Anatomy of the State | by Murray N. Rothbard

anatomy of the state by Murray and rothbard narrated by Harold Fritchie what the state is not the state is almost universally considered an institution of social service some theorists venerate the state as the apotheosis of society others regarded as an amiable though often inefficient organization for achieving social ends but almost all regarded as a necessary means for achieving the goals of mankind a means to be ranged against the private sector and often winning in this competition of resources with the rise of democracy the identification of the state with society has been redoubled until it is common to hear sentiments expressed which violate virtually every tenet of reason and common sense such as we are the government the useful collective term we has enabled an ideological camouflage to be thrown over the reality of political life if we are the government then anything a government does to an individual is not only just a none tyrannical but also voluntary on the part of the individual concerned if the government has incurred a huge public debt which must be paid by taxing one group for the benefit of another this reality of burden is obscured by saying that we owe it to ourselves if the government can scripts a man or throws him into jail for dissident opinion then he is doing it to himself and therefore nothing untoward has occurred under this reasoning any Jews murdered by the Nazi government were not murdered instead they must have committed suicide since they were the government which was democratically chosen and therefore anything the government did was voluntary on their part one would not think it necessary to belabor this point and yet the overwhelming bulk of the people hold this fallacy to a greater or lesser degree we must therefore emphasize that we are not the government and the government is not us the government does not in any accurate sense represent the majority of the people but even if it did even if 70% of the people decided to murder the remaining 30% this would still be murder and would not be voluntary suicide on the part of the slaughtered minority nor organicist metaphor no irrelevant bromide that quote we are all part of one another must be permitted to obscure this basic fact if then the state is not us if it is not the human family getting together to decide mutual problems if it is not a lodge meeting or Country Club what is it briefly the state is that organization in society which attempts to maintain a monopoly of the use of force and violence in a given territorial area in particular it is the only organization in society that obtains its revenue not by voluntary contribution or payment for services rendered but by coercion while other individuals or institutions obtain their income by production of goods and services and by the peaceful and voluntary sale of these goods and services to others the state obtains its revenue by the use of compulsion that is by the use and the threat of the jailhouse and the bayonet having used force and violence to obtain its revenue the state generally goes on to regulate and dictate the other actions of its individual subjects one would think that simple observation of all states throughout history and over the globe would be proof enough of this assertion but the miasma of myth has lain so long over state activity that elaboration is necessary what the state is man is born naked into the world and needing to use his mind to learn how to take the resources given him by nature and to transform them for example by investment in capital into shapes and forms and places where the resources can be used for the satisfaction of his wants and the advancement of his standard of living the only way by which man can do this is by the use of his mind and energy to transform resources that's production and to exchange these products for products created by others man has found that through the process of voluntary mutual exchange the productivity and hence the living standards of all participants in exchange may increase enormous li the only natural course for man to survive and to attain wealth therefore is by using his mind and energy to engage in the production and exchange process he does this first by finding natural resources and then by transforming them by mixing his labor with them as Locke puts it to make them his individual property and then by exchanging this property for the similarly obtained property of others the social path dictated by the requirements of man's nature therefore is the path of property rights and the free market of gift or exchange of such rights through this path men have learned how to avoid the jungle methods of fighting over scarce resources so that a can only acquire them at the expense of B and instead to multiply those resources enormous li in peaceful and harmonious production and exchange the great german sociologist Franz Oppenheimer pointed out that there are two mutually exclusive ways of acquiring wealth one the above way of production in exchange he called the economic means the other way is simpler in that it does not require productivity it is the way of seizure of another's goods or services by the use of force and violence this is the method of one side confiscation theft of the property of others this is the method which Oppenheimer termed the political means to wealth it should be clear that the peaceful use of reason and energy and production is the natural path for man the means for his survival and prosperity on this earth it should be equally clear that the coercive exploitive means is contrary to natural law it is parasitic for instead of adding to production it subtracts from it the political means siphons production off to a parasitic and destructive individual or group and this siphoning not only subtracts from the number producing but also lowers the producers incentive to produce beyond his own subsistence in the long run the robber destroys his own subsistence by dwindling or eliminating the source of his own supply but not only that even in the short run the predator is acting contrary to his own true nature as a man we are now in a position to answer more fully the question what is the state