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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/6748/if-men-were-angels/

If Men Were Angels

June 15, 2007 by

In If Men Were Angels Robert Higgs analyzes James Madison’s famous passage from The Federalist No. 51 containing the quotable line “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” This is an excellent article with several useful analytical approaches to thinking about the state. Of particular value is a section on the “dynamic considerations” left out by the Hobbesian or Lockean account of moving from the “state of nature” to a state:

Suppose, if only for purposes of discussion, we conceded that the initial establishment of the state reduces the degree of social disorder. The obvious question, however seldom philosophers may have asked it, then becomes, What happens next? Does the degree of social disorder remain constant… ?

All in all, the article is a wonderfully hard-headed critique of the rather naive approach often taken by political philosophers and political scientists: Giving the state the benefit of the doubt.

{ 51 comments }

Kevin B. June 25, 2007 at 1:23 pm

Jonathan: “Mises said mixed economies are unstable and tend towards full socialism.

The same could be said of the mixed societies, minarchies are unstable and tend towards full government.”

RogerM: “And you could say something similar about anarchism: anarchy is unstable and leads to chaos, loss of freedom and destruction of wealth. Just saying it doesn’t make it so.”

It is humanity, not government, that causes this chaos, loss of freedom, and destruction of wealth. Government is not the actual root of the problem, but merely a symptom. Government is had because of bad human behavior. It is not that governments are necessary, but that they are consequential.

Why should we not desire the absence of coercion? When setting a goal, aim for perfection.

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