Social Means vs. State Power – Conceived in Liberty
Posted by Orrin Woodward on May 19, 2010
Murray Rothbard is fast becoming one of my favorite economists/philosophers/historians. His synopsis of the struggle between liberty and power is the best description I have yet read. Liberty requires freedom for the many and limited power for the few while Power requires subservience of the many to the will of the few. What type of world do you want to live in? Leadership is so important because it is the only way to organize society through Social means and not State control. Social organization is based on freedom to enter and exit based upon what is best for each individual and the culture of each organization. State control is based upon edicts from the power elites with the loss of individual choice and redress. The founding of America was a time where Social means was on the rise and State Power was on the decline. England attempted to apply State pressure to force the Americans to bow to the will of the King and Parliament. America applied the Social leadership skills of a Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Hancock, Adams, etc, to resist the liberty destroying power grab of the English.
Sadly, the history of America is a constant progress of State Power and subsequent withering of Social means. Will America remain the bastion of liberty or succumb to the will of the few? Where is the watchman on the wall that is sounding the alarm of our lost freedoms? It is up to all good citizens to educate themselves on the history of America and Liberty to ensure our freedoms to lead through Social means. We are in a leadership crisis and I ask all leaders to lead in their Social communities or we risk losing the freedom to lead at all. Here is a profound portion of the Preface of Murray Rothbard’s classic history of America’s Colonies – Conceived in Liberty. Are you building Social Capital or State Power? God Bless, Orrin Woodward
My own basic perspective on the history of man, and a fortiori on the history of the United States, is to place central importance on the great conflict which is eternally waged between Liberty and Power, a conflict, by the way, which was seen with crystal clarity by the American revolutionaries of the eighteenth century. I see the liberty of the individual not only as a great moral good in itself (or, with Lord Acton, as the highest political good), but also as the necessary condition for the flowering of all the other goods that mankind cherishes: moral virtue, civilization, the arts and sciences, economic prosperity. Out of liberty, then, stem the glories of civilized life. But liberty has always been threatened by the encroachments of power, power which seeks to suppress, control, cripple, tax, and exploit the fruits of liberty and production. Power, then, the enemy of liberty, is consequently the enemy of all the other goods and fruits of civilization that mankind holds dear. And power is almost always centered in and focused on that central repository of power and violence: the state. With Albert Jay Nock, the twentieth-century American political philosopher, I see history as centrally a race and conflict between “social power”—the productive consequence of voluntary interactions among men—and state power. In those eras of history when liberty—social power—has managed to race ahead of state power and control, the country and even mankind have flourished. In those eras when state power has managed to catch up with or surpass social power, mankind suffers and declines.
For decades, American historians have quarreled about “conflict” or “consensus” as the guiding leitmotif of the American past. Clearly, I belong in the “conflict” rather than the “consensus” camp, with the proviso that I see the central conflict as not between classes, (social or economic), or between ideologies, but between Power and Liberty, State and Society. The social or ideological conflicts have been ancillary to the central one, which concerns: Who will control the state, and what power will the state exercise over the citizenry? To take a common example from American history, there are in my view no inherent conflicts between merchants and farmers in the free market. On the contrary, in the market, the sphere of liberty, the interests of merchants and farmers are harmonious, with each buying and selling the products of the other. Conflicts arise only through the attempts of various groups of merchants or farmers to seize control over the machinery of government and to use it to privilege themselves at the expense of the others. It is only through and by state action that “class” conflicts can ever arise.
This volume is the story of the seventeenth century—the first century of the English colonies in North America. It was the century when all but one (Georgia) of the original thirteen colonies were founded, in all their disparity and diversity. Remarkably enough, this critical period is only brusquely treated in the current history textbooks. While the motives of the early colonists varied greatly, and their fortunes changed in a shifting and fluctuating kaleidoscope of liberty and power, all the colonists soon began to take on an air of freedom unknown in the mother country. Remote from central control, pioneering in a land of relatively few people spread over a space far vaster than any other they had ever known, the contentious colonists proved to be people who would not suffer power gladly. Attempts at imposing feudalism on, or rather transferring it to, the American colonies had all failed. By the end of the century, the British forging of royal colonies, all with similar political structures, could occur only with the fearsome knowledge that the colonists could and would rebel against unwanted power at the drop of a tax or a quitrent.