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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/7309/the-song-that-is-irresistible-how-the-state-leads-people-to-their-own-destruction/

The Song that Is Irresistible: How the State Leads People to Their Own Destruction

October 16, 2007 by

Robert Higgs, Schlaurbaum laureate, delivers his address:

The state is the most destructive institution human beings have ever devised — a fire that, at best, can be controlled for only a short time before it o’erleaps its improvised confinements and spreads its flames far and wide.

Whatever promotes the growth of the state also weakens the capacity of individuals in civil society to fend off the state’s depredations and therefore augments the public’s multifaceted victimization at the hands of state functionaries. Nothing promotes the growth of the state as much as national emergency — war and other crises comparable to war in the seriousness of the threats they pose. FULL ARTICLE

{ 30 comments }

David Spellman October 16, 2007 at 12:27 pm

Great speech, and it touched upon one of the most unique aspects of the Judeo-Christian tradition. In fact, I cannot say enough about this favorite, salient point.

In all the history of the world, statists have harnessed every institution, tradition, and association of society to promote their tyranny. In particular, religion has a very long and intimate relationship as a promoter of the state. The priests and clerics have typically derived status, wealth, and power from supporting the autocracy by teaching the people that the gods are pleased by subservience to the state.

Except the Jewish God! I find it endlessly amusing how the Biblical prophets tirelessly stand up to kings with messages that their god is not pleased with the government. As Mr. Higgs quoted, the prophet Samuel told the people they were better off without a government at all. The system of judges worked very well and the Israelites were fools to willingly become subject to a king.

Modern society reveres the tyranny of the majority and extolls the virtues of ancient greek democratic traditions. How much better off if we paid heed to a tradition that we are almost compelled to exclaim is divine, regardless of our religious background, summarized by a scripture for every age:

“In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Judges 17:6

Now there is a god I can believe in!

Servius October 16, 2007 at 3:28 pm

“In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Judges 17:6

That works great so long as all or at least most “loves the LORD their God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their strength.” and “Their neighbor as themselves.”

The Old Testament is the story of how a nation that does not cannot “live long in the land which the Lord their God gave them.”

Christopher Hettinger October 16, 2007 at 4:11 pm

The Old Testament is full of examples of the “Just God” acting in ways very simillar to the “evil state”.

In fact, the God is simply the replacement of the state.

Fundamentalist October 16, 2007 at 4:32 pm

Christopher: “The Old Testament is full of examples of the “Just God” acting in ways very simillar to the “evil state”.

Yes, because Israel in the OT was a theocracy with God as the Head of State. He required taxes, tithes, participation in the military and wars against neighboring states. May I assume that you are using the OT as a defense of the state?

IMHO October 16, 2007 at 4:35 pm

The Old Testament foretold of the coming of Christ. Once Christ arrived on the scene, I felt that it was his words that mattered most. Christ was a man of peace. That is why I prefer to focus on the New Testament.

Christopher Hettinger October 16, 2007 at 5:35 pm

Hardly, Fundamentalist. I am in no way defending the state. I renounce both of the Big G’s (God and Government).

Fundatmentalist October 16, 2007 at 6:10 pm

Christopher: “I renounce both of the Big G’s (God and Government).”

Sorry. It’s sometimes difficult to hear the sarcasm in writings.

Anthony October 16, 2007 at 7:43 pm

Looong article.. I’ll defer reading it to tomorrow.

nick gray October 17, 2007 at 12:24 am

Here’s an idea for something new- a time-share government. If any person volunteers to be a citizen, then the cost is to share the minimal functions of government. I.e., if I joined in October of a year, then every October I should go to whatever volunteer area I have nominated (Fire Service, or Road Patrol, or General Community Service, or Defence Forces,whatever). I would share in the functions of the state, and I get the benefit of voting on all laws directly, and being voted by others to any public office (if we still need such things). Citizens might also get first call on services, whilst bystanders, who have chosen not to contribute, would have to wait. If we could all share in all functions of government, then it couldn’t monopolize, and if we all directly vote, our ‘representatives’ would not be necessary.

nexalacer October 17, 2007 at 8:28 am

Great article! (speech?) I wonder why he chose to use quotes from the bible, however. The state and religion have always been intertwined because it requires the belief in invisible entities that follow “do as I say, not as I do” morality. Of course, this is the biggest problem with government (murder and theft are illegal… unless we do them!) as well as the problem with the gods of all world religions. Only when people can find morality through rational, empirical thought (the only thought can accurately describe this world) will we be able to live in a stateless/godless society.

Interestingly enough, many families also are guilty of being entities that follow the “do as I say, not as I do” morality… if it’s a part of our most basic group unit, no wonder it’s so virulent in society.

Invid October 17, 2007 at 10:50 am

“Only when people can find morality through rational, empirical thought…”

Good luck with that.

