Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Do Governments Promote Order?

Lew Rockwell has an essay posted today that was written by Doug Casey, from his book, Crisis Investing for the Rest of the 90s. It dovetails nicely with my commentary, The Current State of Anarcho-Capitalist Theory (Part 1).

One of the most perversely misleading myths about government is that it promotes order within its own bailiwick, keeps groups from constantly warring with each other, and somehow creates togetherness and harmony. In fact, that’s the exact opposite of the truth. There’s no cosmic imperative for different people to rise up against one another…unless they’re organized into political groups. The Middle East, now the world’s most fertile breeding ground for hatred, provides an excellent example.

Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived together peaceably in Palestine, Lebanon, and North Africa for centuries until the situation became politicized after World War I. Until then, an individual’s background and beliefs were just personal attributes, not a casus belli.Government was at its most benign, an ineffectual nuisance that concerned itself mostly with extorting taxes. People were busy with that most harmless of activities: making money.

But politics do not deal with people as individuals. It scoops them up into parties and nations. And some group inevitably winds up using the power of the state (however “innocently” or “justly” at first) to impose its values and wishes on others with predictably destructive results. What would otherwise be an interesting kaleidoscope of humanity then sorts itself out according to the lowest common denominator peculiar to the time and place.

Sometimes that means along religious lines, as with the Muslims and Hindus in India or the Catholics and Protestants in Ireland; or ethnic lines, like the Kurds and Iraqis in the Middle East or Tamils and Sinhalese in Sri Lanka; sometimes it’s mostly racial, as whites and East Indians found throughout Africa in the 1970s or Asians in California in the 1870s. Sometimes it’s purely a matter of politics, as Argentines, Guatemalans, Salvadorans, and other Latins discovered more recently. Sometimes it amounts to no more than personal beliefs, as the McCarthy era in the 1950s and the Salem trials in the 1690s proved.

Throughout history government has served as a vehicle for the organization of hatred and oppression, benefitting no one except those who are ambitious and ruthless enough to gain control of it. That’s not to say government hasn’t, then and now, performed useful functions. But the useful things it does could and would be done far better by the market.


  1. This is such an ignorant commentary, the different ethnic and religious groups in the middle east were always warring with each other. The peaceful period in Palestine which Casey talks about was under the Turkish sultanate. If anything, it proves that monarchies bring peace to a multiethnic area, which is a more believable argument. Another example is the peaceful austro-Hungarian empire, as compared to nationalist chaos that followed and raged until 15 years ago.

  2. You're not disputing Casey with your Turkish sultanate argument or the example of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It seems you are agreeing with him. As he states: "Government was at its most benign, an ineffectual nuisance that concerned itself mostly with extorting taxes." States were benign prior to WW1 compared to the malignant states that came afterward.