the state in the words of Oppenheimer is the organization of the political means it is the systemization of the predatory process over a given territory for crime at best is sporadic and uncertain the parasitism is ephemeral and the course of parasitic lifeline may be cut off at any time by the resistance of the victims the state provides a legal orderly systematic channel for the predation of private property it renders certain secure and relatively peaceful the lifeline of the parasitic caste in society Albert J NOK wrote vividly that the state claims and exercises the monopoly of crime it forbids private murder but itself organizes murder on a colossal scale it punishes private theft but itself lays unscrupulous hands on anything it wants whether the property of citizen or of alien since production must always precede predation the free market is anterior to the state the state has never been created by a social contract it has always been born in conquest and exploitation the classic paradigm was a conquering tribe pausing in its time-honored method of looting and murdering a conquered tribe to realize that the time span of plunder would be longer and more secure and the situation more pleasant if the conquered tribe were allowed to live and produce with the Conqueror settling among them as rulers exacting a steady annual tribute one method of the birth of a state may be illustrated as follows in the hills of southern retain iya a bandit group manages to obtain physical control over the territory and finally the bandit chieftain proclaims himself king of the sovereign and independent government of South Beretania and if he and his men have the force to maintain this rule for a while lo and behold a new state has joined the family of Nations and the former bandit leaders had been transformed into the lawful nobility of the realm how the state preserves itself once a state has been established the problem of the ruling group or cast is how to maintain their rule while force is their modus operandi their basic and long-run problem is ideological for in order to continue in office any government not simply a democratic government must have the support of the majority of its subjects this support it must be noted need not be active enthusiasm it may well be passive resignation as if to an inevitable law of nature but support in the sense of acceptance of some sort it must be else the minority of state rulers would eventually be outweighed by the active resistance of the majority of the public since predation must be supported out of the surplus of production it is necessarily true that the class constituting the state the full-time bureaucracy and nobility must be a rather small minority in the land although it may of course purchase allies among important groups in the population therefore the chief task of the rulers is always to secure the active or resigned acceptance of the majority of the citizens of course one method of securing support is through the creation of vested economic interests therefore the king alone cannot rule he must have a sizeable group of followers who enjoy the purposes of rule for example the members of the state apparatus such as the full-time bureaucracy or the established nobility but this still secures only a minority of eager supporters and even the essential purchasing of support by subsidies and other grants of privilege still does not obtain the consent of the majority for this essential acceptance the majority must be persuaded by ideology that their government is good wise and at least inevitable and certainly better than any other conceivable alternatives promoting this ideology among the people is the vital social task of the intellectuals for the masses of men do not create their own ideas or indeed think through these ideas independently they follow passively the ideas adopted and disseminated by the body of intellectuals the intellectuals are therefore the opinion molders in society and since it is precisely a molding of opinion that the state most desperately needs the basis for age-old alliance between the state and the intellectuals becomes clear it is evident that the state needs the intellectuals it is not so evident why intellectuals need the state put simply we may state that the intellectuals livelihood in the free market is never to secure for the intellectual must depend on the values and choices of the masses of his fellow men and it is precisely characteristic of the masses that they are generally uninterested in intellectual matters the state on the other hand is willing to offer the intellectuals a secure and permanent berth in the state apparatus and thus a secure income and the panoply of prestige for the intellectuals will be handsomely rewarded for the important function they perform for the state rulers of which group they now become a part the alliance between the state and the intellectuals was symbolized in the eager desire of professors at the University of Berlin in the 19th century to form the intellectual bodyguard of the House of Hohenzollern in the present day let us note the revealing comment of an eminent Marxist scholar concerning professor Witte Fogle's critical study of ancient oriental despotism quote the civilization which professor whit Fogle is so bitterly attacking was one which could make poets and scholars into officials unquote of innumerable examples we may cite the recent development of the science of strategy in the service of the government's main violence wielding arm the military a venerable institution furthermore is the official or court historian dedicated to purveying the rulers the of their own and their predecessors actions many and varied have been the arguments by which the state and its intellectuals have induced their subjects to support their rule basically the strands of argument may be summed up as follows a the state rulers are great and wise men they rule by divine right they are the aristocracy of men they are the scientific experts much greater and wiser than the good but rather simple subjects and be ruled by the extent government is inevitable absolutely necessary and far better than the indescribable evils that would ensue upon its downfall the union of church and