The Nature of the Modern State:
Why the Political Left-of-Center Ignores Foreign Threats, Espouses Centralized Economic Planning, and Continually works for Social Justice.
A State is a sovereign and often independent entity that is responsible for governing a certain group of People. But what is the purpose of a State? If that question was asked to the general public, they might answer that it is an organization that is created by human beings provide order in their lives. That answer, however, is not the correct one. While a State does provide order for People, that order is incidental to it true purpose. Indeed, there a lot of organizations created by humans to provide order in their lives. Tribes, religions, and even street gangs all provide order for the People that belong to them, either through possible blood relations, ideological sameness, or violent force.
But there is something interesting about those above organizations; with them the People are the organization. In a tribe, everyone
(though usually only the males) had a say in what the tribe would do. Although there might be a council of tribal elders that would make critical decisions for the tribe, they are never considered greater than the People, just a part of it. Similarly a priest of an organized faith almost never claims to be superior to the people they minister. Their claim to reverence is that they are specially trained to communicate with “God” for the People. However, they never claim to be in direct, intimate communication with “God,” that is the province of prophets (who still manage to remain more humble than any monarch can hope to be).
A State on the other hand is not a part of the People; it is completely separate from them with certain powers over them. A State may take the People’s money (taxation), it may kidnap the People (criminal arrest), and it may even kill some of the People (capital punishment). (Is it any wonder why the‘Ruling Class’ believes itself better than the ‘Country Class?’) And so, because the State and the People are separate from one another, there must be some sort of relationship between them. But what kind of relationship is it? The answer is so obvious that most don’t even realize it: it is a master and servant relationship. But, who is the master and who is the servant?
For almost 5,000 years (~3,000 B.C. - ~A.D. 1700) the answer to that question was that the master was the State and the People the servant. But why would any group of People allow themselves to be afflicted in such a manner (for all States exist with the implicit approval of the People)? The answer to that question lies at the heart of what the purpose of the state once was. As such, there was
an unspoken, and un-remarked upon, agreement between the People and the State; in exchange for becoming virtual slaves to the State, the State would protect the People from the Barbarians at the gates and from the Bandits in their midst, threats both foreign and domestic.
Indeed throughout history, a State that could no longer provide security for the People were the ones that would fall unceremoniously. The ancient Western Roman Empire fell not because of the decadence and corruption of the elites, a contributing factor nonetheless, but because they could no longer hold the barbarians at bay. Once the Germanic tribes crashed through the Roman frontier, the People pledged there loyalty to the barbarian leaders in order to be safe.
Similarly, Imperial China continually fell apart because the ruling dynasty could no longer provide security for the People. The
current dynasty would either fail to keep the nomadic horsemen tribes of the Eurasian Steppe out, or would fail to keep the many ambitious military leaders under control. It would then descend into chaos as warlords would fight over scraps of land for a few decades until one warlord was strong enough to conquer the others and establish a new Imperial Dynasty. The cycle would
then repeat itself after the new dynasty lost control. In fact it happened so often that many Chinese scholars felt that the
cycle was just a fact of nature (it’s not; France has had a single state for almost 1000 years).
“But isn’t the purpose of a nation’s armed forces to protect the people?” some might ask. This is not an accurate statement at all, at least until recently. A military’s one and only purpose is to preserve the power of the State. That the military ends up protecting the People is almost incidental to its purpose. (For proof, just ask yourself why Abraham Lincoln spent his presidency sending soldiers to the states of Virginia, Mississippi, Georgia…et al. It certainly wasn’t to protect Americans or even black people.) But because it is the State’s purpose to protect the People, the military naturally must get involved. That is because soldiers (and sailors, and airmen) are really more like tools of the State, one doesn’t compliment a hammer or hacksaw for the work of the carpenter, does one?
And so that was the state of things in human civilization for roughly 5,000 years. But what happened?
The root of the cause that shifted opinions is in Christian doctrine and teachings. In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul wrote:
“For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then
do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do
what is wrong you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of
God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.” – Romans 13, 3-4 (emphasis mine)
What Paul is saying there is that the State exists only by God’s approval to protect the people. This is the first time the State was ever thought of as a Servant, and not a nearly omnipotent master. Centuries later, Saint Augustine wrote a book called The City of God. In it he wrote of a fictional conversation between Alexander the Great and a captured pirate that went like this:
For when the king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered
with bold pride, “What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it in a petty ship, I am
called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor.”
In writing that, Saint Augustine was trying to say that a State is little more than a large band of bandits, a kind of super mafia in the modern parlance (gives the Sopranos a new meaning, doesn’t it?). And since the State is little more than a criminal organization, the
People should not give it any more obedience than necessary.
What all this means it that according to Christian teaching, monarch’s assertions be damned, there is no divine right of kings to rule.
And furthermore, the State only exists because of God and eventually the People. This kind of thinking was expanded upon and thought about for almost 2,000 years until the Age of Enlightenment arrived with a startling revelation that the founders of America so elegantly stated:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their
Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of
Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving
their just powers from the consent of the governed… (emphasis mine)
In other words; the State serves the People and not the other way around.
