Thursday, August 14, 2014

Urban Primitivism and The Violent Oppressive State: Lessons from the Ferguson, MO Unrest

By Robert Wenzel

It's not surprising that confrontation between the state and the people of Ferguson, MO, following the shooting of the unarmed 19 year old teenager, Michael Brown, pits the most raw evidence of the true nature of the state, government force, versus that segment of the United States that has, arguably, been most damaged by government policies, that is, the black community. The black community has been ground down in many cases to a type of  urban primitive existence, thanks to government laws and regulations such as minimum wage laws and drug laws, and a required public "education."

Put any kid into a situation where the public education resembles a zoo as seen, as HL Mencken might have said, from the inside of the cages, coupled with the barring of such a kid from all entry level job positions outside of illegally selling dope, and you are bound to get a very frustrated kid. Create a community of such kids and you get to see the eruption of blind fury from time to time. Unfortunately, these frustrated government created urban primitives don't understand the nature of the oppression they face.

There will be no good result from this eruption in Ferguson. Outside of perhaps more anger and distrust of the police, nationwide by urban primitives, they will remain outgunned and outmanned by the state. From them will perhaps come even more misdirected hate of everything beyond their own ghetto communities. "Community leaders," meaning tools that work knowingly, or unknowingly, for the state, will ultimately prevail in quelling, at the surface level, the outrage. These "leaders" will call for cosmetic changes that will put more lipstick on the government PIGS, as though cutting deals with the violent oppressor state will reduce the violence and oppression, while the union encouraged minimum wage laws, the useless compulsory public education system and drug laws, continue to grind the urban primitives down and down.

Sadly, the urban primitives, thanks to the state, have never read or even heard of Lysander SpoonerFranz Oppenheimer or Murray Rothbard. Thus, they have no guiding lights to point them to the true nature of the oppression they are facing. They lash and destroy whatever is in front of them, including private operations which have nothing to do with the oppressive state. It is a tragedy that we can witness in its most raw form in Ferguson. To paraphrase what Chris Rock once said in another context, "I don't condone what they are doing, but I understand it."

Most people reading EPJ don't come from the Urban Primitive community, so we can watch the unrest in Ferguson with detached curiosity.  But I tell you what should directly concern even the readers of EPJ, it is how quickly armored military-type vehicles showed up at the scene of the unrest. Where did they come from so quickly? And who were all those police in military-type fatigues?

The battle now is, as I say, between the state and government created urban primitives, but the state is growing in its power and its oppression against all of us. For now, we have more money and skills and know-how to generally work around the system in a better fashion than the urban primitives, but the noose is getting tighter. From money laundering laws to coerced government-styled healthcare to politically correct BS regulations, the state is also grinding the rest of us. At some point, some among us, tragically, may feel the need to erupt against the state. I am against direct confrontation with the government, but this may not be the case with all. Ferguson teaches us how the state will respond to those who erupt. The state is heavily armed and is adding to its stockpiles of ammo. And as witnessed by Ferguson, the state knows how to rapidly respond against eruption from the oppressed.

The lesson here is clear. The growth of the state must be stopped now. The shrinkage of the government must be demanded now. If there is no successful effort to stop government growth and, indeed, reverse the size of government. There will eventually be more eruptions from more sectors of society. A direct battle against the state is always difficult. And indeed, even successful revolutions may not accomplish much. Ludwig von Mises taught us about "the futility of victory" that is not based on sound principles. First, it is clear he understood the nature of the problem. He wrote :
There is no reason to idolize police power and ascribe to it omnipotence and omniscience.
But, he later went on to write:
To defeat the aggressors is not enough to make peace durable. The main thing is to discard the ideology that generates war.
And, I would argue not only full out war, but government violence and oppression of any kind, including the police power that Mises warned about, can only be stopped in an environment where the importance of a society based on the principles of liberty is understood.

The effort to reverse the growing state oppression must be made now with words and education, the urban primitives aren't going to be able to help us. In fact, any chance they have of moving out of their urban primitivism will be based more on the rest of us getting the state off of all our backs. And the only way that can occur in a substantive manner is if a significant percentage of the people somehow begin to understand, at least on a gut level, the nature of government and its role always and everywhere as a violent oppressor.

 Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of and author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank.


  1. Excellent post, Bob.

    The “ratchet” introduced by Bob Higgs in his “Crisis and Leviathan” describes intrusion of government in every single area government is involved, from medicine to education to banking to policing – everything.

    Public outrage over Ferguson may result in scaling backing militarization of police. But precedent has been set, we’ve become a little more inured to police as enforcers, and the next time the line will be drawn, if you’ll forgive the clich├ęd football metaphor, not on the 35 yard line but the 30 yard line, then the 25, then the 20. What happens when we reach the goal line?

    It’s hard not to conclude that the virus of Leviathan cannot be exorcised and that we will need to “start over.” What “starting over” means I do not know. Right now, at this moment, I don’t want to know. I just want to live my life, and my child and grandchild to live theirs.

    You say, Bob, that
    “…government violence and oppression of any kind, including the police power that Mises warned about, can only be stopped in an environment where the importance of a society based on the principles of liberty is understood.”

    Can anyone point to an historical instance in which the ratchet was reversed without “starting over,” and without violence?

