"Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain." ~ Frederic Bastiat
Twenty-one Reasons Why Statism Is a Radical and Radically Incoherent Theory
Exclusive to STR
Upon encountering the claim that some non-statist doctrine (e.g., anarcho-capitalism) is practically unsafe due to its radical character, it is worthwhile to point to the glaring radicalism of every form of statism. Having thus suggested, however, that it is not radicalism per se that is a problem with any given socio-economic doctrine, it is even more worthwhile to underscore that statism is not simply radical, but radical in its incoherence. It seems a very fitting description for the theory that claims, among others:
1. That the only sure way of protecting oneself against violence, aggression and coercion is to help institute and continually support a vast, monopolistic apparatus of institutionalized violence, aggression and coercion.
2. That the only sure way of protecting one’s private property rights is to help institute and continually support a coercive entity whose representatives do not own any of the said entity’s assets, and yet arrogate to themselves the right to expropriate any private property owner for the purposes whose utility it is up to them to appraise.
3. That the free market economy, whose participants – in order to prosper – have to supply one another with productive goods and services, as well as bear the full financial responsibility for the potential failures of their actions, can survive only when subjected to the regulation of a monopolistic group of non-producers, who can always shift the costs of their failures onto the shoulders of producers.
4. That statist coercion is necessary to enforce contracts, and yet the alleged “social contract” that is supposed to establish the state needs no meta-state to enforce it, thus effectively becoming a self-enforcing anomaly.
5. That the wielders of any given monopolistic apparatus of compulsion and aggression use it out of altruistic motives, but if they were to stop using coercive methods (political activity) and instead turn to voluntary methods (market activity), their altruism would be immediately supplanted by base, greed-driven egoism.
6. That states, institutions responsible for some 200 million cruel deaths in the 20th Century alone, are supposed to offer protection from “private criminals,” who even in their most organized form of international mafia networks never managed to take even the tiniest fraction of the statist death toll.
7. That the state of anarchy among individuals, each of which can generally finance his activities out of his private pocket only, would lead to an intolerable escalation of violence and bloodshed, but the state of anarchy among states, each of which can impose the costs of its activities (including warfare) on private individuals, is at least a tolerable and relatively peaceful arrangement.
8. That the lack of an external, monopolistic enforcer of agreements among individuals would lead to endless conflict, but the lack of an external, monopolistic enforcer of agreements among various organs of the state does not prevent them from cooperating effectively and even benevolently.
9. That ceding the task of maintaining justice onto an entity that is both monopolistic and coercive will not lead to it continually perverting justice in its favor.
10. That the notion of checks and balances whereby the rulers control the ruled and the ruled control the rulers does not violate the principle of Occam’s razor, suggestive of the vision in which a single group of self-ruling individuals keeps itself in peaceful balance just fine.
11. That the ruled are wise enough to choose their rulers, but not wise enough to choose the way to use their own money.
12. That a pair of travelers bumping into each other in the middle of a desolate forest do not immediately get at each other’s throats only because they fear being punished by the state.
13. That an institution which forcibly imposes its protective services on others, unilaterally determines their price and excludes all competition in this area will not attempt to benefit from initiating conflicts or letting them develop rather them resolving them or preventing their occurrence.
14. That compulsory expropriation of an individual’s private property need not be considered as a violation of anyone’s rights (given unilaterally determined “due monetary compensation”), but refusing to give up a portion of one’s independently created or contractually acquired belongings is a straightforward violation.
15. That political rights precede property rights, which presumably means that the supposed original social contract was concluded by a bonfire in a cave and written down on the cave wall, or else the conditions of the pre-contract world allowed for creating the capital necessary to (at least) house the social contractors and provide them with ink and paper in some mysterious, propertyless way.
16. That having a sufficiently large clientele turns what is normally considered a robbery into what is commonly accepted as part of a necessary social service.
17. That a relatively small group of people is capable of possessing more knowledge and making more informed decisions with regard to directing the activities of any given society than the whole rest of the society in question.
18. That the notion of equality before the law leaves place for functional privileges.
19. That unconditional respect for the principle of non-aggression is “absolutist,” but unconditional respect for state-legislated law is not.
20.That the prevalence of statism indicates the advantageousness of statism, as if the same could not be once said about astrology, witch-hunting, slavery and legal racial discrimination.
21. That each of the above assertions is solidly justified, both theoretically and empirically, while the negation of any of them lies essentially beyond the pale of reasonable discussion.
Having enumerated these (or other) reasons, it is worthwhile to confront the statist with the task of defending the allegedly moderate character of the doctrine he espouses. And even if he bites the bullet on this one and acknowledges statism’s radicalism, one should unhesitatingly confront him with another, equally difficult task – that of defending statism’s putative coherence. If he admits failure on this score as well, we should not be intellectually surprised, but we might at least feel tactically satisfied.