Having always liked those you-might-be-a-[whatever] lists, it seems that now might be a time to come up with one of my own. No doubt some entries have been left off, but this is a good start.
You might be a statist if…
- You vote in every election, but soon after your candidate takes office, you wonder aloud (or secretly) about his qualifications.
- You have voted for political candidates in your own party, expecting them to care more about you than the people who actually paid for them to be elected.
- You have voted for political candidates in different political parties than your own, expecting a different result than voting for a candidate in your own party.
- You believe some bureaucrat in Washington, who doesn't know you from Batman, actually cares about you.
- You complain to all who will listen about the terrible policies of The Other Guy, but somehow think Your Guy's policies, demonstrably no different, are better.
- You think that a person who happens to show great skill in one narrow area, such as public speaking, is qualified to make decisions about the lives of others across many areas, as if the fastest runner in a tribe is automatically qualified to be Chief.
- You hate greedy corporations, but think an organization such as a government — itself beholden to (and factually a horribly-mutated form of) a greedy corporation — will protect you from (… wait for it …) greedy corporations.
- You think welfare only happens when the government gives money to poor people, or to rich people, or to people of another race, or to people of another socio-economic strata, or to corporations, versus whenever any organization takes money from one person via violence or coercion and gives it to another.
- You think it is possible for a government to change the laws of supply and demand or determine an appropriate response to scarcity.
- You've ever used the terminology "public option" and weren't talking about making a Number 2 in the woods.
- You think the land mass — and the people inhabiting it — on one side of an imaginary line in the sand called a border, are objectively better than the land mass — and the people inhabiting it — on the other side of that imaginary line in the sand.
- You think some guy in a special uniform is objectively different from you in terms of morality and rights.
- You believe that rights are obtained by declaration, or via guns and violence, or by the application of all three.
- You think that rules written by members of the State can be used to control the State, as if consulting an old piece of parchment very closely and then yelling "Article 76!" was ever a reasonable response to a corrupt man holding a gun.
- You get squeamish about shooting someone yourself, but have no compunction with having a nameless, faceless representative of the State shoot someone on your behalf. (The further away this person lives, particularly if it's someplace you cannot find on a map without help, the better.)
- You think it is morally justified to install an army base in the vicinity of a so-called foreign people, but would cry foul at the top of your lungs if the roles were reversed.
- You think it can be morally justified to withhold trade with the people of a country — called an embargo or imposing sanctions — in order to blackmail the ostensible ruler of that country to do your bidding, but do not understand that such an action is morally equivalent to holding an innocent person hostage in order to elicit a certain action from someone who knows them.
- You think your neighbor, or some guy on the other side of town, should be restricted from owning a firearm, since he might be psychopath, while simultaneously assuming that some other guy, who also might be a psychopath, can be armed because a third guy or group of people — none of whom you have ever met — authorizes it.
- You think that one person can morally make decisions about the appropriate use of the private property of another person.
- You think the moral nature of theft, murder, slavery, assault, and kidnapping change dependent upon the size of the group that authorizes these actions.
The moral nature of a man is unchanged by the existence of an organization or his position within that organization. Organizational pursuits wherein the only real criteria for participation is desire and the threat of negative market response is non-existent — such as politics and government bureaucracy — will, given time, attract those who are both desirous of the benefits afforded by the available ways and means and motivated by the lack of negative feedback. (In other words, losers.) Inevitably, such organizations morph toward becoming chronically inefficient or oppressive, or both. (It is ironic that one of the main arguments against anarchy is also the reason one should most urgently support it.) This will happen no matter if people are inherently good or inherently bad since the ability to off-load responsibility and rent-seek — intrinsic qualities of any state — increase given a monopoly of violence and coercion. If there is no penalty for doing dumb stuff, more dumb stuff gets done. While this situation might ultimately be worse if people are inherently evil it makes sense to keep the old fable in mind. Since it was a snake when you picked it up, eventually you will get bitten.
Wilt Alston [send him mail] lives in Rochester, NY, with his wife and three children. When he's not training for a marathon or furthering his part-time study of libertarian philosophy, he works as a principal research scientist in transportation safety, focusing primarily on the safety of subway and freight train control systems.