I’ve posted it here simply as a response to the mass of emails (to my email address, note, rather than publicly on this blog) that I received. Most of the mail was positive. Some – mostly from fellow immigrant Indians here in the US – was surprisingly venemous.
But seriously, how can any one confuse criticism of state power and laws with attacking a “free society”? Do you really think we live in a free society because we’re allowed to mouth off on blogs? Consider how swaddled in laws and regulations we are today. And it’s the same critics who complain about the litigiousness of this country who want even more laws.
Undoubtedly we have tremendous freedom of expression in certain areas. There are, of course, numbers of societies where even that’s absent, and I’m glad I don’t live in any of them. But must I really mention that as an obligatory preface to any statement I make?
“I am glad I don’t live in Iran, but…”
That’s a thought.
Doesn’t it occur to people that allowing vocal – if impotent- criticism is also a way in which the state diffuses threats to its power?
It bothers me that people can actually call for more gun laws and then tell libertarians that we despise the “free society.” How do you have a free society when the state is armed to the teeth and law-abiding citizens are largely disarmed?
How do you have a free society when every increase in state power is applauded by “law and order” statists who think that their position is “conservative”?
What are they conserving? State power? Big business? You can support a limited government and free markets, while still understanding that the corrupt expansion of either (and I would argue that only corruption allows them to expand beyond a certain limit) is inherently inimical to the healthy functioning of voluntary associations – community organizations, church groups, and families – on which traditional conservativism eventually rests.
Nock’s argument below points in exactly the same direction (emphasis is mine):
“If we look beneath the surface of our public affairs, we can discern one fundamental fact, namely: a great redistribution of power between society and the State. This is the fact that interests the student of civilization. He has only a secondary or derived interest in matters like price-fixing, wage-fixing, inflation, political banking, “agricultural adjustment,” and similar items of State policy that fill the pages of newspapers and the mouths of publicists and politicians. All these can be run up under one head. They have an immediate and temporary importance, and for this reason they monopolize public attention, but they all come to the same thing; which is, an increase of State power and a corresponding decrease of social power. It is unfortunately none too well understood that, just as the State has no money of its own, so it has no power of its own. All the power it has is what society gives it, plus what it confiscates from time to time on one pretext or another; there is no other source from which State power can be drawn. Therefore every assumption of State power, whether by gift or seizure, leaves society with so much less power; there is never, nor can be, any strengthening of State power without a corresponding and roughly equivalent depletion of social power…….
Heretofore in this country sudden crises of misfortune have been met by a mobilization of social power. In fact (except for certain institutional enterprises like the home for the aged, the lunatic-asylum, city-hospital and county-poorhouse) destitution, unemployment, “depression” and similar ills, have been no concern of the State, but have been relieved by the application of social power. Under Mr. Roosevelt, however, the State assumed this function, publicly announcing the doctrine, brand-new in our history, that the State owes its citizens a living. Students of politics, of course, saw in this merely an astute proposal for a prodigious enhancement of State power; merely what, as long ago as 1794, James Madison called “the old trick of turning every contingency into a resource for accumulating force in the government”; and the passage of time has proved that they were right. The effect of this upon the balance between State power and social power is clear, and also its effect of a general indoctrination with the idea that an exercise of social power upon such matters is no longer called for.
Read the rest of the chapter here: