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January 5, 2017 / Congau

State Oppression

The purpose of the state is justice. It is the only purpose. Whether that means a strong or a weak state involvement in the economy and law-enforcement is a matter of ideological disagreement, but whatever level of engagement one prefers, one must argue that that level is the best way to secure justice. In cases where justice is irrelevant, there simply is no reason why the state should be engaged at all.

But the state, once established, becomes an organism that takes on a purpose of its own. It needs to preserve itself and so develops instruments of power. The military is the most obvious example of how a power structure may become self-fulfilling and start exercising power for its own sake, but there are many more innocent examples. In any official position it is tempting to let the rules of procedure become laws of nature and press everything into formal rubrics. That is bureaucracy; the state enjoying its own self-fulfillment. Then all pretence of justice disappears and we see oppression in its purest form

Rules are always somewhat oppressive in that they are restrictions on freedom, but they may be justified by their purpose. The conservative dictum that “The best government is that which governs least” is mistaken in that it fails to distinguish between valid and invalid aims of government, but it is right in pointing out the oppressive force of government.

Oppression is never more bitterly felt than when it serves no external purpose, that is, when it is meaningless.

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