    1. Excellent point. I've made that one myself, many times to people. Empire is an incurable and terminal disease. Empires always collapse, either by implosion from within or invasion from without or both. There are no exceptions. There are no examples of a nation that metastasized into empire going into remission and recovering.

      "We have crossed the boundary that lies between Republic and Empire. If you ask when, the answer is that you cannot make a single stroke between day and night; the precise moment does not matter. There was no painted sign to say: 'You now are entering Imperium.' Yet it was a very old road and the voice of history was saying: 'Whether you know it or not, the act of crossing may be irreversible.' And now, not far ahead, is a sign that reads: 'No U-turns.'

      If you say there were no frightening omens, that is true. The political foundations did not quake, the graves of the fathers did not fly open, the Constitution did not tear itself up. If you say people did not will it, that also is true. But if you say therefore it has not happened, then you have been so long bemused by words that your mind does not believe what the eye can see, even as in the jungle the terrified primitive, on meeting the lion, importunes magic by saying to himself, 'He is not there.'"
      -- Garet Garrett

  2. Good question, Dan. You could ask Bob Higgs, he has a facebook page. I'm scratching my head, which may betray my knowledge of history -- or speak to the durability of Higgs' thesis

  3. Lashing out at anything in front of them "...including private operations which have nothing to do with the oppressive state..." You mean the Walmarts, and 7/11's, and coffee shops that all support the minimum wage, drug laws and public education?! Private operations have helped to create the "oppressive state" and the ideology used to justify it. It appears your "urban primitives" know exactly where to go when seeking quick retribution or justice. And unlike the implication of von Mises' comment I don't believe ideology can be discarded or shrugged off like an old shirt. And I certainly don't see how throwing words at the situation will help. Particularly derogatory words like "urban primitives" which serves only to inflame not clarify. The disturbance in Ferguson is a small dust-up compared to the riots in the 1960's. And that "wake-up call" did nothing to slow the growth in government. This will be no different. The coercive nature of government springs directly from the nature of man and until evolution takes us in another direction we will have to learn to wait.

    1. "Private operations have helped to create the "oppressive state" and the ideology used to justify it."


      Right, because the businesses that are providing low cost quality goods are the "real" oppressors.

      I know that when I step outside I think that nothing is more oppressive in the world than the McDonald's dollar menu or 7/11 eleven slushies.


      Get a clue.

    2. "The coercive nature of government springs directly from the nature of man and until evolution takes us in another direction we will have to learn to wait."

      Can you elaborate on this a bit? It seems that you are stating that it is human nature to desire to dominate others...I don't have this in my nature (never have), but clearly there are those who do. Of course, these flies are exceedingly drawn to the shit stain of oppression which is the nature of the State (and all other coercive forms of dominance).

      Doug Casey has said (paraphrasing) that it is the 80/20 rule; 20% of people are pretty bad, 80% relatively decent. Then, there is the 20% of that subset of bad folks who are truly evil- these are the folks who are going to be true dangers to others. This group is the serial killers, armed robbers, rapists, etc.; some work independently, while others are drawn to the State where they can dress up in a nice suit or uniform (costume) and have a powerful tool with which to exercise the power they lust after.

      I think Casey's theory regarding this makes more sense than just saying, "Well, we all just desire to dominate others, so that is why the State exists. I guess we will all have to evolve to have liberty....See you in 1,000 years!"

      Interested in your thoughts!

    3. The nature of all business organizations is a product of the nature of mankind. It is evident that they support or do not oppose minimum wage, drug laws and the public school system. IN addition they implement the onerous payroll tax, sales taxes and others all of which support the oppressive government. The government and these enablers will not change in nature until mankind changes. If you want these organizations to change you will have to learn to wait for a change in mankind which I believe can only come from evolution. This doesn’t mean you have to wait to obtain a measure of liberty for yourself. My point is if you want the nature of government to change words will not make it happen and you will have to wait until a better version of man shows up. If you want liberty you need to take action. I like Casey and remember him referring to the 20/80 rule. Not sure I agree with the ratio but it doesn’t matter because I believe his emphasis was on taking action at the private voluntary level. Focus on yourself, your family, your friends. your business associates (he reminds me of a more promotional Spencer MacCallum who wrote The Art of Community). Avoid the oppressors to the extent possible and act to obtain the liberty that’s available. If Casey is half as successful as he claims in carving out a community in Argentina this could be a great example. The government in Argentina appears as oppressive and dysfunctional as any and rather than try to change this Casey has worked to find the liberty available and by example perhaps inspire others.
      Your route to some liberty may include working for the companies I mentioned above and that’s fine. Its not about good companies and bad government or us versus them. Its about each of us as individuals finding the liberty that’s available without stepping on other peoples lives.

  4. I tend to agree with Brian Erickson above that use of the word "urban primitive" will hinder education on this topic. There are people who will misinterpret the words. This isn't your fault, of course. However, we should seek to minimize things our opposition can latch onto.

    1. Yes, let's pussyfoot around issues to appease people who hate us anyways.

      Milquetoast Beltway libertarians and conservatives pursued this strategy for 50 years to no avail. I'm not sure if you've been paying attention but Reason Magazine and CATO have somehow managed to gain zero influence on any serious thinkers, or the public at large.