I don’t know whether Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax committed rape, as he has been accused of doing, and I’m certainly in no position to decide. Yet the idea of involving the country at large in such decisions is the premise behind virtually all the publicity given to the matter, and to many other matters of recent note.
Before this era of what is laughingly known as our national discourse, it would have been inconceivable for official statements to be issued about something like this by such ephemeral citizens as bit players in Hollywood and (alleged) nightclub comedians. I don’t recall that even Cary Grant or Rosalind Russell considered it their business to render judicial determinations on the sex affairs of Virginia politicians. But in the case of Mr. Fairfax, and innumerable others, judgments, pro or con, now fly into the public air space within moments of an accusation.
How did this happen? It isn’t just because ignorant people think they’re important (they’ve always done so), or have Twitter accounts.
State officials are the leaders of this mob, as they have been the leaders of so many mobs during the past few years.
Until now, I’ve generally pictured mobs as composed of private individuals who have at least momentarily lost their minds. Individuals’ penchant for forming mobs is a matter of human psychology that libertarians need to think about much more than we ordinarily do (which is not at all). But now the libertarian view of the state as the ultimate foe is getting some renewed support — because who has been leading most of the recent mobs? Who was it that immediately, right off the bat, without taking a second to weigh the evidence, with no investigation or possibility of investigation, started yelling for the conviction of Mr. Fairfax (and countless others) in the court of public opinion?
It was state officials, legislators of this republic. They are the leaders of this mob, as they have been the leaders of so many mobs during the past few years.
The state has other powers besides legislation and the enforcement of legislation. It has the power to destroy the sense of fairness and self-restraint on which any decent society is based. It’s not enough for the modern state — bloated, ignorant, and indiscriminately cruel — to pass ridiculous and indecent laws. Now it is raising mobs to destroy the very idea of decency.