state was one of the oldest and most successful of these ideological devices the ruler was either anointed by God or in the case of absolute rule of many oriental despotisms was himself God hence any resistance to his rule would be blasphemy the state's priests craft performed the basic intellectual function of obtaining popular support and even worshipped for the rulers another successful device was to instill fear of any alternative system of rule or non rule the present rulers it was maintained supplied to the citizens and essential service for which they should be most grateful protection against faradic criminals and Marauders for the state to preserve its own monopoly of predation did indeed see to it that private and unsystematic crime was kept to a minimum the state has always been jealous of its own preserve especially has the state been successful in recent centuries in instilling fear of other state rulers since the land area of the globe has been parceled out among particular states one of the basic doctrines of the state was to identify itself with the territory it governed since most men tend to love their homeland the identification of that land and its people with the state was a means of making natural patriotism work to the state's advantage if morettini was being attacked by wall davia the first task of the state and its intellectuals was to convince the people of Baretta Nia that the attack was really upon them and not simply upon the ruling caste in this way a war between rulers was converted into a war between peoples with each people coming to the defense of its rulers in the erroneous belief that the rulers were defending them this device of nationalism has only been successful in Western civilization in recent centuries it was not too long ago that the mass of subjects regarded Wars as irrelevant battles between various sets of Nobles many and subtle are the ideological weapons that the state has wielded through the centuries one excellent weapon has been tradition the longer that the rule of a state has been able to preserve itself the more powerful this weapon for then the ex dynasty or the Y state has the seeming weight of centuries of tradition behind it worship of one's ancestors then becomes a none-too-subtle means of worship of one's ancient rulers the greatest danger to the state is independent intellectual criticism there is no better way to stifle that criticism than to attack any isolated voice any razor's of new doubts as a profane violator of the wisdom of his ancestors another potent ideological force is to deprecated the individual and exalt the collectivity of society for since any given rule implies majority acceptance any ideological danger to that rule can only start from one or a few independently thinking individuals the new idea much less the new critical idea must needs begin as a small minority opinion therefore the state must nip the view in the bud by ridiculing any view that defies the opinions of the mass listen only to your brothers or adjust to society thus becomes ideological weapons for crushing individual dissent by such measures the masses will never learn of the non-existence of their end kurz clothes HL Mencken wrote in 1949 all government can see in an original idea is potential change and hence an invasion of his prerogatives the most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest insane and intolerable and so with his romantic he tries to change it and even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are it is also important for the state to make its rules seem inevitable even if its reign is disliked it will then be met with passive resignation as witnessed the familiar coupling of death and taxes one method is to induce historiographical determinism as opposed to individual freedom of will if the ex dynasty rules us this is because the inexorable laws of history or the divine will or the absolute or the material productive forces have so decreed and nothing any puny individuals may do can change this inevitable decree it is also important for the state to inculcate in its subjects and aversion to any conspiracy theory of history for a search for conspiracies means a search for motives and an attribution of responsibility for historical misdeeds if however any tyranny imposed by the state or venality or aggressive war was caused not by the state rulers but by mysterious and arcane social forces or by the imperfect state of the world or if in some way everyone was responsible then there is no point in the people becoming indignant or rising up against such misdeeds furthermore an attack on conspiracy theories means that the subjects will become more gullible in believing the general welfare reasons that are always put forth by this for engaging in any of its despotic actions a conspiracy theory can unsettle the system by causing the public to doubt the state's ideological propaganda another tried-and-true method for bending subjects to the states will is inducing guilt any increase in private well-being can be attacked as unconscionable greed materialism or excessive affluence profit-making can be attacked as exploitation and usury mutually beneficial exchange is denounced as selfishness and somehow with the conclusion always being drawn that more resources should be siphoned from the private to the public sector the induced guilt makes the public more ready to do just that for while individual persons tend to indulge in selfish greed the failure of the state's rulers to engage in exchanges is supposed to signify their devotion to higher and nobler causes parasitic predations being apparently morally and aesthetically lofty is compared to peaceful and productive work in the present more secular age the divine right of the state has been supplemented by the invocation of a new god science state rule is now proclaimed as being ultra scientific as constituting planning by experts but while reason is invoked more than in previous centuries this is not the true reason of the individual in his exercise of free will it is still collectivist and determinist still implying holistic aggregates and cores of manipulation of passive subjects by their rulers the increasing use of scientific jargon has