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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

The Machinery of Freedom?

Lately I have engaged in a number of arguments with people supporting anarcho-capitalist notions. Many of the most extreme of these not only will throw out ambiguous desires for no government, but some of them have stumbled upon a few obfuscatory references to support their claims – or so it appears. Many those immediately point to the same video on youtube (The Machinery of Freedom).

mof

I’m reluctant to post a link to that post, because it’s a bunch of nice sounding rhetoric that makes the ideas of the Anarcho Capitalists seem workable – or at least sound more appealing. From what I understand, it’s an excerpt from a book (?) of the same name. I will admit I have not read the book, as of yet, I see no compelling reason to do so, especially if this excerpt is a representative example of the kinds of arguments the book attempts to make. The video in particular is talking about how police and courts can be handled by private ‘agencies’ like insurance agencies but with policing powers.

My take on ‘Anarchistic’ (non) government

Let me take an aside for a moment and speak to my own opinions of Anarchistic systems I have heard proposed and what I assert the consequences would be. In general, any time in history an anarchistic system is either established intentionally or results consequentially anywhere that a prior existing ‘government’ system (tyrannical or representative), the inevitable result in virtually all cases is for the society or region to fall quickly into tyranny. About the only exception to this is ‘frontier’ states where a migration of people are in the process of moving in, and the government they came from eventually moves in with them. (in other words, the desire is to bring not only themselves, but their culture and the means to maintain it with them)
As a result, I assert that the only time an anarchistic system can exist is when any other form of government is impracticable. Namely when the population is so low and the people are so spread out that a formal government is not only something that would be unfeasible, but is mostly unnecessary.

Some banter around words like ‘anarcho-socialism’ which is even more of an absurdity. A pseudo-marxist voluntary system where everyone just gets along and shares out of their love of the common good. (Whenever I hear this one, I start looking to see if the person is wearing Ruby slippers and chanting “There’s no place like social utopia… There’s no place like social utopia…”)

The basic conclusions that I arrive at whenever I examine suggested ‘anarchistic’ systems is that they will degrade into uncontrolled in fighting between ‘factions’ that spring up – aka ‘tribalism’ and ad-hoc governments will start to spring up despite any desire forbid governments (or certain types of them) to exist. Ultimately, the most brazen and charismatic leaders of these tribal factions will begin to gain a power base which will cause others in less powerful factions to side with the few remaining. The more brutal and irrational, without a basis of rules, will be the one that wins and it will either be beholden too or have to outright attack those with the most wealth first in order to achieve it’s ends. And those ends are tyranny rampant with brutality.

To the credit of the ‘anarchist’ thinkers, I am prone to agree with them that government based systems are also prone to a slow creep to tyranny regardless. But I’m also prone to think that a properly formed government will last far longer and produce better results than any ad-hoc system which is what ultimately results from any anarcho-based system. The best argument I ever heard in favor of anarchy was someone that didn’t describe it as lack of organized government, but a lack of ‘rulers’ – based on the original etymology of the word. At least the view is honest. (although the individual that communicated this to me was one of the ones that forwarded me the link to the video mentioned above)

So what about these Agencies?

In regard to the system outlined in the video itself (and any closely related to it), upon watching the whole thing, my most immediate questions are:

  1. how is that not going to continually erupt into conflict when two (or more) ‘competing’ agencies are marketing their ‘services’ to different groups with different interests and goals?
    and
  2. what is going to prevent that from eroding into serving primarily the ‘clients’ with the biggest pockets and/or most friends?

posseI used to bring up examples of the old west, and while I understand that the stories of the shootouts were more the exception than the norm, the nature of the law being somewhat ‘flexible’ based on whoever had the most gumption and the biggest posse was the only ‘working’ example of what they were talking about that I was aware of. And there were enough examples in the old west of that system failing to reach proper ‘justice’ and thus not being as ‘peachy’ as they describe it. So i always challenge people supporting such ideas to give a ‘working example’.

The honest ones will try to suggest, that just like the minarchism (which is what I support) in the US, it’s a bold, new idea that has never been tried but should be. The less honest will try to point to places where the anarchistic nature of the (lack of) government was simply a consequence of the nomadic or spread out population involved. One such example someone raised was Greenland – I looked it up. As soon as the population started to rise, the imperial influences in Europe came in and enacted a totalitarian regime.

