On the Power to Get Away With It

The apparatus of the state is all about power: it is established to maintain a hierarchical power structure in society and to keep a certain class’ privileges. For the sake of understanding what the state is about it does not matter whether the contemporary state is a remnant from when one tribe subdued another and made them slaves in order to maximize the extracted wealth, or whether the state is in fact a Hobbesian contractual agreement to avoid chaos and destruction.

I have discussed the improbability of the latter theory in previous texts, but it cannot be sufficiently stressed: if a society of men will degenerate into a chaotic war of all against all, then handing power to some of those men will not solve that problem. It can only make it worse – and at best no change at all is achieved. If people are fundamentally evil and respond mainly (or solely) to short term incentives, then a centralized power in human society is at least as destructive as the absence of one.

In the other case, if people are in fact fully able to peacefully get along and voluntarily interact and cooperate there is no reason for a state. If this is the case, then the state as an institutionalized body of coercion with sole objective to subdue, oppress, and exploit is necessarily and in every sense the negative of liberty.

Philosophically only these two alternatives are valid: either people can get along fine without being forced to (and then a state is not only unnecessary – it is destructive and oppressive), or they cannot (and then a state is not solution anyway). It thus does not matter what view of man you have, because in either case the state offers no solution and cannot be a tool for liberty.

The only way a state can be thought of as a solution is if we see humanity as fundamentally divided into a couple (or a few) collective groups with different sets of rights. In such a case it would be appropriate to advocate a centralized power such as the state, run by the only group of people wise enough to run it, and that could be used to force the stupid, ignorant, unintelligent, and violent class(es) to behave. This view of man is however racist in the sense that it identifies different groups of different value and different natural characteristics, and different sets of rights.

In a world such as that a state might even be necessary, since it might be the only way to protect the wise and peaceful from the violent and destructive masses. However, this is hardly a libertarian theory of humankind – it is the very opposite. And thus we should be able to conclude, from a fundamental assessment of how we view man, that the state is neither a necessary evil nor is in any way compatible with a libertarian world view.

Following this logic further we might wish to jump to conclusions a bit and claim that those engaging in politics, including those calling themselves libertarian, are necessarily racist in some respect. But as I said, this is probably to go a step or two too far.

However, the state as forceful power is essentially racist: it divides people into groups of different value and creates the illusion of group interests being incompatible and contradictory. The state creates a view of society as chaotic, and thereby it creates a need among the populace to be ruled by a power that has the might to destroy them – and, perhaps more importantly, has the might to destroy their enemies.

The state does not only mean power, it also means this power will always be used in the interest of those who keep it. It should therefore not be surprising or strange that challenging ideas are opposed, hindered, and thwarted whenever necessary. It also should not be a surprise that those with power would use whatever means necessary to maintain status quo – and to crush those who oppose power and how power is used.

The rules that we are told should limit the powers of the state and restrict how it uses force are not rules for the ruling elite – they are rules to feed the illusion of the state being “under control” by the people, and rules to keep challenging ideas and individuals/groups at bay. The rules do not really apply to those who have the power – they have the power to get away with what they choose to do. That is, after all, what power is about: to be able to use it as you want and to protect your privileges at the cost of others.

It is not surprising that a lot of people have fallen for this illusion of rules restricting the powers of the state, but it is sad that so many libertarians tend to embrace the concept of “constitution” as a way of restricting and limiting violent force. Such a set of rules will only keep the state at bay for as long as those with power agree the rules apply; whenever they no longer find reason to uphold such a constitution they will not.

I discuss this issue in other terms and connected with the ongoing Republican primaries in an article published today on Strike the Root. The article, called The Power to Get Away With It, brings up the issue of “vote fraud” in the primaries, and whether such fraud is indeed a factor.