permitted the states intellectuals to weave obscurantist apologia for state rule that would only have met with derision by the populace of a simpler age a robber who justified his theft by saying that he really helped his victims by his spending giving a boost to retail trade would find few converts but when this theory is clothed in Keynesian equations and impressive references to the multiplier effect it unfortunately carries more conviction and so the assault on common sense proceeds each age performing the task in its own way thus ideological support being vital to the state it must unceasingly try to impress the public with its legitimacy to distinguish its activities from those of mere brigands the unremitting determination of its assaults on common sense is no accident for as men can vividly maintained the average man whatever his errors otherwise at least sees clearly that government is something lying outside him and outside the generality of his fellow men that it is a separate independent and hostile power only partly under his control and capable of doing him great harm is it a fact of no significance that robbing the government is everywhere regarded as a crime of less magnitude than robbing an individual or even a corporation what lies behind all this I believe is a deep sense of the fundamental antagonism between the government and the people that governs it is apprehended not as a committee of citizens antara on the communal business of the whole population but as a separate and autonomous corporation mainly devoted to exploiting the population for the benefit of its own members when a private citizen is robbed a worthy man is deprived of the fruits of his industry and thrift when the government is robbed the worst that happens is that certain rogues and loafers have less money to play with than they had before the notion that they have earned that money is never entertained to most sensible men it would seem ludicrous how the state transcends its limits as Bertrand to Java nel has safely pointed out through the centuries men have formed concepts designed to check and limit the exercise of state rule and one after another the state using its intellectual allies has been able to transform these concepts into intellectual rubber stamps of legitimacy and virtue to attach to its decrees and actions originally in Western Europe the concept of divine sovereignty held that the kings may rule only according to divine law the Kings turned the concept into a rubber stamp of divine approval for any of the Kings actions the concept of parliamentary democracy began as a popular check upon absolute monarch achill rule it ended with Parliament being the essential part of the state and its every act totally sovereign as de joven L concludes many writers on theories of sovereignty have worked out one of these restrictive devices but in the end every single such theory has sooner or later lost its original purpose and come to act merely as a springboard to power by providing it with the powerful aid of an invisible sovereign with whom it could in time successfully identify itself similarly with more specific doctrines the natural rights of the individual enshrined in John Locke and the Bill of Rights became a status right to a job utilitarianism turned from arguments for Liberty to arguments against resisting the state's invasion of Liberty and so on certainly the most ambitious attempt to impose limits on the state has been the Bill of Rights and other restrictive parts of the American Constitution in which written limits on government became the fundamental law to be interpreted by a judiciary supposedly independent of the other branches of government all Americans are familiar with the process by which the construction of limits in the has been inexorably broadened over the last century but few have been as keen as Professor Charles Black to see that the state has in the process largely transformed judicial review itself from a limiting device to yet another instrument for furnishing ideological legitimacy to the government's actions for if a judicial decree of unconstitutional is a mighty check to government power an implicit or explicit verdict of constitutional is a mighty weapon for fostering public acceptance of ever greater government power professor black begins his analysis by pointing out the crucial necessity of legitimacy for any government to endure this legitimation signifying basic majority acceptance of the government and its actions acceptance of legitimacy becomes a particular problem in a country such as the United States where substantive limitations are built into the theory on which the government rests what is needed adds black is a means by which the government can assure the public that its increasing powers are indeed constitutional and this he concludes has been the major historical function of judicial review let black illustrate the problem the supreme risk to the government is that of disaffection and a feeling of outrage widely disseminated throughout the population and loss of moral authority by the government as such however long it may be propped up by force or inertia or the lack of an appealing and immediately available alternative almost everybody living under a government of limited powers must sooner or later be subjected to some governmental action which has a matter of private opinion he regards as outside the power of the government or positively forbidden to government a man is drafted though he finds nothing in the Constitution about being drafted a farmer's told how much weed he can raise he believes and he discovers that some respectable lawyers believe with him that the government has no more right to tell him how much weed he can grow then it has to tell daughter whom she can marry a man goes to the federal penitentiary for saying what he wants to and he paces his cell reciting Congress shall make no laws of bridging the freedom of speech a businessman is told what he can ask and must ask for buttermilk the danger is real enough that each of these people and who is not of their number will confront the concept of government limitation with the reality as he sees it of the flagrant overstepping of actual limits and draw the