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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/10411/rereading-our-enemy-the-state/

Rereading Our Enemy, the State

August 6, 2009 by

It has in common with the classics all those qualities of clear thinking, objective presentation and lucid exposition which distinguish the wise philosopher from the merely intellectual pamphleteer. FULL ARTICLE

{ 13 comments }

Jim Roache August 6, 2009 at 2:21 pm

I grow increasingly concerned that Mises is becoming “dated” – wedded to theories sound in their time and place that have lost some of their relevancy. The modern state, and I use the term in the broadest possible sense, is only a problem to the extent that it has been co-opted by a greater power. It has been relegated to the role of paid functionary.

The new power is the global corporation and that surprisingly small “elite” with the birthright, wealth and social position to control commerce, and to buy or bend governments to their will socio-politically.

I am not a conspiracy theorist. This “elite” group (their term) is not entirely homogeneous. If there is an ideology, it is a general consensus amongst them, a confluence of ideas and events that does at times approach a critical mass or tipping point, the interim results of which have been laid bare for all to see (and few to recognize) in the last two years.

There are key tenets which the” 2%ers”, as I ineloquently refer to them, do hold in common, but their strategies differ and they are competitive to the point of lacking cohesion sufficient to meet any definition of “conspiracy”. This does not mean they can be dismissed, as in the past, as irrelevant. Critical mass is critical mass as any physicist knows.

With globalization, their power and wealth and commonality of thought placed them in the position to simply supersede governments strategically, particularly those of democratic or under-developed stripe. But communist and oligarchic states are not above their influence by any means. I recently re-read the Memoirs of David Rockefeller…I commend it to members…intended or not, he provides fascinating glimpses into a world most people cannot begin to imagine. To not understand that world and its potential for good or for creating problems of immense proportion is to be ignorant of modern realities that now affect us all.

Being “elites” by their own definition, they assume unto themselves certain prerogatives, formerly those of the state, in a monopolistic and privatized fashion. They see government and it’s institutions as incompetent (a point not easily disputed). They see its muddling ways under any of the tried and failed historical models, including Fascism, as worthy of total contempt. They honestly believe they can do better!

They see the amassing of wealth and privilege to themselves as “natural”. They see the great unwashed as over-populating the planet by at least 50% at the moment, with far more non-productive over-crowding to come.

For 30 years (three decades) now, they have had something of a free hand in managing the affairs of the West. We have recently had a foretaste of their lack of “elite” ability and ethical standards). Not only did they err by all conventional standards, but they failed terribly at achieving their own objectives. Alan Greenspan told a Congressional Hearing, with tears in his eyes, for example, that a model to which he had devoted much of his career was “flawed.”

What was the flaw – that the elite were not elite – or at least, when given an opportunity, they did not prove themselves to be elite, but corrupt, and, worse, undisciplined. They spread that corruption into government, the courts, media and other institutions and brought the West to its knees economically and socio-politically. The problem with that is not what one might initially think it to be.

The recent fraudulent transfer of wealth from the middle to the top 2% was all about buttressing power in their hands and philosophically perfectly acceptable to them. The objective was – oligarchy or totalitarian/fascist control of everything – under the banner of American global hegemony. But some of the elite and many of their functionaries “took the money and ran”, abandoning the ideology and their country for filthy lucre.

That has been a terrible setback. The result is that instead of global government under this self-appointed elite, we now, at least temporarily, have a modified model with China dominant in the East, America wedded to Latin American (SPP) and the EU absorbing Russia and Turkey (eventually) and using a police action under what is now the UN (but modified) to control Islam.

Africa and India are question marks – certainly prime targets for future population control – as they see it.

I see a certain inevitability in this. Just as states, provinces, and other geographic and racial subdivisions within nations, have lost considerable autonomy in a global context, so have nation states.

I remember, many decades ago, being told about the Millennium of the International Corporation and that Business School Graduates would be charged with the responsibility of managing it more successfully than church or state had done in ages past. That meant, we were told, that the rewards and the responsibilities awaiting us would be substantial – the New World Order would be operated by people born and groomed to do so effectively. The Professor ended by pronouncing us “Apostles” for this emerging state of affairs, the Third Millennium, the New World Architecture.

I remember being somewhat disconcerted when I looked around and saw an unfamiliar glow of fervour in the eyes of many of my colleagues. It was a very seductive message and found fertile ground – who does not want to be “special” and to bring order, sanity and efficiency to a world that seems so often out of control. Church and State had made a mess of things in turn – why not new elite functionaries aligned with those who had espoused such an ideology (or theory) for generations – amassing wealth, power and social standing in the process.

