A World Without You

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Last
week, I wrote about my disgust with the Democratic Party’s tactics
in the wake of the 2000 presidential election. That
column
generated quite a bit of mail – most of it positive.
Some people worried, however, that I was endorsing the Republican
Party as an end in itself, that I felt that it offered a coherent
program for society.

Don’t worry. The Republican Party, as currently constituted, is
simply the lesser of two evils. As I pointed out in another
column
, its notion of “treading water” relative to the interventionist
state ignores the dynamics of the interventionist process, and
has been a recipe for continued state growth. Today, however,
it is the Democratic Party that is attempting to drive the state
forward on its next step toward becoming the total state. This
is why I believe our short term goals must include eliminating
the Democrats as a viable force in American politics.

But the only long-term political goal worth striving for is the
elimination of the state itself. History and theory agree that
any state, whatever the intentions of its founders and however
its “initial contract” is drawn up, ultimately will escape these
straightjackets and strive toward realization of the total state.

Along the way, the state will pass through a period where it needs
the governed to consent to its increasing power. Some of this
consent it can simply buy through redistribution. This is unlikely
to be sufficient, however, for reasons set out at length by Anthony
de Jasay in The State
. Others, however, can be prompted
to consent by ideological means, by convincing them that the state
is compassionate, protective, productive, in short, that it is
necessary. De Jasay says, “People come to believe that
because they have states, they need them.”

My friend Bob Murphy demonstrated
the shallowness of some of these arguments for the state last
week on LewRockwell.com. In a mail about my previous column, a
friend suggested another raison d’etre for the state. He asked
me, “Without government, how can the weak be protected?”

Perhaps this problem cannot be solved in a pure free market. But
contemplate the following list for a moment:

  • The American Indian genocide
  • Black slavery in the US
  • The military conquest and occupation of the South by Northern
    US troops
  • The Armenian genocide
  • World War I
  • Mass starvation under Stalin
  • The Holocaust
  • The fire bombing of Dresden
  • Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • The Chinese conquest and brutal repression of Tibet
  • The Chinese Cultural Revolution
  • The Vietnam War
  • The killing fields of Cambodia
  • Chernobyl
  • The death of 500,000 Iraqi children since the Gulf War

I could go on, but it hardly seems necessary. A short catalog
such as the above suggests that the more salient question would
be, “Without the state, who would slaughter the weak in such vast
numbers?” As Martin
van Creveld
would put it, “The modern state has murdered countless
MEEELLLLions of innocent people.”

In the above list I give the US more than its fair share of government
atrocities. This is not because I feel the US is especially culpable
as a country – quite the opposite. Rather, it is to show
that it is not only non-democratic states that have victimized
the weak, but even, and often, the world’s “beacon of democracy.”

Perhaps we can do no better than this. But it hardly seems possible
that we can do worse. Given the horrific record of the state,
why is its existence almost universally accepted as a given? De
Jasay’s notion of false consciousness, brought about by the combined
effects of the state’s activities and the citizens’ desire for
comfort, peace of mind, and a trouble-free life, explains this
puzzle.

In the film The
Matrix
, Morpheus tells Neo that the matrix is the world
that has been pulled over our eyes to blind us from the truth
– that we are slaves. We are being used as batteries, as
energy generators. This is an apt metaphor for the condition of
man under the state. Our living energy is not our own to expend
for our freely chosen purposes. Rather, the state leaves us the
illusion of enough freedom that we do not rebel, while it siphons
off as much of our efforts for its purposes as it can. This does
not happen through a mystical process or some mysterious conspiracy.
It happens right in front of our eyes, and only the ideology of
the state prevents us from acknowledging this fact. If you doubt
that this is true, simply look at your next pay stub. When you
consider that the deductions on it represent only a part of the
state’s take, you will likely find that more than half of your
efforts are simply taken by someone else and used for their purposes.
You are a battery.

It is unpleasant to contemplate this reality. Desperately, we
want to believe that the institution to which we sacrifice half
of our work and which regulates us in the rest of our lives must
be important. After all, if we thought for a minute that the state
was simply out for itself, that we were just its tools… well,
we might have to do something about it! Others might find us odd,
or disturbing. Perhaps the Rotary Club would look askance on our
membership. Even more troublesome is the idea that the state itself
might become interested in us. Nevertheless, human freedom requires
that we wake from our slumber.

What will come after the state? We may have guesses as to what
that world will look like, but none of us has ever lived there.
Our theories tell us it can work, and our eyes and hearts tell
us it cannot be worse than domination by the state. But right
now, it is not the exact contours of that world that are most
important. As Neo says at the end of The Matrix:

I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this
is going to end. I came here to tell how it’s going to begin.
I’m going to hang up this phone, and then show these people what
you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without
you.

December
6, 2000

Gene
Callahan is a regular contributor to mises.org.

2000, Gene
Callahan

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