Law Prof. Eugene Volokh engages a friend:
I was corresponding with a friend of mine — a very smart fellow, and a lawyer and a journalist — about concealed carry for university professors. He disagreed with my view, and as best I can tell in general was skeptical about laws allowing concealed carry in public. His argument, though, struck me as particularly noteworthy, especially since I’ve heard it in gun control debates before:
Forgive me, but I’m old-fashioned. I like the idea of the state having a monopoly on the use of force.
I want to claim that this echo of Weber (who said “Today … we have to say that a state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory”) is utterly inapt in gun control debates, at least such debates in a Western country.
Volokh proceeds to make a strong set of arguments as to why individuals should be allowed to use force even in light of the Weberian claim, and you ought to go read them.
But all he needed to do was to quote Weber accurately.
Here’s the part everyone cites, from ‘Politics As A Vocation‘:
‘Every state is founded on force,’ said Trotsky at Brest-Litovsk. That is indeed right. If no social institutions existed which knew the use of violence, then the concept of ‘state’ would be eliminated, and a condition would emerge that could be designated as ‘anarchy,’ in the specific sense of this word. Of course, force is certainly not the normal or the only means of the state–nobody says that–but force is a means specific to the state. Today the relation between the state and violence is an especially intimate one. In the past, the most varied institutions–beginning with the sib–have known the use of physical force as quite normal. Today, however, we have to say that a state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.
Here’s the part everyone leaves off:
Note that ‘territory’ is one of the characteristics of the state. Specifically, at the present time, the right to use physical force is ascribed to other institutions or to individuals only to the extent to which the state permits it. The state is considered the sole source of the “right” to use violence. Hence, “politics” for us means striving to share power, either among states or among groups within a state.
There’s no need to explain the freedom of an individual to use force appropriately (i.e. in a state-sanctioned way), as opposed to the ability of an agent of the state to use force in a state-sanctioned way. We’re all agents of the state, in a sense.
…and that undergraduate Political Theory education is worth something!