Has it really never been tried?

But as I watched that video, something about what they were describing sounded familiar. And not from the old west. But at first I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I ended up watching some portions of it a couple of times and finally it hit me. It has been tried. A lot. The thing that I couldn’t hit on is that I had this impression in my head – it came initially as just a hunch, but once I realized the nature of what they were describing, I realized there were examples of it – that the only way there can be ‘multiple agencies’ in a single region is if the agencies have very similar goals and if those agencies have formal agreements (i.e. “government”) between one another not only as to how they will pursue those goals to mutual benefit, but to address what to do when their goals come into conflict.

Any other instance of multiple agencies with competing goals being in the same geographical region, as I was inclined to think, break down into endless conflict or results in the multiple agencies drawing lines in the sand based on whatever geography each of them can secure and defend. And even then, the feelings of resentment from their ‘customers’ carry on for years, even decades and centuries and conflicts at their borders generally continue with that resentment. People who used to live on one side of the line want back what they had. People who were moved against their will want to strike back.

Then the money and influence is also exemplified over and over again. Agencies as they describe, do in fact pander and cater to specific desires of the ‘customers’ they claim to represent. If those in charge of an agency, once confined to a given set of geography, feel bold enough, they will even turn on their customers and use the power they have amassed for their own ends. And even when this doesn’t happen, money and influence constantly peck at the doors and convince some running or working for the agencies to suit their needs above the needs of the rest of the ‘customers’.

History is the evidence

No, the anarcho-capitalist’s “agency” approach isn’t anything new at all. They just fail to see how the mixing of opposed ‘customers’ does turn into an endless shootout. It’s happened. In Israel. In Ireland. In Rowanda. In Korea. In Viet Nam. In Cambodia. In Eastern Europe.

If you haven’t figured it out yet yourself, the corollary is international politics. And ask anyone if they want a system that mirrors the one that spawned holy wars, inquisitions, imperial conquests, world wars, nuclear cold wars, etc. I have a feeling, anyone with a brain will say ‘NO’!

international

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the-angry-mob

There are a number of folks who have disagreed with some of my statements and some of my methods. I treat the absurd with absurdity, I ridicule the ridiculous and whenever someone is being obtuse to the level of it being profane, I response with the acute use of profantity – e.g. ‘Fuck that shit!’

con-man4When debating particular ideas, concepts and the corresponding societal movements that all-too-often spring up as a result of them, I tend to be rather particular to not only attack the ideas themselves, but to then specifically condemn the people that ‘follow’ such ideas.

Whenever an idea exists, not based primarily on the self-evidence that is good or right, but instead leans upon consensus as a means to gain prominence, there is inevitably some charismatic figure making a good pitch leading the charge. It is the general practice of others when addressing such ideas being broadcast from a primary source of one or a small number of individuals, to attack the source. The problem is, the ideas don’t exist on evidence, they exist on consensus. The slickest con-man in existence is entirely irrelevant if no one swallows his magic elixir!

More specifically, whenever anyone is making a claim that will not stand on it’s own, it can only stand as a result of others supporting it. It can only resonate in society if a ‘mob’ gets behind it and forces it to become an actionable reality. Thus whenever anyone claims to support the idea, they aren’t simply supporting the assertions of the charismatic figure, they are taking on those assertions and becoming the means by which they achieve relevance.

Furthermore, were there not so many willing idiots, there wouldn’t be a market for the snake oil salesmen to begin with!

Let me give an example to get to the heart of what I mean. Someone comes up to me supporting some statist idea that the government should be empowered to collect taxes from me under threat of force. Those who disagree with my methods are making an assumption that the individual is simply enabling the use of force by not standing in the way of it being carried out. They aren’t the ones directly responsible because it is someone in a statehouse somewhere that proposed it, and it’s someone in a police force somewhere that will enforce it and make it actionable.

