Zippy says:

    vetdoctor:

    Sounds like it’s time for me to get on the global warming bandwagon or so says the rock star running my church.

    The point of the OP is that good followers obey commands, and that good sovereigns make seemingly unreasonable demands sometimes for good reason; not that good followers adopt and support every opinion on every subject expressed by aristocrats and sovereigns.

    Here is a comprehensive list of all
    of the juridical rules promulgated by HH with respect to “global warming” and other beliefs of the pagan environmental cult:

    BEGIN LIST

    END LIST

    In general though Francis does well represent the paradox of a liberal monarch. I actually can’t help but feel kind of sorry for him, he is so clueless. Kind of like Henry VIII, whose ultimate fate was much worse than St. Thomas More’s.

    Francis’ unambiguous juridical rulings are of course authoritative for the Church. Fortunately that is an almost vanishingly small set of things.

  • donnie says:

    Sounds like it’s time for me to get on the global warming bandwagon or so says the rock star running my church.

    Relevant

    Modern people have a terrible attitude of entitlement, of which they are mostly unaware. Sure, they can see where those bad people over there feel entitled; but they don’t see it in themselves.

    This seems like an excellent example of what Zippy was talking about in that post. Any attempt to seriously consider the possibility of global warming is absolutely dismissed as a liberal agenda by conservative Christians.

    Yet this is in spite of the fact that modern societies continue to egregiously violate the teachings of Our Lord from the Sermon on the Mount and His prescriptions for living a life of simplicity and poverty towards all the goods of this world. Somehow it never seems to occur to certain folks that, global warming or not, these clear violations are bound to have their consequences upon the physical world in which we live.

  • Josh says:

    Lewis makes the same argument in Perelandra.

  • Step2 says:

    After reading this post I’ve added Zippy to my extremely selective list of obligatory protest employers.

  • Wood says:

    Wow. I awoke from my Lenten slumbers to read this post. Sincerely thanks, Zippy. I cant think of a better time than Lent than to be personally admonished to shut up and row.

    “If you love me,keep my commandments.”

    Thanks, Zippy.

  • Sunshine says:

    Obedience isn’t obedience when you are only ever told to do what you want to do or agree you ought to do.

    The irrational idea of only obeying when you agree is baked right into the American cake:

    “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will, within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”

    Thomas Jefferson
    (source: https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/98-01-02-0303)

  • vetdoctor says:

    Donnie
    That we are warming the planet(as opposed to the planet warming us) is highly improbable based on the best science available. That we are gross consumption machines munching our way through irreplaceable resources and leaving a trail of poisoned detritus behind is given. Good help me for my part in this.

  • Roman Lance says:

    Zippy said: “You can tell to whom the old admonishment most applies by the extent to which they find it outrageous and/or insist that it doesn’t apply to them.”

    I was thinking about what you said here and concluded that this is most visibly noticeable while attending the Novus Ordo Missae.

    I simply need to look around at the attendees who can’t be bothered to don a veil/hat or put on a tie for Mass under the belief that God doesn’t care what we wear as long as we go.

    I’d be happy if we could get that much out of people, especially the womynz.

    We have so far to go.

  • Mike T says:

    Good points, but you weren’t actually disagreeing with me:

    It is a tautology, but getting them to see that is rather difficult because it intuitively makes sense that in ordinary circumstances there is likely no defensible reason why something which is good or neutral should be prohibited by an authority. So it seems like a rational and coherent model of “freedom,” but it obviously isn’t.

    My comment was about the perception that people have about when and how political authority (once again, in the vernacular sense) can be licitly exercised against the public. Again, perception. In the full context, that should be obvious, especially when I ended that very paragraph by calling it obviously neither rational nor coherent.

  • Mike T says:

    One important distinction about leaders, is that it depends on which class of authority you are talking about. A high-ranking political (again, vernacular…) leader must be more cautious about reasonableness because their will is backed by the security apparatus of the state. Being unreasonable can easily lead to real harm that creates a violent injustice and gives those on the receiving end a legitimate right to demand justice.

