Though I’ve generally extracted myself from the state/stateless debate—from the fatiguing effort to educate and persuade, from the largely futile mission of winning hearts and minds and effecting change in the collective consciousness—nevertheless I was compelled to share this brilliant, insightful post from the venerable Robert Higgs, because it so effectively illustrates the core essence of the issue: until one recognizes the true nature of the state, one will likely not be ready or willing to convert from statism.
Many will debate the practicality of, or the methods or procedures employed within, a future stateless society, as opposed to present and historic society under the state. But to me, and Voluntaryists in general, it is not merely a pragmatic issue, but a moral one; when statists ask how certain things would transpire, or fear that certain traditional systems or institutions could not function without the state, they are essentially asking:
“But without slavery, how will plantations function?”
And my answer? I give not one fuck how plantations will function without slavery. What they’re doing to innocent people is wrong, immoral—on every conceivable level—and it needs to be ended, in its entirety, immediately, period.
I take this same stance concerning the state, and this is why attempting to win the debate via pragmatic argument, rather than on moral grounds and the rejection of the very premise of the pro-state argument, has become not only fatiguing, but (at least for me) generally intolerable. Futile at best.
And Mr. Higgs has aptly demonstrated, in his recent post on Facebook, how even he himself was not ready to relinquish the state, to give up the ghost as it were, until he came to understand the true nature of the state, and suddenly adopted a moral stance against it, rather than merely a pragmatic one.
Fact is, the nature of the state is evil, and those who operate within it are either woefully naïve, generally incompetent, or simply evil themselves—sociopathic, criminal—so, as with any other form of slavery or institutionalized human abuse, I give not one fuck how society will function without it. What they’re doing to innocent people is wrong, on every conceivable level, and it needs to be ended, in its entirety, immediately, period.
This is why today’s Voluntaryists are often referred to as “the new abolitionists.”
So anymore, I avoid debating the issue. I’ve come to realize that until each individual sees and understands the true nature of the state for themselves, they will not easily be converted from statism, if at all. It has become clear to me that anyone who continues to advance the pro-state argument has simply not seen the light (or, more aptly, the darkness), and until they do, debating with them is largely a futile endeavor.
Thank you, Mr. Higgs:
“I was not born an anarchist. Like everyone else of my time and place I was born into a culture pervaded by statism and unquestioning acceptance of the state’s existence and of most if not all of its activities, including, of course, its blessed wars. I did not become an anarchist later because of an encounter, whether personal or literary, in which I suddenly saw the light. I had no Pauline road-to-Damascus experience. Instead, anarchism crept up on me, almost against my will, because I understood full-well that adopting such an ideology would entail my colleague’s, friends’, and relatives’ consignment of me to the lunatic fringe. Besides, as a well-trained social scientist, I was familiar with a variety of objections and challenges to anarchism having to do with both its desirability and its feasibility.
Eventually, however, little by little I seamlessly made the transition to anarchism as my adopted ideology, completing my journey perhaps fifteen or twenty years ago. This outcome occurred not because I had found leading expositions of the doctrine compelling. I had read Murray Rothbard’s “For a New Liberty” and David Friedman’s “The Machinery of Freedom,” but neither persuaded me to make the leap. Nor did any of the other works along similar lines that I read. I understood, of course, that states perform many actions that they ought not to perform and that they perform actions that might be desirable very badly – after all, economic history and political economy were my research and teaching specialties. But, for me, concluding that states ought not to exist at all required a more compelling reason.
What finally pushed me over the brink had little to do with pondering the glories that had sprung or someday might spring from the operation of a stateless social order. I was not so much drawn to statelessness as I was revolted by the state. After decades of dealing with, researching, writing about, and consulting in regard to the state, learning more and more about what states actually do and how they actually do it, I was completely disgusted by the putrid pretense of their foundational justifications, by the sheer fraudulence of what they purport to be doing and how they purport to be doing it, by the moral impudence with which state leaders and functionaries treat the human beings subject to their control as if those persons were nothing but soft clay figurines to be squeezed into new shapes and pushed here and there on the state’s chess board. Most of all, I was repelled by the psychotic, steely-eyed indifference with which state leaders and functionaries slaughter innocent people abroad by the millions and ruin the lives of their own subjects by the scores of millions for no decent reason whatsoever (e.g., the war on drugs).
Yes, I came to understand why state activities so generally fail to achieve their ostensible objectives but, more important, I also came to understand that the ostensible objectives are generally mere window dressing for the actual objectives the state leaders and their chief supporters and running dogs seek, which boil down in nearly all cases to transferring enormous amounts of income and wealth to persons the state favors and to bullying nearly everyone outside the state’s inner sanctum for the simple pleasure of pushing them around. Having repeatedly opened up the cesspool that is the state and witnessed its stinking contents, I no longer wanted anything to do with it, and my allegiance to it evaporated once and for all.
None of this matters in the least so far as the state’s devotion to taxing and bullying me is concerned. But I take some solace in the fact that however subject my body and my bank account may be to the dictates of the evil creatures who preside over the vile institutions that form the state, my soul no longer belongs to them. I wish they would resign, make all feasible restitution to those they have wronged, and seek honest employment, but until they do so, they can, so far as I care, go straight to hell.”