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My Greatest Fear: The State



(Being a five-minute talk on this topic given at one of Christian Michel's twice-monthly meetings.)

My greatest fear is quite predictable once you know that I am a libertarian. It is more obvious to me than an elephant in the living room; it is the leviathan (the state) in the entire country (indeed, at least one in every country). In England it is partly the UK-state (largely ruled by Scotch oligarchs for the benefit, if any, of non-South-East Englanders), and partly the Euro-state (largely ruled by European oligarchs for the benefit, if any, also of non-South-East Englanders).

Look at what the state does all the time. It takes away many of our rights to do what we like with our persons and property. And it increasingly often takes away more of those rights. It is perverse to fear being robbed when every single week the state takes 25%+ or even 40%+ of our incomes (including so-called National Insurance: a tax on employment unrelated to any real insurance scheme). And that is before taxes on the products you buy. Plus the state often extorts further amounts on an opportunistic crime basis, such as at least £100 billion stolen from private pension funds by "prudent" Gordon Brown (who is in reality a one-eyed Scotch pirate who ought to wear the traditional pirate captain's patch). And there is also the never-ending monetary inflation that is tantamount to counterfeiting: M4 has accelerated to 14.4% for the year since October 2005[i] (price inflation is always cited instead by the state because that is masked by increased production; but discussing only price inflation is like discussing only the visible part of an iceberg).

The main pretext for state involvement is to guarantee the provision of essential services. What about education? Objective literacy and numeracy rates continue to decline despite claims that examination results are improving year after year. Or the National-Socialist Health Service? A bottomless pit of inefficiency that absorbs ever larger sums of tax-extorted resources yet provides fewer hospital beds than when the NHS began; with growing waiting lists for treatment and an ever-expanding bureaucracy whose staff notoriously now outnumber beds by two to one. Or pensions? Far lower than they would have been had the 'National Insurance' money be invested in the private economy (and insured) instead of a pay-as-you-go scheme that uses current taxes to finance pensions for those already retired. Or non-state crime? Rising all the time thanks to the hopeless state-police monopoly.[ii]

The state also uses our resources for a never-ending succession of foreign military adventures. These are always pictured as noble crusades but invariably result in more deaths and destruction than would ever have occurred otherwise (including the entry into both world wars). In Iraq the current figures from the latest Lancet article[iii] estimate over 650,000 additional deaths due to the invasion (and all this has been a major cause of both an actual terrorist attack and many other alleged terrorist plots within the UK); while the opportunity cost to the USA alone has been estimated at 3 trillion dollars. All non-state criminal activity combined cannot begin to approach the amount of death, theft and destruction that people tolerate from the state.

Consider what might have occurred if there had not been a state for the last fifty years. The British state consumes about half of all that is produced each year—year after year. The compound damage this does is to slow all scientific, technological, economic and moral progress to a tiny fraction of what it could and ought to be. Many, possibly all, types of cancer might have been cured by now and even ageing (by stem cell research or some other way as yet unguessed by us). Poverty might still exist as a matter of definition, as it is a relative concept. But the standard of living of the poorest quintile would be higher than that of the richest quintile today. So poverty would not be a real problem. Indeed, tolerating market inequality is the solution to any real problems of poverty.

Most people do not fear the state—in fact, they love it. They are convinced that the state provides a solution to all the problems that, in truth, its very existence causes. The state has an inherently aggressive and predatory relationship with its subjects, and enables its subjects to prey on each other through tax-extorted subventions and oppressive legislation passing for just law. This all amounts to what is known in game theory as a negative sum game. By contrast, the relationships among the members of a free society exemplify mutual aid and amount to a positive sum game. Carl von Clausewitz said, “War is the continuation of politics by other means.” We can reverse this and see that politics is the continuation of war by other means. But most people can't see it. People have to be taught to fear the state as destructive and stupid. For the state rests on their support. When their support eventually evaporates, as it will, the state will fall. Only then will the political nightmare end and full civilisation finally begin.

J C Lester (November 2006)

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