“Alteration between centralized and decentralized power is one of the cyclical rhythms of history, as if men tired alternately of immoderate liberty and excessive order.” Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage.
So where would we place the United States on this pendulum?
Swinging hard toward excessive order, I’m afraid, after enjoying freedom for the first couple of hundred years (from colonial times until the Civil War, when the national government started its first serious forays into power).
But are we witnessing “excessive order”? I suspect Durant missed one key libertarian insight (brought home–recently, by intellectual history standards–by Hoppe’s Democracy, the God that Failed): centralization of power results in inequitable distribution of wealth (read: looting by the State, for the benefit of its allies (read: for the benefit of Wall Street and its favored institutions, like higher education and the medical establishment)) and other unfortunate phenomena, but it doesn’t result in “excessive order.” Far from it. As the breakdown of the USSR established: centralization of power leads to dissolution of society. Society is the adhesive that holds individuals together in a flexible order. As it breaks down, disorder spreads, which is hugely unfortunate since the order imposed by society is not an involuntary order, like the ersatz order imposed by the State and its police force. The order of society is largely voluntary: if you choose not to participate in that order, you might be ostracized and face economic consequences; you might even be viewed as a freak. But you’re not put behind bars. The ersatz order of the State can impose only the sanctions of violence: fines, jail, and death–and the threat thereof. By comparison, the sanctions imposed by the order of society are mild and to be preferred.