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VINE VOICEon 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.
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on July 25, 2002
This classic little book has changed my entire way of thinking about politics. Nock defines the state as an anti-social mechanism for executing the "political means" i.e. taking from one pocket and putting it into another. He traces this back to the founding of our republic and before. Published in 1935, the book was written at an interesting time when fascism and communism were rising, while FDR was domestically pushing economic fascism and using the political means to the fullest.
"Our Enemy, the State" is witty, often eloquently written, and accessible to the lay reader. Take your time and let it sink in. Read the footnotes too! Despite its sad commentary on humanity and the future of our society, one finds the thesis hard to dispute (in Nock's time, the state stole 1/3 of our money; now it steals over half). It's fitting that the introduction is written by a minister. To paraphrase Chesterton, original sin is the easiest Christian doctrine to prove.
One thing you'll see in the book often, without explanation, are complaints against land-tenure. As I understand it, this is based on the teaching of some classical liberals and libertarians (aka. the "land use" school) that monopoly land grants by the state are another form of the political means, as they are invariably given to favored constituencies and individuals (many of America's founding fathers received them). These grants are then exploited by charging some form of rent to the unconnected non-recipients. "Land use" proponents argue that the earth is owned in common by all mankind. The "owner" simply owns improvements to the land such as factories, homes, and income, and there should be community user fees levied on the owner that deny the use of that land to others (These fees are not the same as property taxes that tax improvements and collect revenues for public education. In fact, all taxes on improvements aka. productivity - income, capital gains, estate, etc - are considered a form of robbery).
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on September 4, 2009
One of the best books I have read about the nature of the state. Written in 1935 during the "New Deal", it speaks directly to us today. It is amazing that Albert J. Nock is not regarded as a man with a very clear insight into the future. I would think this book would be required reading for anyone interested in politics and the growth of the state.
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on November 16, 2009
Fortunately I had a father and grandfather who could tell me about America in the 1940's and 1920's and a great-grandfather who wrote about his life from 1856 to 1930. We have no idea how this country has transitioned. Fortunately, we have this book to remind us not only of the 1850s to present but from the 1600's to present of how the State has stuck around to grind us down. Unfortunately, the author is writing in a format that would read well in the 1930's and take patience in reading in 2009 - still, the ideas translate trough the ages.
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on June 25, 1996
This gentleman has forever opened my eyes to the common denominator that exposes the state for what it is. Namely, the engine that allows the machine of plunder to operate with remarkable efficiency.
Anyone who dares to take the chance of contemplating Mr. Nock's revisionist history lesson will indeed reexamine the very nature of government
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on June 18, 2010
Nock's historical analysis in unparalleled. When he talks of the structure of government in our colonial period, as well as the formation of the Constitution, he introduces so many indispensable anecdotes that back up his interpretation of events. You will be amazed at what Nock brings forth in this short work. This is one of the books that influenced Murray Rothbard to embark on his Conceived in Liberty series.

To say this book is powerful is an understatement. Its even better the second time through. I would strongly suggest picking this book up.
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on August 5, 2010
"State power has an unbroken record of inability to do anything efficiently, economically, disinterestedly or honestly; yet when the slightest dissatisfaction arises over any exercise of social power, the aid of the agent least qualified to give aid is immediately called for."

The history of the USA is merchantilist. "Our colonial period coincided with the period of revolution and readjustment in England, referred to in the preceding chapter, when the British merchant-State was displacing the feudal State, consolidating its own position, and shifting the incidence of economic exploitation."

There is a huge discrepancy between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution itself. Individual rights get shown the door along with the King of England. Nock goes out of his way to explain the history of this, its origins, and its ramifications. The end result is that The State always acts towards the benefit of growing the state-merchantilist powers at the expense of the people. This is the very nature of our Constitution and Nock uses a systematic and historical method to prove it.

This book is a classic. If you really have an interest in understanding the origins of our political foundation, and why it cannot be reformed, changed, reduced, or otherwise "fixed" by more government, Nock puts forth a compelling explanation. This book is overlooked and underrated. I cannot recommend it more strongly.
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on July 26, 2007
In science, one of the markers for the proof of a solid theory is its power to predict outcomes. That is, if the theory is correct, it should not only explain what has already happened, but what will happen. This book has stood the test of time for this reason - Nock's predictions of the outcomes of 1930's social policies have come to pass. This book is a treasure.
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on April 27, 1999
Nasty, incisive polemic on the insidiousness of the State, whose nature changed over the years. The State is essentially an anti-social entity which provides the political means for a faction or factions to enrich themselves at the expense of others. All sorts of eye-opening arguments here, including a reexamination of American history. Astute criticisms that you don't always understand fully until you read them again and begin to "absorb" them.
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on July 20, 2008
Inspired by Franz Oppenheimer's "The State", AJN writes about an institution that is taken for granted by its financial supporters, which is fair game I guess since the state certainly takes its financial supporters for granted. Most, nearly all in fact, people don't give the state a second thought and the state likes it that way. For if they did give it thought, they may come to a conclusion very similer to Nock's. The state, born in "conquest and confiscation" is nothing more than an organized crime syndicate masquerading as a church while it carries out its agenda of plunder (foreign and domestic), militarism (mostly against defenseless people), and imperialism. Interesting enough, Nock doesn't even touch upon the propaganda aspect of the state (see my revies of the books, Propaganda and U.S. Television News and Cold War Propaganda, 1947-1960 (Cambridge Studies in the History of Mass Communication). If Nock were alive today, he would ask to be put back into his grave...gently...
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