It is often claimed that god, the guy who is supposedly the “creator” of all things, moves in mysterious ways. This is equally true of the destroyer – the State. It moves indeed in mysterious ways, even though its ultimate aim is all too clear: unlimited and unrestricted power. Not understanding this aim and purpose of government, and the deep nature of its “being,” means ultimately misunderstanding its motivations and its actions.
This is sadly true of many minarchist libertarians, who tend to somewhere deep down believe that government is a just entity, that it in some sense is rational and in the interest of the people. Therefore it comes as a horrid surprise when government does its deeds and “breaks the law” or acts in such a way that it
violates contracts it has entered. So we see comments such as this:
The dispensary’s manager […] told me that a group of federal thugs agents smashed not only the ten-foot window you see above, but also over twenty glass display cases inside. They then proceeded to steal all the medicine. This isn’t the first raid, either. […]
Remember, this is a state certified business. It is legally entitled to operate in every way under California law and was doing absolutely nothing wrong.
Here we have a conflict between a state government, which allows a certain act (selling medical marijuana) that the federal government doesn’t like. The effect? At least one of the governments will act to the detriment and cost of the business owner. And at least one government will not do much at all, at least not to protect the business owner.
We have to realize that government does not act to protect us, it acts to primarily protect itself and its interests. And it is usually the case that what is in the interest of the State is not in our interest. Actually, it is usually the very opposite: we would rather not have it, and would even be willing to fight not to get it. I’m of course talking about surveillance, control, taxation (theft), and imprisonment. We could do without these things, and we would probably do a whole lot better without them than with them.
But it is in the State’s interest to keep us under surveillance, to keep us under control, to tax us and imprison us. So the State does exactly those things.
In the case of the business owner in the quote above, he’s acting under the laws enacted and “enforced” (note how our negative rights are often neglected, whereas the State’s self-granted privileges are often hastily enforced) by the State of California but against he policies of the federal agency DEA. There’s a reason he stands unprotected from a federal agency while the protection of his rights by the State of California simply isn’t to find.
The reason for this also lies in the nature of the State: it acts in its own interests, and it strives to centralize power. The State builds and consists of hierarchy, and the higher the levels the better. Power is always pushed upwards, away from the people so that it cannot be taken back or reached by members of the populace. This the exact opposite of how liberty works, which is why the idea of minarchism is at best a bad joke.
Liberty is decentralizing. Liberty can always and only be enjoyed on the lowest level – when there are no hierarchies. Liberty requires, in this sense, equality – without the equal right to liberty there is no liberty. Also, there can be no arbitrary restrictions to liberty – if anyone assumes the right to set the limits of someone else’s liberty, he has claimed the power to rule that individual. And Liberty is immediately lost – for both. Liberty is extremely volatile and tender.
It is therefore impossible to have both government and freedom, both a State and liberty. They are each others’ very opposites and contradict each other. Where there is a State there can be no liberty, and where there is liberty there can be no State.
I have touched on this nature of politics, force, coercion, aggression etc in a previous article, but it is important to repeat this fundamental truth as were it a dogma.
The problem the aforementioned business owner is experiencing, even though he is “not breaking the law” and has “the right” (a.k.a. the State’s permission), is a result of the centralizing process of political power: the State. Whereas the State of California has granted him the right to sell certain substances, the federal government – which is higher in the hierarchy of power – has outlawed it. It is “legally” the case that the State of California still enjoys the “right” to legislate in such issues, but can easily be directly derived from the nature of the State that this “right” is soon to be assumed by the higher level: the “federal” government.
This is a conflict between levels, even though neither of the levels have engaged in direct conflict with the other (rather, they leave each other alone, and let the business owner bear the costs). The natural outcome of the conflict is that the State of California is further stripped of its “powers” to the benefit of the federal government, just like the nature of the State calls for the establishment of a world government to one day take over powers from the federal government.
The power moves further away from the people ruled by it. Just like it is meant to be.
The only alternative is to reinstate liberty and to do so completely. Going half-way to liberty will only leave the State still striving for higher levels of authority and power, and liberty will once again – step by step – be rolled back, limited, restricted, and undermined. The powers of the State cannot be restricted since the State by its very nature must always be growing – it is as possible to have a stable, non-growing State as it is to establish “restricted liberty.”
For more on decentralization as a way towards liberty, see Freedom Is Never Up.