Sunday, October 30, 2005

Disproving the State: Four Arguments Against Government

Two objections constantly recur whenever the subject of dissolving the State arises. The first is that a free society is only possible if people are perfectly good or rational. In other words, citizens need a centralized State because there are evil people in the world.

The first and most obvious problem with this position is that if evil people exist in society, they will also exist within the State – and be far more dangerous thereby. Citizens are able to protect themselves against evil individuals, but stand no chance against an aggressive State armed to the teeth with police and military might. Thus the argument that we need the State because evil people exist is false. If evil people exist, the State must be dismantled, since evil people will be drawn to use its power for their own ends – and, unlike private thugs, evil people in government have the police and military to inflict their whims on a helpless (and usually disarmed!) population.

Logically, there are four possibilities as to the mixture of good and evil people in the world:
1. that all men are moral
2. that all men are immoral
3. that the majority of men are moral, and a minority immoral
4. that the majority of men are immoral, and a minority moral

(A perfect balance of good and evil is statistically impossible!)

In the first case (all men are moral), the State is obviously not needed, since evil cannot exist.

In the second case (all men are immoral), the State cannot be permitted to exist for one simple reason. The State, it is generally argued, must exist because there are evil people in the world who desire to inflict harm, and who can only be restrained through fear of State retribution (police, prisons et al). A corollary of this argument is that the less retribution these people fear, the more evil they will do. However, the State itself is not subject to any force, but is a law unto itself. Even in Western democracies, how many policemen and politicians go to jail? Thus if evil people wish to do harm but are only restrained by force, then society can never permit a State to exist, because evil people will immediately take control of that State, in order to do evil and avoid retribution. In a society of pure evil, then, the only hope for stability would be a state of nature, where a general arming and fear of retribution would blunt the evil intents of disparate groups.

The third possibility is that most people are evil, and only a few are good. If that is the case, then the State also cannot be permitted to exist, since the majority of those in control of the State will be evil, and will rule over the good minority. Democracy in particular cannot be permitted to exist, since the minority of good people would be subjugated to the democratic will of the evil majority. Evil people, who wish to do harm without fear of retribution, would inevitably control of the State, and use its power to do their evil free of that fear. Good people do not act morally because they fear retribution, but because they love goodness and peace of mind – and thus, unlike evil people, they have little to gain by controlling the State. And so it is certain that the State will be controlled by a majority of evil people will rule over all, to the detriment of all moral people.

The fourth option is that most people are good, and only a few are evil. This possibility is subject to the same problems outlined above, notably that evil people will always want to gain control over the State, in order to shield themselves from retaliation. This option changes the appearance of democracy, of course: because the majority of people are good, evil power-seekers must lie to them in order to gain power, and then, after achieving public office, will immediately break faith and pursue their own corrupt agendas, enforcing their wills with the police and military. (This is the current situation in democracies, of course.) Thus the State remains the greatest prize to the most evil men, who will quickly gain control over its awesome power – to the detriment of all good souls – and so the State cannot be permitted to exist in this scenario either.

It is clear, then, that there is no situation under which a State can logically be allowed to exist. The only possible justification for the existence of a Stare would be if the majority of men are evil, but all the power of the State is always controlled by a minority of good men. This situation, while interesting theoretically, breaks down logically because:
a) the evil majority would quickly outvote the minority or overpower them through a coup;
b) because there is no way to ensure that only good people would always run the State; and,
c) there is absolutely no example of this having ever occurred in any of the dark annals of the brutal history of the State.

The logical error always made in the defense of the State is to imagine that any collective moral judgments being applied to any group of people is not also being applied to the group which rules over them. If 50% of people are evil, then at least 50% of people ruling over them are evil (and probably more, since evil people are always drawn to power). Thus the existence of evil can never justify the existence of the State. If there is no evil, the State is unnecessary. If evil exists, the State is far too dangerous to be allowed existence.

Why is this error always made? There are a number of reasons, which can only be touched on here. The first is that the State introduces itself to children in the form of public school teachers who are considered moral authorities. Thus is the association of morality and authority with the State first made, and is reinforced through years of repetition. The second is that the State never teaches children about the root of its power – force – but instead pretends that it is just another social institution, like a business or a church or a charity. The third is that the prevalence of religion has always blinded men to the evils of the State – which is why the State has always been so interested in furthering the interests of churches. In the religious world-view, absolute power is synonymous with perfect goodness, in the form of a deity. In the real political world of men, however, increasing power always means increasing evil. With religion, also, all that happens must be for the good – thus, fighting encroaching political power is fighting the will of the deity. There are many more reasons, of course, but these are among the deepest.

