The Roots of Violence
Blame the social state, not the tea parties.


Politics became pacific, in England and America, because the Whiggish revolutions of 1688 and 1776 vindicated the principle that neither life, nor liberty, nor property can be taken by the state without due process of law. The American patriots — who knew that the power to tax is the power to destroy — further refined this formula for domestic peace by insisting that there can be no taxation without representation. Where these principles prevail, politics is as a rule peaceful. The victors in a political struggle cannot proscribe their opponents; the losers need not resort to violence to save themselves.

Yet in spite of the tea partiers’ attachment to the country’s founding ideals of limited government and a tranquil political order, Robinson maintains that “the danger of political violence in this country comes overwhelmingly from one direction — the right, not the left.”

What political violence can he mean? Czolgosz, the assassin of President McKinley, was a disciple of the anarchism of social thinkers like Bakunin, who believed that a truly free society would emerge only after a violent revolution led by elite illuminés. When President Kennedy was assassinated, newscasters speculated that he was the victim of “right-wing extremism.” In fact he was killed by a deranged Marxist.

As for the Jim Crow racists the tea partiers are said to resemble, the segregationists were motivated not by the Old Whig ideal of universal liberty the tea partiers espouse, but by a paternal social philosophy grounded in the politics of classification and caste. Ditto Timothy McVeigh, who was influenced by a white-supremacist tract, The Turner Diaries.

The political violence Robinson deplores is a consequence, not of the Whig principles to which the tea partiers appeal, but of social philosophies reared on principles of discrimination that have often served as a pretext for bloodshed.