But in reality, especially in any society with representative governance, such ideas will never ever exist unless a significant enough number of people – individuals – either support it or allow it. Whether it be authoritarian concepts of statist politicians or similar principles being stated from pulpits by evangelical preachers, the ideas themselves are irrelevant until individuals make them actionable.

philosoraptor-choose-not-to-decide

To quote RUSH from the song ‘Free Will’,

“If I choose not to decide, I still have made a choice”

In other words, as the passive thinker stands there and tells you “I think this politician is right when he says you must be forced to help others” or “I think this preacher is right when he says you should not be selfish and sacrifice for the needy”, the most important part of either of those sentences is the first two words, “I think”. They are in essence telling you “You need to be forced to comply with what ‘I think'” – supporting the third party is simply a convenience to that individual in that someone else is energetically telling them ‘I’ll happily force them on your behalf!’

Thus, I don’t play nice with such people. If you say you support someone else doing me harm – you, in my mind, are saying harm should be done to me. If you help propel ideas to prominence that only propel to prominence because people like you help them get that way, you are the one making the concept actionable.

I still hold the statist or the theist responsible for promoting bad ideas and will challenge them regularly on the falsity, absurdity and profaneness of those ideas, but it is the individual that ‘believes’ the bullshit that I hold the MOST responsible for it’s existence!

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William James - philosopher and author of 'Pragmatism'
For some time I have dubbed myself a ‘theoretical idealist, but a practicable realist’. But at the same time, I am a very staunch denouncer of pragmatism. I was thinking more on the differences between ‘practicable realism’ and ‘pragmatism’ lately and finally hit on a succinct way to describe the difference.

When I say that of myself, what I mean is that I can conceive of the ‘best’ course of action or the ‘best’ possible result in any circumstance, but that I also understand the nature of reality. Reality is such that not only are some results not possible, but in some cases, some courses of action are either not available or not worth pursuing when faced with the potential for success.

When I refer to pragmatism, specifically in my condemnations of it, what I refer to is the practice of placing the most worthiness or value in courses of action that are the likeliest to succeed and/or to produce a desired result. More often than not, ‘likeliest’ also entails, the ‘easiest’ course or the one requiring the least effort to accomplish.  It materializes through cliches such as “the ends justifies the means” and “picking the lesser of two evils” and is often referred to as ‘acting out of expedience’. Pragmatism is rampant in both the behaviors of our politicians and in the votes of those electing them, so it is often a subject for me when speaking on politics, as well as many other areas of life where it appears.

The reason I find a problem with pragmatism is that most people oversimplify situations. The term ‘lesser of two evils’ is a prime example of this. In most cases where this phrase is applied, two alternatives do not constitute the entire pool of choices. Instead, the ‘two’ refers to the ‘two’ pragmatic, or most-likely/easiest choices. The less likely choices are disregarded out of expedience, and often become a self-fulfilling prophecy since the pragmatic never pursue them in the first place — especially in populist arenas like democratic elections or assemblies.

The main and most outstanding difference between this form of pragmatism and what I refer to as ‘practicable realism’ is that realism requires taking all possible or available options into account. Acting in this way, one might use pragmatic-like criteria to determine their actions (picking the lesser evil from a given list of alternatives) but ONLY when no other alternatives exist. In contrast, the pragmatist ignores or otherwise disregards the difficult or unlikely choices in favor of the easy or likely ones.

Besides being bad philosophy, this pragmatic approach to decision making is lazy, cowardly and irresponsible. If a better alternative exists, you should pursue the better alternative in ALL CASES. This does not mean that some aspects of pragmatic thinking might help you determine what is the ‘best’ alternative, but it means that you must rank likeliness as secondary to what is proper, good and right whenever considering a course of action.

** editor note: to further differentiate this concept from ‘pragmatism’ which is often expressed through ‘practical’ solutions, I am changing my wording to use the word ‘practicable’ (which is more accurate to the concept anyway) for better clarity.

“If you have standards that you wish to live by, by all means live up to them and demand the same from others around you. To do otherwise is to be disingenuous to yourself, to others and to those standards you hold.” – Scott Webster Wood

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“… but I live in a blue state, what can I do?”

I have to give the kudos to my dad for the idea behind this post.  It was his idea and I am simply passing it along as it is a good one.

I live in a progressive stronghold.  I like the technology and (some of the) culture in the Ann Arbor area, so I choose to remain here.  But every election, the Dingells win, the Levins win, the Conyers win, the the Stabenows win.  It’s not even close in most SE Michigan districts when the Union vote has anything to do with it.  Democrats just sweep.

