book reviews

The State
Reviewed by: T.J. Nelson

These books discuss the State and problems therewith. Some are out of print and available as PDF files on the Internet. They make excellent Presidents Day reading.

Our Enemy the State
by Albert Jay Nock
William Morrow, 1935


T he state has no power of its own,” says Nock in this intelligent, thoughtful and prescient work. “...only what society gives it, plus what it confiscates from time to time on one pretext or another.” Since power is a zero-sum game (as we call it today), the stronger government gets the weaker and more vulnerable to abuse the citizens become.

This book was written in response to the massive expansion of the role of the federal government that occurred under FDR. Unlike earlier times, such as after the Johnstown flood, when charity fully rebuilt the town, today's State is destroying the instincts of social cohesiveness and caring that made us a nation worth preserving. “When a beggar asks us for a quarter,” says Nock, “our instinct is to say that the State has already confiscated our quarter for his benefit, and he should go to the State about it.”

What Nock is saying is that our government is changing from protector of society to an aggressor against it. Eventually it will cross the line and become an impediment to progress, undermining whatever interest the individual may have had in supporting it. No amount of bribery can buy the loyalty of a population that sees its own government as an impediment to their livelihood. Eventually a government on this path must turn to force in order to remain in power, creating bitter enemies as it does so.

In modern terms, we would say that by weakening the bonds among individuals, big government threatens the very basis of its perceived legitimacy. For example, our doctors are now, for all practical purposes, agents of the government, who report to it on our our smoking habits and our use of seat belts and firearms. It is another small example of the state breaking a bond among people in society.

Nock's ideological descendants today, though eschewing Nock's cynicism about our founding fathers, offer the same ideas, not as revolutionaries or bitter Klingons (or is it clingers?), as they are portrayed in the media, but as friendly advice from some very knowledgeable and experienced people to a government that is straying from its own principles. Our government is in danger of losing the loyalty of those who once supported it the most, and heading into dangerous waters.

 feb 17, 2013

See also Books by Hans-Hermann Hoppe
See also Libertarianism books