The paradigm of statism divides the world into competing States, and men into subjects of those States. The State generally succeeds in buying the services of “court intellectuals” to convince the people that wise leadership is necessary, for their own good, inevitable, and at any rate better than any alternative. Here are some common myths:
We are the government
This is perhaps the most insidious myth – a form of extreme victimhood. This Stateholm syndrome is a virulent form of Stockholm syndrome. This identification with the ruler is ubiquitous in statist societies. A person who’s never been near a military jet might say, “we bombed Iraq” or “we are fighting to bring democracy.” In fact, the ruling elite are making the decisions, and their milfare minions are doing the killing. It is very important to avoid using the slave we in speech, as it impairs critical thinking. Beware the ambiguous collective. It may takes practice to be instantly able to translate “Support our troops” to “support the ruler’s hired goons.”
The government acts for the common good
There are problems with this vulgar utilitarian view. What is the common good? (No one agrees.) If we somehow knew the common good, how do we implement it? (No one knows.) Even if we implemented a plan, how do we know it would have the desired results? (We don’t, and coercively imposed social planning often has substantial perverse consequences.) There are also institutional objections to the myth. Why would the State act for the common good rather than the interests of the rulers. The rulers make the decisions, and have incentives like all men. Public choice theory is a more reliable predictor of political behaviour than naive faith in Pollyanna pluralism.
Government is the only way to solve problem X
This is the fallacy of government solipotence – the erroneous belief that only the State can solve society’s problems. In fact, every valid service that governments now perform can be done more morally, and usually better, by voluntary means. Virtually every current government service has been done, at some time in history, by voluntary means. Private roads, private courts, police, and legal systems, cheap private health insurance, mail delivery, quality control certification, wildlife preservation, and so on have all been done privately.
State and society are are the same, or at least closely allied
Similar to myth #1, this is an attempt to obscure the important difference between society and State. Society is the sum total of all voluntary human interactions; the State is the institution of monopoly force and legal plunder. They are mortal enemies. The more power government gets, the less power society has. The struggle between liberty and authority is a zero-sum game.
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