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Social Action and Thought vs. Political Imposition and Force
on April 18, 2008
OUR ENEMY THE STATE by Albert J. Nock is a clear examination of what some call a monster or the Super State whose members are enshrined as omipotnent re their position, almost unlimited power,and supposed intelligence. Nock implies that a government expert is a contradiction of terms. Nock states that quite often economic and social problems can be easily solved, but calls for government action make these problems much worse and beyond intelligent resolution.
Nock is clear that society and the state are two different entities. Nock's view was that government authorities' only job is to protect individual rights and not to impose on them. He agreed with Thomas Jeffererson that men have a right to rebel when government officials violate individual rights which, among other places, Jefferson so stated in The Declaration of Independence. Nock gives a succinct view that social pressures, manners, civlity, etc. are better alternatives to state action or imposition to economic and social conflicts. He suggests that laws are passed which can be corrupted or circumvented. Then more laws are passed to "correct" previous legislation ad infinitum. Nock argued that this situation enhances a few who are more clever or have more political influence and creates disrespect for the law. Honest men are often the "losers" re these laws or, as the title of a book states,"Then Ten Thousand Commandments." Nock scoffed at the title of "government experts" who are too often ignorant of the issues of conflicts and have no expertise at all with these issues. Nock argued that such situations created unnecessary enmity and social conflict where none existed previously.
Nock was also skeptical of the legal "system." Nock argued in this book that access to justice, legal remedies, etc. should be inexpensive. Yet, this is clearly not the case. Nock stated that judges, jurists, court officials,etc. made "justice" almost impossible for poor and middle class people. Legal fees, court costs, etc. enhance jurists and court officials at the expense of everyone else. Nock stated what many legal experts do not like to hear this because his comment was true that the "law" was not disigned to insure justice but to follow legal remedies and procedures. In other words, too often the attitude is "Justice be damned and long live the judges and lawyers."
Nock had a brief comment on how the state got/gets and keeps power. Nock stated that without taxes from society, the state is powerless. The state cannot do much if authorities cannot tax men. In other words, members of society pay taxes, and at times excessive taxes, which are either paid by cooperation or what Nock would have considered extortion.Government officials are ideally entrusted to protect rights which Nock believes is the only function the authorities have. Yet, abusive and tyrannical officials are too often the real criminals and act with impunity because of what Ludwig von Mises called "stateolatry" or worship of the state and its leaders.
The book has an interesting comment on land access and ownership. Nock effectively argued that land ownership began/begins with the government granting lands to privledged few who then charge access fees (rents)to those not so privledged to get such land grants. Nock thought land access should be equitable to all. Mutual cooperation and fair competition could be the result. Nock also scoffs at the description of railroad executives who were supposedly "rugged individualists." Nock is clear that they were given huge tracts of land, large government subsidies, and political protection to enhance their wealth and position. One should note that there were many financial/political scandals in the 19th. century which scarely get notice in most history texts re railroad construction.
Albert J. Nock was not a violent poltical revolutionary. He called himself or was called, "a peaceful revoutionary" or, "a little conservative." His poltical writing is not as abrasive as that of H. L. Mencken, but he clarified some of the social and poltical issues that Mencken did. Readers may be interested in Nock's MEMOIRS OF A SUPERFLUOUS MAN and his THE STATE OF THE UNION. Readers will find good writing and thoughtful comments on politics and social life.