Proverbs on the State

Music: Twelve from the Black Book 12/30/00.
By Lloyd Rogers.
Performed by The Lloyd Rogers Group at the Free Music Archive
under a Public Domain Mark 1.0 license.

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Poems for

Copyright by
Nicholas Gordon

1. The end of the State is security: of property and person; from conquest, injury, hunger, exposure, and injustice.

2. To obtain security, citizens cede a portion of their liberty. This "social contract" is agreed to every time a citizen recognizes the legitimacy of the State.

3. States are legitimate, therefore, to the extent to which they provide security.

4. States rule through violence, either exercised or threatened. The degree of violence varies inversely with the degree of legitimacy; that is, the more security a state provides, the less violence it needs to rule.

5. States are also, and paradoxically, instruments of oppression, enforcing laws and practices that transfer wealth to the ruling class.

6. These contradictory visions of the State--as provider of security and as oppressor--are and have always been simultaneously true. The tension between them is played out in every decision, act, and pronouncement of government.

7. A state that is too oppressive loses legitimacy so completely that no amount of violence can prevent its overthrow. A state that is too just loses the support of the ruling class, which engineers a change either in policy or in government. Thus all states exist somewhere on a continuum between these two extremes. This is true regardless of their form of government.

8. The advantage of democracy is that the regular replacement of government by majority rule mitigates oppression. The disadvantage is that weak governments may fail to make citizens sufficiently secure.

9. To survive, democracy must provide enough security to make the relative weakness of a divided and restrained government worth the increase in liberty and justice. Otherwise, citizens will be willing to cede additional liberty in return for additional security, and democracy will fail.

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon

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