'Human liberty ... It is an attitude of mind, and a beatitude of the soul'

Posted by ProjectC 
'...the twentieth century ... mankind is afflicted with delayed adolescence.'

<blockquote>'Superficially, one of the grimmest paradoxes of the twentieth century is the emergence of the atom bomb at a time when it is painfully evident that the overwhelming majority of mankind is afflicted with delayed adolescence. Substantially, however, it is not a paradox at all. May it not be that the universality of the adolescence and the splitting of the atom are patterned in the natural law of cause and effect? Is it unlikely that we have been inflicted with the super-scientific bomb because we have refused to grow up and because we have failed to cherish and honor the spiritual bounty of our inheritance?


The State, as Nock implies over and over again, is merely the politicians' dreams come true. It is political conjuring, whereby "all the people all the time" are invited to believe that the State and Government are one and the same thing. The truth is, of course, that whereas Government has its roots in society, the State is a parasitical, malignant growth that seeks to destroy society by bribery, corruption and compulsion.

Our Enemy, the State, as the very title emphasizes, warns every thinking man and woman to remember that the price of human liberty is eternal vigilance. It stresses, also, that liberty, unlike justice, is not a right. It is an attitude of mind, and a beatitude of the soul.


Herbert Spencer invited his generation to recognize the natural antagonisms that must exist between man, as man, and the State, as master. Nock was able to extend and widen the invitation for his own day and generation. Much that Spencer conceived in creative and prophetic intuition, Nock saw with his own eyes as contemporary phenomena. But, like Spencer, he too reinforced his fine scholarship with intuitive "second sight" into the future.'
- Cecil Palmer, Rereading Our Enemy, the State</blockquote>

'...Will today's young minds, desirous of understanding the reality rather than just a theory of politics grounded in hope...'

<blockquote>'The efforts of earlier political philosophers to explain the origins of the state either as an expression of "divine will" or as the product of an alleged "social contract" begin to melt away when confronted by Nock's realism. He tells us that the state has its genesis not in some highly principled pursuit of a "common will" to resist some imagined perverse human nature, but in nothing more elevated than "conquest and confiscation." He echoes Voltaire's observation that "the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one class of the citizens to give to the other." The Watergate-era mantra "follow the money" reverberates this more-prosaic theme.

Those who chide critics of the state as being "idealistic" or "utopian" must, themselves, answer for their visionary faith that state power could be made to restrain itself. As Nock understood, and as more recent history confirms, it is those who believe that written constitutions can protect the individual from the exercise of state power who hold to a baseless idealism, particularly when it is the state's judicial powers of interpretation that define the range of such powers. Words are abstractions that never correlate with what they purport to describe and must, therefore, be interpreted.


The modern state increasingly manifests itself as the ill it was the purpose of centuries-old philosophies to identify, and of constitutional systems to prevent. This raises the question whether the very existence of the state, with its self-interested exercise of a monopoly on the use of force, could portend other than the continuing cycles of wars, repression, economic dislocations, and other forms of collective conflict and disorder. Will today's young minds, desirous of understanding the reality rather than just a theory of politics grounded in hope, be able to resist a shift in thinking such as is offered by Nock and others who offer explanations for statism grounded in principled pragmatism?
- Butler Shaffer, Meet the Enemy, 8/4/2009</blockquote>

'...it does not appear to have occurred to the Church citizen of that day, any more than it occurs to the State citizen of the present, to ask what sort of institution it was that claimed his allegiance.'

<blockquote>'So it is with certain human institutions. We know that they exist, that they affect us in various ways, but we do not ask how they came to exist, or what their original intention was, or what primary function it is that they are actually fulfilling; and when they affect us so unfavorably that we rebel against them, we contemplate substituting nothing beyond some modification or variant of the same institution. Thus colonial America, oppressed by the monarchical State, brings in the republican State; Germany gives up the republican State for the Hitlerian State; Russia exchanges the monocratic State for the collectivist State; Italy exchanges the constitutionalist State for the totalitarian State.

It is interesting to observe that in the year 1935 the average individual's incurious attitude towards the phenomenon of the State is precisely what his attitude was towards the phenomenon of the Church in the year, say, 1500. The State was then a very weak institution; the Church was very strong. The individual was born into the Church, as his ancestors had been for generations, in precisely the formal, documented fashion in which he is now born into the State. He was taxed for the Church's support, as he now is for the State's support. He was supposed to accept the official theory and doctrine of the Church, to conform to its discipline, and in a general way to do as it told him; again, precisely the sanctions that the State now lays upon him. If he were reluctant or recalcitrant, the Church made a satisfactory amount of trouble for him, as the State now does.

Notwithstanding all this, it does not appear to have occurred to the Church citizen of that day, any more than it occurs to the State citizen of the present, to ask what sort of institution it was that claimed his allegiance. There it was; he accepted its own account of itself, took it as it stood, and at its own valuation. Even when he revolted, fifty years later, he merely exchanged one form or mode of the Church for another, the Roman for the Calvinist, Lutheran, Zwinglian, or what not; again, quite as the modern State citizen exchanges one mode of the State for another. He did not examine the institution itself, nor does the State citizen today.

My purpose in writing is to raise the question of whether the enormous depletion of social power which we are witnessing everywhere does not suggest the importance of knowing more than we do about the essential nature of the institution that is so rapidly absorbing this volume of power.

One of my friends said to me lately that if the public-utility corporations did not mend their ways, the State would take over their business and operate it. He spoke with a curiously reverent air of finality. Just so, I thought, might a Church citizen, at the end of the fifteenth century, have spoken of some impending intervention of the Church; and I wondered then whether he had any better-informed and closer-reasoned theory of the State than his prototype had of the Church. Frankly, I am sure he had not. His pseudoconception was merely an unreasoned acceptance of the State on its own terms and at its own valuation; and in this acceptance he showed himself no more intelligent, and no less, than the whole mass of State citizenry at large.

It appears to me that with the depletion of social power going on at the rate it is, the State citizen should look very closely into the essential nature of the institution that is bringing it about. He should ask himself whether he has a theory of the State, and if so, whether he can assure himself that history supports it. He will not find this a matter that can be settled offhand; it needs a good deal of investigation, and a stiff exercise of reflective thought.'
- Albert Jay Nock, Our Enemy, the State, 8/5/2009</blockquote>