Steven Crowder thinks government is analogous to a hockey referee. He is wrong.


About a year and a half ago, Adam Kokesh interviewed Steven Crowder about a video he did about the dangers of marijuana. Crowder eventually questions Kokesh’s understanding of the role of the federal government and makes this analogy (starts at 4:10 and ends at 4:29):

At first glance, comparing a hockey referee to the government might make sense. After all, both are entrusted with making sure the rules are followed and that everyone is treated fairly. The referee and government, in Crowder’s view, are crucial to the flow of the game and life, respectively.

Since he is a fairly well-known political commentator, I am a bit surprised that he doesn’t know how governments actually work. And given that Steven Crowder is a Canadian, I am surprised that he doesn’t quite understand the game of hockey either. Although if he is a Maple Leafs fan, his lack of ability to use proper logic would make perfect sense.

Crowder is missing the very crucial difference between hockey referees and the government: hockey referees do not get to use guns.

As we all know, we are not given the choice whether or not we want to participate in the institutions created and maintained by the government. I never one day decided that I wanted to be a citizen of the United States—I was born in the country and that decision was made for me by a piece of paper written hundreds of years ago. And it wouldn’t be so bad if I could at any point later in life said that I no longer wanted to participate and I would be left alone, but of course this is not how it works.

You have to choose to participate in a hockey game, team, league, etc. The rink that you are on would be someone’s property, so they would be perfectly under the correct authority to make the people follow certain rules in order to use it. Likewise, they would have the authority to choose people to enforce those rules on their behalf.

Now you might say, “But a referee can lock a player up in a cage—the penalty box.”

The rules of the game as agreed upon by those who participate and so the penalties incurred by breaking them would have to be accepted. If you wanted to hook people with your hockey stick but did not want to sit in the penalty box for two minutes, then you are free to not play. This goes for any of the rules of hockey. If you are not playing the game, then anyone who saw a referee try to put you in a penalty box would think that he was absolutely insane.

But the government is the absolutely insane referee who puts you in the penalty box for violating rules that you never agreed to follow. Now of course, violating rules like you shouldn’t murder and rape people are different (i.e. they have victims) and everyone should be able to agree that those things deserve some sort of response. There are, however, numerous rules of the government such as taxes, licensing, morality laws, etc. that have no victims involved. Why should someone have to accept the consequences of violating a rule that they never agreed to follow and when no one is being harmed by their breaking of the rule?

When Crowder is done with explaining his analogy, Kokesh asks the question, “What is government?” Crowder walks away with a disgusted look on his face (although he does come back to complain about I’m not even sure what). In Crowder’s mind, how dare someone even question the sacredness of the institution of government? If Crowder wants to argue in favor of the existence of government, he should be able to rationally explain why it is beneficial and how it gets its authority.

If you cannot explain how the government derives its authority, then why should I or anyone accept that it has any?