Two classical fallacies about the state

Discussion in 'Libertarian' started by Cherea, Jun 14, 2013.

  1. Cherea

    Cherea Senior Member

    a) the state possesses or creates unlimited wealth/resources;

    b) the state (as a monopolizing bureaucracy) is, or can be, morally superior or more efficient through taxation than competing individuals/free associations.
  2. Individual

    Individual Senior Member

    Yet a large number of people have been led to both accept and promote a and/or b as fact.
  3. Cherea

    Cherea Senior Member

    Well, the state is where they get their earnings from (recepients, bureaucrats, professional do gooders).
  4. MeAgain

    MeAgain Dazed and Confused Staff Member Super Moderator

    Where did you hear these two things, and what kind of state are you talking about?

    Can you explain them a little more?
  5. StpLSD25

    StpLSD25 Senior Member

    Me again- since he's talking about Libertarianism, I assumed he meant "state" to "Country;" as "New York" is to "America."
  6. Individual

    Individual Senior Member

    That's how I took it to mean.
  7. Cherea

    Cherea Senior Member

    I'm going to add a third fallacy, which I came to realize is imbued in the very idea of the state, and that is:

    c) an appeal to safety; the state is supposed to keep its voters and taxpayers safe from private interests and monopolies, when in fact monopolies are a direct consequence of state intervention;
  8. Individual

    Individual Senior Member

    Are you referring to the Unitary State of America, previously known as the United States of America?
  9. I assume he means "state" as in the governing body in general. It's not all about the US of A you know.
  10. Cherea

    Cherea Senior Member

    Thank you. In a libertarian forum, I assumed that would be readily apparent.
  11. Individual

    Individual Senior Member

    Somehow I had never thought of Libertarians as being Statists.
  12. Balbus

    Balbus Super Moderator Staff Member Super Moderator


    Sorry you points seems badly worded and too general; if you know what you mean can you please express it more clearly and explain further so those of us not ‘in the know’ have a chance of understanding?

    Here are a few pointers -

    What do you mean by state?

    What do you mean by possesses?

    What do you mean by create?

    What is meant by unlimited?

    What do you mean by wealth?

    What do you mean by resources?
    What do you mean by monopolising bureaucracy?

    What do you mean by morally superior?

    By what criteria are you gauging efficiency?

    What do you mean by competing individuals/free associations

    What kind of state (government) are you talking about?
  13. Balbus

    Balbus Super Moderator Staff Member Super Moderator


    Ok maybe we should start with A and move on later to B and C.

    What do you mean by state?

    A state can be an area of land, a country, a nation, a people, a society.

    But you seem to be using it here in place of government, I’d say here that they are very different, I mean over time the same state could have several forms of government. And differing governments will act in different way and have differing interests.

    What do you mean by possesses

    Does a state possess everything, (well it can depend on what form of government is in control of the state)

    But what is the nature of ownership, humans did not create the earth they just evolve here, so really when you take it right back all human ‘ownership’ of land is based on just the claim that they owned it. So it comes down to the ability to take it and hold it – that lead to conflict, to limit that conflict the idea grew that states governing body should be the final arbiter over who owned what. But the outcome was often tied to what form of government the state had. Sometimes that meant a monarch giving estates to favourite mistresses and other times the land is held by states in trust for everyone in the state, with ownership decided by deeds of ownership, protected by laws.

    Now we could go back to a free for all, rip up all the deeds of ownership rescind laws and let everyone fight over what land they could grab but I think we would end up doing the same thing again.

    What do you mean by create

    There are many examples of states creating the conditions for prosperity (and of destroying prosperity).
    Sometimes its unforeseen outcomes sometimes it is by design.

    For example a fort or road can be built for military purposes but end up making an area safe to do business in or open up an area to the exploitation of resources.

    But then some governments have built roads, canals, railways for the express purpose of opening up area to the exploitation of resources and to assist in transporting them, bring about general prosperity.

    What is meant by unlimited

    I mean are you truly claiming unlimited?

    The problem here is that values change, resources maybe finite, and nothing is unlimited, but if you look at the buying power of some states today with say 200 years ago then the change in ‘value’ is enormous.

    But things can change, increase and decrease with certain needs. For example states can increase and decrease taxes, in WWII the top rate tax in the US was 95% now I believe it is around 35% or so.

    Governments can go bankrupt, they can also prosper, but differing governments are going to have differing priorities, those priorities are going to dictate policy and where resources are going to be placed.

    What do you mean by wealth

    What is a states wealth? Is it the land it rests on the people who inhabit it, the gold in its vaults?

    As said prosperity can be increase by design or through unforeseen outcomes by states, it can also decrease through lack of action or bad policy. Also what type of governments is going to dictate where and how that prosperity is shared.

    What do you mean by resources

    Same problem as above, what are a states resources, it could be argued that in the modern world the greatest resource of a state (and government) is its people and so the priority is to nurture and assist them to maximise their potential.

    States cannot create mineral deposits that have needed millions of years to create but states can foster the conditions were they can be extracted and transported, they can have policies that create irrigation and water management systems that allow agricultural resources to grow etc.

  14. Balbus

    Balbus Super Moderator Staff Member Super Moderator


    Thing is that without explanation, the statement doesn’t make sense – I mean the answer has to be no because no state, no world, NO UNIVERSE has unlimited resources, so it’s not a fallacy just nonsensical.

    And as said where you say state I think you mean the governing body of the state

    So I think you’d have to remove unlimited and replace state with governments and , so we’d get -

    Governments can possess or creates wealth/resources

    That is definitely not a fallacy it’s been a reality on many occasions.

