I’ve started going back through books I read from about age 20 through age 40. The first book I pulled off my shelf was the first book I read when I decided (for whatever reason) that I needed to become much more erudite: Will Durant’s Our Oriental Heritage (1935) (Volume One of his majestic The Story of Civilization).
The book starts with an overview of the parts that comprise a civilization. In the section entitled “The State,” I was startled to find that Durant subscribed to the view that the State is form of violence. It is, of course, the correct view, but it’s not exactly mainstream and I’ve considered Durant pretty mainstream. I suspect he used to be, but in the wake of statism’s growth over the past 75 years, he’s floated outside the mainstream.
Anyway, here are a few quotes from that section of the book. The first comes from Nock’s favorite historian, Franz Oppenheimer:
“Everywhere we find some warlike tribe breaking through the boundaries of some less warlike people, settling down as nobility, and founding its state.” Oppenheimer.
“‘Violence,’ says Ratzenhofer, ‘is the agent which has created the state.'”
“The state, says Gumplowicz, is the result of conquest, the establishment of the victors as a ruling cast over the vanquished.”
“‘The state,’ says Sumner, ‘is the product of force, and exists by force.'”
“Every state begins in compulsion; but the habits of obedience become the contents of conscience, and soon every citizen thrills with loyalty to the flag.”
Durant, however, is not thoroughly libertarian, though he definitely has strong leanings. A few more quotes that show a conflict intellect:
“The citizen is right; for however the state begins, it soon becomes an indispensable prop to order.”
The state “spread the tentacles of its power and law over wider and wider areas, and though it made external war more destructive than before, it extended and maintained internal peace; the state may be defined as internal peace for external war. Men decided that it was better to pay taxes than to fight among themselves; better to pay tribute to one magnificent robber than to bribe them all.”
That last quote might be the best: Men decided that it was better to pay taxes than to fight among themselves; better to pay tribute to one magnificent robber than to bribe them all. On the one hand, it shows that Durant understands that the State is a robber (a libertarian view, but again, one that is common sense when you think about it), but also shows that he agrees with the mainstream view that the State is necessary. I vehemently disagree with Durant on that point, but I give him credit for getting the facts straight.Bookmark it: del.icio.us | Reddit | Slashdot | Digg | Facebook | Technorati | Google | StumbleUpon | Window Live | Tailrank | Furl | Netscape | Yahoo | BlinkList
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