Random quotes from Albert Jay Nock, the author of Our Enemy The State
Here is the Golden Rule of sound citizenship, the first and greatest lesson in the study of politics: You get the same order of criminality from any State to which you give power to exercise it; and whatever power you give the State to do things FOR you carries with it the equivalent power to do things TO you.
“Nevertheless there was an anomaly here. We were supposed to respect our government and its laws, yet by all accounts those who were charged with the conduct of government the making of its laws were most dreadful swine; indeed, the very conditions of their tenure precluded their being anything else.”
“My first impression of politics was unfavorable; and my disfavor was heightened by subsequently noticing that the people around me always spoke of politics and politicians in a tone of contempt. This was understandable. If all I had casually seen…was of the essence of politics, if it was part and parcel of carrying on the country’s government, then obviously a decent person could find no place in politics, not even the place of a ordinary voter, for the forces of ignorance, brutality and indecency would outnumber him ten to one.”
[T]he State’s criminality is nothing new and nothing to be wondered at. It began when the first predatory group of men clustered together and formed the State, and it will continue as long as the State exists in the world, because the State is fundamentally an anti-social institution, fundamentally criminal. The idea that the State originated to serve any kind of social purpose is completely unhistorical. It originated in conquest and confiscation — that is to say, in crime. It originated for the purpose of maintaining the division of society into an owning-and-exploiting class and a propertyless dependent class — that is, for a criminal purpose. No State known to history originated in any other manner, or for any other purpose. Like all predatory or parasitic institutions, its first instinct is that of self-preservation. All its enterprises are directed first towards preserving its own life, and, second, towards increasing its own power and enlarging the scope of its own activity. For the sake of this it will, and regularly does, commit any crime which circumstances make expedient
“If a regime of complete economic freedom be established, social and political freedom will follow automatically; and until it is established neither social nor political freedom can exist. Here one comes in sight of the reason why the State will never tolerate the establishment of economic freedom. In a spirit of sheer conscious fraud, the State will at any time offer its people ‘four freedoms,’ or six, or any number; but it will never let them have economic freedom. If it did, it would be signing its own death-warrant, for as Lenin pointed out, ‘it is nonsense to make any pretence of reconciling the State and liberty.’ Our economic system being what it is, and the State being what it is, all the mass verbiage about ‘the free peoples’ and ‘the free democracies’ is merely so much obscene buffoonery.”
Many now believe that with the rise of the totalitarian State the world has entered upon a new era of barbarism. It has not. The totalitarian State is only the State; the kind of thing it does is only what the State has always done with unfailing regularity, if it had the power to do it, wherever and whenever its own aggrandizement made that kind of thing expedient. Give any State like power hereafter, and put it in like circumstances, and it will do precisely the same kind of thing. The State will unfailingly aggrandize itself, if only it has the power, first at the expense of its own citizens, and then at the expense of anyone else in sight. It has always done so, and always will.
“Many no doubt remember the ‘new economics’ hatched in the consulship of Mr. Coolidge, whereby it was demonstrated beyond question that credit could be pyramided on credit indefinitely, and all hands could become rich with no one doing any work. Then when this seductive theory blew up with a loud report in 1929, we began to hear of the economics of scarcity, the economics of plenty, and then appeared the devil-and-all of ‘plans,’ notions about pump-priming, and disquisitions on the practicability of a nation’s spending itself rich…. Ever since 1918 people everywhere have been thinking in terms of money, not in terms of commodities; and this in spite of the most spectacular evidence that such thinking is sheer insanity. The only time I was ever a millionaire was when I spent a few weeks in Germany in 1923. I was the proud possessor of more money than one could shake a stick at, but I could buy hardly anything with it.”
