We are the State?

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The idea that “we” are the State or control the State seems to be only a platitude repeated in classrooms, not an actual fact describing humans on the planet Earth. State property doesn’t belong to us as private individuals, it belongs to the State. F.A. Hayek developed a great way of testing whether you actually own some type of property; that is, do you have the ability to disown it? An individual cannot sell his share to public parks, public buildings, F-14s, space ships, or anything else the State has bought in his name. The often repeated phrase of a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” reveals itself to be a joke. But why not take the analysis a step further? Is such a government even desirable? Why is being ruled by “the people” any better than being ruled by a single tyrant?

Like Hans-Hermann Hoppe, I would venture to say that it is not. In a democracy people will self identify with the government: “we” invaded Iraq, “we” (meaning the government) should do something about obesity, “we” bombed Hiroshima, etc. I write more about the problems with this here. In addition to leading people to rationalize egregious acts in their minds because they associate themselves with the act, such language conflates society with the State and deflects blame from the individuals responsible (since only individuals can act).

Thus, I would encourage the reader to watch his or her language: don’t use the word “we” when talking about the actions of the government. And if you are feeling really ornery, take away the euphemisms that benefit the State. Call taxation by its more accurate name: robbery. Use the phrase “murder of civilians” instead of “collateral damage.” Though it may not be in the news recently, “enhanced interrogation techniques” is a fancy name for “torture.”

If you refuse to identify yourself with the State and remove governmental control over your language, then you are that much freer. Stay free, my friends.

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8 responses »

  1. This has struck me as odd for a while. While in many places the people will vote for a government, it’s long been clear to me that the government is quite a different entity to that commonly known as the people, and that these two groups had interests that were diametrically opposed.

    Even when I did believe in statism, a foolish belief I have thankfully been disabused of via reason, the state and its agents always did strike me as different. Back then I did still think that it loosely represented what the people wanted, but that illusion fell as I watched the then Labor state government, the dying Howard government and then the Rudd/Gillard regimes act in the way they have (in the case of state Labor, incompetence (to the point of comedy, in some cases) and ignorance of the bleeding obvious on a level that would hardly be the will of said people, the Howard government monstrously overstepping the mark with the much-derided “Work(Anti)Choices” legislation, and the current government’s (semi-failed) attempts at instituting web censorship; I say semi-failed because the end result has been something that is IMHO worse: ISPs being in charge of the matter.

    Naturally the “opposition” inspires even less confidence in one, which is why they’re the opposition and not government… It should come as no surprise that I nowadays resent the state bitterly and long for its demise.

    With all this said, ultimately people are going to have to make decisions collectively at some point. I agree that none should be above another in this process, but it is IMHO a function of human beings’ social nature that at some point people will need to socialise, and in socialisation conflicts inevitably arise, and so at least some form of reaching consensus (as opposed to ruling by diktat or fiat of the majority).

    • Thanks for the comment. I hope you can forgive me for being so long in replying.

      I totally agree with your idea that “people are going to have to make decisions collectively at some point.” Aristotle said we are a “political animal.” But I question whether The State (a group claiming a monopoly on the legitimized initiation of force within a given geographical area) is the best means of going about it.

      We seem to have numerous examples of people collectively making decisions voluntarily. Large organizations have boards of directors, homeowners have homeowners associations, and laborers can join unions (though this isn’t always voluntary, but one can easily imagine it being so). Obviously, the ability of collective decision making to effectively represent the wishes of its constituents tends to decrease as organizations get larger. This is why I advocate decisions to be made at the most local level practicable. (Please see the website of my print publication dedicated to expounding this concept I call “localism”: http://thenewpolis.com/)

  2. Pingback: Sheriff Gary Raney Doesn’t Understand His Oath « Anarcho-Buddy!

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    • Dictionary.com tells me it is “the interest in property owned by tenants whereby each tenant has an equal right to enjoy the entire property.”

  4. What an excellent observation! Hayek’s test is truly remarkable but it is not different than Locke’s idea of the right to dispose of your property any way you want. To dispose is to transfer or, as Hayek put it, to disown it in a way you want. I can disown my car but I can not disown the public street. Only the government can do that. A boundary begins to appear between society as a whole and the government simply because the total accumulated property of individuals constitute the total amount of property within society. That property can only be disposed of by the individuals that own it. A government constitutes its property and resources which it can dispose of as it likes and in the same way this right separates individuals from other individuals within society this separates government from society since government property can not be disposed of directly by society. Only government can do that and government can not dispose of the people’s property either. Only the people can do that for themselves. A complete and seperate sphere of control unfolds around this right to disown property.

    • Thanks for the comment.

      I’m so glad that you made a distinction between “society” and “government.” The two should most definitely not be conflated. I would like to add that everything the government “owns” has been taken from individuals in society by force. This puts into question the justness of it owning anything.

      For me, ideally the government would stop taking property from individuals. But as far as how to return the stolen property back to individuals, I’m not sure what the most just way is.

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