In a recent Mischiefs of Faction piece, Jonathan Ladd argues that the Galactic Republic’s fatal flaw was that it ceded its police powers to the Jedi. As is often the case for those who espouse liberal views, he rationalizes this argument by saying that they were a “autonomous religious cult” and that military or police personnel who aren’t sufficiently subordinate to the state will inevitably create problems.
Balderdash. On every front.
As liberals are often wont to do, Mr. Ladd argues the counterfactual in favor of his apparent bias towards those who hold religious beliefs.
To Mr. Ladd’s great credit however, he’s refreshingly honest about the core principle at the center of state power as well as his clearly stated conviction that this principle is essential to the function of a healthy state.
All governments need a monopoly on the use of force. A sign of an unstable republic is when the military and police are not subordinate to civilian political institutions.
I submit to you that not only did this hasten the ascent of the Empire, this is precisely the problem with all state power and that the Jedi were exactly the right people to ensure peace and stability.
The Jedi certainly carried an aura of mysticism and those who mastered the Force were able to wield supernatural powers, but the Jedi code of morality was spelled out very plainly in Yoda’s lesson to Luke on Dagobah.
Yoda: Yes, run! Yes, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.
Luke: Vader… Is the dark side stronger?
Yoda: No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.
Luke: But how am I to know the good side from the bad?
Yoda: You will know… when you are calm, at peace, passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, NEVER for attack.
In short, the Jedi code was not veiled in impenetrable religious babble. This code of conduct was not only completely libertarian and fully in accord with the non-aggression axiom, but it lent itself to the possibility of a police force truly dedicated to the preservation of life and property.
Mr. Ladd groused about their autonomous organizational structure, but from this realization we can assume that they preserved independence due to the fact that they received voluntary compensation for their services just as easily as we can assume they were wards of the state. It was the Jedi code of morality which separated them from the Imperial Stormtrooper goon squad and clone army who only lived to carry out the bidding of whoever was in charge.
The problem was not anything inherent in Jedi teachings or mysticism or their apparent autonomy; it was the abandonment of Jedi principles that was the problem. Once Palpatine had gained full control of the apparatus of power, there was nothing to stand in his way from exerting violent totalitarian rule.
Using the example of the first French Republic, Mr. Ladd even makes a pathetic attempt at misdirection which ends up exposing the moral void inherent in his argument. By his reasoning, the only thing wrong with this picture is insubordination; not a group of thugs pointing guns at you and your family and looting you of your belongings.
Rather than relying on the government in Paris for their pay, French armies were paid from resources looted or taxed from territories they conquered.
As recent events attest, a state monopoly on the usage of force ensures neither moral outcomes or greater accountability. The Jedi were the least of the problems faced by the Republic. Some more valid questions would be how was the construction of the Death Star sold to the public and how did a military program of that scale completely elude the press? That seems like a more glaring failure of democracy than than anything the Jedi ever did.
In short, it’s another sad rehash of liberal talking points and bias in what one presumes is an attempt to be edgy and contrarian.
It says far more about liberal ambitions and their apparent willingness to accord total legitimacy to their favorite autonomous religious cult: The State.