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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5093/the-state-in-the-dock/

The State in the Dock

May 26, 2006 by

Under what law should the heads of governments be tried? If they are tried according to every-day moral law, they would all be in big trouble. Did you plot to steal the property of millions of people in the name of “taxing” them? Oh sure! Did you send people to kill and be killed in an aggressive war? Thousands! Did you mislead people about your spending? Every day! Did you water down the value of the money stock by electronically printing new money that you passed out to your friends? Hey, it’s called central banking! Judged by this standard, all states are guilty. And all heads of state are guilty of criminal wrongdoing if we are using a normal, every-day kind of moral standard to judge them. Thus are they all vulnerable. FULL ARTICLE


Roger M May 26, 2006 at 9:21 am

What law should heads of states be tried under? How about natural law? It has worked well for centuries. It’s odd that Rockwell can’t see the difference between Bush and Hussein. Let’s take one example: The Kurds opposed Hussein, so he killed 300,000 of them. Is he saying that’s no different than taxing people?

Rockwell seems to be saying that since all government is evil, we should just ignore the worst leaders.

Rockwell makes one factual error: The US does not oversee the trial. If it did, we would use American rules. The Iraqis are in full control.

steve May 26, 2006 at 9:39 am

“The Iraqis are in full control.”

In full control to do as they are told by the U.S. government. The US government does not use American rules on American citizens. Re Joseph Padilla.

TCA May 26, 2006 at 10:45 am

The Kurds opposed Hussein, so he killed 300,000 of them

And Lincoln did the same when the Confederacy attempted to leave the Union. What’s the difference? You don’t think if California suddenly declared itself a new republic that the U.S. government wouldn’t act similarly to Hussein?

I think you’re being naive.

WMD May 26, 2006 at 11:10 am

I’ve always thought the Saddam trial was a farce, finally someone who agrees with me. A few points though: Saddam’s execution won’t inspire terrorism, because Saddam wasn’t a terrorist, terrorist leader, or terrorist supporter. Saddam was (as is mentioned in the article) secular and in fact a (lesser) enemy of the jihadists. The side that loses gets tried as war criminals, enemies of the people, made to pay ‘reparations’, etc… this is how it’s always been, except now we coat it with the perserve notion of legalism. Exactly like taxes, those who have strength in numbers rob those who don’t, and coat it in legalism and call it right.

Roger M May 26, 2006 at 2:23 pm

TCA, You honestly don’t see any difference between Lincoln and Hussein?

M E Hoffer May 26, 2006 at 2:35 pm

Roger M,

The only reason Lincoln is so trumpeted is that he, forever, put to rest, in function, the Jeffersonian ideal of of a Limited State.

Peter May 26, 2006 at 5:14 pm

TCA, You honestly don’t see any difference between Lincoln and Hussein?

Of course there’s a difference. Lincoln killed far more people!

Paul Edwards May 26, 2006 at 5:29 pm

The biggest difference between them is that Lincoln’s side won the war and therefore wrote the history books.

Note to self: If you’re going to initiate an aggressive war and be responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths, be sure to win if you want to stay out of jail and also have the world’s historians write you up favorably.

And be sure to say something nifty and hypocritical like “…government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” LOL!

Paul Marks May 27, 2006 at 6:00 am

Whether or not Lincoln really cared about slavery (and he, I believe, did not even mention it in his speeches till 1854), it was still vital propaganda tool in the war.

“How is it right to kill hundreds of thousands of people just to prevent States leaving the Union?”

“We are fighting for freedom, they are a Slave Empire”.

Actually if Califorina voted to leave the Union now I do not think that the Feds would fire a single shot to prevent it so doing.

Or any of the Southern States.

Remember the Feds can not even point at segregation in the South anymore – the Feds have boasted for decades of how they got rid of the Jim Crow laws.

One advance that United States has made is that the Feds no longer have an excuse to prevent a State leaving the Union.

So if the Ludwig Von Mises insitute every manages to convice the people of Alabama to leave the Union there will be no U.S. attack.

M E Hoffer May 27, 2006 at 7:41 am


You are more sanguine, on this point, than I. I would purport that “Terrorism” is the current excuse for all manner of Federal trammeling of its, once, bounds.

Roger M May 27, 2006 at 9:04 am

You guys sound like the Islamist terrorists. In their minds, anything a muslim does is justified; anything a non-muslim does is evil. Only with you guys, all actions by states is either theft or murder. You’re not going to win many converts with that attitude, and that’s a shame, because Austrian economics is awsome! Oh well, I guess our hopes on educating the public depend upon the Cato Institute.

steve May 27, 2006 at 9:54 am

“…all actions by states is either theft or murder.” (forgot to add deceit)

Unfortunately, this is the true nature of the state. The state is judged by a far different set of ethics than the individual, and this is what leads to so much destruction. This doesn’t make any sense though, because after all, it is individuals who act and not groups of people who act. Why should they be judged by different laws than you or me?

