Thursday, August 1, 2013

Robert Higgs: The State Is Too Dangerous to Tolerate

I just found the time to listen to the Robert Higgs speech, The State Is Too Dangerous to Tolerate, delivered at the 2103 Mises University. The speech is a must view for those who want to understand the difference between a government and a non-government society. And don't miss the Q&A where Higgs provides his sober assessment of what his ahead for the U.S. and how to deal with it. In fact, if you don't have time to view the entire speech do watch the Q&A which starts at 42:52.

10 comments:

  1. Inspiring. Come on my fellow Americans, wake up! Let's unfund the beast and get back to living.

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    1. Great idea but how do you do that practically? The only thing I've come up with is to not use stamps or the post office as much as possible. Not exactly starving the beast! ha.

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  2. Listened to it on the way to work the other day. In the Q & A he talks about preparing to get his family out of the US -that freaked me out. I have seen quotes that "If Lew Rockwell is still around it's still safe. When he goes [overseas or to jail] it's time to go." That Higgs is actively preparing to leave has me pretty worried.

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  3. While I agree with Higgs' anti-government sentiment, I don't "hate the state." There are no historical examples of a viable - let alone sustainable - stateless society as no-staters would have us believe.

    Higgs is attacking only the few historical political systems (basically variants of monarchy and oligarchy) humanity has ever really had. An exception was the classical democracy of Athens which only existed for about 200 years.

    The state is necessary to liberty (and anarchy) and the no-staters are wishful thinkers to believe otherwise. What needs to happen is for the state to be reinvented with Herbert Spencer's equal freedom in mind combined with a reintroduction of classical constitutional democracy to maintain its integrity (to keep the sociopaths out of power). We know so-called "constitutional republic" (oligarchy by another label) is no friend to liberty. Aristotle told us as much over 2,300 years ago so no surprise there.

    But there can be no liberty without universal laws to promote it and the state to enforce them. In the no-stater world, mercenaries will enforce arbitrary interests of the wealthy. Which could include sharia law or slave providers and other offenses against liberty... everything goes in the no-state. The no-staters (such as Higgs) think that the marketplace will regulate such malevolent practices and rational market actors will "just do what's right" because, well, we're all so darned rational. This thinking begs the question of whether the marketplace itself can exist outside a framework of laws that enforce contracts, good faith exchange and provide protection of property.

    Even if the stateless society could be willed into existence (and I don't think it can), some form of tyrannical government will soon follow. Anarchy (aka freedom) is only possible with the state and the laws and law enforcement to promote it.

    It's a basic fallacy to say "state means tyranny, therefore, get rid of the state"... The real problem is government, not the state. Government equals tyranny by definition so the challenge is to develop a political system that eliminates it. An anarchic state (one without government) is the solution - not to abandon the state altogether.

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    1. the minarchists chime in.

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    2. "Anarchy (aka freedom) is only possible with the state and the laws and law enforcement to promote it."

      So no one was free prior to the existence of the state then, yeah?

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    3. @Heath - Your point? But the anarchic state isn't minarchy anyway.

      @Oz - That's right. There has been no free society as libertarians define it in human history. Give me one example of a society anytime in history with laws that were based on equal freedom, self-ownership, the NAP and private property... Medieval Iceland? Ireland? The Old West? These were not anarchic societies. They each had their own de facto governments. I suppose if your closest neighbor is 50 miles away, then yeah, you can be "free" by default but not because you live in a free society.

      The no-staters are wishful thinkers who look at history with rose-colored glasses. They are hopeless romantics who cherry-pick moments in history where government didn't exist in the modern sense. But take off the glasses and see the history as it really was and these were not at all the societies anarchists have in mind.

      Before the nation-state there was the city-state and before that the tribal-state. The state and government has always existed since the discovery of fire in one form or another. The ideal of equal freedom protected by law for all individuals has only existed since 1851 with Herbert Spencer's Social Statics.

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  4. Not disagreeing, but, no one saw electricity power anything for millions of years. There's a time and place; requisites and conditions; and probably more than a little luck to be met.

    Feelings about the state and concomitantly, the governing of it, lay on a person's theory of human nature. I'm in the Albert Nock camp on this one. Man's first order of business is survival; and secondly, to obtain what he wants with the least exertion of effort. The two means of obtaining a desire are political and economic. I say history shows that many people will choose the political over the economic if given the choice as it requires less effort. I also think any number of people choosing the political means tends to have the effect of rotting down the moral weakness of the next humans considering the political means in an exponential-type of feedback loop.

    In short, I don't see how the powers granted a state to enforce anything would not eventually attract and be corrupted by influences seeking to gain by the political means.

    My perception is that anarchism is just acknowledging the nature of humanity, and the limits of any centralized planning on maximizing an individual's potential, since States of any kind have the effect of influencing people's choices of how to obtain their desires.

    I also don't think that a state of anarchy would exist in a fashion other than the "planned chaos" of the free-market with it's occasional pitfalls and steps backward as people engaged in human action, including the political means, to obtain their desires. It seems like the biggest objection to "organizing" - or just letting things organize themselves - is the biggest mental hurdle to overcome for those who think anarchism is unworkable. But, as I said, I think the hurdle is more a line in the sand demarcating what a person's theory is of human nature.

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    1. My mantra is: Anyone who want's to be a politician, should not be allowed to be one.

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  5. Most people have a hard time with the idea of no state. Like Plen says, it has always been; ergo, it will always be (i.e. in almost everyone's mind). I like to ask people to imagine what gov would be like if it had to compete for customers. More governments! That way, you aren't eliminating anybodies security blanket. Just making what we already have better, through competition. Competing courts, competing police, competing schools. First we think it. Then we create it.

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