The State as a Fantasy

The State as a Fantasy
Profile photo of James E. Miller

If there were a prize for the best “do as I say, not as I do” politician, the latest winner would be California Senator Dianne Feinstein.  Senator Feinstein, who is currently leading a crusade to plug the White House’s recent spring of classified military leaks, is the Chairwoman of the powerful Select Committee on Intelligence.  Because of her position of power, she has become “deeply disturbed by the continuing leaks of classified information to the media.”   In other words, Ms. Feinstein finds it appalling that the American public is finding out about the not-so-glamorous doings of its own government.  Her scorn for disinfecting sunlight has inspired her to call for the prosecution of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange for espionage.

This talk of super secretive government would be all fine and good for a minion of the security state except for one thing: Senator Feinstein is one of the biggest leakers in Congress herself.  And it just so happens that her husband has benefited financially from contracting with the U.S. military.  For all her talk of protecting the American people, Feinstein is just another well-connected thief in the societal racket known as the state.  As Salon’s Glenn Greenwald trenchantly observes:

That the powerful Senator who has devoted herself to criminally punishing low-level leakers and increasing the wall of secrecy is herself “one of the biggest leakers in Congress” is about as perfect an expression as it gets of how the rule of law and secrecy powers are sleazily exploited in Washington

In the scum filled world of politics, unscrupulous behavior is a permanent fixture.   It’s why the rule makers go out of their way to convince the voting public that its best interests are being taken to heart.  The vision of a righteous government is sold to the people not just on Election Day but everyday thereafter.  As long as voters stay complacent in the fantasy that their elected representatives are fighting the good fight, outspoken critics of the state will remain a minority.  No amount of shoddy logic, guilt tripping, or blatant lies will awake the masses before it’s too late and all previous memories of freedom have been violently stripped away.

The truth is suppressed by the fantasy being continually force fed to the public, not just by politicians and their teleprompters, but by the a vast portion of the media which acts more like a squawk box for the state itself rather than an independent observer.  The New York Times, the supposed great standard-bearer of journalistic quality, recently admitted that its stenographers and reporters allow their writings to be contorted by the same public officials who they claim to cover objectively.  These reporters, so desperate to get a few words with any government official, are willing to give full discretion on what is reported right back to the people whose interest lies in manipulating the information the public receives.  As the Times article reveals:

From Capitol Hill to the Treasury Department, interviews granted only with quote approval have become the default position.

The unconscionable behavior of the political class should be thought of as a contagious disease that infiltrates any industry that comes within influence of the state.  Government contractors, lobbying associations, favored corporations, and even the press all seek to use the monopolized power of government to further their own interests.  Instead of attempting to roll back stifling regulations, many of these firms simply wish to get in on the spoils of the great extortionary scheme.  The results are always the same.  Politicians pretend to be saving the people from cold-natured capitalism while politically-connected businessmen and bankers act as if their commercial success is completely of their own doing.  The hidden truth is both act in tandem to fleece the average taxpayer.

The fantasy then continues unabated.  As F.A. Hayek recognized in The Road to Serfdom, central planners and their intellectual patrons achieve their power by gathering the

“support of all the docile and gullible, who have no strong convictions of their own but are prepared to accept a ready-made system of values if it is only drummed into their ears sufficiently loudly and frequently.”

No matter how many times government policy fails to deliver on its promises, the reasoning stays the same:  Politicians just need more tax dollars to spend goods into existence, central bankers need to print more money, human rights must be stripped away to ensure safety, consumers need to spend more and save less, and government will always know best.

Today as most major economies are taking a turn for the worse, news outlets are filled with the pleas of esteemed intellectuals for further monetary stimulus and spending.  Even those economists generally considered in favor of markets are looking to central banks, which are given a totally non-free market government grant of privilege, to induce a boom in lending and demand through printing money.  As Pater Tenebrarum pointed out, it appears that Federal Reserve is close to announcing another round of monetary expansion.  The Telegraph’s veteran economics commentator Ambrose Evans-Pritchard even went as far as to pen an editorial titled “Weimar solution beckons as manufacturing crashes in US Fifth District?”  No one seemed to ask the more important question of “since when does destroying a nation’s currency and setting the foundation for the rise of a murderous regime actually help out manufacturing when all is said and done? “

Even the man on the street, unlike Evans-Pritchard and his money-crankish peers in academia and print media, realizes that adding to the stock of currency does not add to society’s overall stock of wealth.  More paper dollars, euros, yen, etc. isn’t the same as more foodstuffs, personal computers, and cellular phones.  When Zimbabwe’s stock market was skyrocketing to heavenly heights in 2007, the inflation lovin’ crowd must have looked on with delight at the uninhibited fruition of their favored policy.  Grandmothers carrying wheelbarrows full of cash to the supermarket to purchase a few loafs of bread meant nothing in the face of accelerating GDP figures.