  • “Being unreasonable can easily lead to real harm that creates a violent injustice and gives those on the receiving end a legitimate right to demand justice.”

    Exactly. Well said. That’s my carrot theory. Don’t ever forget the carrot. If you want to live in a decent civilization you’ll shut up and row, but the moment a leader forgets the importance of the carrot, right or wrong, people are always going to revolt and seek justice.

  • halt94 says:

    “Being unreasonable can easily lead to real harm that creates a violent injustice and gives those on the receiving end a legitimate right to demand justice.”

    I can’t think of a situation where this has been the case, at least not in the kind of unreasonable demands described in the OP. I mean surely all unjust demands are also unreasonable, but not all unreasonable demands are unjust. (side note: not sure if unreasonable is the best word to use to describe the demand mentioned in the OP; DLR does have a reason for it, and his reasoning is valid). If you are saying that being unjust can easily lead to real harm, then I agree but it is an uninteresting point. If a relatively simple task that people just don’t want to do leads to real harm, then I would say the people were already disloyal enough to be inclined towards violence and were just waiting for an excuse, which is a problem that needs to be addressed.

  • Halt, I think context is everything. I could pick m&m’s out of the bowl forever in marriage, but cross over into the political realm to something like a paper bag tax in stores, it’s only a nickel, unlikely to cause real harm, but it calls into doubt the competency of your leadership, and highlights their unreasonable and invasive demands. It’s unlikely to end in violence, but too much rock star diva behavior and people start wondering if your music is even worth listening to.

  • Zippy says:

    halt94 is right to point out that “unreasonable” in the OP refers to “unreasonable in the opinion of subjects”.

    Some of the comments seem to assume that those in authority owe some sort of explanation to those subject to authority. Implicit in this is the idea that if subjects think what they are commanded is unreasonable[*], they are justified in insisting on an explanation they find amenable before their moral obligation to obey kicks in.

    This of course is just “consent of the governed” liberalism, and around the hamster wheel we go.

    Nobody is owed any explanations as to why they should do what they are told. A property owner doesn’t have to explain to trespassers why they have to leave, let alone get them to agree that the command to leave is reasonable, in order for their moral obligation to leave to obtain.

    And the same is true for all acts of authority which create moral obligations in those subject to the authority.

    [*] This is of course distinct from being commanded to do something objectively immoral. Specific commands to do something objectively immoral are no command at all, because the very notion of a moral obligation to do moral wrong is incoherent.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    Lots of things seem unreasonable when considered in ignorance. And the smaller the command, the more unreasonable it seems to followers. This is true in gov’t as well as families.

    One recent example is the idea that it’s unreasonable for the US to interfere in Russian-Ukrainian relations. However, according to Garry Kasparov, in the 90s Russia and Ukraine made an agreement: The nukes of the former Soviet Empire which were in the Ukraine would be given to Russia. In exchange, Russia agreed to stay out of Ukraine and respect their independence. This agreement was backed (with the threat of use of force) by the US and the UK. Putin decided he didn’t care for that arrangement. He has interfered with Ukrainian politics and property, and kept the nukes to boot! What a deal.

    Meanwhile, the US (which is materially wealthy, but impoverished in honor) decides it doesn’t really have to put its money where its mouth was, and chooses to betray Ukraine. What we tell ourselves is that it’s unreasonable to interfere in Russo-Ukrainian politics. The point isn’t whether Russia or Ukraine is right. The point is that if you can’t be trusted to follow through on the brown M&M’s, then you can’t be trusted to have someone’s back.

    Or, as Jesus said, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.”

  • halt94 says:

    Insanitybytes,

    The point in the OP was about what good leaders should do. Good leaders make unreasonable demands for different reasons and in different ways than bad leaders. If the sovereign just started taxing paper bags without saying anything, I really shouldn’t be questioning his competence: it’s his call. If we aren’t willing to put up with it just cuz we think it’s stupid, then the admonition to shut up and row applies all the more to us.

    Even if the sovereign is acting too much like a diva, we really should just shut up and row as much as we are able. Unless the sovereign is being objectively unjust we’ll just have to put up with it because there we are going to have incompetent leaders from time to time, and not rowing inevitably makes the situation worse for everyone, especially those who continue to shut up and row.

  • Zippy says:

    Even if a subject is right that a particular demand is unreasonable, this gives him the opportunity to show his quality as a human being: to show his loyalty, faithfulness, and honor. And for those lacking in such qualities, unreasonable commands give them the best opportunity to develop them. A good leader husbands his subjects by giving them opportunities to develop and show virtue.

    A polity which insists that every law must be “reasonable”, then, encourages the development of vice.

  • halt94 says:

    Zippy:
    Thank you for putting that so succinctly. I was always told growing up to lead by example, and for the most part that’s the most leadership any of us will have. Most of us aren’t CEOs or Presidents or Captains; most of us are just ordinary folk making ordinary strokes, and we should be content with that. It’s the ordinary acts of kindness and love that keep the darkness at bay.

  • [*] This is of course distinct from being commanded to do something objectively immoral. Specific commands to do something objectively immoral are no command at all, because the very notion of a moral obligation to do moral wrong is incoherent.

    This is a really useful distinction to make. I never thought of a “moral obligation to do moral wrong” as being incoherent, but that’s it exactly.

    “A good leader husbands his subjects by giving them opportunities to develop and show virtue”

    This made me laugh. I’ll agree, however. Some of us who have been married for a long time can now use the narrative, “I have been so blessed by the opportunity to develop and show virtue.”

  • John says:

    You say:

    ” Obedience isn’t obedience when you are only ever told to do what you want to do or AGREE YOU OUGHT TO DO.”

    What if I agree I ought to follow authority?

  • Zippy says:

    John:
    If you never have reservations about doing what you are told, you aren’t human. And my blog posts are written for humans.

  • John says:

    Zippy: “If you never have reservations about doing what you are told, you aren’t human. And my blog posts are written for humans.”

    I also have reservations about going to Sunday mass, yet I still agree I ought to be obedient. Mere disagreement or discomfort with a certain order does not mean one lacks the conclusion he ought to do something and wills it anyway despite reservation.

  • Zippy says:

    John:
    Again if you literally never disagree, even for a fleeting moment, that you ought to do what you are being told to do, you are not human.

  • John says:

    “Again if you literally never disagree, even for a fleeting moment, that you ought to do what you are being told to do, you are not human.”

    Then what compels one to do something he disagrees with?

  • Zippy says:

    John:
    All I can suggest is that you report to maintenance to have your programming upgraded.

  • John says:

    I’m gonna try to keep this thread going for a bit more.

    You say in other places that obeying right authority is a moral ought. As such a person may disagree with an order at first, but will nevertheless obey, sooner or later, by following/appealing to his moral duty as a subject.

    A hard-headed subject may require punishments and/or rewards to be obedient, but he will nevertheless accept that he ought to obey authority sooner or later. He will agree that he should obey for various reasons, but his decision will end up, either explicitly or implicitly, being one of agreement with obedience.

  • donnie says:

    If you never have reservations about doing what you are told, you aren’t human.

    Even Our Lord had reservations about doing that which the Father required of Him:

    Father, if thou wilt, remove this chalice from me: but yet not my will, but thine be done.

    Luke 22:42

  • Government derives its power from the consent of the governed. This means the power ultimately comes from that source. How were the original chiefs and kings chosen? This does not mean the government once chosen has to confer with the governed on every decision.

