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).
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
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
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.