The Tom Joad Test

By William Norman Grigg (1963-2017)

When you see a cop — or, more likely, several of them — beating up on a prone individual, do you instinctively sympathize with the assailant(s) or the victim?

If it’s the former, you’re an authoritarian, irrespective of your partisan attachments or professed political philosophy.

If it’s the latter, you’re an instinctive libertarian, whether or not you are consistently guided by that impulse in your political decisions.

It may later be demonstrated that the figure on the receiving end of the beating had committed some horrible crime. However, such a disclosure wouldn’t invalidate the results of the Tom Joad Test, because that test reveals a subject’s default assumptions about the relationship between the individual and the state.

Do you assume that the state is entitled to the benefit of the doubt whenever its agents inflict violence on somebody, or do you believe that the individual — any individual — is innocent of wrongdoing until his guilt has been proven?

This could be considered a reverse application of Lenin’s famous political formula, 
kto kogo? — broadly translated as “Who does what to whom?” Lenin and his followers sought and acquired the power to be the “Who” in that formula, which meant that millions of those consigned to the “whom” category were imprisoned and slaughtered.

Ironically, many law-and-order conservatives come uncomfortably close to Lenin’s view of the state when they reflexively take the side of agents of state coercion — the “who” in the typical encounter between police officer and citizen. The American view of rights, however, is overwhelmingly weighted on behalf of the latter, even when the “who” is a winsome and well-dressed policeman, and the “whom” is a scruffy and unappealing individual.

Source: The Plague of Punitive Populism

Who was William Norman Grigg? Read his Pro Libertate blog and find out.

And start learning stuff.

Dum Spiro Pugno.

About Food for the Thinkers

My name is Doug Newman. I live in Aurora, Colorado, just outside Denver. Food for the Thinkers is mostly about the connection between Christianity and libertarianism. Most Christians do not understand libertarianism. And most libertarians do not understand Christianity. Hopefully, this blog helps clear up those misunderstanding. Check out my old page at And remember: When you let people do whatever they want, you get Woodstock. But when you let governments do whatever they want, you get Auschwitz.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Tom Joad Test

  1. Manuel Miles, aka Kaptain Kanada says:

    Excellent post, Doug! William Norman Grigg was a great man.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s