State Action As Private Action

Anarchists and defenders of non-governmental censorship to the contrary notwithstanding, there is no dividing line between private and state action. I address this point in “Is Anarchy a Viable Concept?“. I elaborate the point here.

Anarchists like to draw a bright line between the state and the private sphere so that they can argue, foolishly, for the replacement of the state by private actors. Defenders of non-governmental censorship (e.g., deletion of tweets by Twitter and deplatforming by Facebook) are simply political theorists in thrall the mistaken belief that the “marketplace of ideas” is self-correcting and eventually yields truth. (Even if it were self-correcting, devastating harm often results before truth emerges.)

I will begin with the futility of drawing a bright line — or any line — between state and private action. Before going any further I should be clear about what I mean by “state”.

A state is defined as “the supreme public power within a sovereign political entity” (4.a.). This definition reflects popular usage, which suggests that a state is some kind of disembodied essence. But a state does not exist unless it is embodied in institutions that are operated by human beings. And the power exercised by those human beings is meant to serve specific (if inchoate) aims that are personal to them or to persons to whom they are beholden; for example, higher-ranking government officials, major campaign contributors, influential voting blocs, or a person or group with whom one wishes to curry favor (e.g., the media). (It is a long-standing custom to refer Queen Elizabeth II as “head of state” of the United Kingdom, but she is no such thing inasmuch as she wields almost no power.)

Government power is exercised through agencies that are usually characterized as legislative, executive, and judicial. But there is a fourth type of agency that operates, much of the time, independently of the other three types. It is the “administrative state”, a conglomeration of executive agencies that usurps legislative and judicial functions. The “deep state” of recent controversy refers to members of the administrative state who strive (often successfully) to thwart the will of the chief of the executive branch through their direct control of the minutiae of government operations. This phenomenon underscores the essentially private nature of state action.

The power of the four types of agency is exercised through a combination of force, fear on the part of the governed, and submission by those among the governed who naively view the state and its edicts as something akin to divinity and divine writ.

The power of government is augmented by its ability to control information and perceptions about governmental activities. Such control, nowadays, is abetted by (most) members of the media when government is controlled by Democrats and undermined by (most) members of the media when government is controlled by Republicans.

The state, thus properly understood, is merely an outlet for private action. In so-called democracies (democratic republics) elections and appointments determine which private interests control the power of the state.

Democracies differ from oligarchies only in that voters in democracies go through the exercise of choosing the oligarchies — the collection of interest groups — that will rule them.

The difference between democracies and dictatorships is one of degree, not of kind. The ruling interests in a democracy are simply somewhat more changeable than the ruling interests in a dictatorship. But in both cases the ruling interests pursue private agendas. Dictatorships are more blatantly oppressive. Democracies hide their fascism behind a friendly face.

The bottom line: The state embodies and implements private action.

Given that the state, in the service of many (and sometimes competing) private agendas, must trample on the lives, liberty, or property of most of its subjects it would seem obviously desirable to devolve political power. And, logically, devolution ought to proceed to the lowest level: the person or a group of persons who choose to be treated as a unit (e.g., the nuclear family).

This solution is superficially appealing. But it omits crucial realities, which are reflected in the state of the world throughout recorded history (and probably for eons before that). Human beings band together in order to accomplish certain ends (e.g., defense against marauders), and the banding together almost always creates leaders and subjects. Thus is a primitive state established. And once it is established, it exerts control over a geographic area (or a roving band), and everyone who lives in that area (or joins the band) becomes a subject of the state. Primitive states then band together — either for self-defense or because of conquest — forming larger and larger states, each of which holds its subjects in thrall. An occasional revolution sometimes leads to the dissolution of a particular state, but the subjects of that state simply become subjects of a successor state or of neighboring states avid to control the territory and subjects of the defunct state.

So it has gone for millennia, and so it will go for millennia to come.

That would be the last word … but the duped defenders of corporate censorship cannot go unanswered. As I once observed, power is power. If government censorship is wrong, why is it right for powerful corporations to censor speech and effectively nullify the First Amendment? To put a point on it, why is it right for powerful corporations whose leaders share the ideologies and interests of a particular political party to act as surrogates for that party, and to suppress and distort opposing views?

The revised bottom line: The state embodies and implements private action, and private actors who do the bidding of state actors are merely minions of the state.


Related posts:

Anarchy: An Empty Concept
The Fatal Naïveté of Anarcho-Libertarianism
A Critique of Extreme Libertarianism
Anarchistic Balderdash
Old America, New America, and Anarchy
Extreme Libertarianism vs. the Accountable State
A Few Thoughts about Anarchy
Anarchy: A Footnote
Another Footnote about Anarchy
Is Anarchy a Viable Concept?

Preemptive (Cold) Civil War
Whence Polarization?
Social Norms, the Left, and Social Disintegration
“Liberalism” and Virtue-Signaling
The Fourth Great Awakening
It’s Them or Us
First They Came For …
Conservatism, Society, and the End of America
The Paradox That Is Western Civilization
Insidious Leftism
Thinking About the Unthinkable
Intellectuals and Authoritarianism
Leninthink and Left-think
Society, Culture, and America’s Future
The Democrats’ Master Plan to Seize America
The Allure of Leftism
Leftism in Summary
Peak Civilization?
A Footnote to “Peak Civilization?”
A Warning Too Late?
FDR’s Fascism, Underscored
Oh, That Deep State
It’s the 1960s Redux
Some People Are More Equal than Others, Illustrated