Society versus The State
Oscar B. Johannsen
[Reprinted from Fragments, January-December
As The State becomes more and more intrusive, questions are being
raised as to what is this organization which occupies so much time of
each individual? Is The State in actuality Society or a form of
Webster's Third New International Dictionary (Unabridged) defines
Society as "a voluntary association of individuals cooperating
with one another for particular aims." A society may be as simple
as a Chess Club in which the members voluntarily agree to cooperate
with one another in playing chess, with specific rules which apply to
all. The members join or leave the group, and no one prevents them
from doing so, as it is a voluntary association. Society, in the
broader sense, is an unorganized, voluntary association of all of us
cooperating with one another to attain diverse ends.
The State is defined by the dictionary as "a body of people
occupying a definite territory, and politically organized under a
sovereign government almost entirely free from external control, and
possessing coercive power to maintain order within the community."
Essentially, then, The State is an organization which controls a
certain area of land, large or small, with members who may have been
born into it, or who voluntarily joined it, but who ordinarily cannot
depart voluntarily unless under special dispensation. The State almost
assumes the character of an individual and is often discussed in
abstract terms as though it is a living and breathing creature. But it
is nothing of the sort. It is primarily an organization in which the
members, though they may or may not have established the rules, are
forced to obey it, whether they like it or not. Though the members may
think they control it, for all practical purposes it is controlled by
a coterie of individuals, small or large, with or without the consent
of the members. The coterie, whether elected, or in power by means of
a coup d'etat, is able to enforce its rules, as it has at its
disposal armed forces. It is the army which in the long run keeps the
coterie in power. The smart dictator coddles the army with excellent
pay and any emolument which will insure that the army will obey the
With the passage of time, The State gains almost a godlike character
so that its commands are almost divine. Its members will do things
which, as individuals, they would never think of doing. They will drop
bombs on people, killing men, women, and children. Though their
consciences may trouble them, they feel they are obeying the commands
of a Superior Being.
History teaches that The State began as an organized gang of
individuals who by force of arms preyed on unorganized individuals,
i.e., the organized gang robbed the unorganized individuals. With
time's passage, all manner of rationales, consciously or
unconsciously, arose to cover up the fact that what was nothing more
than simple out-and-out robbery became "taxes," raised for
the good of the people.
As The State grows, it acquires what are considered to be its duties,
such as the protection of its members from anyone other than The State
that is robbing them. The State is happy to perform these duties, as
it makes its members more dependent on The State, thereby assuring the
coterie will remain in power. All of the so-called beneficial duties
of The State can be performed by Society, probably more effectively
and efficiently, even armed protection, but few would believe this to
be so. Thus, The State goes on its merry way, acquiring more and more
power until it becomes so bloated that it implodes or is conquered by
another less coercive State.
The beauty of parliaments and congresses is that the people believe
they are running The State. The members of the coterie may change, but
the results are still the same - taxes, taxes, and more taxes.
Political campaigns are primarily contests to determine who controls
the people. And as The State acquires more power, the people become
more demanding of the ever-increasing benefits, with the politicians
who promise the most usually winning.
While there may be periods when there are no major wars, sooner or
later wars erupt, often because of unemployment caused by our unjust
system of land tenure. Hitler built up the German army to solve
unemployment. In WW2, the German people thought they were fighting for
the Fatherland, an abstraction which they could not define. Actually,
they were fighting to keep Hitler in power. When they had won in the
West, he had to turn to the East and fight Russia. To have disbanded
the army would have meant huge unemployment. He, therefore, invaded
Russia and hoped to conquer enough of it so he would have land for his
soldiers, thereby solving unemployment in Germany.
The State, is, basically, corrupted Society. Will it be possible to
eliminate The State? Probably not, for the fundamental law of human
nature is that man seeks to satisfy his desires with the least effort.
Robbery is probably the easiest way to acquire wealth, and when it is
disguised as taxes, or welfare, or whatever other rationale is
devised, it will continue to be practiced. Possibly, if people adopt
the Ghandi-type of individual behavior in their relations with one
another, it may be possible. Ethical and religious values would
probably have to dominate, so that they become as natural as
breathing. But that would take generations for them to be inculcated
in the human psyche. Until that time comes, the best that can be dune
is probably to organize as many groups as possible with aims such as
the reduction of taxes or the elimination of some of the monopolies
which The State may have created.
It must never be forgotten that: The essence of The State is
coercion, but the essence of Society is freedom.