If you’re like me, you probably come across lots of political debates – debates about what “the law” should be.

Now, clearly there are some good laws (e.g. laws against murder, rape, slavery, etc). And there are also many bad laws (e.g. laws that prohibit women from driving).

But what about other laws that are often-debated – say for example, laws that ban gay marriage? Are these laws justified, or are they unjust?

I’ve observed that, in most of these political debates, the vast majority of people simply don’t understand the essence of what “laws” REALLY are. And without a fundamental understanding of what “laws” really are, no meaningful or productive discussion is possible.

(No wonder most political debates are just NOISE – with both parties shouting past each other, and no real communication taking place!)

Now keep in mind, I’m not talking about wishful thinking (e.g. how we IMAGINE laws would work, or how we think laws SHOULD work). I’m talking about reality – the TRUE NATURE of “laws”, and how laws ACTUALLY work in reality.

So let’s examine the actual nature of “the law”…

Every government law essentially says: either (a) you MUST act a certain way, or (b) you MUST NOT act a certain way… if you disobey, government agents will either…

(i) fine you
(ii) arrest and jail you
(iii) if you resist arrest, armed government agents will use violence to get your compliance – up to and including DEADLY FORCE

Now, let’s take a closer look at…

What “fines” and “arrest/jail” REALLY mean.

Let’s start with “arrest & jail”. It essentially means forcibly abducting someone, and locking them in a cage against their will. Clearly, it is a violent act.

(Note: I’m NOT making any judgments at this point. I’m NOT saying that nobody should ever be arrested or jailed. Clearly, there are some horrendous criminals who deserve to be behind bars. All I’m doing here is pointing out the ACTUAL NATURE of the act of arresting and jailing someone.)

And what about government “fines”? It essentially means one is FORCED to pay a certain amount of money. If they don’t pay, armed government agents will escalate violence against them (by arresting and jailing them… and, if they resist, the violence escalates further to include deadly force).

Note that, if any private citizen were to “fine” you (demand money from you, with the threat of abducting you and locking you in a cage if you don’t obey), he would be considered a robber/extortionist. So clearly, a government “fine” is also a violent act (because the same action does not cease to be violent, just because the aggressor is wearing a government badge).

What does this all mean? Simply this:

Every Law is a Threat of Violence

Because every law is backed by a threat of punishment – and those punishments (whether it’s a fine, or arrest/jail, or escalation to deadly force) are all violent acts. Therefore, every law is a threat of violence.

Again, I’m NOT saying “all laws are bad”. (Clearly, there are some good laws – e.g. laws against murder, rape, slavery, etc – as I’ve pointed out earlier). I’m simply pointing out the ACTUAL NATURE of government laws, which is often obscured by euphemisms (e.g. “fine” as a euphemism for extortion… “arrest/jail” as a euphemism for abduction/kidnapping… etc).

Since every law is essentially a threat of violence, we now have a clear and simple criteria for determining if a law is justified (or, if it’s unjust). That criteria is:

“Is this a justified use of violence?”

Because violence isn’t always bad or wrong. One is justified in using violence to defend themselves (and others) from aggressors – such as murderers, rapists, robbers, etc. In other words, violence is justified if it’s used to defend persons or property against aggressors.

This is why laws against murder, rape, slavery, robbery, etc are justified and good laws.

But the INITIATION of violence against peaceful people (i.e. people who aren’t aggressing against the person or property of others) is wrong.

Consider this example…

Take for example, laws that ban gay marriage. Advocates of gay-marriage bans often justify such laws on the basis that “I disagree with gay marriage, therefore I think it should be banned”. But that’s the WRONG argument – because it totally ignores the reality that every law is a threat of violence.

As explained above, the argument isn’t about “do you agree with gay marriage”? (Because that’s simply a matter of subjective opinion.)

The REAL question here is: “are you justified in using THREATS OF VIOLENCE (aka ‘laws’) to forcibly impose your opinion on others?”

If two same-sex adults agree to marry each other, you may or may not agree with that decision. And you are entitled to your opinion.

But it is one thing to hold an opinion. It is another thing altogether, to use threats of violence to forcibly impose your opinion onto others. In doing so, you are initiating violence against peaceful people (because consensual same-sex marriage doesn’t aggress against the person or property of others).

Now, some people may argue that they’re not committing the violence themselves – it is government agents who are committing the violence. But that’s a cop-out.

Because if one personally supports and advocates those laws (such as gay marriage bans, in this example) – then they are also supporting and advocating the violence necessary for government agents to enforce those laws (in this case, against peaceful same-sex adult couples).

Otherwise – if one only supports the “law”, but not the enforcement – then why even have such a law in the first place? A “law” without enforcement is just a suggestion.

“The law is an opinion with a gun.”
– Stefan Molyneux

So claiming to support a law… while disclaiming responsibility for the violence necessary to enforce that law… is just a cowardly cop-out. If you truly support a certain law, then at least have the courage and honesty to say what you’re REALLY advocating. What do you personally advocate be done to people who disobey? Say it like it is, without dressing it up in euphemisms (e.g. “fine” as a euphemism for extortion, “arrest” as a euphemism for abduction, etc).

For example, I support laws against murder. And I’ll say it in plain terms (without euphemisms): I advocate that murderers be abducted and locked in a cage.

Would supporters of, say, gay marriage bans (or any other law) also be honest enough to say it in these terms? That they advocate peaceful gay couples (or, the people who perform their marriage ceremony) be extorted and/or abducted, if they marry each other?

If one has trouble saying what they personally advocate be done to people who disobey, in plain terms (without euphemisms)… then… that’s a clear sign they should reconsider their support for that particular law.

Here’s Penn Jillette explaining this same concept – that the government should only use violence for things you and I are justified in using violence for. Watch him explain it in this short clip below –