It was mentioned at the beginning of this article that people generally make two errors when confronted with the idea of dissolving the State. The first is believing that the State is necessary because evil people exist. The second is the belief that, in the absence of a State, any social institutions which arise will inevitably take the place of the State. Thus, dispute resolution organizations (DRO’s), insurance companies and private security forces are all considered potential cancers which will swell and overwhelm the body politic.

This view arises from the same error outlined above. If all social institutions are constantly trying to grow in power and enforce their wills on others, then by that very argument a centralized State cannot be allowed to exist. If it is an iron law that groups always try to gain power over other groups and individuals, then that power-lust will not end if one of them wins, but will spread across society until slavery is the norm. In other words, the only hope for individual freedom is for a proliferation of groups to exist, each with the power to harm each other, and so all afraid of each other, and more or less peaceable thereby.

It is very hard to understand the logic and intelligence of the argument that, in order to protect us from a group that might overpower us, we should support a group that has already overpowered us. It is similar to the statist argument about private monopolies – that citizens should create a State monopoly because they are afraid of monopolies. It does not take keen vision to see through such nonsense.

What is the evidence for the view that decentralized and competing powers promote peace? In other words, are there any facts that we can draw on to support that idea the a balance of power is the only chance that the individual has for freedom?

Organized crime does not provide many good examples, since gangs so regularly corrupt, manipulate and use the power of the State police to enforce their rule, and so cannot be said to be operating in a state of nature. A more useful example is the fact that no leader has ever declared war on another leader who possesses nuclear weapons. In the past, when leaders felt themselves immune from retaliation, they were more than willing to kill off their own populations by waging war. Now that they are themselves subject to annihilation, they are only willing to attack countries that cannot fight back.

This is an instructive lesson on why such men require disarmed and dependent populations – and a good example of how the fear of reprisal inherent in a balanced system of decentralized and competing powers is the only proven method of securing and maintaining personal liberty. Fleeing from imaginary phantoms into the protective prison of the State will only ensure the destruction of the very liberties that make life worth living.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Learning the Lessons of WWII

So now that it’s the 60th anniversary of the Second World War, it’s time for what you might consider a truly shocking argument. We are constantly told that WWII was fought against tyranny, in order to secure our own freedom. However, like almost all assertions that come from the State, it is put forward without any kind of definition.

The great enemy was Nazism, of course. Very well. What was it about Nazism that was so objectionable? It was an expansionistic dictatorship, we are told. And what did that mean? Well, that the Nazi government had too much power, and invaded other countries. Very well. Thus, if the Nazi government was evil because it had too much power, and we were fighting for freedom, then surely the power of our own governments should not have grown during the fight against government power.

This is only logical. If you are fighting against State power, then your own State should not grow in power during that conflict. If it does, then you have lost the fight before you have even begun.

(During this essay, I will use the term ‘State’ for the Allied governments, and ‘Nazi’ for the German government.)

Given that the power of the State grew enormously during WWII, it can hardly be said that State power in itself was the enemy. What was the problem with the Nazis? Was it that they killed their own citizens? Given that the Western States all instituted the draft during WWII, that argument seems extremely hollow. Do you fight arbitrary power by enslaving men and forcing them to kill and die? Of course not. That’s like fighting cancer with murder.

Did the Nazi genocides so offend the Allies? Impossible, since the Holocaust was not confirmed until very late in the war, when the Allies were rolling across Germany. Also, if genocides were so terrible, then why did the Western governments not declare war against the Turks for their murders of the Armenians? And what about Stalin’s mass starvation of his people in the 1930s? What about the slaughter of the Chinese by Mao after the war? Why ally with Russia at all during WWII, if genocidal dictatorships were so evil? On what possible principle could Stalin be considered ‘better’ than Hitler?

But let’s cast these objections aside for the moment, and look at the true growth and destruction of Hitler’s power. Initially, he overran smaller and weaker countries – and then was stopped short in the West by the Channel in 1940. After losing the Battle of Britain, he gave up on England, and turned to Russia. Once he sent his forces into Russia, he was doomed. He faced growing revolts at home, and decimation of his forces in Russia. After 1942, what long-term threat could he have been? He might have lasted another decade, perhaps, but his empire would have fallen, as all brutal empires in history have always fallen, because they destroy the free market, and so consume their wealth quicker than it can be replenished. They kill the goose that lays the golden egg, then eat the goose – and then starve. The Soviet empire eventually committed suicide – and China is currently liberalizing itself without requiring fire-bombing and nuclear bombs.

We need to look at what was occurring before and after WWII, so that we can understand the real effect of the war. However, for reasons which will become clear later, we shall look at the post-war period first.

So – what happened after the war? Well, the Soviets took over almost all of Eastern Europe. Millions of people fell into the abyss of communist slavery. Poland – which England originally entered the war to liberate – was caught in Stalin’s grip. Sure, some Western European countries were freed from Nazism – but the millions then enslaved by Russia more than made up for everyone who was freed. And China soon followed.

