Is there traffic congestion? Ban all cars! Water shortage? Drink less water! Postal deficit? Cut mail deliveries to one a day! Crime in urban areas? Impose curfews! No private supplier could long stay in business if he thus reacted to the wishes of customers. But when government is the supplier, instead of being guided by what the customer wants, it directs him to do with less or do without. While the motto of private enterprise is “the customer is always right,” the slogan of government is “the public be damned!
… The crucial point is that Marx’s definition of ‘class’ and ‘class conflict’ under capitalism is hopelessly muddled and totally wrong. How can capitalists, even in the same industry, let alone in the entire social system, have anything crucial in common? Brahmins and slaves in a caste system certainly enjoy a common class interest in conflict with other castes. But what is the common class interest of the ‘capitalist class’? On the contrary, capitalist firms are in continual competition and rivalry with each other. They compete for raw material, for labour, for sales, and customers. They compete in price and quality, and in seeking new products and new ways to get ahead of their competitors. Marx, of course, did not deny the reality of this competition. So how can all capitalists, or even ‘the steel industry’, be considered a class with common interests? Again, in only one way: The steel industry only enjoys common interests if it can induce the state to create such interests through special privilege. State intervention to impose a steel tariff, or a steel cartel with restricted output and higher price, would indeed create a privileged ‘ruling class’ of steel industrialists. But no such class having common interests pre-exists on the market before such intervention comes about. Only the state can create a privileged class (or a subordinate and burdened class) by acts of intervention into the economy or society. There can be no ‘capitalist class’ on the free market.
However, not only external expansion of state power is brought about by the ideology of nationalism. War as the natural outgrowth of nationalism is also the means of strengthening the state’s internal powers of exploitation and expropriation. Each war is also an internal emergency situation, and an emergency requires and seems to justify the acceptance of the state’s increasing its control over its own population. Such increased control gained through the creation of emergencies is reduced during peacetime, but it never sinks back to its pre-war levels. Rather, each successfully ended war (and only successful governments can survive) is used by the government and its intellectuals to propagate the idea that it was only because of nationalistic vigilance and expanded governmental powers that the “foreign aggressors” were crushed and one’s own country saved, and that this successful recipe must then be retained in order to be prepared for the next emergency. Led by the just proven “dominant” nationalism, each successful war ends with the attainment of a new peacetime high of governmental controls and thereby further strengthens a government’s appetite for implementing the next winnable international emergency.
Government is a dreadfully dangerous institution. It has the…demonstrated capacity to commit crimes on an enormous scale, including murders by the scores of thousands. By the millions. If we credit R.J. Rummel’s estimates, governments in the 20th century alone killed 262 million of their own citizens. This doesn’t count all the people who perished in their wars. This is simply the number of people who perished as a result of their own government’s actions; and very often their own government’s deliberate actions taken in order to kill them.
So if you say “we need government to keep order, protect life” I think you bear a very heavy burden of proof. It seems extraordinarily unlikely to me, unlikely to the vanishing point, that without states any mayhem on that scale could possibly have been carried out. There are some crimes so vast that only the nation state with its organization and resources is capable of committing…
The state has typically been a device for producing affluence for a few at the expense of many. The market has produced affluence for many with little cost even to a few. The state has not changed its ways since Roman days of bread and circuses for the masses, even though it now pretends to provide education and medicine as well as free milk and performing arts. It still is the source of monopoly privilege and power for the few behind its facade of providing welfare for the many—welfare which would be more abundant if politicians would not expropriate the means they use to provide the illusion that they care about their constituents.