The notion that the state is a legitimate agency – one deserving respect – an institution that, despite its flaws, generally promotes (or at least aims to promote) the welfare of its citizens – is increasingly difficult to understand, much less to accept. A far more realistic view of the state, any state, comes from Mancur Olson: the state is a stationary bandit. Prudence might require that ordinary people tolerate it, but wisdom requires that those same ordinary people understand that, when dealing with the state, they are dealing with organized thuggery. Obey it because your failure to do so will prompt it to unleash its guns and prisons on you, but please don’t pretend that the state’s commands are issued with your best interests in mind. Walter Olson has more evidence here. (FYI, as far as I’m aware, Walter isn’t related to the late Mancur.)
For more evidence on the true nature of the state, see Shikha Dalmia’s latest column.
To many Cafe patrons, the above might sound extreme. I plead guilty. And I turn for support to my colleague Bryan Caplan. (See also here.)
Speaking of The Freeman, don’t miss this essay by Peter Lewin on the relevance of Austrian capital theory.
Kyle Smith reviews Paul Krugman’s new book. (HT Kerry Dugas and Howie Rich)