Thursday, October 11, 2012

Is the State a gang of thieves writ large?

"The State is a gang of thieves writ large" is a popular quote by Murray Rothbard. Rothbard is regarded as the founder of common libertarian thought and Anarcho-Capitalism. Was he right with this very controversial statement? I think the statement is exactly correct. Especially when people generalize gangs to be bad, the distinction of the State as a gang is spot on. The hidden part lays in the fact of why gangs, as we are accustomed to thinking about, come into play in society and the positive aspects they do have.

Why do gangs exist? I don't think many people question this enough and provide an adequate answer when they do. We typically hear that gangs have existed in the past because certain things were illegal. Although this is true I think we miss the important economic factor that creates gangs.

That economic factor is simply the fact that SINCE a certain product is illegal that is wanted by consumers, regardless of its legality, you have created a need in the market. A need that cannot be accommodated by a "legal" market so the black market is going to supply it. Entrepreneurs see a need in the market and they work to get it filled. Typically those entrepreneurs that are willing to take the risk in this market to provide the need are violent and will use violence to keep their share of the market from those intruding in their area.

Those products that are provided by gangs are prostitution, drugs, and high interest loans. The moral aspects of these products really have no say in the legitimacy of the services rendered. All that matters is that since there is a market for these products they are going to be provided. People voluntarily choose to purchase these products from the gangs.

There lies the essential difference between a gang and the State. With a gang you are not forced to buy their products but with the State you are. For the most part gangs aren't trying to provide some type of service to you and if you don't pay send strangers into your house kidnap you and throw you in jail or simply seize all your property. This is exactly what the State does. For those few times that gangs do do this and you deplore such an aggressive act you should deplore the very same act done by the State for the process is one in the same.

Just because the State says they are taxing you to provide a service doesn't justify it. Tax is theft and can only be taken through coercion.

So is the State a gang of thieves writ large? I think the answer is yes, but much worse than your regular ole gang down the street. The violence we see from gang warfare, although horrible for sure, is nothing compared to the violence committed by the State to society writ large.

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