That they failed in their recent attempt is the flaw that Greenspan saw too late. To establish a new span of control, a state (private or public) must stand on two legs – law and ethics – or what passes for both in order to achieve legitimacy. With intelligence, wisdom, wealth, power and social cache assumed, this stance need not be the result of “values” per se – particularly in a secular world – but of common sense.

The elite must feed or fight the rest. Surely by now, we know that fighting is messy and inefficient, and there are better ways of achieving population control. Ironically, the one thing the environmental movement or those concerned about global warming rarely mention is that, to the extent that human beings are responsible for climate change, it is more a simple matter of out-of-control-population growth than all other considerations combined. It is the lowest common denominator, but terribly politically incorrect to say so in polite company.

To allow the elite to rearrange things strategically, national and regional governments, regulations and law had to be marginalized. That step went surprisingly well, with almost zero pushback – the masses have been dumbed down, propagandized and had been subject to many of the instruments of social psychology – all of the above were quite simply for sale at a very low price, a pittance.

But once money was amassed by bubble creation and the front-running of stock markets electronically, instead of investing that wealth in the Grand Design, at first totalitarian (military and police under the banner of a new United Nations) with the usual caveats of “the public good, peace in our time and the New World Order, superior to any form of management of our planet ever attempted), the elite took the money for themselves – showing incredible short-sightedness.

To me, it simply confirmed the frail humanity of “elites” – human beings are simply not yet evolved as a specie to the point at which this theory can be tested and proven viable in practice. That was recently, and remains, a rude and cruel awakening for its proponents.

All to say, Mises had best “update its playbook,” to use the vernacular. Most governments are even now mere extensions and false faces (masks) on the global corporate elite. Not only have politicians sold out for little or nothing, they fail ti realize they are totally expendable and held in total contempt by those with real wealth and power.

And if economic and other theories and strategies are to be discussed, it should be in that current context, not in one that is more than half a century old, should they not? Of course, I realize some fundamental laws of the universe never change, and the basic, sound, time-tested laws of commerce and the economic, social and political fate of Empires sometimes require a simple “return to basics”, not the “creativity” touted at Harvard and Chicago and played out recently on Wall/Bay Streets in North America and then expanded like a cancer to other parts of the world.

Mises needs to raise its sights – the modern nation state with all its stupidities and inanities is a “bit player” now. If the elites cannot yet succeed in a global context, picture an orange carved into several sections. But keep an eye on the knife – it is the global corporate elite, and they do have in mind, in general terms, a new international structure for the capitalist system. If they can’t have the whole orange now, they will settle for a much larger slice than heretofore, but more effectively managed than under any of the “failed” models of the past, as they see them.

This elite is not all North American. In fact, the EU, the New Holy Roman Empire, to quote a recent article in Der Spiegel, expounded identical thinking, minus American hegemony. They see a perhaps “downsized” Europe, including Russia and Turkey, as one slice of the orange, with greater justification for global hegemony that displayed by America of late. They defer to the reality of the new China and happily, for now, leave dominance of the Far East in their capable hands.

They don’t say it (yet), but they know that at some point, the apex of this three part-model must be set in place – a world-governing body (not government) using the UN Model, coordinating first commercial and then most other official functions within the three capitalist power centres….all government being subordinate to this ruling cabal managing wealth, power and social acceptance in such a way that it will be well received and accepted as a new and better way to manage the world and leave in our wake what by any measure can only be described as one historical stupidity after another.

The problem with such a notion, as Greenspan discovered, is the issue of whether even global corporate elites have the intellectual, psychological, emotional and ethical maturity to keep an economic floor under the poorest (so they do not rebel); to manage the ecology so that we maximize long-term benefits and not succumb to our baser instincts to slash and burn; and that those who consider themselves “elite” find a better word and school their own to power in such a way that they can avoid the unnecessary catastrophies we have just witnessed.

The ancient Greeks spoke of people carefully selected, schooled and hardened to leadership positions, who, at the same time, could see the need for balance and fairness – not every man a King – not every woman a millionaire – but to each a “fair” share. This planet has the resources to support us all and more besides. All that has ever been in short supply is leadership, a true elite, that could put aside silly personal greed and power-lust, and, once having enough, could then turn their focus to managing things sensibly on a global scale.

