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The State is more Dangerous than Anarchy

October 22, 2013 in Economics

By Robert Higgs

Most people fear that without government (as we now know it), social and economic conditions would be horrible, with rampant crime, including theft, extortion, robbery, rape, and murder; chronic fighting among warlords and organized criminal gangs; and low rates of saving and investment, hence little or no economic growth, owing to people’s inability to form reliable expectations about the future, even for the intermediate term, in an atmosphere of great threats to private property rights.

Yet, with government (as we now know it), all of these social and economic conditions prevail nonetheless, and many of them, especially the death and destruction caused by war and constant preparation for war and the domestic extortion and threats to private property rights, are institutionalized and carried out on a vast scale that almost certainly could not exist without government’s huge resources to maintain them. Moreover, with a traditional government in place – a government that ruthlessly smashes any rivals for its monopoly of “legitimate” coercion and brooks no competitors to coexist alongside it — people have virtually no ability to protect themselves against the entrenched threats to life, liberty, and property posed by the government itself.

Ah, government, blessed government – all the evils and costs of anarchy — many of them greatly compounded — with none of anarchy’s virtues and benefits and scarcely any of its individual freedoms.

(If the foregoing sounds wildly implausible, please consider my thesis seriously, as spelled out more fully in the lecture below and much more fully in the literature referenced there.)

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