The monopoly on violence must be understood not just as a prescriptive matter ("only the state has moral authority to use violence") but also a descriptive one ("all violence within the state flows from the state"). Crime, riot, and general anarchy are the state's responsibility


A state is responsible for the crimes of its citizens much as a man is responsible for the acts of his children, or his dog. He may not be guilty of biting, but he is guilty of omission. A state by definition can control its citizens; it is guilty when it omits to do so.

People like to discuss whether the death penalty should exist. They ignore that, objectively, it always does. Whether the state chooses to carry out executions or not, every murder it fails to prevent is a death penalty. Every assault a corporal punishment. Every theft a taking.

Thus when we consider whether executions, canings, mass incarceration and so on are "uncivilized", the appropriate comparison is not an /alternative/ form of punishment, but that alternative /plus/ whatever brutality the absence of the original, harsher punishment implies.

Canings may be less civilized than no canings. Are canings less civilized than the stochastic crime that an absence of swift and painful punishment enables? Is Singapore less civilized than the United States? Does it look less civilized by any metric?

This formulation still leaves room for the concept of "cruelty." Cruelty is simply force beyond what is necessary to curb the problem. It has nothing to do with romanticism about the dignity of man. Man's dignity is also offended when he is the victim of random street violence.

Because the state's enforcers cannot be everywhere at once, the state may choose to let citizens defend themselves. When the state neither enforces the law nor allows private citizens to defend themselves, that is anarcho-tyranny. The monopoly on violence belongs to the criminal.

In such a system, we must conclude that it is the criminals themselves who enforce the will of the state. If the monopoly on violence belongs to the criminal, the criminal is the state.

Crime is not a difficult problem. It is one of the first problems any state solves by definition, and one which pre-modern societies managed more effectively that we do now. The problem is a state which refuses to take accountability for its own power.

The crown lies heavy. As it should. But the modern regime has no crown, and therefore nowhere to place responsibility. The violence of lawlessness is more obscure than the violence of the state. The Cathedral prefers to obscure state power. The Cathedral prefers crime.

Mohammed Anwar's death wasn't random. It was the consequence of a state that refused to do its job.