Daniel Bonner October 17, 2007 at 1:18 pm

Greetings: Once a homeless paleoconservative in the wake of a ruthless takeover by Irving Kristol and other clever lefties, I recalled six or so years ago that I’d been present in Washington, D. C. at a presentation and Q and A by Lew Rockwell. To my surprise, he was jousting against a determined “friendly” audience, whose bent was in the direction of statism. Said I to myself, “Learn more about this Rockwell fellow.” So I did, and flood gates opened: I studied Austrian School economics; I expanded horizons about solid revisionist history; and above all, during my then lonely quest for intellectual support against the invasion of Iraq I hit a central source.

Thus, my good fortune is that daily Lew Rockwell presents excellent scholars whose aim against statism and empire hits home dead center. So it is with Dr. Higgs’s splendid Schlarbaum speech.
I will treasure its marvelous, succinct reasoning. And I’ll memorize its arguments.

Thank you.

Daniel Bonner

Daniel Bonner October 17, 2007 at 1:18 pm

Greetings: Once a homeless paleoconservative in the wake of a ruthless takeover by Irving Kristol and other clever lefties, I recalled six or so years ago that I’d been present in Washington, D. C. at a presentation and Q and A by Lew Rockwell. To my surprise, he was jousting against a determined “friendly” audience, whose bent was in the direction of statism. Said I to myself, “Learn more about this Rockwell fellow.” So I did, and flood gates opened: I studied Austrian School economics; I expanded horizons about solid revisionist history; and above all, during my then lonely quest for intellectual support against the invasion of Iraq I hit a central source.

Thus, my good fortune is that daily Lew Rockwell presents excellent scholars whose aim against statism and empire hits home dead center. So it is with Dr. Higgs’s splendid Schlarbaum speech.
I will treasure its marvelous, succinct reasoning. And I’ll memorize its arguments.

Thank you.

Daniel Bonner

D. Saul Weiner October 17, 2007 at 2:39 pm

Bravo Dr. Higgs.

IMHO October 18, 2007 at 1:49 pm

On God and government

I’ve been wondering why so many libertarians are atheist…it appears they don’t like the idea of God being paired up with government. But Jefferson’s “Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom” called for separation of Church and State:

“We the General Assembly of Virginia do enact that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body of goods, nor shall suffer otherwise on acount of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.”

The following excerpts are from a letter that Jefferson wrote to Joseph Priestly, and present Jefferson’s personal views on religion:

I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he [Christ] wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; and believing he never claimed any other…I am averse to the communication of my religious tenets to the public; because it would countenence the presumption of those who have endeavored to draw them before that tribunal, and to seduce public opinion to erect itself into that inquisition over the rights of conscience, which the laws have so justly proscribed. It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others…It behooves him, too, in his own case, to give no example of concession, betraying the common right of independent opinion, by answering questions of faith, which the laws have let between God and himself.

“Out of the Flames” by Goldstone, pp293-294.

IMHO, Jefferson’s beliefs were pretty much in line with those of Jesus, who did not want to be part of any Government that is of this Earth:

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”

John 18:36
New American Standard Bible (©1995)

Finally, if you don’t like the idea of a religious leader extolling the virtues of a particular political figure from the pulpit, or don’t appreciate the discussion of politics in the church bulletin, don’t just walk out angry. Take the individual to the side and remind them of the separation of Church and State.

Fundamentalist October 18, 2007 at 3:20 pm

nexalacer: “Only when people can find morality through rational, empirical thought (the only thought can accurately describe this world) will we be able to live in a stateless/godless society.”

You just described the old USSR and Communist China, and don’t give me that libertarian nonsense that communism is just another religion. Communism was atheist in every sense of the word.

nick gray October 18, 2007 at 8:07 pm

Communism is just another religion. This is not nonsense. All people look for some way of guiding themselves through life. Religion provides a way for many. Others get passionate about particular ideologies, and direct their energies to those beliefs. It’s the same looking for certainty, for fixed codes.

greg October 18, 2007 at 8:23 pm

Fundy> Communism was atheist in every sense of the word.

You really ought to read Hayek’s Fatal Conceit. There, he writes about how socialism is a religion.

IMHO October 18, 2007 at 8:44 pm

Nick,

Communism is a philosophy, not a religion. That may seem like a minor point to you, but it isn’t to me.

Richard D'Souza October 19, 2007 at 12:06 am

Dr. Higgs,

Excellent article.

I am from India. We are supposedly the world’s largest democracy. But we have virtually no say in how we are governed and by whom and, as you rightly said, the government, local, State and Federal and its agents/contractors not only have their hands perpetually in our pockets but we have diktats handed out to us affecting almost every aspect of our personal lives.

