The State as a Protection Racket

In case you haven’t noticed, my blogroll does have some links to “progressive” sites. I’m not a progressive, or, to be more specific, a “corporate liberal,” but the sites I link to generally promote “class analysis” or a “power elite analysis” themes, to such an extent, that i would hesitate to call label them “progressive” in the usual sense of the word. In the usual sense of the word, “progressivism” is something that I would classify as a right-wing ideology reliant on corporatist, hierarchical, and technocratic means to reach so-called “egalitarian ends.” It’s very much dependent on a ruling class framework. If the term “ruling class” offends you, then just substitute the more anesthetized term, “decision-making class.” One of the more laughable propaganda assertions is that the “government” is us, or that government is some expression of our “collective will.” Yeah, right, you keep believing that. The radical libertarian propaganda is built around the simple notion that the State and it’s ruling classes operate above the general moral law. Once again, if you prefer more sanitized language, a “decision-making class” that does not have to bear the burden of it’s bad decisions, a privileged class of people able to externalize the costs of their bad decisions on the general population. This leads to a “class analysis” or “power elite analysis” paradigm.

Many people, who are not educated in the radical liberal tradition, are often surprised to learn that Marxist doctrine of classes originates from this very tradition. For a bit of an overview, refer to this article, Classical Liberal Roots of the Marxist Doctrine of Classes. Benjamin Tucker, in his essay, State Socialism and Anarchism, written at the time of the original socialist awakening, clearly laid out the differences between the libertarian and authoritarian solutions to the problem of class conflict. It is fair to say that the libertarian solution lost out to the progressive solution, that is to say, the solution reliant on the State as the means of social change.

So more than a century later, we still find ourselves, perhaps now more than ever, in the grip of a social/political phenomenon that lends itself well to a power elite analysis. And, frankly, this recent article at Counterpunch, The State as a Protection Racket lays out the case quite well. Progressivism can be thought of as a synonym for “reform,” specifically, “reform the organs of the State,” but after a hundred years or so of failure, it might start occurring to some that the idea of reforming the State is akin to reforming the mob. For those reliant on political solutions, the air is starting to get a bit desperate. FireDogLake has been running a series on the enactment of Prohibition as a template model for political change. The libertarian, of course, might have some point of disagreement about “Baptist and Bootlegger” models, pointing out that this is the type of thing you generally want to avoid.

Glenn Greenwald, who writes frequently about the corrupt nexus of corporate media institutions and political institutions, has given up on any idea of reform. Instead, he advocates the establishment of alternative media institutions. Of course, he is now thinking like a libertarian. But, it should be pointed out, that the political classes are making quite a bit of noise these days about “News and Media” being a “public good,” and the need for further government subsidy and monopolization of media. Once again, we see the State as a protection racket, to protect the Status Quo organs of media and information against competition. Political action, in this sense, should revolve around tearing these monopolies, or at least preventing further monopolization/subsidization of corporate media. At a certain point, when honest progressives begin to realize that effective political action always revolves around tearing down whatever particular protection racket enforced by the State, that tearing down the monopoly of the State is the sine qua non of real political reform.

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