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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/12382/rothbard-and-the-nature-of-the-state/

Rothbard and the Nature of the State

April 5, 2010 by

What is that “organization” that claims the monopoly of violence? In other words, what is the state apparatus? We begin to find an answer in Rothbard’s analysis of the behavior of states. FULL ARTICLE by Matt Palmer


Guard April 5, 2010 at 9:51 am

Good job.
But now times, they are a changin’. The “territoriless” state may be emerging. The Jews have historically been persecuted precisely because they held allegiance to their own state as superior to any other. (We sometimes forget that the biblical law, including the ten commandments, is the civil law of a state.) Likewise, any totalitarian state will expend any effort to eliminate Christianity for precisely the same reason. Christians claim allegiance to a higher authority: Jesus.

The collapse of the former Soviet Union is at least partially attributed to the infection of Christianity. China and other totalitarian countries recognize this and do their best to stamp out Christianity.

The United States has now taken on Islam. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is merely a paper tiger to justify continuing theft and oppression by the military industrial complex. Islam is a territoriless state whose citizens are not directly subservient to any territorial type state. This is a very basic threat to totalitarianism, which by definition claims all allegiance.

The current states recognize their powerlessness against the new territoriless ones.
This takes guerrilla warfare to a new level. There is no capital to bomb and win the war. There is no territory to carpet bomb and get all the enemy combatants. There is no pyramidal authority structure to infiltrate and subvert. The enemy combatants are everywhere, and they are difficult to identify: they look just like good citizens because they usually are. But the conventional state cannot have their heart, and never will. There will be an attempt at a one world dictatorship but it will not work. It is too late. The territoriless states have superior power and one of them will ultimately rule.

Eric April 5, 2010 at 1:25 pm

I think you are correct, people don’t really think much about what a Law is. They tend to think a new law is about the same as a new rule in baseball or a board game like monopoly. Should we pay extra for landing on Free Parking or not?

What they ignore is the fist with brass knuckles, or the gun that backs up every law – even such minor ones as parking tickets. Some laws are not enforced strictly, and so people ignore them – for example jury duty. But lately, my jury summons’ have lots of big RED letters making threats. No doubt, if I ignore these for long enough, some guns will show up at my residence.

Stephen W. Carson April 5, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Outstanding article!

Very minor critique… You write “And thus we can see that national communities are created by states, not the other way around.” I definitely see the point you are making, but I think it would be worth understanding Mises’s argument that nations are simply language communities (thus, in this view, England, Canada, US, etc. are all part of one nation in a meaningful sense). He makes this argument in his book “Nation, State and Economy”.

I think if you absorb Mises’s argument this could actually interact with your perspective on the state in a powerful way… As Mises points out, states have often sought to control what language people speak. Thus, in effect, the state is trying to change the contents of a national community to fit its borders just as you argue.

Cybertarian April 6, 2010 at 8:49 am

“Christians claim allegiance to a higher authority: Jesus.”

And I claim allegiance to an even higher authority than that: MY OWN SOUL !

So not only the state but even Jesus should be against me, LOL !

Every living entity should claim allegiance to his own soul, for your soul is what you have the most precious. You should not waive it away to gods or governments like it was worth nothing. How can you honestly claim to be a libertarian, to want to own your own house but then again don’t care about owning your own soul ?

Now, about the constitution and the nature of the state.

What if we would develop the constitution into a virtual entity which would speak and participate in the political debate ? Now that would model the imagination of the people and would put some serious restraints on the political leaders.

Right now the constitution is just a damned piece of paper interpreted by anybody according to their own political agenda. But what if we make the constitution into a computerized virtual entity which interprets itself ?

Imagine the constitution would have a “seat” in the senate, in the white house and in congress and would oversee the supreme court and whenever somebody would infringe a right, the constitution would raise it’s voice against it and appeal to the entire population to stop that infringement.

It would cease to be a worthless piece of paper and would fend for itself. That’s what I would like to see.

Scott Regener April 7, 2010 at 5:34 am

While it is interesting to argue against the acts of the state on the basis of its violent acts, in reality such arguments fall to pieces. Why aren’t libertarians emigrating en masse to Somalia, a country that currently has no government at all? The problem with the libertarian utopia is that it ignores the problem of fallen man; in the absence of a controlling force, there are those who will use force against the “free” and thus the free must band together and “hire” protection from those who would use violence to deny them their freedom. In essence, in order for liberty to exist in a world with evil in it, some abdication of freedom is necessary.

As long as you have the right to leave a country, it is hard to argue that taxation lacks consent. When you rent a house, you agree to pay the price set by the renter. When you live in a country, do you not agree to pay the price set by the owner? It is the nature of man to want to get the most goods for the lowest price, and thus we chafe against taxation and desire it to be lower. Yet as long as we are free to leave, one must conclude that no matter how we look at the bargain, in the end, our cost-benefit analysis leads us to conclude that we are better off staying than leaving. The choices are not perfect, but the world we live in is not perfect. Neither are we.

matskralc April 7, 2010 at 7:39 am

The problem with the libertarian utopia is that it ignores the problem of fallen man; in the absence of a controlling force, there are those who will use force against the “free” and thus the free must band together and “hire” protection from those who would use violence to deny them their freedom. In essence, in order for liberty to exist in a world with evil in it, some abdication of freedom is necessary.

Yes, in order to be free from the tyranny of fallen men, we must voluntarily submit ourselves to the tyranny of fallen men.

frank April 7, 2010 at 7:53 am

“Why aren’t libertarians emigrating en masse to Somalia, a country that currently has no government at all? The problem with the libertarian utopia is that it ignores the problem of fallen man; in the absence of a controlling force, there are those who will use force against the “free” and thus the free must band together and “hire” protection from those who would use violence to deny them their freedom. In essence, in order for liberty to exist in a world with evil in it, some abdication of freedom is necessary.”

I would second this. Something on the free market will emerge to counter those willing to use force against those reluctant. This entity will end up suggesting politely that those wanting protection constrain their behaviour in some way eg. not going to certain places at night. You are trading some of your freedom for safety.

Which constraints are correct and which not? Who knows. But unscrupulous protectors (which are guaranteed to emerge sooner or later) will gradually make things more and complicated so it takes more and more time to investigate the facts of protection. Those who take advantage of this complexity and design a product which is a long term ponzi scheme (which is profitable now but must collapse long term) will attract those who do not have the time or will to examine the details.

If everyone in the population has read Human Action, maybe these ponzis will never get off the ground. If not, maybe they will and they will gradually grow until they consume their host. And then it will die and the cycle will begin again.

I’m all for everything on this site (including the idea that viewing the state as criminals trying to enrich themselves at the expense of the public) EXCEPT the idea of anarchy (ie. zero government). This is simply unstable and just as unsustainable as the welfare-warfare state.

Slim934 April 7, 2010 at 9:10 am

You are not really providing any sort of logical proof that this will occur.

You are simply positing a scenario, declaring (not arguing) that there is no work around for it, and then declaring the problem to be unsolvable.Just saying it does not make it so.

Also, anarchy does not imply 0 government; it implies 0 state. There is a difference. Law will arise simply by nature of people wishing to have consistent rules to govern their own conduct. Law does not follow from the formation of the state, the State follows from the formation of some already agreed upon legal order. That is what the history shows anyway.

Slim934 April 7, 2010 at 9:05 am

I would point you to an article that Robert Murphy wrote answering this exact question.


The short answer: when libertarians say that anarchy is better they are not saying it is perfect. Only that given the same starting point, an anarchic political order will be better than a monopolistic one. You need to check your premises when you describe market anarchy. All market anarchy means is that there is no monopolist able to forcibly impose his will on a given geographical area. That is all. We historically have had numerous political orders like this until they were slowly usurped by early state apparati. Read Bruce Benson’s “Enterprise of Law” and you will get a very interesting history of the customary law arrangements that existed in England before the monarchical apparatus formed. This system lasted for centuries, so the idea that is inherently unstable is flat-out wrong.

It is also an absurd comparison to compare Somalia to the US, and say that “Oh libertarians aren’t going there, so they must not really favor anarchy”. How can you compare a country that has been under communistic authoritarian domination for decades (which means there was no capital formation) to country which has had fairly stable capital formation for over 300 years, and moreso had political institutions in place that acknowledged private property. If Somalia had a political history similar to the US (with similar levels of capital formation) I would there in a heartbeat.The question that has to be asked is: is Somalia better of now than when it had a government? The answer is undeniably yes. Basically every indicator of economic progress has improved since the old Communist dictatorship Somalian government has collapsed.

frank April 7, 2010 at 9:45 am

That article starts with

“Whenever a natural disaster or violent insurrection causes the downfall of a corrupt government, various commentators cannot resist labeling the result “anarchy” and then citing the chaotic situation as an apparently obvious refutation of the ideas of Murray Rothbard.”

I’m not saying that, because it’s a stupid thing to say, as you point out. I shouldn’t have included the quote about Somalia, I don’t actually think that, I know that’s not what anarchy is.

It’s not a logical proof no, nor is proof of such a claim possible in a single paragraph. I’m glad to be proved wrong, I yield to no’one in my contempt for the organisation of the state as it exists today. But you say:

“the State follows from the formation of some already agreed upon legal order”

Well, yes, exactly. You say that saying it is unstable is “flat-out wrong”. Yet as Hans Hoppe has documented extensively, private ownership of government in the form of monarchy or whatever was dominant before WW1. Now there are essentially zero examples of any kind of natural law countries. So I might say that your idea that it can be stable is flat out wrong in that every single example of an agreed upon law and order has turned into a state.

frank April 7, 2010 at 9:55 am

I don’t think anarchy is an Evolutionary Stable Strategy. There will always be someone (a hawk if you like) offering ponzi schemes which eventually people will succumb to. These cycles might take decades, or centuries. But in one sentence, I just don’t think most people want to live in a free society. I do, but most don’t. My only hope is that the education system of the last generation or two has prodcued this and that it is not actually “natural” for most people to want to be ruled.