There are many parts of the country where this tends to be the case.  I can imagine people with similar frustrations in the districts of Barney Frank or Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, etc.  You end up looking around and you are surrounded by people that drank the progressive koolaid, so what the hell can you do?

I hate apathy.  I don’t like it when I am faced with futility.  So I was glad when my father told me how he deals with the problem.  Yeah, the Levins and Stabenows and the democrats in general always seem to win the state-wide elections in Michigan.  So last election cycle, my father looked around to see what he could do.  He watched the news and came up with an idea.

What my father did was he started to pay attention to the races around the country that were in contention and were hard to predict an outcome.  Every time he heard of such a race, he wrote the name of the candidates down.  When he had time later, he looked up the websites of those candidates and got the addresses for them.

He then not only wrote a check to those candidates, but encouraged all his frustrated friends to do likewise.  He also got on the phone to various organizations he supports such as the National Rifle Association and a few others and told them they should recommend following his example.  He told as many people as he could to give as much as they can spare to help those fighting for a few more votes to defeat democratic incumbents in other districts around the country.

Sure, Michigan might be a lock for the democrats, but you can damn well make sure those democrats are going to have a hell of a hard time getting anything done when they get there!

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Originally posted to Facebook Notes

No term limits, but no consecutive terms

I was quite fortunate in that I ran low on money after my music scholarship ran out and ended up compromising by taking some of my core liberal arts credits through night extension courses at Oakland Community College through both the Auburn Hills and Farmington Hills campuses. I say fortunate because larger universities seem to be gathering places for a lot of left-wing thinkers and it tended to be a source of conflict at both Oakland University and Eastern Michigan University where I later transferred after moving to Ann Arbor. (although one of my most enjoyable college classes of all was a business ethics course run by a brilliant philosophy teacher at EMU who was admittedly a liberal)
O.C.C. however, especially in their extension courses (which were often run by professionals from the community rather than tenured faculty), more often than not had conservative minded teachers. One such class was a basic economics course run by an obvious supply-side thinker. All that is neither here nor there to my idea of how to handle term limits, however, one day in class he was discussing the principle of ‘velocity of money’ and this potential solution struck me.

The notion was that I, at the time, foresaw one of the biggest problems with the entrenched incumbency existing in our government as being a lack of new ideas. The same out-of-touch guys keep getting elected and re-elected through combination of their celebrity/name-recognition, franking privilege, party backing, practices like gerrymandering and the use of their pulpit. I don’t really support the notion of term limits because it reduces choice, but at the same time the desires of the founding fathers was not to have ‘career politicians’ holding the same office for life. Moreover most of them were reluctant to even hold office themselves and quickly reverted to civilian pursuits as soon as their one or two terms were complete.
THAT was the intention of their interest in republican rule. To encourage the common man to serve as leader if his ideas resounded with the people, but then to return to the common. The problem was in essence, a lack of ‘velocity of ideas’.

The economic principle was that you did not need to increase money supply to stimulate an economy. You simply needed to seek means by which to increase the ‘velocity of money’ – to make the existing money supply change hands rather than stagnate in savings or investments. In short, to encourage spending to stimulate production to revitalize the economy. Gross National Product goes up faster with increased velocity of money than with any other means.

Therefore if you are going to address problems with stagnant ideas in politics, you need to increase the velocity of ideas. You need to get back to – or at least attempt to approach closer to – the founders’ intentions. Encourage the common man to enter politics and discourage the career politician from stagnating in office.

The answer was obvious. Don’t limit terms – just don’t let anyone hold the same office twice in a row. The big argument on term limits has always been ‘it takes a while for someone to learn the system’ – I replace the word system with the word ‘game’ because that’s pretty much what it is… political game playing. Well guess what, if everyone is coming in to the office fresh (or at least reasonably fresh), far less entrenched ‘system’ of game playing to learn.

Would this mean no career politicians? NO, not at all. But tell me it would be a bad thing for someone that wanted to make a career of it to have to leave the Senate to take a seat for 2 years in the house or back at his state level before again running for the 6 year term!

Instant run-off ballots!

