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By Luc Loranhe (2006)
I am not about to recycle some political theories from the dustbin of history. I have little in common with the 19th century dreamers who believed that with the abolition of states, mankind would enter a paradise of mutual aid.
Furthermore, I have nothing in common with the labor union activists of the 20th century who seriously believed that private property is the sole culprit for everything evil in this world.
I feel closer to Thomas Hobbes, who (in the 17th century) reasoned that the function of state power is to prevent and control physical violence among the members of a society, and that, apart from that, as he stated in his Leviathan: "Liberty dependeth on the Silence of the Law."
We no longer live in the 17th century, and in spite of the common ground cited above, I'm not just a Hobbesist.
I do even have something in common with anarchists. Like anarchists, I cherish a maximum of personal freedom in an environment of a maximum of personal safety.
Because I am in favor of a maximum of personal freedom, I prefer much silence of the law when it comes to my private affairs.
In this sense, I want less state.
But it is a common fallacy to equate less state with a weak state. Because only a strong state can, so to speak, afford to be less state… which means, to grant its citizens a high degree of personal freedom.
This sounds like an anachronism, but isn't one.
For a strong state can keep the peace, often on an ad hoc-basis, without having to regulate about everything. A weak state, on the contrary, will have to struggle first with legislative procedures. Because laws are formulated to deal not with a specific case but a general abstract, they typically apply to many more, and different, situations than lawmakers initially had in mind. But once laws are on the books, they typically linger on, continuously limiting the personal freedom of citizens for which they were initially not meant.
To give an example. In the US, after the murder of a child by a repeat sex offender, a law had been passed that requires convicted sex offenders to register with the local police which then includes his address in a public list of sex offenders. Yes, obviously, the state has a duty to protect children from being murdered by sex offenders. But the law, in the general language in which it has been passed, applies to many more people than potential child murderers. To 19-year old males, for example, who have been convicted of having had sex with a 17-year old girlfriend. The law, in its general terms, does not sufficiently differentiate, and could not, even if it were much more elaborate. For there is so much diversity in human behavior that appropriateness would require a special law for almost every case.
It is the same, for example, with drug laws. A schoolyard dealer may sell some heroin to a girl who has never tried the stuff before, and gets hooked. Or he may sell the same amount of heroin to a person who is terminally ill of cancer but does not just want the pain to go away, but also still experience some kicks in life. The police and the courts would probably apply the same law in both cases.
That a state has to deal with both cases entirely by designing laws for them is both an indication of weak state and more state. A strong state could afford to deal with both cases on an executive level, which would mean less state for all the rest of a society.
Therefore, our best bet for a maximum of personal freedom (that's what anarchists dream of, isn't it) in an environment of a maximum of personal safety is a strong state and a strong government that is guided by a sound ideology of granting its citizens a maximum of personal freedom.
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Copyright Luc Loranhe