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Old and New Statism and Ways to Defeat Them

The ancient state consolidated its power by destroying the dignity of its victims, by demanding that they grovel in the dirt before the “god-king” and pay him endless tributes. The modern state consolidates its power by allowing its victims to destroy their dignity themselves, by helping them to parasitize on each other until they all hate themselves as much as they hate one another.

It is difficult to say which form of such conditioning is more degrading, but it seems clear that the latter is much more deceptive. Thus, while what was needed to defeat ancient statism was primarily strength of arms, what is needed to defeat modern statism is primarily strength of character: it is only in this way that the victims of enslavement can address effectively not the symptoms of their condition, but its causes.

Bad vs. Worse: Welfare Statism and Tribal Statism

Practically no one believes that so-called welfare states have the right to invade non-welfare states and remake them in their image, so that no one in the world is deprived of state welfare. Likewise, practically no one believes that so-called welfare states have the right to impose special taxes on their citizens with the purpose of creating welfare state systems in those countries that cannot afford to do so by themselves.

In other words, practically no one consistently believes in the morality of the so-called welfare state. On the other hand, nearly everyone believes in the morality of statist tribalism (nationalism), which includes approving of such totemic entities as “national healthcare” or “national education”. Thus, if there exists an ideology in the world today that can be credibly regarded as the chief enemy of individual liberty, then it is not abstract, overintellectualized welfare statism, but concrete, emotionally ensnaring tribal statism.

Liberty, Morality, and Intellectual Responsibility

The relationship between liberty and morality can be described briefly in the following manner: morality without liberty is impossible, and liberty without morality is very fragile. There can be no morality without liberty, since violating someone’s liberty bespeaks a fundamental lack of respect for another person’s moral agency. But in all likelihood there can also be no lasting liberty without morality, since broadly understood immorality – which manifests itself not in violating another’s liberty, but in what is typically called license or debauchery – bespeaks a lack of respect for one’s own moral agency. And this, in turn, leads naturally, even if not inevitably, to a loss of respect for the moral agency of others, as well as to a general erosion of respect for the value of free action.

In other words, an enslaved society will always be demoralized, but a demoralized society will always run a higher risk of falling into enslavement, both physical and mental. Perhaps this is the best illustration of the fact that understanding liberty as an end in itself cannot be separated from understanding it as a means to other ends in themselves – ends that are equally valuable, equally demanding, and equally significant in the context of fulfilling one’s personal potential.

Christmas, Social Civility, and Spiritual Harmony

It is generally understood that since the Christmas atmosphere is defined by the mood of peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness, the surest way to spoil it is to politicize it. In other words, it is generally understood that politics is the antithesis of peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Now the only thing left to understand is that the implication of the above is not that political thinking should be suspended for the Christmas period, but that Christmas-inspired thinking should be maintained throughout the whole year: that social civility and spiritual harmony should not be a festive exception, but an everyday norm.

Supporting the Lesser Evil and Avoiding the Greater One are not the Same Thing

There is a great moral difference between supporting the lesser evil and avoiding the greater evil. To support the lesser evil is to condone evil, which is a morally reprehensible act. On the other hand, to avoid the greater evil is a legitimate act of self-defence. To flee a totalitarian state and relocate to a merely interventionist one is an instance of avoiding the greater evil. To start feeling a “patriotic duty” towards such an “adoptive homeland” is an instance of supporting the lesser evil. The difference is quite clear.

Of course, it is a common practice to try to paint one’s support for the lesser evil as one’s avoidance of the greater evil, and only keen moral intuition is a reliable tool for distinguishing between the two in borderline cases. Still, it is crucial to acknowledge and understand the distinction in question, since without it people of conscience are bound to end up in a state of moral paralysis, while people with no conscience are likely to get away with everything.

Statism and War Are One and the Same

Statism and war are one and the same. What is usually called “war” is nothing but statism taken to its ultimate conclusion. And what is usually called “statism” is nothing but war stopped short of reaching its ultimate conclusion. They both spring from the conviction that the “political means” – i.e., institutionalized violence, aggression, coercion, and parasitism – constitute the ultimate paradigm of efficiency. And, consistent with this conviction, they will not hesitate in perpetrating and glorifying even the most inconceivable monstrosities. In other words, the only hope for a peaceful, civilized society lies in making the statist mentality utterly, universally, and irreversibly repugnant. Otherwise all that is left is an endless war of all against all – local and parasitic at best, global and cataclysmic at worst.

“Redistributive” vs. Libertarian Egalitarianism

The only equality achievable by “redistributive” egalitarianism is equality of disrespect, where the “haves” are treated as permanently exploitable slaves, and the “have-nots” as permanently useless wretches. On the other hand, the only equality achievable by libertarian egalitarianism is equality of respect, where the “haves” are free to enjoy their personal well-being, and the “have-nots” are free to pursue it. In other words, “redistributive” egalitarianism makes equality a guarantee of misery, while libertarian egalitarianism makes it a window of hope: that is, the only thing that it can be if it is to be something good.

Socialism: Even Worse in Theory Than in Practice

After all, such knowledge clearly implies that communism and socialism are not utopias, but dystopias, and exceptionally repulsive dystopias at that, not only rife with logical contradictions, but also directly aimed at abolishing all that is most quintessentially human – individuality, personal uniqueness, and private autonomy.

In other words, socialism and communism as they appear in the visions of their theorists are even more grotesque than socialism and communism as they appear on the pages of history – “ideal” socialism and communism can always outmatch their real, historically implemented counterparts in terms of their intellectually insulting absurdity. To forget about it is not only to reinforce the false dichotomy of theory and practice, but also to revive the reputation of ideas that least deserve it.

The Great Commandment and the Harmony of Interests

“Love your neighbor as yourself” is the most appropriate attitude toward another person. In contrast to all kinds of collectivist and altruist attitudes, it does not require elevating another person over oneself and renouncing self-love, that is, treating oneself as a significant end in itself. On the other hand, in contrast to naive forms of individualism and egoism, it also does not require elevating oneself over another and treating oneself as the only or the most significant end in itself.

Instead, what it suggests is that treating others as equally significant ends in themselves is a necessary condition of genuinely treating oneself as an end in itself – that loving one’s neighbor as oneself is a necessary condition of achieving the deepest and fullest form of self-love, which is a manifestation of the deepest and fullest harmonization of one’s own and another’s personal potential. In addition, in contrast to all of the attitudes mentioned above, it is an attitude that is unambiguous in its ethical maximalism – that is, in its suggestion that it is moral perfection, not just decency or respect for individual rights, that is a necessary condition of achieving the fullness of personal development and psychological well-being.

In other words, it is not implausible to suggest that this 2000-year-old commandment, which is often thoughtlessly reduced to an idealistic slogan, indeed captures both the deepest foundation and the highest goal of all mature ethical reflection.

Defense as a Private Good in a Competitive Order

Abstract: In this paper, I attempt to provide a comprehensive demonstration that, contrary to popular opinion, there is nothing inherent in defense that makes it belong to the category of common goods, thus indicating that its effective provision does not require the existence of a territorial monopoly of force, and could be satisfactorily delivered in a purely market-based system. The above analysis implies that within a contractual, competitive, and purely voluntary social order this task could be accomplished even with respect to protection goods that affect wide geographical areas, while avoiding the problem of agency infighting.

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