This one is by far not my idea. It’s actually been done. The concept of an instant run-off ballot is that you are not restricted to one choice. I see this as a benefit also because many times third parties with legitimately viable ideas are overshadowed by people’s desire ‘not to waste a vote’ on a candidate they think is unlikely to win. The old Douglas Adams argument comes into play:

“The people are people, the leaders are lizards. The lizards hate the people and the people hate the lizards. It’s a democracy! […] of course people vote for [the lizards], if they don’t, the wrong lizard might get in.”

An instant run-off ballot gives you the ability to make more than one choice in order of preference or to vote no preference at all on candidates you do not like. i.e. if you really like what the reform party candidate is saying but don’t want to waste your vote afraid that party ‘x’s popular candidate will win over your second choice in party ‘y’, you make your first choice for the reform candidate and your second for the party Y candidate.

After ballots are collected, if there is not a ‘super majority’ (over 50%), they take whoever’s name is the last on the list (least number of ‘first choice’ votes) off the list and tally in any ‘second choice’ candidates on those voter ballots to add to the existing totals and so on until one candidate has earned 50%

I think this kind of a process with so many conflicting ideas out there makes a lot more sense than the current ‘this guy or that guy’ method of the bi-cameral, one-person-one-vote-for-one-candidate nonsense we have in place today. And it would go a long way to introduce new concepts into politics as those 2nd (and beyond) choices needed to be tallied in.

Proportional salaries for politicians

I commented briefly on this in another response to someone on another facebook page who was referring to government dictation of executive pay as a factor of corporate profits and company well being. I’m ever and always saying we should hold our politicians to the same standards they try to introduce, legislate and enforce BEFORE giving them any audience for ridiculous notions sold as ‘fairness’.

Therefore, politician salaries should be proportional to the ‘average income’ of people whom they represent. It wouldn’t have to be a 1-to-1 correlation but should be across the board in any political wing (states could decide their own ratio, federal ratios should be uniform in the house and senate) and should be fixed so that only a public vote could change the ratio. (I also firmly believe that politicians should NOT be allowed to arbitrarily vote on their own compensation, benefits or what have you – that is insane!)

This would shift the incentive of politicians from ‘what they could get to give to their voters’ to what they can do to improve the lives, salaries and self-sufficiency of their voters overnight!

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Originally posted on Facebook Notes
Published in the Ann Arbor News*

I have been trying to spread a new notion to anyone that will listen. There is a problem inherent in our culture that is allowing a dangerous kind of thinking to resonate. It is a misinterpretation embedded within the very mythos that makes up modern thinking….

The best example comes from the story of Robin Hood that is one of the truly unique mythologies of western culture. I start by asking people if they are familiar with the story of Robin Hood then asking them what his claim to fame was?

Most people will answer this question by replying “he stole from the rich and gave to the poor” – and herein lies the problem. That is a misconception, and that is the reason certain types of political suggestions take hold. Re-examine the story of Knottingham and re-learn it’s message.

Robin Hood was in essence a tax evader. Robin Hood was basically a grass roots motivator who led an anti-establishment rebellion. What he and his merry men were known for doing was not stealing from the ‘rich’ but “taking back” from the government what rightfully belonged to the people. He did not, in fact, steal from the rich to give to the poor, he stole from the oppressor to give back to the oppressed!

Most people view the story of Robin Hood as noble, heroic and just – and they should! But until people begin to understand the truth of that story they will not be able to comprehend the truth of what really is noble to be doing now.

Pass this along with my permission!

(*for some reason the ‘author’ on the archive of piece is mis-attributed now that the Ann Arbor News is no more and it’s op-eds nothing more than an archive.  I have contacted their webmaster but they don’t seem very responsive when it comes to correcting the archived content, but I assure you that  I was the author.) 


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I tend to be political. When I am involved in politics, if forced to pick a ‘category’ for my politics, I most closely identify with libertarianism. But more often than not, I tend to find that my political action tend to entail fighting a similar sounding word – liberalism.
Mind you, I am one of the few in this world that still remember the difference between a Roosevelt democrat and a modern liberal. In short, I tend to associate the modern liberal with the philosophies of Moore (Thomas, not Roger) and more specifically, Marx. Therefore it comes of no surprise to me that collectivist and populist groups such as minority ‘rights’ collective movements or organized labor traditionally support or at least provide a voter base for the ‘modern liberal’ politician.
At the same time, I tend to hold an atheistic agnostic view of mysticism in general. Thus it often begs the question why I am more often willing to support a republican candidate ahead of a democratic (read: liberal) one when many republicans express an open inspiration from predominantly Christian belief systems and backgrounds. Upon thinking further on this subject I first looked at the similarities and then at the differences.

