Force and Law

There’s a great line in the 1949 film Samson and Delilah in which the Saran (ruler) of Gaza says a tax collector can be more powerful than a thousand swords. Is there some truth to this?

If a man attacks me with a fist, I will defend myself with a fist. If he attacks me with a gun, I will defend myself with a gun. If he attacks me with the law, I will defend myself with the law.

His fist vs my fist. His gun vs my gun. H…

  1. Foxman
    Aaron Miller:  Law is only noble while it belongs to all.  11 hours ago

    The law is only noble when it is applied equally to all, vid David Gregory.

  2. curtmilr

    His fist vs my fist. His gun vs my gun. His law vs my… No, wait. The law belongs to both of us, does it not?

    There’s the rub. Law is only noble while it belongs to all. Government is only tolerable while it serves and listens to all. When they are not justly shared, they become weapons.

    How are we doing today?

    If law or government is or ever becomes a weapon, how should the one without it respond?


    Nullification would be the sole answer. Simply refuse to cooperate. Urge your state officials to confront and defy the national government, support them in word and contribution, then don’t make yourself a target. Starve the beast, and let the states fight for you.!

  3. flownover

    So what is some broad cuts your hair off while you’re sleeping ?

    What are we supposed to do about that ? Pull down the pillars of the temple or something ?

    Ever litigated with the Fed ?

  4. Eeyore
    Aaron Miller: 

    If law or government is or ever becomes a weapon, how should the one without it respond? 

    As Pseud might say, “Bow down before the mighty Zod!”

    More seriously, that’s where you find the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, the American Center for Law and Justice, etc. (plus all the lefty ones which shall go unnamed). Or you fight it yourself. I don’t know who backed them, but an individual couple, the Sacketts, fought the EPA and won in a unanimous Supreme Court ruling. 

  5. TheSophist

    “When in the course of human events….”

  6. Aaron Miller

    Curt’s answer is a good one on the collective level, though tougher on the individual level. So long as the politicians who should be protecting our rights are instead permitting or even cooperating with abuse of those rights, do we as individual citizens endlessly submit ourselves to tyrannical sanctions while hoping that our politicians and our neighbors who elected them will wake up / stand up soon?

    Let me phrase my initial post another way:

    When the taxman demands ever more of my property, he does so with the law. If I cannot defend myself with the law, with what do I defend myself?

    We all know the extreme answer, which can only be justified by extreme circumstances. How differently do we each define those extreme circumstances? And if our definitions of the extreme vary so much, do our perceptions of normalcy, of lamentable but acceptable circumstances, not vary as much?

    To be honest, this might not be a productive post. Hopefully, it’s “food for thought”, as one of my high school teachers used to say.

  7. Jimmy Carter
    TheSophist: “When in the course of human events….” · 7 minutes ago

  8. Aaron Miller

    I’m still not sure if I’ve clarified my initial post well. Here’s one last try.

    The reason that “a tax collector can be more powerful than a thousand swords” is because citizens will fight the sword-wielding soldiers but reluctantly submit to the tax collector… for unwillingness to kill a man who does not seek to kill them.

    It is more difficult to protect one’s freedom than to protect one’s life.

  9. Eeyore

    I guess actual death is the line – as the taxman will bring the sword-wielding sheriff’s deputies who will haul you off to jail under the judgement the taxman hath issued.

  10. Rachel Lu

    In a way, the problem is inherent to democracy. It trains us to use the law as our weapon. This makes for less physical violence, but does it really make us freer? Does it make the state more just? That’s far from clear.

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