obvious conclusion as to the status of his government with respect to legitimacy this danger is averted by the state propounding the doctrine that one agency must have the ultimate decision on constitutionality and that this agency in the last analysis must be part of the federal government again according to black the prime and most necessary function of the Supreme Court has been that of validation not that of invalidation what a government of limited powers needs at the beginning and forever is some means of satisfying the people that it has taken all steps humanly possible to stay within its powers this is the condition of its legitimacy and its legitimacy in the long run is the condition of its life and the court throughout its history has acted as the legitimation of the government for while the seeming independence of the federal judiciary has played a vital part in making its actions virtual holy writ for the bulk of the people it is also an ever true that the judiciary is part and parcel of the government apparatus and appointed by the executive and legislative branches black admits that this means that the state has set itself up as judge in its own cause thus violating a basic judicial principle for aiming at just decisions he brusca Lee denies the possibility of any alternative to black this solution while paradoxical is blithely self-evident the final power of the state must stop where the law stops it and who shall set the limit and who shall enforce the stopping against the mightiest power why the state itself of course through its judges and his laws who controls the temperate who teaches the wise were the questions concerned governmental power and a sovereign nation it is not possible to select an umpire who is outside government every national government so long as it is a government must have the final say on its own power black adds the problem then is to devise such governmental means of deciding as will hopefully reduce to a tolerable minimum the intensity of the objection that government is judged in its own cause having done this you can only hope that this objection though theoretically still tenable will practically lose enough of its force that the legitimating work of the deciding institution can win acceptance in the last analysis black finds the achievement of justice and legitimacy from the state's perpetual judging of its own cause as something of a miracle applying his thesis to the famous conflict between the Supreme Court and the New Deal professor black keenly chides his fellow pro New Deal colleagues for their shortsightedness and denouncing judicial obstruction quoting black the standard version of the story of the New Deal in the court though accurate in its way displaces the emphasis it concentrates on the difficulties it almost forgets how the whole thing turned out the upshot of the matter was and this is what I like to emphasize that after some 24 months of balking the Supreme Court without a single change in the law of its composition or indeed in its actual Manning placed the affirmative stamp of legitimacy on the New Deal and on the whole new conception of government in America in this way the Supreme Court was able to put the quietest on the large body of Americans who had strong constitutional objections to the New Deal again quote black of course not everyone was satisfied the Bonnie Prince Charlie of constitutional commanded laissez-faire still stirs the hearts of a few zealots in the highlands of choleric unreality but there is no longer any significant or dangerous public doubt as to the constitutional powers of Congress to deal as it does with the national economy we had no means other than the supreme court for imparting legitimacy to the New Deal as black recognized one major political theorist who recognized and largely in advance the glaring loophole in a constitutional limit on government of placing the ultimate interpreting power in the Supreme Court was John C Calhoun Calhoun was not content with the miracle but instead proceeded to a profound analysis of the constitutional problem in his disposition Calhoun demonstrated the inherent tendency of the state to break through the limits of such a constitution quoting Calhoun a written constitution certainly has many and considerable advantages but it is a great mistake to suppose that the mere insertion of provisions to restrict and limit the power of the government without investing those for whose protection they are inserted with the means of enforcing their observance will be sufficient to prevent the major and dominant party from abusing its powers being the party and possession of the government they will from the same Constitution of man which makes government necessary to protect society be in favor of the powers granted by the Constitution and opposed to the restrictions intended to limit them the minor or weaker party on the contrary would take the opposite direction and regard them the restrictions as essential to their protection against the dominant party but where there are no means by which they could compel the major party to observe the restrictions the only resort left to them would be a strict construction of the Constitution to this the major party would oppose a liberal construction it would be construction against construction the one to contract and the other to enlarge the powers of the government to the utmost but of what possible avail could the strict construction of the minor party be against the liberal construction of the major when the one would have all of the power of the government to carry its construction into effect and the other be deprived of all means of enforcing its construction in a contest so unequal the result would not be doubtful the party in favor of the restrictions would be overpowered the end of the contest would be the subversion of the Constitution the restrictions would ultimately be annulled and the government be converted into one of unlimited power one of the few political scientists who appreciated Calhoun's analysis of the Constitution was Professor J Allen Smith Smith noted that the Constitution was designed with checks and balances to limit any one governmental power and yet had then developed a Supreme