I tend to be leery of any organized movement that relies upon ‘belief’ to support their core objectives. Both religion and modern liberalism – mind you I am using that term synonymous with what could best be described as ‘softened’ collectivism – rely on belief in their ideal to support their motives and therefore their respective agendas. No biggie I suppose … just about any movement or even philosophy has behind it an idealistic goal that is as of yet unrealized and therefore requires some level of ‘belief’ that should it be realized (or at least sufficiently advanced) then the results will speak for themselves.
However, many such ideal do become at least somewhat realized and as of yet, the ideals of both parties (pun intended) have not spoken very strongly in support of their claims of what ‘should’ be expected by their realization. (at this point I could go into greater details of failed socialist or communist states or point to the horrors of time periods seen over by christian or other religious zealots – but I’m sure most are aware of enough of them to avoid the redundancy)

So what are the similarities?
Taking each onto themselves we can start with religion: a belief in an omnipotent being responsible for creating everything and somehow ever present in the events of the world. You can’t see it, you can’t question it, you must simply have faith in it. You are asked to sacrifice to your fellow man and to take your suffering as your award awaits you in the hereafter and while here the good lord will provide for his faithful. – to do otherwise is heresy, blasphemy and sin.

Then there is statism: a belief in a utopian society where the state is responsible for owning and distributing all that is created and all that is needed. You should not question it, and it does require a faith that those involved within it are upholding that same utopian ideal; From each according to their ability, to each according to their need. The state does ask you sacrifice (the first part) but also offers you assistance – dare we say to the ‘faithful’? To do otherwise is a crime against the state akin to treason.

Both ask of the individual selflessness and require duty to the whole. Both provide something somewhat intangible greater than one’s self for which they are to provide this sacrifice; for one the ‘state’ and the other the ‘almighty’.

So why then does statism bother me more than mysticism? It’s interesting now that I have stepped outside the blind ‘faith’ style of the Christians I find around me to look at many so-called ‘modern’ religions and to examine their ceremonies, rituals and methods of worship, to read in history how these developed to what they are today and to look also at how many christians (or other religions, but mind you were are talking about christians in the present) have looked upon other beliefs with their own rituals as ‘primitive’ or ‘superstitious’ – even barbaric in nature. As the tenor sings a can’t in the back and a man in a fancy robe with a pointy hat waves around his little ball of incense on a chain before offering his followers the symbolic flesh and blood of their savior I can’t help but stifle a chuckle at the hypocrisy.

But then where is God? (big ‘G’) I looked for him at many points in my life before coming to my current doubters perspective – believe me! (again, pun intended) God (big ‘G’) is this invisible man whom most say lives in the sky, he is all around us, he is responsible for everything, knows everything, sees everything. Yet no one can really prove he’s there to a reasoning individual with any level of certainty – at least one that does not also require a leap of faith.

So where is the state? The state ‘is’ all around us! Anyone that understands the least bit about causality knows that although they can – for the most part – control their own behavior, decisions and how they react to the consequences, the same cannot be said for the man (or woman) standing next to you.
As long as there are two or more people in a situation, each with their own needs, wants and desires, you will need some construct of ‘rules’ to govern their interactions with each other and with those things around them that they might need, want or desire. This would be nice and peachy in that idealistic (yet all too often unrealized) existence where everyone followed the rules all the time – but of course we know better.
Then comes the need for enforcement of the rules – enforcement that does not adversely support the needs, wants and desires of one individual over that of another. The combination of these rules and the enforcement of same sooner or later shows up as government and can be eventually found synonymous with ‘the state’.
So, therefore (using a little deductive reasoning here) as long as there are two more more people in a situation, each with their own needs wants and desires – the emergence of a governing entity that could be dubbed ‘the state’ is pretty much an inevitability.

In short? A lot of people believe in a god. A lot more believe in some type of statism. But the state is the only one that we can readily demonstrate having an immediate and incontrovertible effect upon our daily lives.

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