    But I sense that’s not what you were trying to express, can you express your view more clearly?
  15. Individual

    Individual Senior Member

    I'm curious why you presented an image of the Netherlands and NOT the EU, of which the Netherlands happens to be like New York, Florida, California or any of the 57[sic] States that comprise the U.S.A.?

    I presume you accept Brussels as the Supreme sovereign source of government over the Netherlands?
  16. MeAgain

    MeAgain Dazed and Confused Staff Member Super Moderator

    I'm pretty much in agreement with Balbus.
    But here was my question:
    I understood what you meant by state, but my question was where did you hear that a state possesses or creates unlimited wealth/resources. As Balbus pointed out, I can't see that any state has created unlimited anything, and I was wondering what you meant by that statement. Surely private enterprise has had a hand in the creation of the above, sometimes aided by the state, sometimes hindered by it. And I don't get the unlimited part, unless you are alluding to a fallacy that some group or individual holds; in which case I am interested in who you are referring to.

    First, what do you mean by a monopolizing bureaucracy? For any state to exist, it must have some hierarchical setup, some type of bureaucracy. So at what point are you saying that it becomes monopolizing?

    Second, as a state is made up of individuals its morals are derived from those individuals. In an absolute monarchy the state would derive its operational morals from the opinions of one individual, the monarch. Depending on the individual, the morals may or may not be superior to the general masses.

    In a constitutional republic morals are encoded into laws written by elected representatives of the masses. Again, those laws may or may not be superior to the common morals of the individual or masses depending on the ability of the elected officials and the participation of the masses in understanding and regulating the system.
    In the United States and almost everywhere else in the world a morally reprehensible system of slave labor, which was considered morally respectable since the Code of Hammurabi (c. 1760 BC), has been outlawed by all states. Although there are still individuals that enslave others, I know of no state that presently condones this action. So in this example the state would seem to be morally superior to at least some individuals or groups of individuals.

    As far as taxation, I know of no state that can exist without some form of taxation. The United States has had some form of taxation since its inception, and the powers of taxation are written into the Constitution.
    The early U.S. had many problems with taxation as its first military often went without pay and even Washington had to use his own finances to live while in the command of the army and while holding the Presidency.

    If we take the example of a military, how would you finance the military without the use of taxes? Do you think individuals are going to volunteer enough money to finance an effective military without taxation? Are you suggesting that all forms of taxation are less efficient than solely voluntary contributions?
  17. MeAgain

    MeAgain Dazed and Confused Staff Member Super Moderator

    It depends on the state.
    Due to the Sherman Antitrust Act in the U.S.
    In addition we have the Clayton Act of 1914 and the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914. All of the above
    We also have labor laws, Consumer protections, and the Parker immunity doctrine.

    All the above are designed to prevent any collusion that acts to restrain trade. It states that each business has a duty to act independently and to earn profits solely by providing better prices and quality than its competitors.

    - Sherman Act 1890 §1 That is a direct state intervention opposed to monopolies.

  18. Balbus

    Balbus Super Moderator Staff Member Super Moderator

    Oh I wasn’t going to give my opinion of b and c yet but since Meagain has given his take I’ll give mine (they were written before I read meagain’s posts so there maybe some overlap –



    Again here I think you mean government not state
    What do you mean by monopolising bureaucracy?

    Basically bureaucracy is administration (one description “any system of administration conducted by trained professionals according to fixed rules” ) and most institutions or bodies of any size have some form of administration, factories, companies, banks etc. I suppose you could have a political system where all these were government employees, but in most cases there is a mixture of private and public administration, how much the balance is often depends of the form of government, type of enterprise and situation.

    What do you mean by morally superior?

    Acting in a principled manner?

    Are you arguing that people think that just because a government is a government that it cannot be corrupt?

    I don’t think I’ve meet anyone that thinks that, how can it be a false belief if no-one believes it?

    (also see below next post)

    By what criteria are you gauging efficiency?

    Simply that.

    What do you mean by competing individuals/free associations

    What are they supplying? What are they administering? Where do they come from and what is there motivation? Who would supply oversight?
  19. Balbus

    Balbus Super Moderator Staff Member Super Moderator

    Since we get the ‘than’ in this statement it is possible to turn it around

    Competing individuals/free associations funded by taxation are, or can be, more morally superior and efficient than the individuals and departments of government administration.

    Thing is that I’m not sure private enterprise just because it is private enterprise is any freer from the possibility of corruption than the private sector.

    And again how is efficiency gauged, by the job done or the money spent?
    In the end private enterprises goal is profit not public service it is only doing the public service to get the profit, the service to the public is secondary.

    Also with private you often get secret so that once accountable public bodies can become unaccountable private bodies. In my opinion not a good move for governance.

    I think this is more complex than you seem to indicate.
  20. Balbus

    Balbus Super Moderator Staff Member Super Moderator

    This is not even a fallacy, a supposed falsehood, it’s just a statement.

    What kind of state (government) are you talking about?

    As said states can have many forms of government, some have no or limited voting (are such ‘states’ honour bound to keep their subject safe?)
    Remember differing types of government can have differing agendas, work in the interests of differing people or groups and pursue differing policies.
    Since you talk of voters here let us presume this is a democratic government (and what type of ‘democracy’ I’m unsure, direct, representative, limited etc), and in a democracy if the voters are not being protected then they can throw the government out.

    To me one of the things governments should do is balance the interests of all sections of society. For example regulations should be in place to stop banks becoming too power and too big to fail, some other say that is an attack on private enterprise.

    I mean the financial crash, the consequences of which we are still living with, were in large part the result of deregulation and non-regulation called for by private enterprise in the name of ‘freeing’ the markets from government restraint.

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