On state corruption of men and society

Long ago the great Albert Jay Nock wrote this:

Once, I remember, I ran across the case of a boy who had been sentenced to prison, a poor, scared little brat, who had intended something no worse than mischief, and it turned out to be a crime. The judge said he disliked to sentence the lad; it seemed the wrong thing to do; but the law left him no option. I was struck by this. The judge, then, was doing something as an official that he would not dream of doing as a man; and he could do it without any sense of responsibility, or discomfort, simply because he was acting as an official and not as a man. On this principle of action, it seemed to me that one could commit almost any kind of crime without getting into trouble with one’s conscience.
Clearly, a great crime had been committed against this boy; yet nobody who had had a hand in it — the judge, the jury, the prosecutor, the complaining witness, the policemen and jailers — felt any responsibility about it, because they were not acting as men, but as officials. Clearly, too, the public did not regard them as criminals, but rather as upright and conscientious men.
The idea came to me then, vaguely but unmistakably, that if the primary intention of government was not to abolish crime but merely to monopolize crime, no better device could be found for doing it than the inculcation of precisely this frame of mind in the officials and in the public; for the effect of this was to exempt both from any allegiance to those sanctions of humanity or decency which anyone of either class, acting as an individual, would have felt himself bound to respect — nay, would have wished to respect. This idea was vague at the moment, as I say, and I did not work it out for some years, but I think I never quite lost track of it from that time.

This theme has been visited by many men over the years. It is obvious that men will do horrible things as part of a group than they would never do as an individual. It is even worse when they are part of the State and their position can lead to justifications in their own mind that they are “defending our great nation and its people”. We see this in the occupying forces in the middle east who have done unspeakable horrors to innocent men, women, and children. They have done things that, if done as a private individual,  would have shamed their friends and family. These acts would have led to shunning at the least and most probably prison if they had be convicted as individual actors.

The State can be seen as the coercive and corrupting agent that destroys morality and ethics. The state is the acid that dissolves true civilization. The State gives men great power over other men even as we all know that power corrupts in proportion to the amount of power. Strike at the root of the evil, withdraw your support of the State.


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