And what of the Allied governments? Well, during the war they gained the power to withhold taxes from their citizen’s income – the end of any possible control citizens might have over tax increases. The State had experimented with price controls, rationing, deficit financing, the forced internment of naturalized citizens, and many other totalitarian tricks. The US government, for instance, was many times larger in 1945 than it had been in 1939 – even after the New Deal expansion of the 1930s. And it was about to embark on the great reeducation of the masses through the GI bill.

Two other cultural shifts occurred during WWII – the first was that the State was now considered the first port of call for solving social problems – after all, if it could defeat the Axis powers, surely it could solve poverty! The second was that Western staggered under a massive injection of relativism. Hitler was bad, Stalin was good – fascism was bad, communism was bad, socialism was good, government power was bad (national socialism), government was good (state control of the economy) – who could make any sense of that? Absolutism was utterly broken, and ‘flavours’ of government power became fashionable. The intellectuals’ embrace of communism in the 1930s accelerated.

The onset of the Cold War coincided with the creation of massive aid programs to Russia – which made no sense. If Hitler was bad, and we had to fight him, then why were we giving wheat and money to Stalin? As we had seen from Eastern Europe, Stalin was even more expansionist than Hitler.

(The real difference, of course, was that Stalin soon had nuclear weapons, which can kill Western leaders – and so they had no interest in provoking a war.)

Finally, throughout the Western world, government power increased radically throughout the post-war period. Now, on the 60th anniversary of WWII, we have about half of our income stripped from us, and labour under hundreds of thousands of petty, dangerous and claustrophobic regulations. Is this the freedom our fathers died for? Of course not.

Ah, but aren’t we more free than the Germans under Nazism? Of course we are – but that’s irrelevant. If you fall off a cliff, the fact that you haven’t hit bottom yet is scant comfort. The fact of the matter is that we were far more free at home before we began fighting tyranny overseas.

The final – and perhaps most important – question is: what is the state of our society relative to the pre-Nazi period in Germany?

The Weimar Republic was characterized by massive expansion of State power, spending and deficits. Regulation, trade-unionism, protectionism, cronyism and corruption were rampant throughout the vaguely-civilized civil war that defines a ‘mixed’ economy. The tearing collapse of social norms that always accompanies unlimited majority rule was a key factor in catapulting Hitler into power. Thus it is hard for us to say that we have won the battle for liberty, when by radically expanding State power, WWII helped push us off the cliff into our current free-fall toward dictatorship.

If we look before WWII, into the black abyss of WWI, we can get an even surer sense of how the expansion of State power further feeds the expansion of State power – whether victor or vanquished. How was WWI possible, given that it was so horrendously expensive? Why would not a tax revolt simply have shut it down? Well, WWI was possible because Western governments had created a State-controlled central bank, which allowed the massive deficit financing that wars always require. Now that governments could easily borrow against the future taxes of their citizens – especially the new income taxes – fiscal restraint and voter control of the State became a thing of the past. This allowed for wars of massive destruction to occur, which formerly would have proven impossibly expensive. Once governments have the power to print money, they can hire all the goons they want to terrorize the rest of the population – and pay the soldiers abroad to boot. Voters no longer have any say in a war, since governments no longer have to go to them for war money – and so a tax revolt will not end the conflict. Two developments in the 19th century – government education of the young, and the introduction of government-run banking, set the stage for the horrors of the 20th century. From such innocuous beginnings does Hell itself spring.

Finally, if the US had not entered WWI in 1917, the unbalanced and inflammatory peace of Versailles would have been impossible, since the existing combatants were fighting themselves to exhaustion. Thus the expansion of State power in the US helped set the stage for WWII.

What does all this mean for today? We now have a War on Terror that is directly deploys the imagery of WWII. The current war in Iraq is paid for through deficit financing, since State-run banking has lifted all fiscal restraints. State education has taken care of the ‘story’ (Hitler = evil), and propaganda has taken care of the connection (Hussein = Hitler). The end of the Soviet Union has taken care of the direct nuclear threat to the leaders, and so there is no further barrier to endless war. In fact, the only chance that we have of seeing an end to the current War on Terror is for the terrorists to start targeting Western leaders and their families – which would quickly end all foreign interventions, invasions and occupations. Sadly, however, that will never happen, since terrorists need the War on Terror as much as the Western leaders do.

What can we learn from the lessons of WWII? If there is ever to be an end to war – the greatest boon that real freedom could ever grant mankind – then the steps are largely dull, undramatic, and pedandtic. First, a tax revolt must break the desire of investors to lend to governments. Second, parents must start opposing the propaganda of State schools – and third, economists must strenuously make the case for the end of the government-run banking system. From such innocuous beginnings does Heaven itself spring.