Money – The Root of all (Government) Evil

In addressing the parasitic nature of the state, libertarians focus on many of the state’s specific characteristics in order to demonstrate its destructive effects upon civilisation. Whether it is nationalised industries, market interference, the minimum wage, anti-discrimination and egalitarian pursuits, the business cycle, or whatever, there is a treasure trove of libertarian literature available that explains and elaborates the deleterious effects of these particular state endeavours. However, a more difficult question is which of these areas, if any, are the most important? Which of them amount to mere nuisances that can be circumvented (or otherwise put up with) and which, if any, of them amount to a significant transfer of wealth and power to the state with seemingly permanent effects? Furthermore, is there any one issue that libertarians should stress above all others if we are to deliver a real and significant puncture to the state’s ever-inflating balloon?

One prime candidate for this crown is war and international conflict. With war comes every glittering prize that the state could dream of – mass mobilisation of labour and industry towards a common purpose dictated by the state; control of all markets; widespread propaganda; the strangling of communications; suspension of free speech and possibly of habeas corpus; and not to mention the bogeyman of the supposed enemy to which to channel the attention and hatred of the average citizen. Indeed Murray N Rothbard, relatively early in his career, recognised that while libertarians had some very profound things to say about the state’s mismanagement of, for example, the post office, focussing on war was the real key to unravelling the state’s power and oppression of the population.

Nevertheless, while it is undeniable that a permanent and lasting degree of state power and control is enabled by war, there is another contender for the top spot: the state’s monopoly over money. Specifically, we mean by this the state’s ability to create an endless supply of paper (or electronic) money distributed to itself and its favoured outlets, as opposed to the rigour and discipline imposed by a “sound” money standard such as gold. Ultimately it is the state’s ability to fund itself that is at the root of all of its other absorption of power and control – even war.

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