“Another strange notion pervading whole peoples is that the State has money of its own; and nowhere is this absurdity more firmly fixed than in America. The State has no money. It produces nothing. It existence is purely parasitic, maintained by taxation; that is to say, by forced levies on the production of others. ‘Government money,’ of which one hears so much nowadays, does not exist; there is no such thing. One is especially amused at seeing how largely a naïve ignorance of this fact underlies the pernicious measures of ‘social security’ which have been foisted on the American people. In various schemes of pensioning, of insurance against sickness, accident, unemployment and what-not, one notices that the government is supposed to pay so-much into the fund, the employer so-much, and the workman so-much…. But the government pays nothing, for it has nothing to pay with. What such schemes actually come to is that the workman pays his own share outright; he pays the employer’s share in the enhanced price of commodities; and he pays the government’s share in taxation. He pays the whole bill; and when one counts in the unconscionably swollen costs of bureaucratic brokerage and paperasserie, one sees that what the workman-beneficiary gets out the arrangement is about the most expensive form of insurance that could be devised consistently with keeping its promoters out of gaol.”
“What I was looking at was simply a tussle between two groups of mass-men, one large and poor, the other small and rich, and as judged by the standards of civilized society, neither of them any more meritorious or promising than the other. The object of the tussle was the material gains accruing from control of the State’s machinery. It is easier to seize wealth than to produce it; and as long as the State makes the seizure of wealth a matter of legalized privilege, so long will the squabble for that privilege go on.”
“One of the most offensive things about the society in which I later found myself was its monstrous itch for changing people. It seemed to me a society made up of congenital missionaries, natural-born evangelists and propagandists, bent on re-shaping, re-forming and standardizing people according to a pattern of their own devising — and what a pattern it was, good heavens! When one came to examine it. It seems to me, in short, a society fundamentally and profoundly ill-bred. A very small experience of it was enough to convince me that Cain’s heresy was not altogether without reason or without merit; and that conviction quickly ripened into a great horror of every attempt to change anybody; or I should rather say, every wish to change anybody, for that is the important thing. The attempt is relatively immaterial, perhaps, for it is usually its own undoing, but the moment one wishes to change anybody, one becomes like the socialists, vegetarians, prohibitionists; and this, as Rabelais, says, ‘is a terrible thing to think upon.’”
“Another neighbor, a patriarchal old Englishman with a white beard, kept a great stand of bees. I remember his incessant drumming on a tin pan to marshal them when they were swarming, and myself as idly wondering who first discovered that this was the thing to do, and why the bees should fall in with it. It struck me that if the bees were as intelligent as bees are cracked up to be, instead of mobilizing themselves for old Reynolds’ benefit, they would sting him soundly and then fly off about their business. I always think of this when I see a file of soldiers, wondering why the sound of a drum does not incite them to shoot their officers, throw away their rifles, go home, and go to work.
“I am profoundly thankful that during my formative years I never had contact with any institution under State control; not in school, not in college, nor yet in my three years of irregular graduate study. No attempt was ever made by anyone to indoctrinate me with State-inspired views — or any views, for that matter — of patriotism or nationalism. I was never dragooned into flag-worship or hero-worship, never was caught in any spate of verbiage about duty to one’s country, never debauched by any of the routine devices hatched by scoundrels for inducing a synthetic devotion to one’s native land and loyalty to its jobholders. Therefore when later the various aspects of contemporary patriotism and nationalism appeared before me, my mind was wholly unprepossessed, and my view of them was unaffected by any emotional distortion.”
“All I have done towards the achievement of a happy life, has been to follow my nose…I learned early with Thoreau that a man is rich in proportion to the numbers of things he can afford to let alone; and in view of this I have always considered myself extremely well-to-do. All I ever asked of life was the freedom to think and say exactly what I pleased, when I pleased, and as I pleased. I have always had that freedom, with an immense amount of uncovenanted lagniappe thrown in; and having had it, I always felt I could well afford to let all else alone. It is true that one can never get something for nothing; it is true that in a society like ours one who takes the course which I have taken must reconcile himself to the status of a superfluous man; but the price seems to me by no means exorbitant and I have paid it gladly, without a shadow of doubt that I was getting all the best in the bargain.”