The State: History’s Greatest Scam

One of the most successful scams in history is the way that states and ruling classes have been able to persuade ordinary people that their own overlords are their friends rather than their enemies. The truth is that if you’re an American, the American state is your worst enemy, not some foreign state. If you’re British, the British state is your worst enemy. If you’re Chinese, the Chinese state is your worst enemy. If you’re Russian, the Russian state is your worst enemy. There might be rare historical exceptions to this (the occupation of surrounding nations by the Third Reich and USSR in the 20th century is an obvious example), but those are the exceptions rather than the rule. There can also be situations where a foreign state is more your friend than your own state. Vietnam’s liberation of Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge in 1979 is an obvious example. Herman Goering got it right:

“Of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.”

— Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials

I have long believed that the most important political questions is actually a matter of social psychology. Why are people so susceptible to the promptings of authority figures, leaders, and groupthink? There have been some interesting studies on this (Milgram, Zimbardo, Asch, Jones, etc). As Arthur Koesler said:

“…a series of fundamental misconceptions…which prevented (man) from learning the lessons of the past, and…now put his survival in question. The first of putting the blame for man’s predicament on his selfishness, greed, etc.; in a word, on the aggressive, self-assertive tendencies of the individual…I would like to suggest that the integrative tendencies of the individual are incomparably more dangerous than his self-assertive tendencies.”

–Arthur Koestler

Hobbes had it backward. The problem is not how to control the assertive human ego, but how to overcome the overdeveloped human tendency towards subservience, obedience, and gullibility to scams perpetrated by power elites.

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