Court with the monopoly of ultimate interpreting power if the federal government was created to check invasions of individual liberty by the separate states who was to check the federal power Smith maintained that implicit in the check and balance idea of the Constitution was the concomitant view that no one branch of government may be conceded the ultimate power of interpretation it was assumed by the people that the new government could not be permitted to determine the limits of its own Authority since this would make it and not the Constitution supreme Smith writes it was obvious that were a provision of the Constitution was designed to limit the powers of a governmental organ it could be effectively nullified of its interpretation and enforcement left to the authorities it was designed to restrain clearly common sense required that no organ of the government should be able to determine its own powers clearly common sense and miracles dictate very different views of government the solution advanced by Calhoun and seconded in this century by such writers as Smith was of course the famous doctrine of the concurrent majority if any substantial minority interest in the country specifically a state government believed that the federal government was exceeding its powers and encroaching on that minority the minority would have the right to veto this exercise of power as unconstitutional applied to state governments this theory implied the right of nullification of a federal law or ruling within a state's jurisdiction in theory the ensuing constitutional system would assure that the federal government check any state invasion of individual rights while the states would check excessive federal power over the individual and yet while limitations would undoubtedly be more effective than at present there are many difficulties and problems in the calhoun solution if indeed a subordinate interest should rightly have a veto over matters concerning it then why stop with the states why not place veto power in counties cities and wards furthermore interests are not only sectional they are also occupational social and so forth what of bakers are taxi drivers or any other occupation should they not be permitted a veto power over their own lives this brings us to the important point that the nullification theory confines its checks to agencies of government itself let us not forget that federal and state governments and their respective branches are still States they are still guided by their own state interest rather than by the interests of the private citizens what is to prevent the calhoun system from working in Reverse with states terrorizing over their citizens and only vetoing the federal government when it tries to intervene to stop that state tyranny or for states to acquiesce in federal tyranny what is to prevent federal and state governments from forming mutually profitable alliances for the joint exploitation of the citizenry and even if the private occupational groupings were to be given some form of functional representation in government what is to prevent them from using the state to gain subsidies and other special privileges for themselves or from imposing compulsory cartels on their own members in short Calhoun does not push his path-breaking theory on concurrence far enough he does not push it down to the individual himself if the individual after all is the one whose rights are to be protected then a consistent theory of concurrence would imply veto power by every individual that is some form of unanimity principle when calhoun wrote that it should be impossible to put or keep the government in action without the concurrent consent of all he was perhaps unwittingly implying just such a conclusion but such speculation begins to take us away from our subject for down this path why political systems which could hardly be called States at all for one thing just as the right of nullification for a state logically implies its right of secession so a right of individual nullification would imply the right of any individual to secede from the state under which he lives thus the state has invariably shown a striking talent for the expansion of its powers beyond any limits that might be imposed upon it since the state necessarily lives by the compulsory confiscation of private capital and since its expansion necessarily involves ever greater incursion on private individuals and private enterprise we must assert that the state is profoundly and inherently anti-capitalist in a sense our position is the reverse of the Marxist dictum that the state is the Executive Committee of the ruling class in the present day supposedly the capitalists instead the state the organization of the political means constitutes and is the source of the ruling class rather ruling caste and is in permanent opposition to genuinely private capital we may therefore say with the joven l only those who know nothing of any time but their own who are completely in the dark as to the manner of powers behaving through thousands of years would regard these proceedings such as nationalization the income tax and so forth as the fruit of a particular set of doctrines they are in fact the normal manifestations of power and differ not at all in their nature from Henry the eighth's confiscation of the monasteries the same principle is it work the hunger for Authority the thirst for resources and in all of these operations the same characteristics are present including the rapid elevation of the dividers of the spoils whether it is socialist or whether it is not power must always be at war with the capitalist authorities and despoil the capitalists of their accumulated wealth in doing so it evades the law of its nature what the state fears what the state fears above all of course is any fundamental threat to its own power and its own existence the death of a state can come about in two major ways a through conquest by another state or be through revolutionary overthrow by its own subjects in short by war or revolution war and revolution as the two basic threats invariably arouse in the state rulers their maximum efforts and maximum propaganda among the people as stated above anyway must always be used to mobilize the