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NPR Guest Sounds Rothbardian on Nature of the State

NPR Guest Sounds Rothbardian on Nature of the State
Profile photo of Robert P. Murphy

During a June 18, 2014 interview on the NPR show “All Things Considered,” the guest was discussing the funding of the ISISISIS group that is currently taking over positions in Iraq. Ironically, the framing of the issue by NPR was very Rothbardian. The blurb describing the interview read as follows:

The militant group ISIS has managed to fund a full-scale offensive using a financial system that’s very similar to the Mafia’s. For more on the means the group uses to finance its operations, Robert Siegel speaks with Juan Zarate, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

During the interview itself, here is the key exchange:

SIEGEL: Then there is ISIS money that’s obtained by means that have been described as mafia tactics. What does that typically refer to?

ZARATE: Well, for some time ISIS, which is the successor group to al-Qaida in Iraq, has learned to take advantage of the environment they control. And that has in part meant local taxes or extortion of business folks, individuals, organizations that have to either operate in the zones that they control or pass through them or do business in them.

Notice what happened here. Although a person can’t use quotation marks while speaking, if you listen to the interview you’ll hear that the guest (Zarate) didn’t use a different inflection in his voice when referring matter-of-factly to the “mafia tactics” of extortion of business folks as “local taxes.”

Murray Rothbard described the State as a “gang of thieves writ large.” In some contexts, it seems that even NPR can understand the point.

Notice also that even organized crime families would try to curry favor with the public. For example, I remember visiting my family in Long Island when John Gotti was in the news. Newspaper accounts explained that many area residents thought he was getting a bad rap in the media, because he had done civic things like pay for fireworks displays on the Fourth of July.

Especially when you realize (after studying the works of Rothbard and others) that the market could provide any legitimate service offered by the State, the truth of his characterization becomes all the clearer. There are various ways to describe the State; one of them is to say it is the pinnacle of organized crime.

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Profile photo of Robert P. Murphy

Robert P. Murphy is the Senior Economist at the Institute for Energy Research, and a Senior Fellow with the Fraser Institute. He holds a PhD in economics from New York University. Murphy is the author of Choice: Cooperation, Enterprise, and Human Action (Independent Institute, 2015) as well as numerous other books and hundreds of articles.

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