Pretending these truths do not exist will not do a better job educating the public.

Paul Edwards May 27, 2006 at 12:06 pm


“…with you guys, all actions by states is either theft or murder. You’re not going to win many converts with that attitude”

The very first time I read Rothbard suggest that the right of secession logically applied not just to a state or a city, but to an individual, I literally did not even understand what he was talking about. I had to stick around and read some more Austrian and libertarian truths until it started to sink in. Because I didn’t and still don’t have the mental bandwidth to read between the lines and draw subtle inferences, I always deeply appreciated Rothbard, and the other great authors connected with mises.org for putting their arguments up front, plainly and without mincing their words. I have the highest respect for this approach and really to me, it is the only approach.

I am very much in favor of being as polite as possible when discussing controversial topics as we always seem to be covering here. On the other hand, I think I am almost unable to sugar coat what I think, and regardless, I would never want to do it on principle. I am really not interested in selling libertarianism to the hard sell. I am only interested in speaking the truth. The case that the state is necessarily both a thief and a murderer has been made successfully many times in several different ways. It is a fact. To those who suspect it is true, but do not yet know it is true, they should stick around. Logic will convince them. To those who don’t believe it at all but don’t mind brutally frank arguments that it is the case: stick around, there is still hope. To those who hope that they can convince me or others to soften up our rhetoric for the good of the feint of heart, I say, stick around also if you like, but bring a lunch! LOL.

M E Hoffer May 27, 2006 at 4:15 pm


Without doubt!~ Those that need copious whelping to be able to digest the simple realities of Liberty are congenitally unfit for it. To say nothing of their disability to maintain it.

There are many among still comfortable within the Cave, currently happy with, the now, Hi-Def w/ DHX. shadows they see dancing upon the walls. Their choice is simple: They may remain so consumed with their consuming that is without consummation, or, they may strike up their courage and come to see the nature of the Oz that held them in such sway. No sugary sap will nourish them; the only substance that will allow them, to tolerate their Growth, is Truth.

Roger M May 30, 2006 at 9:02 am

I have read Rothbard, too, and found his economics great, but his anti-government rantings simplistic to the point of childishness. The same goes for Hoppe and Rockwell. My concern is that the world needs to hear the amazing economics of Mises and Hayek, but the anti-state ravings of Rothbard and Hoppe tarnish the economics and will cause those who are still learning to turn away from the important truths in the economics. If we can’t sell the Austrian economics to the voters, this country is doomed. The anti-state foaming at the mouth that comes from Rothbard, Hoppe and Rockwell seriously damages the economics message.

TCA May 30, 2006 at 9:41 am


How do you propose that Austrian Economics will ever be implemented while the state still exists? Seems you’re putting the cart before the horse.

Genuinely curious…


Roger M May 30, 2006 at 11:42 am

I apologize for using the word “childish” above. That wasn’t appropriate or true. I do find the anti-state position too simple to stand up to the demands of the real world.

TCA, I don’t believe Mises and Hayek had any problem with the existence of the state, although they found quite a few examples of abuse of power, as do I. The essence of Austrian econ is the protection of private property. The Dutch Republic, Great Britain in the 19th century, and the US for the most part have done a good job of that if you compare them with other systems in existence and not with abstract ideals. I believe the Dutch Republic came closest to the Austrian ideal with its free trade (It was never one of the mercantilist economies) protection of property and gold for money. Also, it didn’t allow fractional banking for over a century.

To implement Austrian economics in the US, we need to educate the voters about the evils of government intervention in the economy, the importance of private property, and the value of gold as money. We have a long way to go, but it’s encouraging that more and more writers in the MSM are quoting Mises and Hayek, while more mainstream economists are accepting Austrian principles into their analysis toolkits.

steve May 30, 2006 at 1:16 pm

Without ideals and principles, western civilization would never had existed. More specifically, a relative view of liberty would have precluded America’s secession from Great Britain from happening at all.

Moral and political relativism is the cause of tyranny not the solution.

billwald May 30, 2006 at 2:27 pm

Someone propose a procedure for California making a declaration of independence. Say the California legislature sent a letter to King George. It would be ignored. Then what? Californians would stop cashing their Social Security checks?

Roger M May 31, 2006 at 9:09 am

For readers who are new to Austrian economics, I think you should keep in mind that the anti-state/anarcho-capitalism philosophy so popular on this web site is not organic to Austrian economics. For the most part, Rothbard synthesized anarchism and attached it to Austrian economics. But as other web sites, such as those of the Cato Institute and the Library of Economics and Liberty, show, anarchism isn’t necessary to Austrian economics.

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