Friday, July 07, 2006

The nature of the state

"[T]he State's criminality is nothing new and nothing to be wondered at. It began when the first predatory group of men clustered together and formed the State, and it will continue as long as the State exists in the world, because the State is fundamentally an anti-social institution, fundamentally criminal. The idea that the State originated to serve any kind of social purpose is completely unhistorical. It originated in conquest and confiscation -- that is to say, in crime. It originated for the purpose of maintaining the division of society into an owning-and-exploiting class and a propertyless dependent class -- that is, for a criminal purpose. No State known to history originated in any other manner, or for any other purpose. Like all predatory or parasitic institutions, its first instinct is that of self-preservation. All its enterprises are directed first towards preserving its own life, and, second, towards increasing its own power and enlarging the scope of its own activity. For the sake of this it will, and regularly does, commit any crime which circumstances make expedient."

Quote by: Albert Jay Nock (1870-1945)

Source: The Criminality of the State, America Mercury Magazine, March, 1939

Addition (July 8): Perhaps this post deserves some explanation. I've been thinking about the nature of the state, and I came across this statement from Nock that reflected my thoughts. It seems that everyone uncritically accepts the feel-good description of the state that we've been fed in childhood: "the state exists to maintain public order" or "to serve the public good" or whatever. However, if we just look at the history of the state and its current structure, there is nothing to justify those views. Those are just explanations dreamed up by apologists after the fact to justify the state. The purpose of the state is rather clear: the state exists to concentrate power into the hand of a privileged elite. That elite will do what they want with that power, and there's no reason to believe that they will be any more benevolent than the average person would be, if power were allowed to be rather diffuse. In fact, there's good reason to believe that the elite will tend to be selfish, megalomaniacal, and generally destructive.

The institution of elections helps to reign in the elite, but does not change the fundamental nature of the state. In the end, elections just serve to confuse every issue. Rather than being you and I sitting down and figuring out how to manage our conflicts of interests in a mutually acceptable way, we are driven to manage our conflict through this incredibly complex institution that neither of us really understand, and neither of have any meaningful control over. In the end, every conflict turns into a power-play: one of us wins, and the other loses (and often, we both lose).

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