Anthony October 19, 2007 at 8:35 am

IMHO, correct, but some Marxists do not seem to realize that…

Fundamentalist October 19, 2007 at 10:40 am

greg: “You really ought to read Hayek’s Fatal Conceit. There, he writes about how socialism is a religion.”

I have read it. Twice, because he’s so hard to undertand. I didn’t get that out of it. Could you site the passages you refer to? Mainly I got from it that socialism was a result of the false style of reasoning that developed during the French enlightenment. But since atheism is a philosophy, as is communism, and religions are special types of philosophies, there are obviously some similarities.

I was referring to the anarchists who claim their atheism has nothing to do with communism because communism is a type of religion. But if you can make communism a type of religion, then you can make anarchism a type of religion, too. In the end, you have nonsense, religious atheism. On second thought, religious atheism describes modern mainstream theology very well!

IMHO October 19, 2007 at 11:37 am

“On second thought, religious atheism describes modern mainstream theology very well!”

I think that too often we confuse the administration of religion with religion itself.

concerned citizen os the world October 21, 2007 at 5:10 pm

An excellent speech / article. It deals directly with atrocities being committed by any and all religious / governmental / state establishments. The only question, left unanswered is how to end this excrement. What should ordinary people do, to stop the religions and governments from existing ? We can all scream and debate, but how can we act ?

Jim Bell’s Assassination Politics are not feasible(however attractive and just those might be in theory), since proliferation of strong crypto is effectively banned and whatever scraps of knowledge about encryption techniques, that do exist are readily countered by the amount of computing resource available to brute force anything in public domain.

Once the state would detect any amount of appreciable descent and resistance, we’ll be nuked or poisoned in great numbers. The majority of the population would be bumped back into dark ages, while the parasitic elite would continue to remain in control.

Our children’s minds are being poisoned with multiple levels of religious and state propaganda. They grow up without free will or thought and totally uncaring of the world and society we all live in. Mindless automatons. Higher education is denied to the masses. The process of stupefying individuals is a never ending story since the moment we started counting time units. Time and again, the establishment denied us knowledge and technological advances.

What tools do we have to fight off the oppression ? Should we simply crawl away and die in silence ? Commit mass suicide ?

And to those who like having faith in all kinds of flying spaghetti monsters – leave the rest of us alone, don’t try to convert more people, don’t spread your insanity. We have enough problems already, without having to deal with religious nonsense.

greg October 22, 2007 at 12:29 pm

Fundy>
Could you site the passages you refer to?

Oh come on. This is very silly for someone who continually tells people that they ought to read the book.

As far as explicitly, he says communism is a religion on p.137. For it is, I believe, itself a religion which had its time, and which is now declining rapidly. In his Counter-Revolution of Science, there is a chapter called something like The Religion of the Engineers, referring to would-be social engineers.

A major part of Hayek’s development in FC was that of the socialists animistic notions about “society.” Hayek writes that the socialists animistic conceptions led to their faith of being able to design society better that it is. That is, socialists have the teleological idea that society (and/or culture) is and can be designed. It is a parallel to the religious teleological argument that such complexity as our world’s could not occur by chance, but there must be a wise designer behind it. In socialism, the supernatural god is replaced by “wise legislators,” who then play god themselves. The irony is always that socialists consider themselves to be rationalistic. Hayek exploded that assertion and exposed their faith and belief system for what it is.

Hayek is not difficult to understand. The writing is extraordinarily lucid and insightful for such a difficult topic.

Fundamentalist October 22, 2007 at 5:38 pm

greg: “Oh come on. This is very silly for someone who continually tells people that they ought to read the book.”

So I’m lazy! I can understand Hayek’s point, but I think it strange that he would make such a statement. Hayek emphasized clear, precise definitions of words more than anyone else I have read. Calling an atheistic philosophy of a religion just confuses things to the point of making communications impossible. If communism can be a religion, why not anarchism?

Anthony October 22, 2007 at 6:03 pm

If one is loose enough with words, anything can become a religion.

Fundamentalist October 22, 2007 at 8:43 pm

Anthony:”If one is loose enough with words, anything can become a religion.”

Right. And it seems that non-religious people use the word “religion” as an insult and something akin to irrational. Hayek wouldn’t have gotten any mileage out of calling communism a philosophy because of its neutral connotation. By calling it a religion, he insults socialists who belief it to be a science.

nick gray October 23, 2007 at 12:38 am

Fundamentalist, have you considered that Buddhism could be called an atheistic religion? Gotama would not answer the question of the existence of an ultimate ‘First-Cause’ God, so buddhism doesn’t talk about this question?

Fundamentalist October 23, 2007 at 12:12 pm

nick: “…have you considered that Buddhism could be called an atheistic religion?”

That’s a good point. Some people refuse to call Buddhism a religion for that reason. To confuse even more, popular Buddhism does include worship of gods. I have always considered Buddhism a sect of Hinduism, though Buddhists might object to that.

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