Wonderful. Fantastic. Mirable Dictu. Where once the People were subject to the lash of the State, now the State was on a leash that was controlled by the People. A new age of freedom and bliss was now available to the People. Or it would have, if the State was a
single-minded and immortal entity. But it’s not. It’s a composition of hundreds, or thousands, of separate individuals. And those individuals, known as Statists, got together, metaphorically, under the unquestioned assumption that the State serves the People and asked themselves, “How is it that we can better serve the People?”
Anti-Statists (those who want a small government), and most of the People, would answer that the best way for the State to serve the People is by performing its traditional role; keeping the Barbarians out and the Bandits under control. But the Statists realized something not everyone else does; keeping the Barbarians out and Bandits under control is incredibly complicated. So complicated that it isn’t possible to always succeed, and if the State is perceived to be failing then the People might revolt. But the Statists
discovered an easier way for them to serve the People, they would give them money.
Just consider it for a moment, what is easier for the State to do; write a cheque, or send an army of soldiers…anywhere. Remember that those soldiers will need to be fed and clothed, they will need to be provided with accurate intelligence, and they will need weapons with which to fight. Then there is formulating a strategy, choosing the right man to lead the soldiers...war is a very complicated enterprise. So much so that Statists would much rather just give People money than deal with Barbarians and
This (sub)conscious decision on their part explains why Statists (Liberals, Progressives, Communists) do what they do with State power: they believe that they are serving the People (it’s not out of rank cynicism that Communist governments call themselves People’s Republics).
This explains why Statists advocate spreading the wealth around and other Socialist maxims. Because the State has no money of its
own it must take from the People. So Statists advocate taking only from the wealthiest of the People, because why would one take from the poorest, they have no money. Thus the People are served by equalizing results rather than opportunity.
But wait, some of you might be asking, isn’t socialism a little older than that; did not the Romans often give free bread to the hundreds of thousands of poor in the city. But this was hardly altruism. It is in the best interests of the State to make sure its citizens do not go into an uproar, which could lead to uprisings and revolution. The surest way that the People would become agitated is to starve almost to death. The free bread was only offered in order to preclude the inevitable food riots.
Have you ever wondered why Statists continue to believe in Keynesian policies? Almost all evidence supplied shows that it is doomed to failure, but still they continue to believe that it will work. Well, that is because Keynesian spending is supposed to keep the nation’s
economy going by putting in a constant stream of government money. And so the State serves the people by putting them to work.
(This also explains the Statists’ hatred of private enterprise; they, instead of the State, give jobs to the People.)
However, it seems these days that Statist not only ignore the threat of foreign elements (Barbarians), but that they actually claim that there is no such threat. The fact is that they don’t want to combat these Barbarians out of fear for what will happen if they fail. Unfortunately for the Statist, however, is that the People do not ignore such threats. It is a fact of life that Statists usually aren’t the ones in the most danger from the Barbarians (or the Bandits for that matter). So the People by necessity are actually concerned about attacks by Barbarian. Since Statists no long wish to activelyprotect the People, they spend most of their time trying to convince the People that there is no threat.
This is also the reason why Statists continue to deprive the military of badly needed funds. For one, “there is no threat to the People.” For another they do not plan to use the military for any action that might protect the People. That is also why they seek
only to negotiate with the Barbarians. The very act of negotiating is often seen as a success, and gives the appearance of actually doing something. Negotiations never truly fail.
A special mention must be made of Statists’ desire to increase the reach and power of transnational organizations. The biggest problem with conducting foreign affairs is that the State has very little control over them. It’s not as if it is in the best interests of a State to be under dominion to another State. The supposed solution to that problem is to hand over their foreign affairs to transnational organizations (like the United Nations) that theoretically have some sort of control over those affairs.
It might not have escaped anyone’s notice that many Statists no longer wish to punish criminals (Bandits) for their misdeeds.
Instead, Statists attempt to ‘rehabilitate’ them into productive members of society. This not because they truly believe it can be done (repeat offenses are never taken into account), but because they do not want the people to be afraid of the Bandits. So instead of punishing them properly for their crimes, Statists portray them as victims in order to make the Bandits look sympathetic to the
People. And if the People have sympathy for the Bandits, then they won’t see them as the threat that they are.
But as long as the State continues to serve the People in this manner, the Statists will continue to think of themselves as morally superior to the anti-Statists. How often have Statists accused anti-Statist of malicious intent? That is because anti-Statists want the
State to fulfill it traditional role of protecting the People from Barbarians and Bandits, while Statists do not want the State to do that. But since protecting them from Barbarians and Bandits is the true wish of the People, Statists must condemn anti-Statists in the strongest possible terms, even if they are not making claims in good faith.
Unfortunately, at this point in time all of the above is accepted as the way it should be. Although the People desire that the State continue its traditional role of protecting them from the Barbarian and the Bandit, they now expect the State to provide for their welfare as well. Today, no one seriously considers eliminating Social Security (or whatever retirement benefits are called). Also, think of how many anti-Statists actually claim that the Statists are not serving the People. Instead they say that Statist are not Serving the People in the correct way. So as long as the State serves the People, the State will continue to serve the People while not
fulfilling its traditional role of protector.
So must we accept this state of affairs as the inevitable? That the State will do all it can to serve us without protecting us, slowly eroding our freedoms as they do. Let’s ask former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson what he thinks about that:
“The price of Freedom is eternal vigilance.”