people to come to the state's defense in the belief that they are defending themselves the fallacy of the idea becomes evident when conscription is wielded against those who refuse to defend themselves and are therefore forced into joining the states military band needless to add no defense is permitted them against this act of their own state in war state power is pushed to its ultimate and under the slogans of defense and emergency it can impose a tyranny upon the public such as might be openly resisted in time of peace war thus provides many benefits to a state and indeed every modern war has brought to the warring peoples a permanent legacy of increased state burdens upon society war moreover provides to estate tempting opportunities for conquest of land areas over which it may exercise its monopoly of force Randolph Bourne was certainly correct when he wrote that war is the health of the state but to any particular state a war may spell either health or grave injury we may test the hypothesis that the state is largely interested in protecting itself rather than its subjects by asking which category of crime does the state pursue and punish most intensely those against private citizens or those against itself the gravest crimes in the state's lexicon are almost invariably not invasions of private person or property but dangers to its own contentment for example treason desertion of a soldier to the enemy failure to register for the draft subversion and subversive conspiracy assassination of rulers and such economic crimes against the state as counterfeiting its money or evasion of its income tax or compare the degree of zeal devoted to pursuing the man who assaults a policeman with the attention that the state pays to the assault of an ordinary citizen yet curiously the states openly assign priority to its own defense against the public strikes few people as inconsistent with its presumed raison d'être as men can puts it in his inevitable fashion this gang the exploiters constituting the government is well nigh immune to punishment its worst extortions even when they are baldly for private profit carrying those certain penalties under our laws since the first days of the Republic less than a few dozen of its members have been impeached and only a few obscure under strapper have ever been put into prison the number of men sitting in Atlanta and Leavenworth for revolting against the extortions of the government is always 10 times as great as a number of government officials condemned for oppressing the taxpayers to their own gain how states relate to one another since the territorial area of the earth is divided among different states interstate relations must occupy much of a state's time and energy the natural tendency of a state is to expand its power and externally such expansion takes place by conquest of a territorial area unless a territory is stateless or uninhabited any such expansion involves an inherent conflict of interest between one set of state rulers and another only one set of rulers can obtain a monopoly of coercion over any given territorial area at any one time complete power over a territory by state X can only be obtained by the expulsion of state y war while risky will be an ever-present tendency of states punctuated by periods of peace and by shifting alliances and coalition's between states we have seen that the internal or domestic attempt to limit the state in the 17th through 19th centuries reached its most notable form in constitutionalism its external or foreign affairs counterpart was the development of international law especially such forms as the law of war and neutrals rights parts of international law were originally purely private growing out of the need of merchants and traders everywhere to protect their property and adjudicate disputes examples are Admiralty law and the law of merchants but even the governmental rules emerged voluntarily and were not imposed by any international super state the object of the laws of war was to limit interstate destruction to the state apparatus itself thereby preserving the innocent civilian public from the slaughter and devastation of war the object of the development of neutrals rights was to preserve private civilian international commerce even with enemy countries from seizure by one of the warring parties the overriding aim then was to limit the extent of any war and particularly to limit its destructive impact on the private citizens of the neutral and even the warring countries the jurist fjp viel charmingly describes such civilized warfare as it briefly flourished in 15th century Italy the rich burgers and merchants of medieval Italy were too busy making money and enjoying life to undertake the hardships and dangers of soldiering themselves so they adopted the practice of hiring mercenaries to do their fighting for them and being thrifty businesslike folk they dismissed their mercenaries immediately after their services could be dispensed with wars were therefore fought by armies hired for each campaign for the first time soldiering became a reasonable and comparatively harmless profession the generals of that period maneuvered against each other often with consummate skill but when one had won the advantage his opponent generally either retreated or surrendered it was a recognized rule that a town could only be sacked if it offered resistance immunity could always be purchased by paying a ransom as one natural consequence no town ever resisted it being obvious that a government too weak to defend its citizens had forfeited their allegiance civilians had little to fear from the dangers of war which were the concern only of professional soldiers the well-nigh a boot separation of the private civilian from the states wars in 18th century Europe is highlighted by Neff even postal communications were not successfully restricted for long in wartime letter circulated without censorship with a freedom that astonishes the 20th century mind the subjects of two warring nations talk to each other if they met and when they could not meet correspondent not as enemies but his friends the modern notion hardly existed that subjects of any enemy country are partly accountable for the belligerent acts of