  • Zippy says:

    winstonscrooge:
    Does that mean that the governments of contemporary USA, North Korea, Nazi Germany, the reign of Louis XIV, the Holy Roman Empire, and every other governing authority in all of history derived their powers from the “consent of the governed?” That if so, this derivation-by-consent does not distinguish between liberal and illiberal governments?

    Or is this just another motte-and-bailey equivocation?

  • “That if so, this derivation-by-consent does not distinguish between liberal and illiberal governments?”

    Isn’t that true though? Hitler did not come to power in a void, it required consent of the governed and quite a few minions willing to do his work. So consent of the governed is not morality, the problem being, obedience in that context isn’t always morality either.

  • Hrodgar says:

    All “consent of the governed” means is there hasn’t been a successful rebellion yet. Power and authority are not the same thing. And no authority “ultimately comes from” any created thing (see Romans 13).

    Whatever may have been their faults, the mandarins with their “Mandate of Heaven” were a good deal closer to the truth than liberals are with the “Mandate of Man.”

    Part of our problem may be definitions. The following from our host may clarify things somewhat: https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/because-i-said-so-thats-why/

  • Zippy says:

    The usual formulation is that “a government’s just powers derive from the consent of the governed”. The word “just” is in there as a moral prelude for liberals to withdraw consent, which supposedly removes moral justification.

    Another liberal slogan used equivocally to justify its perpetual revolution, in other words.

  • donnie says:

    Winston,

    Thankfully for both of us, the Magisterium of Christ’s Church has addressed this topic far more authoritatively than any commenters here ever could. Consider the below, excerpted from a papal encyclical promulgated by Saint Pius X on August 15, 1910, in which he corrected the Catholic ‘Le Sillon’ movement for holding a view very similar to the one you expressed above:

    The Sillon places public authority primarily in the people, from whom it then flows into the government in such a manner, however, that it continues to reside in the people. But Leo XIII absolutely condemned this doctrine in his Encyclical “Diuturnum Illud” on political government in which he said:

    “Modern writers in great numbers, following in the footsteps of those who called themselves philosophers in the last century, declare that all power comes from the people; consequently those who exercise power in society do not exercise it from their own authority, but from an authority delegated to them by the people and on the condition that it can be revoked by the will of the people from whom they hold it. Quite contrary is the sentiment of Catholics who hold that the right of government derives from God as its natural and necessary principle.”

    Admittedly, the Sillon holds that authority – which first places in the people – descends from God, but in such a way: “as to return from below upwards, whilst in the organization of the Church power descends from above downwards.”

    But besides its being abnormal for the delegation of power to ascend, since it is in its nature to descend, Leo XIII refuted in advance this attempt to reconcile Catholic Doctrine with the error of philosophism. For, he continues: “It is necessary to remark here that those who preside over the government of public affairs may indeed, in certain cases, be chosen by the will and judgment of the multitude without repugnance or opposition to Catholic doctrine. But whilst this choice marks out the ruler, it does not confer upon him the authority to govern; it does not delegate the power, it designates the person who will be invested with it.”

    For the rest, if the people remain the holders of power, what becomes of authority? A shadow, a myth; there is no more law properly so-called, no more obedience. The Sillon acknowledges this: indeed, since it demands that threefold political, economic, and intellectual emancipation in the name of human dignity, the Future City in the formation of which it is engaged will have no masters and no servants. All citizens will be free; all comrades, all kings. A command, a precept would be viewed as an attack upon their freedom; subordination to any form of superiority would be a diminishment of the human person, and obedience a disgrace. Is it in this manner, Venerable Brethren, that the traditional doctrine of the Church represents social relations, even in the most perfect society? Has not every community of people, dependent and unequal by nature, need of an authority to direct their activity towards the common good and to enforce its laws? And if perverse individuals are to be found in a community (and there always are), should not authority be all the stronger as the selfishness of the wicked is more threatening? Further, – unless one greatly deceives oneself in the conception of liberty – can it be said with an atom of reason that authority and liberty are incompatible? Can one teach that obedience is contrary to human dignity and that the ideal would be to replace it by “accepted authority”? Did not St. Paul the Apostle foresee human society in all its possible stages of development when he bade the faithful to be subject to every authority? Does obedience to men as the legitimate representatives of God, that is to say in the final analysis, obedience to God, degrade Man and reduce him to a level unworthy of himself? Is the religious life which is based on obedience, contrary to the ideal of human nature? Were the Saints – the most obedient men, just slaves and degenerates? Finally, can you imagine social conditions in which Jesus Christ, if He returned to earth, would not give an example of obedience and, further, would no longer say: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s”?