There is a group or groups at this very moment who have assumed that mantle unto themselves. It would behoove Mises to realize that government is subservient to them even now, and that it is to them internationally, those who own and control the global corporations (especially banks), and thus much else, that Mises should turn its attention. Peking, New York and Brussels (Berlin) are mere branch offices.

We now know, that their being far from elite, in the true sense of the term, that they can make much mischief. The self-chosen or born “elect” may in fact not be the best and brightest – I fear we are not evolved to the point as a species at which we have qualified candidates in adequate supply to meet such a challenge – and that spells potential global disaster.

Mises may have much to contribute to this group as they proceed to put in place their system. If the elite is not elite, but the dominance of those same people as the controlling interests behind global corporations is a reality, in what ways and by what methods can they be constrained from wrecking the planet and being just as big a failure in this era as those for whom they hold such complete and utter contempt in earlier times?

Russ August 6, 2009 at 2:39 pm

“Mises needs to raise its sights – the modern nation state with all its stupidities and inanities is a “bit player” now.”

This is nonsense. The nation state is the player with all the guns. All they’d have to do is manufacture an emergency, and they would have the excuse to point those guns at any of the “elites” they desire, and take what they want. The “elites” could do little about it if Obama decided to take the gloves off.

Gabe August 6, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Jim,
The elite seems to be very successful on their own narrow terms. It is only a failure from your perspective.

1) They want to stay in control. the biggest challenge to their control is a educated public with lots of individual liberty. They have done a good job of dumbing the masses down(with the exception of the spread of internet gaining ground in the news industry. They have recently enriched themselves to teh tune of trillions of dollars while putting the burden of more debt on the upper middle class most likely to form a challenge to their power.

2) As you state, the think the world is overpopualted by 50% and they have taken many steps to increase their power. So much so that a mass genocide could be feassible by a number of strategies(mass poisoning, CO2 tax, forced euthanasia)

The false god of democratic government has been a wonderfully effective tool at controlling the masses. A slave who thinks he is not a slave is better than a slave who knows it. I don’t think they are anxious to put there tools away just yet. It seems as though you are a little naive about the true motives of the elite….look at how Soros describes this depression: “It has been wonderfull for me!”

Gabe August 6, 2009 at 4:13 pm

“Mises may have much to contribute to this group as they proceed to put in place their system. ”

yes, Mises.org would be able to contribute greatly to “their system” if they would shut down the website and not spread any more information exposing the true nature of government.

There seem to be some fundamental disagreements here. Do you really think that “overpopulation” is a big problem right now? as opposed to the phony justification used by power hungry people for gaining control over the lives of individual liberty.

Mary Diane Dolan August 6, 2009 at 4:28 pm

What a pompous article! It is true that I don’t see any difference between “government” and “state” (unless, by “government” you mean the government of each individual of himself).

Imagine that you find yourself in some environment wherein the population universially fears black cats. In such environment, black cats probably DO REPRESENT, in some sense, bad luck: The people may drive their cars off the road to avoid cats and may trample their friends and relatives in their haste to flee the presence of any balck cat.

What will YOU do? Will you “help” by organizing a popular effort to exterminate black cats? Or will you attempt to show the people that their fear of black cats is a superstition?

Today’s superstition is that the state (or government) is a “given.” –An (immortal) deity that is desirable as well as ineradicable. Most think that it neverthless could be improved in this way or that.

What will YOU do? –Help them to make the improvement(s) they desire? (Which improvements?) Or, will you attempt to show them their government–like the fearsomeness of black cats–is something that only exists in their own minds?

If human beings had never dreamed up the idea that black cats are fearsome, the fearsomeness of black cats would not exist. Similarly,
if human beings had never dreampt up the idea of government, government would not exist, and everyone would be better off as a result.

If you can admit that government is a superstition, you might perhaps be of some help. Otherwise, you do not possibly stand to be of any real help.

Vanmind August 6, 2009 at 6:53 pm

But Mary, the humming black obelisk informed me that it is government incarnate and that I should pick up the nearest femur and use it to strike down my neighbor.

Or something like that.

Patrick August 6, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Jim: are you a minarchist?!

The modern state, and I use the term in the broadest possible sense, is only a problem to the extent that it has been co-opted by a greater power.

