How Fearsome is the State?

Together with other free marketeers, Austro-libertarians are adept at explaining the inefficient and destructive nature of the state. This compulsory aegis of taxation and redistribution destroys economic progress and the standard of living, siphoning off an increasing quantity of the fruits of our labour into vast bureaucracies. For our efforts, control and regulation of every aspect of our lives with a fine tooth-comb is all we can expect in return.

Such an enormous concentration of wealth and power could never be attained by a private individual (or even an institution) in a genuine free market. What’s more, the state seldom shies away from any opportunity to extend its destructive influence not only within its own territory, but also overseas with armies, navies, air forces and all of the destructive fire power they can carry.

To any one individual the state can seem like an awesome, overwhelming entity – if only because it professes to do so much for us.

In the UK, for instance, the government provides your with your banking infrastructure, your healthcare, your transportation networks, educates your children, and supposedly is the guardian of your health, safety and well-being from greedy, unscrupulous companies which might seek to defraud you. Moreover, should you get on the wrong side of the state, its uniformed police force can arrest you, its black robed judges can imprison you, and, of course, it promises to do the same to all of the people who attempt to commit a crime against you. And who could fail to be overwhelmed by the state’s vast, impressive edifices such as the Houses of Parliament or the US Capitol, together with their patriotic pageantries (such as Presidential inaugurations) which inspire a turnout of millions?

This article will in no way dispute the fact that the state is something to be feared. Indeed, one need only contemplate the fact that a handful of states are sitting on a nuclear arsenal sufficient to destroy the worlds tens of times over.

What we will explore here, however, is the fact that the monopolistic, overreaching nature of the state is both its source of power yet also its Achilles’ heel. That, far from being a lean, mean, fighting machine, the state more often acts in a bumbling, bloated and altogether rather stupid manner.

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