their rulers nor had the warring rulers in the firm disposition to stop communications with subjects of the enemy the old inquisitorial practices of espionage in connection with religious worship and belief were disappearing and no comparable Inquisition in connection with political or economic communications was even contemplated passports were originally created to provide safe conduct in time of war during most of the 18th century it seldom occurred to Europeans to abandon their travel in a foreign country with which their own was fighting and trade being increasingly recognized as beneficial to both parties 18th century warfare also counterbalances a considerable amount of trading with the enemy how far states have transcended rules of civilized warfare in this century needs no elaboration here in the modern era of total war combined with the technology of total destruction the very idea of keeping war limited to the state apparatus seems even more quaint and obsolete than the original Constitution of the United States when states are not at war agreements are often necessary to keep frictions at a minimum one doctrine that has gained curiously wide acceptance is the alleged sanctity of treaties this concept is treated as the counterpart of the sanctity of contract but a treaty and the genuine contract have nothing in common a contract transfers in a precise manner titles to private property since the government does not in any proper sense own its territorial area any agreements that it concludes do not confer titles to the property if for example mr. Jones sells or gives his lamb to mr. Smith Jones's air cannot legitimately descend upon Smith's air and claim the land is rightfully his the property title has already been transferred old Jones's contract is automatically binding upon young Jones because the former had already transferred the property young Jones therefore has no property claim young Jones can only claim that which he has inherited from old Jones and old Jones can only bequeath property which he still owns but if at a certain date the government of say Rua Tania is coerced or even bribed to be the government of Wall davia into giving up some of its territory it is absurd to claim that the government's or inhabitants of the two countries are forever barred from a claim to reunification of Ruritania on the grounds of the sanctity of a treaty neither the people nor the land of Northwest vert a Nia are owned by either of the two governments as a corollary one government can certainly not bind by the dead hand of the past a later government through treaty a revolutionary government which overthrew the king of Ruritania could similarly hardly be called to account for the Kings actions or debts for a government is not as is a child a true heir to its predecessors property history as a race between state power and social power just as the two basic and mutually exclusive interrelations between men are peaceful cooperation or coercive exploitation production or predation so the history of mankind particularly its economic history may be considered as a contest between these two principles on the one hand there is creative productivity peaceful exchange and cooperation on the other coercive dictation and predation over those social relations Albert J nock happily termed these contesting forces social power and state power social power is man's power over nature his cooperative transformation of nature's resources and insight into nature's laws for the benefit of all participating individuals social power is the power over nature the living standards achieved by men and mutual exchange state power as we have seen is the coercive and parasitic seizure of this production a draining of the fruits of society for the benefit of non-productive actually anti productive rulers while social power is over nature state power is power over man through history man's productive and creative forces have time and again carved out new ways of transforming nature for man's benefit these have been the times when social power has spurted a head of state power and when the degree of state encroachment over society has considerably lessened but always after a greater or smaller time lag the state has moved into these areas to cripple and confiscate social power once more amidst the flux of expansion or contraction the state always makes sure that it ceases and retains certain crucial command posts of the economy and society among these command posts are a monopoly of violence monopoly of the ultimate judicial power the channels of communication and transportation such as post office roads air routes and irrigated water in order to mould the opinions of its future citizens in the modern economy money is the critical command post if the 17th through the 19th centuries were in many countries of the West times of accelerating social power and a corollary increase in freedom peace and material welfare the 20th century has been primarily an age in which state power has been catching up with a consequent reversion to slavery war and destruction this parasitic process of catching up has been almost openly proclaimed by Karl Marx who conceded that socialism must be established through seizure of capital previously accumulated under capitalism in this century the human race faces once again the virulent reign of the state of the state now armed with the fruits of man's creative powers confiscated and perverted to its own aims the last few centuries were times when men tried to place constitutional and other limits on the state only to find that such limits as with all other attempts have failed of all the numerous forms that governments have taken over the centuries of all the concepts and institutions that have been tried none has succeeded in keeping the state in check the problem of the state is evidently as far from solution as ever perhaps new paths of inquiry must be explored it's a successful final solution of the state question is ever to be attained the ludwig von mises institute hope you have enjoyed this audio book for a world of free market literature media and discussion visit

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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