But again, the fantasy at play here is the idea that the state can create something out of nothing with the magic of the printing press.  But as history proves time and time again, unbacked credit expansion always sews the seeds of its own destruction as the boom must inevitably turn to bust.  The real beneficiaries of newly created fiat money isn’t society in general but, as Murray Rothbard notes, “the State, State-manipulated banks and their favorites” who are first in line to receive the currency first.   Proponents of central banking must spend a good deal of time concocting nonsensical explanations to ensure the overall public realize how ripped off it really is.

At no place in time were governments ever formed with good intentions in mind.  This is the unvarnished truth as opposed to the fantasy world that is indoctrinated first within public school classrooms and is repeated in various outlets until old age.  The state being a burden on society is a universal principle that transcends through all governmental levels and sizes.  It was recently reported that a thirteen year old had his hot dog cart shut down by city officials in the city of Holland, Michigan.  Because of zoning restrictions aimed at protecting already established restaurants, the boy, Nathan Duszynski, saw his small enterprise succumb to the crookedness of local government officials.

Now just think about this for a minute.  A thirteen year old was savvy enough and had the foresight to purchase a significant amount of capital to start a modest business.  When most kids his age are sitting in front of the television, Duszynski was gaining real world business experience.  His customers didn’t say no to his effort; the government did.  The public is typically told that zoning laws are for their own safety when quite the opposite is true.  Zoning laws, like practically any decree that stems from closed-door dealings of politicians, are to the benefit of some individuals at the expense of others.

Mr. Duszynski, by virtue of his entrepreneurship, has already accomplished more productive-wise than any lifelong bureaucrat or politician.  It is this writer’s hope that the shutting down of his small business will serve as a lesson for him in that he won’t buy into the fantasy that the state exists to provide peace and liberty.

  • norman harman

    Mr. Miller, as with nearly all libertarians, conflates government corruption and government abuse with government itself. Conversely, they tend to identify unregulated capital with freedom and the liberty of the individual.

    Nothing could be further from reality.

    In truth, unregulated capital is as great a threat to the liberty of the individual as that of corrupt and abusive government. One merely has to witness the global destruction wrought by unregulated capital over the last 35 years, including the destruction of a number of democratic countries such as Portugal, Italy, Greece and countless third world nations victimized by globalization, where poverty has been increased exponentially by the invasion of numerous predatory global corporations.

    I lived in one of those third world countries throughout the 80s and 90s and watched as their economies were pried open, first by GATT and later by the World Trade Organization, and the global predators, in their never ending search for cheaper labor, lax regulations and higher profits moved in and literally destroyed most of the indigenous businesses, leaving poverty and despair in their wake.

    Now, granted, the global predators were supported and protected by the power of a number of states and their governments, particularly the U.S. government but this didn't happen because of the "intrinsic evil of government" but rather because those governments had already been corrupted by their own deregulated capital.

    Unregulated capital (a.k.a., "the market") is vicious, rapacious and ruthless. It cares nothing for fairness, decency or morality and unlike government, it cannot be reformed, it can only be controlled and that control can only come through the collective actions of people (a.k.a., government).

    Libertarianism can never lead to widespread liberty of the individual, it can only lead to fascism:

    Unregulated, untaxed capital = massive concentrations of private wealth and power = the total corruption of democratic government = fascism.

    • James E. Miller


      Like most people, you conflate capitalism with evil when all capitalism is just the free exchanging of goods and services between people. Capitalism has no other definition:

      No corporation can force you to buy their product or work for them. Only the state has a gun to your head. The two are vastly different.

      How exactly does the accumulation of capital make people evil again?

    • Dušan Petrovski

      "Unregulated, untaxed capital = massive concentrations of private wealth and power = the total corruption of democratic government = fascism. "

      On the contrary:
      – unregulated capital = higher competition and a dispersion of power;
      – untaxed capital = more of the fruits one's own labour stay in the hands of those who earned it. This is far more beneficial to people who start with less capital as the marginal utility of every dollar of capital is greater to them.
      – total corruption of the democratic government is what we have right now. The more government you have the more susceptible to corruption it is. What does not exist cannot be corrupted. Historically fascism has never grown out of libertarian systems; rather it grew from socialistic and "limited government" systems where executives had the power of the purse (Italy, Germany, US, Yugoslavia, all circa 1920-30).

  • Daniel Geery

    From my website, Avidly encourage and listen to whistleblowers. Free Bradley Manning, Tim DeChristopher, and Julian Assange; award them damages for their unjust and irrational punishment, while acknowledging their efforts to enlighten us all; they are national or international heroes, not enemies!

    • Leland Wheeler


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James E. Miller is editor-in-chief of Mises Canada and a regular contributor to the Mitrailleuse . Send him mail

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