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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/16776/here-the-state-is-nowhere-to-be-seen/

Here, the State Is Nowhere to Be Seen

May 4, 2011 by

To Thoreau, the only true duty, which every man owed to himself, is living as deeply and honestly as possible. Politics is not part of that. FULL ARTICLE by Wendy McElroy

{ 10 comments }

Josh May 4, 2011 at 10:21 am

Aw. Sweet.

Vic May 4, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Hear hear! congratulations!

Frank May 4, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Very beautiful essay! And great words those of Thoreau.

Tim May 4, 2011 at 1:30 pm

only soon there won’t be a place where the government isn’t involved.

Drigan May 4, 2011 at 4:06 pm

“There is no duty to confront the state except when it seeks to make you an active accomplice in the oppression of others.”

I think the very wording of this statement implies that not confronting the state makes you an accomplice of the state, though merely a passive one. I disagree with this statement, but I don’t fault those who don’t oppose the state because of the personal hardship that would entail. (And of course, there are hundreds of things that the state would have to be opposed on every day, making simply going to the bathroom nearly impossible.)

Dave Albin May 4, 2011 at 4:07 pm

True – nature and free-market economics have a lot in common.

Jim P. May 4, 2011 at 6:01 pm

What a fine article. I think this sort of perspective is much needed at Mises. I have read all of Thoreau’s work* (his naturalist writing is also my favorite), but I don’t think I’ve ever had this insight before: Thoreau fully understood that the State is not a natural part of Life, and is not actually capable of supplanting life. I’ve always been inspired by the casual nature with which Thoreau casts aside his brushes with State thugs, as though they were just busy flies. But I hadn’t before considered his naturalist work as the realization that the State is totally inconsequential to the truly free man. That’s profound. Freedom happens in the sidewalk cracks.

Initially, it strikes me as ironic that Thoreau’s non-political work might have the most to offer in terms of freedom, but maybe that’s not so ironic after all. Belief that the State actually *can* rule and subdue everything and all of us, and is therefore relevant to everyday life, is still just a belief in the superstition of Government.

*except his journals. I enjoy them, but that’s ten years of reading.

John Bennett Novey May 4, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Just imagining a berry picking jaunt made me forget the state. It is very difficult to go about your daily affairs without running head on into the state. Not the limited state envisioned in the US constitution (I’m form Panama), but the omnipresent state that assails us at every bend of our daily lives in a way that diminishes human nature. If you take a trip aboard the journeys of James Tooley in his book “A Beautiful Tree”, he takes you to Africa, India and China, to extraordinarily remote corners of the world where the only state around is the local folk. Those who understand the realities of their neighbors because they share an intimate commonality only found through life experience. There, in remote villages above ten thousand feet, in the thin air, and a thin village, you will find private schools serving the poor; and not only is the state nowhere to be seen, but when it does come around it becomes enraged at the view of people going along with their daily lives without intervention. Such a notion is so alien to state bureaucrats that they either try to deny the existence of those schools, or they will dream up all kinds of schemes to vanish such affront to centralized power. Or… as the states minions are want to do… they simply ask for a bribe so that the village can return to its natural state.
The remnant is reading and enjoying Wendy.

A. Viirlaid May 5, 2011 at 9:41 am

I just love her title:

“Here, the State Is Nowhere to Be Seen”

A Big Thank-You to Wendy McElroy indeed. I agree also with the other writers’ sentiments.

I came across Wendy’s article this morning, and immediately realized how strong her article’s position against the State truly is. How basic is her message and how powerful. How unforced and natural.

Her arguments do not have to rely on the usual, more mundane, arguments of the State doing a poor job for us nor do her arguments have to rely on the oft-heard arguments of how intrusive the State has become —— as in how hard it is to find a place actually free of the State’s presence. She simply points out that in those few places, how much we actually enjoy and live Real Genuine Life —— as in having an personal awakening.

That place that Wendy writes of is the logical intersection of Thoreau’s admiration for The Natural and his avoidance of the State. And that is also the logical intersection in his writing of The Natural and his writing of Civil Disobedience.

Wendy has done a wonderful service for us all. To point out how truly artificial the State is. How intrusive (physically AND emotionally) the State is. How the State tries to drive a wedge between individuals, between members of the same family and community, and actually how the State creates the preconditions to create a generally divisive and litigious society.

The State plays us off, one against the other. The State is only truly strongest when it succeeds in putting us at each others’ throats —— this naysays the State’s usual mantra that “United We Stand, Divided We Fall”.

The State even enhances its powers when it succeeds in creating foreign ‘enemies’ that we are then all encouraged to rise up against. But what is truly ‘foreign’? Just think of that word —— why do we refer to our fellow humans as being ‘foreign’? Did we not all come here, even our indigenous brothers and sisters, from somewhere else? Are we not all ‘foreigners’?

Recently I have been reading and writing at “The Attack on the Washing Machine” by Mark Thornton at http://mises.org/daily/5263/The-Attack-on-the-Washing-Machine

Mark makes perfectly logical and practical arguments regarding the problems with State Intrusion, via rules and regulations, into our lives. It is a very valid point of view. But it misses the mark on the negative emotional impact that the State often has on us. This is where Wendy’s article fills the gap.

Her post helps us see that there are other reasons that the State oppresses and depresses us all —— even with its best intentions, the State can never be Mom or Dad, nor can it feed us, figuratively and physiologically, as Nature does. Perhaps Gandhi would have today as naturally resisted and ‘disobeyed’ the current Indian Government —— while he might not have initially understood it, in his own mind, it was not so much the British Imperium he was ‘abstaining from’, as the State of his Day (whatever its composition, native or ‘foreign’).

Thank you Wendy!!!

Thoreau did not consider resisting the state to be a duty that people must assume. Quite the opposite. He considered the only true duty, which every man owed to himself, to be the business of living as deeply and honestly as possible.

Vanmind May 12, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Great stuff, Ms. McElroy. Thanks.

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