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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

State Domination

State Domination

By Robert Higgs
Lew Rockwell.com
April 30, 2014

Familiarity may indeed, as the saying goes, breed contempt,
but it also breeds a sort of somnolence.

People who have never known anything other than a certain
state of affairs, even an extraordinarily problematic state of
affairs, have a tendency not to notice it at all, to relate it,
so to speak, as if they were sleepwalking through it.

Such is the situation of modern people in relation to the state.

They have always known it, and they take it completely for
granted, regarding it as one might regard the weather: whether
it brings rain or sunshine, lightning bolts or soothing spring
breezes, it is always there, an aspect of nature itself.

Even when it proves destructive, its destruction still qualifies
as something akin to “acts of God.”

We relate to the state in this sleepwalking fashion, however,
not because doing so is hardwired in our genes, but because
our conditions of life and our long historical accommodation
to living under the state’s domination predispose us to react
to it in this oblivious manner.

People who have lived in other circumstances, however,
have reacted quite differently.

Only when human populations adopted settled agriculture
did they prove amenable to state domination.

During the vastly longer epoch of human existence in small hunting
and gathering bands, the state was impossible: people had few if
any nonperishable stores of wealth to be plundered, and if someone
attempted to impose state-like domination on a band, its members
simply ran away, putting as much distance between themselves and
the exploiters as necessary to escape the would-be state’s
predation.

For the past 5,000 to 10,000 years, however, ultimately for nearly
all of the world’s people, the state has existed as an ever present
predator and all around abuser of human rights, its power to
dominate and plunder propped up by its adroit exploitation of
people’s fears, many of which have been of the state itself, others
of external threats to life and limb from which the state purported
to protect its subjects.

In any event, nearly everyone eventually became incapable
of even imagining social life without a state.

For the few who have succeeded in wrenching themselves out
of this dreamlike condition in relation to the state, however,
two main questions come rushing to mind:

(1) Who do these people—that is, the state’s kingpins, Praetorian
guards, bootlickers, and key private-sector supporters, think they
are to treat us as they do?

(2) Why do nearly all of us put up with the state’s outrageous
treatment?

These questions can easily form, and indeed already have
formed the core of countless books, articles, and manifestos.

Although nothing even approaching a consensus has emerged, it
seems fairly clear that the answers to question (1) have much to
do with the widespread prevalence of wicked, arrogant people
with a comparative advantage in violence and the bamboozlement
of their victims.

Faced with the fundamental choice between what Franz
Oppenheimer called the economic means of getting wealth (by
production and exchange) and the political means (by robbery
and extortion), members of the ruling classes have opted
decisively for the latter.

Pope Gregory VII (1071-85), the leader of the momentous Papal
Revolution that began during his papacy and ran its course over
a span of nearly fifty years (even longer in England), minced no
words when he wrote (as quoted by Harold Berman):

“Who does not know that kings and princes derive their origin from
men ignorant of God who raised themselves above their fellows by
pride, plunder, treachery, murder, in short by every kind of crime,
at the instigation of the Devil, the prince of this world, men blind
with greed and intolerable in their audacity.”

It is possible, of course, that some political leaders have sincerely
believed that they had a just basis for their domination of their
fellows nowadays especially the belief that an electoral victory is
equivalent to divine anointment seems to have many under its
spell, but such self-deception does nothing to alter the realities of
their situation.

As for why we submit to the state’s outrages, the most persuasive
answers have to do with fear of the state (and nowadays, for many,
fear of self-responsibility as well), with apprehension about sticking
one’s neck out when other victims may fail to join forces with those
who resist first and, probably most important, with the ideological
“hypnosis” (as Leo Tolstoy characterized it) that keeps most people
from being able to imagine life without the state or to understand
why the state’s claim to intrinsic immunity from the morality that
binds all other human beings is the purest bunk.

If an ordinary individual may not morally commit murder, or
steal, neither may the individuals who compose the state; and,
of course, private individuals may not delegate their rights to
rob or murder to the state because they have no such rights in
the first place.

Like Tolstoy, many writers have recognized that the ruling
classes work very hard to imbue their victims with an
ideology that sanctifies the state and its criminal actions.

In this regard, one feels compelled to agree that many states
historically have been amazingly successful in this quest.

Thus, under the Nazis, ordinary Germans thought they were
free, just as today ordinary Americans think they are free.

The capacity of ideology to blind people and incline them
toward the Stockholm Syndrome seems to have few limits,
although a regime such as that of the USSR, which locked
the mass of the people in persistent poverty, may find that
its attempts to produce ideological enchantment in its
subject victims eventually produce progressively diminishing
returns.

Thus, an astute, if ever shifting, combination of arrogant force
and impudent fraud may be seen as the prime ingredients the
state employs in its multifaceted efforts to induce somnolence
in its subject victims.

Of course, a certain amount of cooptation adds essential spice
to the mix, and so all states make some efforts to give back to
their victims a morsel of the bread it has snatched from them.

For this gracious gift, they are generally ever so grateful.

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2014/04/robert-higgs/state-
domination

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