This sounds like minarchist talk.

gabe August 7, 2009 at 8:44 am

“The modern state, and I use the term in the broadest possible sense, is only a problem to the extent that it has been co-opted by a greater power.”

it wasn’t just co-opted by a greater power…it was created as a tool BY the greater power. It is naive to think that this problem can be fixed by just hoping the greater power will relent and use it’s power for good….the tools must be demolished intellectually.

Joe Stoutenburg August 7, 2009 at 11:35 am

Not taking anything away from Jim’s thoughtful post, I don’t think that the modern “elite” are a new phenomenon. While its form surely changes, wherever there is a concentration of power, there will be people vying to benefit from it and use it to further their personal aims.

The state is the primary mechanism by which coercive force is employed. At times, its officials may be mostly in control of its power. Other times, outside influences may have the upper hand. At all times though, there is bound to be some amount of struggle over who carries the most influence. I don’t think that it really matters much to differentiate who has the influence if it is the mechanism itself that you oppose.

I don’t think that the economic analysis changes if you recognize that “elites” are in control behind the scenes. If mises.org is intent mostly upon teaching economic principles, I don’t think that the emergence of external influence on the state need change its presentation.

On the other hand, if your goal is to oppose the state, I will grant that understanding its nature is key. So understanding will guide on whether you work within the system or resist outside of its rules (e.g. tax revolts). Even then, I think that understanding who controls its actions is less important than understanding how those actions generally work. For that, economic analysis is a valuable too that need not change with shifts in power struggles.

billwald August 8, 2009 at 12:31 pm

When has there not been a state?

Is a tribe a state?

Before there was a tribe . . . does anyone think that a family was a voting democracy?

Gil August 8, 2009 at 10:15 pm

The ‘state’ isn’t a separate evil force from another dimension but centralised land ownership by those who don’t rightfully own it (according to Libertarians). Private landowners would have the same claim to monopoly force of a geographic location except they rightfully obtained it and their force would be defensive force.

Ken Zahringer August 9, 2009 at 5:06 pm

Mary Diane,

Here is a distinction that I find helpful. I don’t know if it has any intellectual pedigree, but I like it.

“Government” can be defined as the social institution of dispute settlement that exists in a particular society. Government can be tribal elders, the judges of the ancient Hebrews, the modern nation state, or any of the other systems that have existed in human history or been imagined.

The “State”, as Nock and especially Hoppe define it, is a particular form of government. It is the (anti)social institution that claims and enforces a territorial monopoly on dispute settlement. This includes territorial monopolies on legislation, taxation, and the legitimate (by its own definition) use of force.

Government, that is, institutionalized dispute settlement, is an essential social function for all human groups of any size. Natural, social governments maintain their legitimacy in the eyes of individuals by conforming to the standards of justice agreed to by the members of the group.

The State is a social parasite that maintains its legitimacy through force and propaganda. It will kill its host (society) if the host doesn’t kill it first.

“The Law of the Somalis” by Michael van Notten is an interesting case study of a stateless, relatively well-governed society. I got my copy from Amazon.com.

ganpalou August 10, 2009 at 9:54 am

I find myself at a disconnect. I agree generally with the author’s criticism of the Clinton plan, and have similar concerns about the Obama plan, whenever it may surface. But I know that the entire edifice is built on a logical “a priori” error. The “free market” folks wish to adhere to the freedom of the contract, but fail to address “enforcement” of the contract. All “free” contacts, and the derivitive property rights, depend on the threat of physical violence, jail time, perpetrated by government on the breaker of the contract. We have even invented the “corporation as person” to give “property” standing in court for threat of physical violence by government. The level of the logic error is similar to Immanuel Kant’s logic error in assuming “time” and “space” to be “a priori truths” upon which he built a beautiful edifice. Then along came Albert Einstein. I am not bright enough to get past this disconnect, someone else will need to do it. Our edifice is not nerely so beautiful as Kant’s.
The environmentalists use a concept which is relevant here; it is “overreach and collapse.” We used to say: “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” One would think that those who see health care as a “crisis” would put down the shovels.
On the other hand: If we, as a culture, can support “A Rod” getting a $ 276 million deal with the Yankees, health care is not too expensive. We are merely discussing our personal values. I doubt seriously that the author received anywhere near the salary from Pepperdine as Pete Carroll receives from USC, for coaching their football team. This values observation was reinforced by the Bushama bailouts of the financial system. The same people who beg for freedom to contract refused to do business with each other without being bribed by a government promise of access to the future tax stream. For the rest of us, a claim to bankruptcy has graduated from a bad credit rating to an endictment for tax evasion, and jail time.

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