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A Buddhist Perspective on Violence, the Intent to Harm, and State Action

Laws depend on enforcement, which depends on violence. Does this violate Buddhist ethics regarding harm, even if we don’t intend the violence?

One of the arguments I make against Buddhist calls for expanded state action is that new laws and regulations are ultimately calls for violence and the threat of violence be used against others. When you say, “We ought to ban the sale of large sodas in order to prevent obesity,” what you’re actually doing is asking the state to use coercive violence against people who might sell large sodas. This is just definitionally what laws are. They’re authorizations of force. Otherwise there’d be no enforcement mechanism, and they wouldn’t really be laws at all.

Political ethicist. Writer. Podcaster. Free Market Buddhist.

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