The Tragedy of the State

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Tragedy of the State

The recent lust for war has its roots in the drive for self-preservation of the State. After all, domination over the citizenry is necessary for the furtherance of State powers, and certainly, warmaking abilities are a precursor to totalitarian dominance. The Machiavellian notion that the State is not bound by the same moral code that binds its citizens is alive and well in the modern concept of the State. This abstraction allows the State any and all appropriations at will, both legal and moral, without repercussion.

Historian Martin van Crevald, in The Rise and Decline of the State, defines the State as “an abstract entity which can be neither seen, nor heard, nor touched.” He notes this entity differs from government in the sense that government is:

a person or group which makes peace, wages war, enacts laws, exercises justice, raises revenue, determines the currency, and looks after internal security on behalf of society as a whole, all the while attempting to provide a focus for people’s loyalty, and, perhaps, a modicum of welfare as well. The latter [the State] is merely one of the forms which, historically speaking, the organization of government has assumed, and which, accordingly, need not be considered eternal and self-evident any more then were previous ones.

Van Crevald stresses the unique corporate nature of the State, and its separateness from both its rulers and its members. He regards the defining characteristics of the State as:

First, being sovereign, it refuses to share any of the above functions with others but concentrates all of them in its own hands. Secondly, being territorial, it exercises such powers over the people within its borders and over them only. Thirdly and most importantly, it is an abstract organization. Unlike any of its predecessors at any other time and place, it is not identical with either rulers or ruled; it is neither a man nor a community, but an invisible being known as a corporation. As a corporation it has an independent persona. The latter is recognized by law and capable of behaving as if it were a person in making contracts, owning property, defending itself, and the like.

Though I can’t quite agree with van Crevald’s entire thesis that the modern State is on the decline, I like his application of a legal persona to the State itself. The initial objective in the creation of the State form of rule was for the application of universal laws handed down from rulers to subjects, and the modern, corporate-like State certainly is not lacking in that respect.

Since the events of September 11th, we have witnessed a series of spurious legislative bills that have not been seen since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s reign. First we had the creation of a Homeland Security unit to work on securing greater State powers — domestically — than could possibly be procured in times of non-crisis. Then we’ve seen a series of legislative bills rushed to the floor, guaranteeing billions in financial support for affected companies, guaranteeing greater security for Americans, and granting greater government powers to achieve those “additional securities.” The latest bill, H.R. 3162/"The Patriot Bill”, allows the State to define virtually anyone as guilty of domestic terrorism, and signifies the level of encroachment upon our daily lives that the State is willing to make in order to obtain unlimited authority.

The War Party Peoples that are conducting this “War on Terrorism”, as agents of government, act within no boundaries as they freely define acts or war; make war upon a foreign country while not officially declaring war via congressional means; and justify expansionist policies within our borders as required for warmaking successes.

The tragedy of such expansionism is that it becomes almost impossible to repeal once it is put into place. The State and its decrees become assimilated within society, and as a result, a permanent cycle of lesser freedoms becomes the accepted norm, as the free society slowly wilts away, almost unnoticed, except by staunch defenders of liberty. The crisis may go away, but its decrees lag behind while awaiting the next crisis and further expansion therein.

The State is tragic in that it puts man in a situation where there lies a contradiction in principles in his life. While man is a free being desirous of a free society where he can pursue ends that best suit his self-interests, he is living within an all-enveloping State that pursues its own self-interest. The State, through acts of self-preservation, must habitually commit to force to maintain its subjects within a manageable framework that safeguards its own power. This appropriation of autonomous power is the highest motive of the corporate form of State, while it subjects free men to boundless servitude.

The arbitrary and coercive State is ultimately the destruction of human nature.

Karen De Coster, CPA, [send her mail] is a freelance writer and graduate student in economics, and works as a business consultant in the Midwest.

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