    Notre Charge Apostolique, “Our Apostolic Mandate”
    Given by Pope Pius X to the French Bishops
    August 15, 1910

  • Mike T says:

    I can’t think of a situation where this has been the case, at least not in the kind of unreasonable demands described in the OP. I mean surely all unjust demands are also unreasonable, but not all unreasonable demands are unjust. (side note: not sure if unreasonable is the best word to use to describe the demand mentioned in the OP; DLR does have a reason for it, and his reasoning is valid). If you are saying that being unjust can easily lead to real harm, then I agree but it is an uninteresting point. If a relatively simple task that people just don’t want to do leads to real harm, then I would say the people were already disloyal enough to be inclined towards violence and were just waiting for an excuse, which is a problem that needs to be addressed.

    The line between unreasonable and unjust is more dangerous with state authority than many others due to the fact that a high authority’s unreasonable will can be implemented like it is a matter of grave importance at the lowest levels even if that is not what they intended. Since that implementation is intrinsically backed with “submit, or we’ll imprison and/or kill you,” it is easy for unreasonableness to snowball into injustice.

    Consider Eric Garner. It is unlikely that anyone who drafted the tax that resulted in a cop arresting him ever thought that their (almost assuredly social engineering, not revenue raising) tax would result in deaths. Most conservatives consider it unreasonable, but legitimate. However, it can easily go down hill once you from legislator to beat cop who has to choose a paycheck or principle.

  • “The usual formulation is that “a government’s just powers derive from the consent of the governed”. The word “just” is in there as a moral prelude for liberals to withdraw consent, which supposedly removes moral justification.”

    Ahh, okay. I have always thought of “just” as meaning duly elected, placed in authority legally. More along the lines of Romans 13, no authority exists except that which God has established.

  • halt94 says:

    Mike T:

    The problem is that in cases like that the violence doesn’t ensue because of the resistance to unreasonable demands of the government, it ensues because of resistance to the reasonable demands of the cops. Eric Garner would not have died had he not resisted arrest. Resisting arrest is an incredibly stupid thing to do under ordinary circumstances. No body ever died because they fought a traffic violation in court, but people have died when they try to fight the cop writing them a ticket.

    The kind of people who would violently resist a cop are a hazard. What would that Eric Garner scene have looked like if Eric Garner had been armed? Would the people in the crowd have died because Eric Garner didn’t want to be arrested for not paying a sin tax?

    Unless the government is acting objectively unjustly, our disposition should be compliance. If we do not want to comply, it is not unjust for the government to force us to comply. If we resist that force, it is not unjust for that resistance to result in our own death.

    The fact that the government can use violence to enforce its edicts just means people should be more careful about when and how they resist.

  • Mike T says:

    Garner did not actually assault the officer. The officer was also neither sufficiently trained nor fit to properly execute the arrest and did so with a choke hold and continued even when Garner was indicating severe medical distress. Now, at some point you either have to admit that the situation is morally abominable or become an authoritarian (in the pejorative sense of the word) who generally turns a blind eye toward proportionality. And if you do that, you have to throw out proportionality in general as there is nothing magical morally about authority that hands over to any authority the ability to hand out death warrants like candy over resistance to just anything the authority says.

