Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Racket and the Cult

As I argued in my post The Sword and the Lie, the state is a symbiosis of violent criminals (the sword) and propagandizing intellectuals (the lie).

The sword needs the lie. Rulers always outnumber the ruled, so a reign predicated on bald criminality (like a protection racket) would shortly be overthrown. To maintain its power, a regime must transmute murder into justice, tribute into taxation, and slavery into citizenship in the minds of its subjects. To do that, it needs intellectuals.

The lie needs the sword. Elaborate scams based on lies and manipulations (like cults) are difficult to maintain. Eventually some people begin to see through the lies and speak out. To keep its hold on its flock, an elite must be able to silence or coerce dissenters. To do that, it needs thugs.

So which came first in the original state, the racket or the cult? And how did the first-comer bring its partner into the scheme?

Let us consider the sword preceding the lie. Thomas Paine speculated that:

“It could have been no difficult thing in the early and solitary ages of the world, while the chief employment of men was that of attending flocks and herds, for a banditti of ruffians to overrun a country, and lay it under contribution. Their power being thus established, the chief of the band contrived to lose the name of robber in that of monarch; and hence the origin of monarchy and kings.”1

But how exactly could the bandit chief have established such false legitimacy? The easiest thing to do what have been to brainwash the children. While the banditti’s first “subjects” would never forget the criminal basis of their subjugation, the malleable minds of their children could be molded to accept just about anything. And as keeping brains sufficiently washed became a bigger part of the enterprise, some of the bandits may have come to specialize in it. Thus, through division of labor, might the sword have begotten the lie.

How, then, might the lie have given rise to the sword? That question is easier to answer, because we’ve seen this happen in our own age. After the cult leader Jim Jones had acquired enough influence over his flock and managed to lead it into isolation from the rest of the world, it was quite easy for him to arm his most loyal supporters and thus gain coercive control over the rest. One can imagine a similar development happening in antiquity.

In fact, as I will argue in my next post, I believe just such a development was indeed the origin of the very first state in the world.

1 Thomas Paine, excerpted from Liberty and the Great Libertarians, edited by Charles T. Sprading


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