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Do we owe our lives to the state?

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TronCat Posted: Sun, Sep 30 2012 11:24 PM

Has anyone ever argued this with you? They will say that we have always lived with the state, and our current world (the good and the bad) is to an extent something we owe to it.

They're just arguing that it's been done this way for a long time, and some good has come out of it (which we all have taken advantage of, whether we want to admit it or not), so we owe ourselves to it, no matter how imperfect it may be. 

This is obviously very faulty logic, because it can be used to excuse any system, if it has provided good to some extent.




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No2statism replied on Sun, Sep 30 2012 11:54 PM

Nope.  maybe the state's past actions would have changed those things from being how they are now, such as immigration legislation, wars (think about those), and other things, but the state is a very small factor in those, it is an irrational agent, and we can't mathematically owe our lives to it.  Even if we could mathematically justify our lives to it, it doesnt make sense to worship or appreciate something ambivalent at best and that is also an artificial construct and that can't even realize whether the distortions it caused are good or bad.  Due to how republics and human action are, we can't thank the voters either... overall, the very best we can be is ambivalent towards them, although I am still very against being governed by an artitrary power because I want my liberties back and I know what centralization of power does in the long term.  It will work in the short term and it works better for some than others, but it doesn't protect anyone... in other words, the Enlightenment's ideas, even Locke's, are as senseless and irrational as the Church of Rome was during the middle ages.

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hashem replied on Sun, Sep 30 2012 11:59 PM

The most obvious counterargument is economics. Thus, humanity has advanced despite the state. Hosts don't need parasites, it's the parasites who need hosts.

On the other hand, obviously statism did arise and persist in history, as a matter of plain fact. There are very real reasons this is so, and for such reasons the state will not just go away, even though we're at a point where we can solve the problem of how to advance better without it.

Mostly, it has to do with the fact that homo sapiens is a profoundly psychological being, which is kind of obvious. As such, we are vulnerable to manipulation and there are countless theories that explain statism based on this one realization. For example: cause a negative emotion in people, and they will invest in apparent solutions. Where psychological manipulation falls short enforce the hegemony with violence, and make the violence as hidden as possible (through control of institutions and propaganda). If the violence must be apparent, support it again with manipulation by making it seem necessary and righteous, or even glorious.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain
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Kakugo replied on Mon, Oct 1 2012 5:46 AM

No, because even the most fanatical Statist realizes the absurdity of such a claim. At the most you'll get "Without the State we wouldn't have  x service/y good". They know those debates always end open-ended without clear winners nor losers. But owing our lives to the State... that's a bit too much even for them.

Also bear in mind that most Statists are not really convinced of their own ideas (ie State being good and fair by nature) but are just opportunists. More State means more "free stuff" not to mention the ability to use its coercitive power to advance their own goals. Statism tends to attract to its banners a wide coalition of idealists, all of them convinced thanks to the aformentioned coercitive powers the world could be reshaped according to their desires. For example Socialists were quick to realize their original goal of creating a voluntary Socialist commonwealth would have never succeeded. That's why they became firebrand Statists: without coercion the Soviet Union or Maoist China would have been impossible.

In short the State is nothing more than a tool, just like a gun. You can use a gun to defend your property and hunt for food but also to rob a store and force other people to do as you wish.

Together we go unsung... together we go down with our people
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Presumably, different people would've been born instead of us had no state ever existed. But that in no way means we owe loyalty to the idea of the state. See the is-ought problem.

The keyboard is mightier than the gun.

Non parit potestas ipsius auctoritatem.

Voluntaryism Forum

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YES! I have heard people argue this. Specifically, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence:

"Let our pupil be taught that he doesn't not belong to himself, but that he is public property."

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"Owing one's life" seems to me to be an expression of a metaphor for describing the human feeling of gratitude.   The metaphor is something like 'Social Obligation is a Debt.'

Like if someone pulled me out of a burning building I might say "I owe that man my life."

I would be grateful to him and feel like I were in his metaphorical debt.  That sense of social obligation wouldn't be a legal contract as much as a sense that I needed to reciprocate his gesture of goodwill and generosity and helpfulness.  If he were ever in trouble and I thought there was something I could do I would feel obligated to do so in an attempt to pay back my metaphorical debt.

The state is an idea.  The government is like the real world embodiment of that idea.  Government officials and employees are the actual people who created and now sustain the government.

It seems easier for me to imagine owing my life to people than ideas.

So do I feel as if I owe my life to any particular set of government employees?  Sort of.  I feel protected.  I feel relatively safe.  I sense that my life could be a lot worse.  Yes they take a bit of my money each year but I get access to so much for what I perceive as so little.

Perhaps I am mistaken in these feelings but I feel them just the same.  Perhaps I could get these same things in a free society but then I've never lived in a free society.  So yes I would say I feel a certain sort of gratitude to the government.  I suppose that's why I feel obligated to do my part to support it financially and morally.

But I suppose the real point of this question is to determine whether or not libertarians should feel the same sense of gratitude I do.  It's not really my place to determine that though.

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Bogart replied on Mon, Oct 1 2012 9:25 AM

No, no person owes anything to the "The State".  People owe stuff in whatever plain to other people.  The State does not exist and therefore cannot be owed anything.

Even if you do recognize the existence of the state as being an entity that can enter into a contract, no subject can enter into a legitimate contract with "The State".  The state being a bunch of people with guns is solely coercive so any other party making a contract with it is always under duress.  The argument that well a person uses State provided services only means that the State through coercion has monopolized this area of life and refuses to allow competition to provide that product or services thus coercing the person into using the product or service.

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@ wheylous:  Which signatory said that?  I would guess one of the devout Federalists (Carroll, Fitzsimons, or either of the 2 Morrises), but then I was and am thinking about it as I was typing.

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Clayton replied on Mon, Oct 1 2012 12:50 PM

Courtesy of our very own Graham Wright:

Also, it is actually true that we owe our lives to the State:

... it's just not true that we should owe our lives to the State.

Clayton -
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Anenome replied on Mon, Oct 1 2012 1:36 PM

The question of self-ownership versus state ownership of the self is extremely important.

The ordinary person in a statist country acts and thinks implicitly as if both everything around them were owned by the state and that they themselves were owned by the state. It is a mindset cultivated in the populace by the intellectuals of society and the main attitude that we need to focus on defeating.

It is also an attitude extended from the family situation where a parent controls the child, with the state taking that situation and trying to become the 'daddy' of the entire populace. So, this attitude works primarily by extension of childhood attitudes towards parents.

If you can establish in people's minds that they own themselves completely, all libertarian attitudes follow from there as corollaries.

Autarchy: rule of the self by the self; the act of self ruling.
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