  • Mike T says:

    There’s also another matter I raised, which is that the situation itself was not caused exclusively by the will of the highest authorities that enacted the tax. It was a cascading effect of several different authorities working together, probably by accident, to force that situation. One of those is the NYPD itself which today grants little discretion to officers on the street compared to even a generation ago. Around that time, one retired NYPD detective wrote in a NYC editorial how before Ray Kelly, guys like Garner were actually assets to the NYPD because the officers had the discretion to not arrest them and they were often repaid by snitching to the police on felonies. As he pointed out, current NYPD makes getting their support harder because it forces the police to be confrontational rather than choosing to balance various factors that make the bigger mission of the department go more smoothly.

    I suppose you could argue that Garner should just obey the law and be a good snitch if he sees bad stuff go down. You’d be right, but so what? That is not the world we live in. It is why being unreasonable, controlling and imprudent is extremely dangerous for political authorities. If you don’t make policies based on fallen human nature, you might as well take it as a given that you will face needless rebellion.

  • Mike T says:

    One of the joys of living in a “diverse society” is that political leaders need to be able to just as easily legislate for ghetto, matriarchal black enclaves as upper middle class white/Jewish/asian. Now add in the effects of Hispanic and Islamic immigration too. Fun times ahead.

  • halt94 says:

    Mike T:

    I retract what I said about Eric Garner specifically; in my head I had his case and another one mixed up. However if what you are saying is true about all this case, then all the points you’re making about it are related to the orthogonal point of how a government should enforce unreasonable demands, rather than the point of whether or not government should make unreasonable demands at all. Sure we have to take into account that people will sometimes be belligerent; sure we should teach LEOs to deescalate situations; sure we should act with a sense of proportionality. But none of that takes away from the idea that good leaders make unreasonable demands from time to time and enforce those demands; and it doesn’t matter if those leaders are political or otherwise.

    Sure, a government has more power and therefore more responsibility in being reasonable in the enforcement of its demands; and even a government that takes these precautions will have failures, but that’s why we have a court system. If Eric Garner’s death was murder or manslaughter or negligence, then the courts should punish that injustice. But all of these points are just minutia that distract from the idea that it is just for the government to make and enforce unreasonable demands from time to time. How all that happens is a different matter entirely.

  • “But all of these points are just minutia that distract from the idea that it is just for the government to make and enforce unreasonable demands from time to time.”

    I’ll agree, simply because “reasonable” is a really subjective matter of opinion. However, if everything an authority does appears unreasonable, like when complying with cops is likely to get you dead anyway, Mike is right, you will face needless rebellion.

    That’s the carrot theory, when you take away the carrot, authority is revoked and people no longer see the possibility of living in decent civilization anyway. Things always dissolve very quickly at that point.

  • Mike T says:

    However if what you are saying is true about all this case, then all the points you’re making about it are related to the orthogonal point of how a government should enforce unreasonable demands, rather than the point of whether or not government should make unreasonable demands at all.

    They are, in fact, related. You cannot give an unreasonable order to the police or army and then act surprised when bad things happen. As their leader, you are personally responsible for the tone you set in such situations. Politicians love to do this all the time. They tell the police to go to war on crime and then act surprised when the police “don’t use common sense” and bad things happen because the politicians directed them to take no prisoners in the enforcement of a certain class of laws.

  • Zippy says:

    I publish one of the most bedrock anti-liberal explicitly authoritarian blogs on the Internet. But even here we can’t talk about authority for long without having a good cry about how authority is always abused.

    This is similar to something Dalrock has observed: almost anywhere you can have a discussion of characteristically male bad behavior with nobody insisting on talking about bad female behavior for “balance”. But you can never have a discussion about bad characteristically female behavior without having a good cry about how awful men can be too.

    In the future I’ll be sure to set out a tissue box with each post, unless I am writing about bad male behavior or abuse of authority.

