For the Commonplace Book
The real-life states people are stuck with, more often than not because their distant ancestors were beaten into obedience by an invader, and sometimes due to Hobson’s choice, to having to take one king so as to escape the threat of getting another, are not primarily “good for this” or “least harmful for that.” They are not shaped to meet the functional needs of a system of beliefs, preferences, life-styles or “mode of production.” This affirmation of the autonomy of the state and the separateness of its ends does not exclude all scope, over time, for some mutual adaptation whereby the state comes to conform to people’s customs and preferences, just as they learn to accept and, from time to time, to enthuse about some of the state’s demands upon them.
Any real state, given its de facto origin, is primarily an historical accident to which society must adapt. This is unsatisfactory to those who, by both training and inclination, see political obligation as resting either on moral duty or on prudential purpose. Instead of a trivial theory showing obedience to result from the threat of coercion, more interest will be shown in theories which derive the state from the subject’s own volition, if only because it is intellectually comforting to find coherent reasons for believing that we actually need what we have. — Anthony de Jasay, The State
I am incidentally not altogether satisfied with de Jasay’s account of the “capitalist state,” preferring not to start with capitalism and the freedom of contract, but with a law of equal liberty and a fairly robust account of self-ownership as guiding principles. But neither here nor there, for purposes of the above.
I’ll have something about gun violence in the next few days, I promise. I’ve been rather busy of late, both with the holidays and professionally, but I haven’t forgotten the League.