Essay:Why we need a state

From Mises Wiki, the global repository of classical-liberal thought
Jump to: navigation, search
Essay.svg This essay contains the opinions of one or more authors and does not necessarily represent the views of Mises Wiki or the Mises Institute. Mises Wiki essays may sometimes contain opinions that are not widely accepted by Austrian school thinkers, but nonetheless reside on the site to help stimulate critical thinking, constructive dialog, and an open-minded process of creative problem-solving furthering the growth of the body of Austrian school thought.

If you want government, it is because you want to be able to impose your values on other people, and to render those values immune from being tested against reality. This is just a fact, undeniable; there is nothing else that a state brings to the table that mere mortals cannot. It is not in itself a political position, it is the premise on which political positions of any stripe ultimately rest.

This desire is baked into every argument you've ever put forward in support of a state, every platitude you've ever offered. "Who will build the roads?" means "who will be able to impose on others my notions of what, where, and in what quantity roads should be?" Who will do so without being bound by any need to balance the value against the available resources, and to balance the use of resources toward this value against the use for other values?

Who will keep the drugs off the street? Your value, that the streets should be free of drugs. Your evasion of the reality both that it is not possible and that the cost of even trying will be astronomical to you and to billions of others.

Who will protect our property? Your value that property is always of such and such forms, created in such and such ways, and that its protection should be something you just get as a birthright of being here. Your evasion of the reality that the costs of protecting some kinds of property in some situations rises astronomically, far above any price you yourself would be willing to pay for it. Your evasion of the reality that the protection of your property by such means necessitates the violation of others' property, even that which is based on the same notion of property that you hold.

Who will feed, clothe, and shelter the poor people? Your value that being fed, clothed, and sheltered is a basic right no matter what, that if a person wants to produce but cannot for some reason then he is still entitled to basic necessities. Your evasion of the fact that these goods have to be produced by somebody. Your evasion of the incentives and disincentives created by any and all attempts to enforce these values.

Who will investigate crimes and lock up the criminals? Your value that the redress for crime is locking them up. Your value that the investigation of a crime is more important than the rights of the accused, and of innocent third parties who possess something useful to the investigation. Your value that crime is what you define it as, and that the luxury of being free of it is something that should be just granted to you. Your evasion of the costs, and the fact that granting blanket unilateral powers to investigate, apprehend, and punish necessarily grant powers to the police and judicial system that even you don't want them to have. Your evasion of the reality that it is impossible to prevent crime and criminal attempts through collective violence. Your evasion of the fact that your preferred means of redress does not require the guilty to pay any kind of price - it in fact renders him incapable of doing so - but merely to endure a cost.

I could go on, but the fact is that the capacity to impose values and avoid reality are the only capacities gained by creating a state. And they are only gained to the extent that a combination of government force and faith in the state's righteousness exist in sufficient strength and breadth. It is only in the belief that the values you want pursued are universal values, that they are objectively correct, logically coherent, and realizable in reality that you can even justify it to yourself.

You may even be right in that belief in some cases. You probably are. But in the cases you are right, you benefit not at all from bypassing reality, from not having them tested. Reality provides the tools you need to see those values manifest. But you don't want tools, because you don't want to do the work. It is the other values you also hold that lead you to seek the shortcut of state and government to pursue them. You value the shortcut because you want your values - right or wrong - imposed immediately, absolutely, and with the minimum effort on your part. What you ignore is that all it does is shift the cost to others, and yet it still redounds to you because once you let other people shift that cost to others, you become one of the others.

You can never tolerate that value being tested against reality, because it is too important to ever examine critically. You cherish most dearly the value that if your values are objective (or if you convince yourself that they are), then the realization of them must be yours by right, that you should never be at the least risk of being deprived of them, that it is an unjust imposition that you should have to work for them or pay any cost for them. Somebody else should have to do that. You want a state because you want it both ways; you want your values, and you want to be relieved of any responsibility for their achievement and their consequences.