Guest Post: The State's Dumb Strength

Submitted by James E. Miller via the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada,

Many commentators expressed astonishment when thugs from the U.K. government recently ordered the destruction of hardware containing leaked government secrets belonging to the Guardian news outlet. Shortly before the deed went down, one of the shakedown artists was quoted as telling editor Alan Rusbridger “You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.” Amusing enough, that statement, as mercilessly honest as it was, disproves the whole foolish understanding that “government is us.” If that premise were true, all state secrets would already be known by the public and the whole idea would exist only as a poor contradiction.

To the Guardian extortion, the always-thoughtful Conor Friedersdorf averred “the U.S. and Britain, government authorities are undermining their own legitimacy without realizing what a precious commodity that is.” Astute journalist Glenn Greenwald, who writes for the Guardian and reports on government misdoings, described the bully tactic as “ inane as it was thuggish.” Just days prior, Greenwald’s partner (the politically-correct term for “boyfriend”) was detained by the same merry ole’ authorities under suspicion that he was transporting terroristic data.

This plain and unapologetic intimidation has rightfully drawn anguish from some of the more liberty-minded writers. Yet, many of these thinkers still seek democratic solutions to the coercion, spying, and overall domination put forth by the political class. Basically, their faith in representative government has not been shaken. There is still hope the masses will wake up from their apathetic slumber and put fine, upstanding people in office who will perform as genuine statesmen that defend both freedom and security.

Color me a shade of less-optimistic black.

Whenever the state decides to remove the mask of decency and show its true, violent self, there is a positive outcome to the predation. Many finally catch a glimpse of the true force that backs monopoly government. Very few will allow this image to change their preconceived notions of the viability of institutionalized mass representation. As much as I respect the work of Greenwald and Friedersdorf, their scorn means little if they do not recognize the origin of the disease.

The targeted harassment of dissenters is indicative of the state’s brash reaction to all challenges. Monopoly compulsion is naturally in a molasses state, slow to move but powerful when striking. The crude form of economic calculation government enforcers must utilize acts as an albatross on efficiency. So what government lacks in dynamism, it makes up for in brute, unthinking strength. Some of the less-witted among us cheer the brutality on. Others ignore it, happy to collect welfare checks on the first of every month.

No matter the atrocities carried out, there is still persistent talk of making the state more competent and compassionate in its ever-increasing role in social life. As American children are preparing to go back to their tax-funded penitentiaries for another school year, they will soon be greeted with a slew of newly-hired armed guards. The increased presence of protective sentries is a reaction to last winter’s shooting at Sandy Hook elementary. The best way to fight the prospect of a gun-toting maniac willing to inflict harm on students is to force those same students to go about their business under the watchful eye of gun-toting, more subdued maniacs – or so that’s the game plan.

The prevalence of guns may or may not have a detrimental effect on a child’s psyche and outlook. I am no psychologist. There was once a time when firearms such as hunting rifles were ubiquitous, yet hardly anyone batted an eye at their appearance. The culture has degraded to the point where anyone carrying a gun who isn’t a sanctioned government officer is deemed a danger to others. It’s a task of extreme difficulty to pinpoint where the downward slide began. The rise of statism, moral relativism, and total war has undeniably had a negative effect on how individuals view themselves in civilized society. The degree of degeneration varies between areas, but it’s not hard to recognize the causal effect.

Placing armed guards in schools shows that the state’s only reaction to force is the imposition of more force. This is necessarily a clumsy process, if only for the bureaucracy involved. It only makes sense that the relative rarity that are school shootings are met with dumb aggression. The concept of compelling a bunch of children into a central location is not given a second thought. Public education – an institution founded for the purpose of subverting parental and parochial influence through mechanized indoctrination – goes unquestioned. The violence in inner-city schools, both interracial and among races, is ignored with calls for more government funding.

For all its failures, public schooling marches on – taking generation after generation down the path of imbecility. Marketplaces have a tendency to weed out inferiority, or at least if that’s what the consumer wishes. But even the most adamant supporters of laissez-faire dare not challenge the de facto monopoly the state has on education. Doing so ends up characterized as “loathing knowledge” while harboring a sick desire for children to reach adulthood wholly ignorant of the world around them. The very possibility that education remains under government control to ensure students are only exposed to “approved of” information is cast off as paranoid yammering.

The unwillingness, or actual inability, to denounce what truly ails us leaves most arguments void of effectiveness and consistency. There are all types of justification for the state in writing. They proliferate through university textbooks and newspaper columns. Defenses waged in favor of individual liberty all too often leave a trapdoor for government intervention. The arguers stay blind to the truth that state force will always be blunt, and that enforcers will always be driven by a lust for societal control.

Talk of government reform has become so common that it has lost almost all meaning. The scope of debate rests between goal posts that, in Albert Jay Nock’s pointed phrase, one “could not get a sheet of cigarette paper between.” Everyone has an opinion on what steps must be taken to fix the unfixable. Taming the state and putting “good” folks in charge is the equivalent of squaring a circle. It must only be opposed root-and-branch. Less the entire edifice of monopoly aggression is replaced with total volunteerism, we will remain subject to the state’s forceful and impulsive solutions.


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