“To most people it immediately appears that DOVE is not a pure ESS. Imagine a population entirely of doves. It is probably a very nice place to live and everyone is doing reasonably well without injuries when it comes to conflicts over resources – the worst thing that happens to you is that you waste time and energy displaying. But that is OK, because on the average you win 50% of the encounters. Therefore on the average, you will come out ahead provided the display costs are not large compared to the resource value.Now, imagine what happens if a HAWK appears by mutation or immigration. The Hawk will do extremely well relative to any dove — winning every encounter and initially at least suffering no injuries. Thus, its frequency will increase at the expense of dove. Thus, Dove is not a pure ESS. If dove is not an ESS, what about hawk?”

Slim934 April 7, 2010 at 9:32 am

That second argument makes no sense.

In order to compare it to a landlord who rents out a piece of land, one must assume that the government actually owns everything in the country. Further, it would also have to claim ownership over the people themselves, who’s labor is the underlying factor in income coming about to begin with.

When I pay a rent to a landlord, I am right there agreeing to some certain set amount of money I am paying them for the use of some property. It is a contract that I have voluntarily engaged in, compared to being born into some political order and thus being having that order imposed on me. This argument is kind of like saying that because I was born into a dictatorship I have to accept the aggression the ruler subjects me to by virtue of me just living in that country. Your argument also falls apart when you take into consideration that numerous countries claim a right to their own citizens labor (taxes) when they move and live in a different country. Further, my landlord cannot simply increase my rent unless I agree to a contract which states he can do this. Also, I can go to an independent party to make a claim against the renter if he is acting against his contractual obligations. A State on the otherhand can do this whenever it wants regardless of my individual choice, and it does. Just look at this current healthcare nonsense, over 50% of Americans did not want it and we still go it. And who am I forced to arbitrate this case with. The State. And how often does it happen that the state actually rules against itself?

Regardless of whether in the cost-benefit analysis we choose to stay or not, that does not mean we are consenting to it in the same way we consent to buying a product. We can always choose not to buy it. In this case it is choosing the lesser of 2 unavoidable evils. You can only hold this line of reasoning if you believe the State owns everything and everyone in its given geographical territory.

Scott Regener April 8, 2010 at 4:42 am

You must choose to live somewhere. And all the places that are available do seem to have governments. In theory, with enough funds, you could purchase your own country. But at some point, if you have any success there, you’d better be prepared to protect it from threats of violence. Then you’d have to figure out how to pay for that protection, and I’m guessing that you would not find it fair for people to live under that protection without paying for it. A perfectly moral people would not have a problem paying for it without force, as they would recognize and acknowledge the necessity and cost. However, we do not have the luxury of a perfectly moral people with which to establish our own nation, and thus have to find some way to handle the problem of those who would choose not to pay if given the choice. If history teaches us anything, it is that some people will take advantage of others without guilt.

When you come on the Internet, you use a technology created, funded and largely regulated by government. It is not free, nor is it a good example of a free market absent of government influence or control. Yet, the world wide web is a good example of how when government establishes the structures and then leaves the uses to the individual, great things can be done like this web site, that could not be done otherwise. We don’t know that a private Internet would not have arisen without the government, but the fact that one has not been deemed necessary to compete with the government-created one suggests that the underlying structure is relatively sound.

Likewise, when governments protect a society that is able to largely live without fear of the loss of their life and property, great things can be done. There is a price for such protection, and it is regrettable that government has gone so far beyond this relatively narrow purpose. And yet I stand by my argument: as long as you are free to leave, you are not coerced to stay. You are in prison, but there are no guards or locked doors preventing you from leaving. “Man is meant to be free!” you yell, shaking the bars of your cell and insisting that this is not how life should be.

Peter Surda April 8, 2010 at 7:46 am

Why aren’t libertarians emigrating en masse to Somalia, a country that currently has no government at all?

I guess the same reason why statists aren’t emigrating en masse to North Korea or Cuba. The absence of a state is merely a necessary, not a sufficient, condition for the desired (by anarchocapitalists) societal order. It does not automatically lead to a more desirable outcome compared to a different country existing at the same time.

frank April 8, 2010 at 9:42 am

Arguing against this is pointless, only people who know nothing about free markets say such things. I included this phrase by accident in my copy and paste if you’re directing this at me and already said so.

Gil April 7, 2010 at 6:41 am

The article should read:

“What is that ‘organization’ that claims the monopoly of force?

A landowner.”

A private landowner doesn’t have to justify his rules and rent to anyone. There’s no constitution here, It’s ‘love it or leave it’. If there’s a relative land shortage then an aspiring tenant will probably find the rules and rent onerous but that’s his tough luck.

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