On the radical incoherence of statism, reasons for its near-universal acceptance, and effective ways of getting rid of it
Statism is the doctrine that the foundation of every well-functioning society is its subjection to a territorial monopoly of violence. Non-statist doctrines, on the other hand, claim that any given society is able to function really well only when it is free from the influence of such monopolies.
Upon encountering in this context the claim that non-statist doctrines are practically unsafe due to their radical character, it is worthwhile to point to the glaring radicalism of every form of statism. Having thus suggested, however, that it is not radicalism per se that is a problem with any given socio-economic doctrine, it is even more worthwhile to underscore that statism is not simply radical, but radical in its incoherence. It seems a very fitting description for the theory which claims, among others:
1. That the only sure way of protecting oneself against violence, aggression and coercion is to help institute and continually support a vast, monopolistic apparatus of institutionalized violence, aggression and coercion.
2. That the only sure way of protecting one’s private property rights is to help institute and continually support a coercive entity whose representatives do not own any of the said entity’s assets, and yet arrogate to themselves the right to expropriate any private property owner for the purposes whose utility it is up to them to appraise.
3. That the free market economy, whose participants – in order to prosper – have to supply one another with productive goods and services, as well as bear the full financial responsibility for the potential failures of their actions, can survive only when subjected to the regulation of a monopolistic group of non-producers, who can always shift the costs of their failures onto the shoulders of producers.
4. That statist coercion is necessary to enforce contracts, and yet the alleged “social contract” that is supposed to establish the state needs no meta-state to enforce it, thus effectively becoming a self-enforcing anomaly.
5. That the wielders of any given monopolistic apparatus of compulsion and aggression use it out of altruistic motives, but if they were to stop using coercive methods (political activity) and instead turn to voluntary methods (market activity), their altruism would be immediately supplanted by base, greed-driven egoism.
6. That states, institutions responsible for some 200.000.000 cruel deaths in the 20th century alone, are supposed to offer protection from “private criminals”, who even in their most organized form of international mafia networks never managed to take even the tiniest fraction of the statist death toll.
7. That the state of anarchy among individuals, each of whom can generally finance his activities out of his private pocket only, would lead to an intolerable escalation of violence and bloodshed, but the state of anarchy among states, each of which can impose the costs of its activities (including warfare) on private individuals, is at least a tolerable and relatively peaceful arrangement.
8. That the lack of an external, monopolistic enforcer of agreements among individuals would lead to endless conflict, but the lack of an external, monopolistic enforcer of agreements among various organs of the state does not prevent them from cooperating effectively and even benevolently.
9. That ceding the task of maintaining justice onto an entity that is both monopolistic and coercive will not lead to it continually perverting justice in its favor.
10. That the notion of checks and balances whereby the rulers control the ruled and the ruled control the rulers does not violate the principle of Occam’s razor, suggestive of the vision in which a single group of self-ruling individuals keeps itself in peaceful balance just fine.
11. That the ruled are wise enough to choose their rulers, but not wise enough to choose the way to use their own money.
12. That a pair of travelers bumping into each other in the middle of a desolate forest do not immediately get at each other’s throats only because they fear being punished by the state.
13. That an institution which forcibly imposes its protective services on others, unilaterally determines their price and excludes all competition in this area will not attempt to benefit from initiating conflicts or letting them develop rather them resolving them or preventing their occurrence.
14. That compulsory expropriation of an individual’s private property need not be considered as a violation of anyone’s rights (given unilaterally determined “due monetary compensation”), but refusing to give up a portion of one’s independently created or contractually acquired belongings is a straightforward violation.
15. That political rights precede property rights, which presumably means that the supposed original social contract was concluded by a bonfire in a cave and written down on the cave wall, or else that the conditions of the pre-contract world allowed for creating the capital necessary to (at least) house the social contractors and provide them with ink and paper in some mysterious, propertyless way.
16. That having a sufficiently large clientele turns what is normally considered a robbery into what is commonly accepted as part of a necessary social service.
17. That a relatively small group of people is capable of possessing more knowledge and making more informed decisions with regard to directing the activities of any given society than the whole rest of the society in question.
18. That the notion of equality before the law leaves place for functional privileges.
19. That unconditional respect for the principle of non-aggression is ‘absolutist’, but unconditional respect for state-legislated law is not.
20. That the prevalence of statism indicates the advantageousness of statism, as if the same could not be once said about astrology, witch-hunting, slavery and legal racial discrimination.
21. That each of the above assertions is solidly justified, both theoretically and empirically, while the negation of any of them lies essentially beyond the pale of reasonable discussion.
Having enumerated these (or other) reasons, it is worthwhile to confront the statist with the task of defending the allegedly moderate character of the doctrine he espouses. And even if he bites the bullet on this one and acknowledges statism’s radicalism, one should unhesitatingly confront him with another, equally difficult task – that of defending statism’s putative coherence. If he admits failure on this score as well, we should not be intellectually surprised, but we might at least feel tactically satisfied.
However, despite feeling thus satisfied, one should not forget that it seems scarcely an exaggeration to say that today’s inhabited world is almost universally statist. Thus, the task facing libertarians remains comprehensive and formidable. Since the shape of social reality is ultimately determined by the ideas people hold, undermining the influence of any given doctrine requires prior understanding of the reasons for both its active espousal and its passive acceptance. Consequently, in order to oppose statism effectively, it is necessary to get a grasp of the factors that make the societies of the world endorse or at least consent to the existence of centralized monopolies of aggression, violence and coercion. What follows is a succinct list of what appear to be the main driving forces behind the phenomenon just described:
1. Intellectual propaganda. The statized education system managed to accomplish a formidable task of creating a number of very potent mental viruses – the theory of social contract, the theory of public and collective goods, the theory of political obligation, various theories of monopoly and other “market failures”, various theories of “positive legislation”, the doctrine of the divine right of kings, etc. The examples could be multiplied ad infinitum. To non-intellectuals these propagandist concoctions oftentimes seem to be serious, rational justifications for obeying the dictates of monopolies of force. To intellectuals, on the other hand, even if they see the (quite flagrant) logical inadequacies of these sophistical constructions, their adoption and propagation usually appears to be one of the safest ways to secure permanent, lucrative and influential job positions.