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The Left, The Right, and the State

April 27, 2009
Lew Rockwell
4/27/2009

c4lIn American political culture, and world political culture too, the divide concerns in what way the state’s power should be expanded. The left has a laundry list and the right does too. Both represent a grave threat to the only political position that is truly beneficial to the world and its inhabitants: liberty. What is the state? It is the group within society that claims for itself the exclusive right to rule everyone under a special set of laws that permit it to do to others what everyone else is rightly prohibited from doing, namely aggressing against person and property.

Why would any society permit such a gang to enjoy an unchallenged legal privilege? Here is where ideology comes into play. The reality of the state is that it is a looting and killing machine. So why do so many people cheer for its expansion? Indeed, why do we tolerate its existence at all? The very idea of the state is so implausible on its face that the state must wear an ideological garb as means of compelling popular support. Ancient states had one or two: they would protect you from enemies and/or they were ordained by the gods. To greater and lesser extents, all modern states still employ these rationales, but the democratic state in the developed world is more complex. It uses a huge range of ideological rationales — parsed out between left and right — that reflect social and cultural priorities of niche groups, even when many of these rationales are contradictory.

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