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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The State and Its Future

[These essay excerpts have been edited somewhat so they do not match the original version that can be looked up using search engines. Without using a search engine, can you correctly identify the libertarian radical who wrote that original essay?]

The State has been a disaster for the human race. It has destabilized society, made life unfulfilling, subjected human beings to indignities, led to widespread psychological suffering and has inflicted severe damage on the natural world. The continued development of statism will worsen the situation. It will certainly subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world, it will lead to greater social disruption and psychological suffering, and lead to increased physical suffering.

The State cannot be reformed in such a way as to prevent it from progressively narrowing the sphere of human freedom.  The State cannot be reformed in favor of freedom because modern statism is a unified system in which all parts are dependent on one another. You can't get rid of the "bad" parts of the State and retain only the "good" parts.

It is not possible to make a lasting compromise between the State and freedom, because statism is by far the more powerful social force and continually encroaches on freedom through repeated compromises.  No social arrangements, whether laws, institutions, customs or ethical codes, can provide permanent protection against the growth of the State.

The only way out is to dispense with the State altogether. This implies revolution, not necessarily an armed uprising, but certainly a radical and fundamental change in the nature of society.  People tend to assume that because a revolution involves a much greater change than reform does, it is more difficult to bring about than reform is. Actually, under certain circumstances revolution is much easier than reform. The reason is that a revolutionary movement can inspire an intensity of commitment that a reform movement cannot inspire. A reform movement merely offers to solve a particular social problem. A revolutionary movement offers to solve all problems at one stroke and create a whole new world; it provides the kind of ideal for which people will take great risks and make great sacrifices. For this reason it would be much easier to overthrow the whole statist system than to put effective, permanent restraints on it.

Revolutionaries should not expect to have a majority of people on their side. History is made by active, determined minorities, not by the majority, which seldom has a clear and consistent idea of what it really wants. Until the time comes for the final push, the task of revolutionaries will be less to win the shallow support of the majority than to build a small core of deeply committed people. As for the majority, it will be enough to make them aware of the existence of the new ideology and remind them of it frequently; though of course it will be desirable to get majority support to the extent that this can be done without weakening the core of seriously committed people.

The revolutionaries should even avoid assuming political power until the State is stressed to the danger point and has proved itself to be a failure in the eyes of most people.  The destruction of the State must be the revolutionaries' only goal. Other goals would distract attention and energy from the main goal. More importantly, if the revolutionaries permit themselves to have any other goal than the destruction of the State, they will be tempted to use the State as a tool for reaching that other goal. If they give in to that temptation, they will fall right back into the statist trap, because modern statism is a unified, tightly organized system, so that, in order to retain some aspect of the State, one finds oneself obliged to retain most of it.

Some minarchists may seem to oppose statism, but they will oppose it only so long as they are outsiders and the State is controlled by others. If the they ever become dominant, so that the State becomes a tool in their hands, they will enthusiastically use it and promote its growth.

Some readers may say, "This stuff about minarchists is a lot of crap. I know John and Jane who are minarchists and they don't have all these totalitarian tendencies." It's quite true that many minarchists, possibly even a numerical majority, are decent people who sincerely believe in tolerating others' values (up to a point) and wouldn't want to use high-handed methods to reach their social goals. Our remarks are not meant to apply to every individual minarchist but to describe the general character of minarchism as a movement. And the general character of a movement is not necessarily determined by the numerical proportions of the various kinds of people involved in it.

The people who rise to positions of power in movements tend to be the most power-hungry type because power-hungry people are those who strive hardest to get into positions of power. Once the power-hungry types have captured control of the movement, there are many of a gentler breed who inwardly disapprove of many of the actions of the leaders, but cannot bring themselves to oppose them. They need their faith in the movement, and because they cannot give up this faith they go along with the leaders. True, some do have the guts to oppose the totalitarian tendencies that emerge, but they generally lose, because the power-hungry types are better organized, are more ruthless and Machiavellian and have taken care to build themselves a strong power base.  Thus the fact that many individual minarchists are personally mild and fairly tolerant people by no means prevents minarchism as a whole form having a totalitarian tendency.

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