    What these biases – the impossibility of discussing authority without lengthy diversions about abuse of authority – show, I think, is just how deeply rooted the liberal mindset is even in most folks who think they are illiberal or anti-liberal.

  • halt94 says:

    I did not choose my words carefully enough; of course what the government demands and how they demand it are related. But we aren’t going to understand how the government ought to enforce these laws if we do not first understand that it is valid for them to make the law and just to punish those who violate it. It is no less valid for a government to make an unreasonable demand than it is for a father or an employer to make one. If people think they only have to obey the government when they want to, then discussing how the government can reasonably enforce unreasonable demands is a moot point; it will be denied that the demand should be enforced at all.

    Making claims like “a high-ranking political (again, vernacular…) leader must be more cautious about reasonableness because their will is backed by the security apparatus of the state” just encourages people already inclined towards disobedience to disobey. It’s not helpful in establishing the substantive point that government is perfectly within its bounds to make unreasonable demands and enforce them.

  • halt94 says:

    Zippy:

    I’ll try not to participate in those kinds of conversations in the future.

  • miketbme says:

    Nothing I said here was about abuse, but about unintended consequences.

  • Zippy says:

    halt94:

    Making claims like “a high-ranking political (again, vernacular…) leader must be more cautious about reasonableness because their will is backed by the security apparatus of the state” just encourages people already inclined towards disobedience to disobey.

    That is true as far as it goes, but it is even worse than that implies. Respect for authority one doesn’t like (e.g. property ownership for a communist, government authority for a libertarian), if present at all, is reduced to irrelevance by a thousand caveats.

    But respect for authority spun as “rights” (e.g. the authority to eject a trespasser, the “right to work” — as usual the specifics depend on the particular kind of liberalism) is never subjected to death by a thousand caveats.

    At the end of the day though there is just authority: the moral right and wrong of various claims and assertions. The modern language of “rights” is a semantic trick: it refers to authorities which we aren’t allowed to think about too much, and especially we aren’t allowed to think of them as authorities; while “authority” refers to authorities which are to be relentlessly qualified into irrelevance.

  • Zippy says:

    Everyone with political views is an authoritarian. Liberals are sociopaths who refer to specific authorities they support as “rights” to insulate them from criticism, while reducing other authority to irrelevance by a thousand caveats and labeling any resistance to the permanent revolution “tyranny”.

  • […] As we’ve discussed many times before, what modern people call “rights” are instances of discriminating authority.  A property owner has the authority to eject trespassers without everyone insisting that he has to give good reasons for why he is doing so. […]

  • Terry Morris says:

    Permanent revolution is a good way to put it. I’m in the habit of referring to it as the ongoing revolution, but that fails to capture the essence of its, well, permanency.

  • halt94 says:

    Zippy:

    “At the end of the day though there is just authority: the moral right and wrong of various claims and assertions. The modern language of “rights” is a semantic trick: it refers to authorities which we aren’t allowed to think about too much, and especially we aren’t allowed to think of them as authorities; while “authority” refers to authorities which are to be relentlessly qualified into irrelevance.”

    Thanks. That was really helpful.

  • Mike T says:

    Zippy,

    Let’s get one thing clear here. I am not talking about abuse, but the interplay of unreasonable demands, combining with human failings in subordinates who have a good will toward their leader. In the case of Garner, I don’t consider that an abuse of authority in any respect. Rather, I consider it a good lesson to higher leaders on the need to be prudent when making demands that people far down the line will have to carry out.

    We have a culture of blaming the lowest rung on the ladder of authority for a chain of fuck ups rather than starting from the top. A good leadership culture would hold even a good leader at least somewhat accountable when a subordinate, acting in good faith on an unreasonable demand, screws up and creates trouble.

  • […] to enjoy exclusively male spaces and times, then he must set them now in a way which will seem arbitrary and even unfair to his modern and permissive self who just wants to be loved by his little […]

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