"[T]he State's criminality is nothing new and nothing to be wondered at. It began when the first predatory group of men clustered together and formed the State, and it will continue as long as the State exists in the world, because the State is fundamentally an anti-social institution, fundamentally criminal. The idea that the State originated to serve any kind of social purpose is completely unhistorical. It originated in conquest and confiscation -- that is to say, in crime. It originated for the purpose of maintaining the division of society into an owning-and-exploiting class and a propertyless dependent class -- that is, for a criminal purpose. No State known to history originated in any other manner, or for any other purpose. Like all predatory or parasitic institutions, its first instinct is that of self-preservation. All its enterprises are directed first towards preserving its own life, and, second, towards increasing its own power and enlarging the scope of its own activity. For the sake of this it will, and regularly does, commit any crime which circumstances make expedient."
by:
Albert Jay Nock
(1870-1945)
Source:
The Criminality of the State, America Mercury Magazine, March, 1939
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Reader comments about this quote:
Exactly what the US has become, that is, of course unless one has no conscience at all. If only those in one's "in group" count then this will continue. There have been some in gov't and public life who've tried to change this dynamic but they have been disposed of or shot with regularity.
 -- daigu, milpitas, ca     
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    Couple this undeniable fact with a lack of moral sense (i.e. conscience) on the part of the rulers, and you have the exact situation which we have in Belize, and perhaps in the US. (?) Belize: just another Banana Republic.
     -- Senor Reek, Corozal, Belize, Central America     
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    "A little government and a little luck are necessary in life, but only a fool trusts either of them."- P.J. O'Rourke We need the state, just rein it in as much as possible.
     -- Todd, Aurora, CO     
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    While this seems like a good description of where Bush & friends have taken the US, I do not agree that it is accurate for how we started. Thus, I can not agree with the pessimistic negitivity assumed by this world view.
     -- Anonymous, Reston, VA US     
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    Recently the 'quotes' have actually been lengthy excerpts from various sources. To my mind quotes should be brief but pithy insights that illuminate a concept in very few words. Try memorizing and then working into a conversation any of the last half dozen or so verbose passages phrased in tediously convoluted language and see what I mean.
     -- John Henry, Gainesboro, TN     
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    Yes, the Daily Quotes have been lengthy the last two weeks, and only one quote has been included per day instead of the usual three. This is the last of the long quotes for a while. There are some points that cannot be made by reducing them to sound bites. The last 10 quotes sent out are among our personal favourites, and we have been waiting for an opportune time to introduce them. Enjoy! (I do not usually rate quotes with my notices, but since this is one of my favourites, I will give it a 5.) Hey, John Henry, don't let the length prevent you from memorizing any of the last ten quotes and reciting them in conversation -- you would stimulate some very lively discussions! Cheers.
     -- Editor, Liberty Quotes     
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    The specialization of tasks that ultimately resulted in the rise of civilization and the creation of the state has historically been a necessary evil in which the need for protection overrides the absurdity of placing power in the hands of the few.
     -- Derek Weaver, Phoenix, AZ     
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    I deny the cynicism herein as it pertains to the birthing of our republic which has been put forth on this continent by the hand of God for the purpose of preserving liberty and spreading the blessings thereof around the world, as in the recent free elections in Iraq. In many ways our government has become too big and too powerful but that does not impugn its divine origin.
     -- Victor, Chicagoland     
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    There are very few free republics in the world today (any?), and unfortunately, America is not one of them. Let us remember that Freedom is an ideal. The founders were the richest men of the country -- Washington himself was the biggest land owner in the country. Our Declaration of Independence and Constitution are the result of debate and compromise -- there have always been men in government who are there for their own selfish purposes -- Founders alike. Slavery was not abolished -- nor were women afforded the same rights as men. But it was an historic leap forward for the Individual. Remember to make the distinction between the People and the State. The State is not a creation of God, it is a creation of the People. And, like God's creation, if our creation operates without proper checks and balances it becomes a wild beast answerable only to the whims of power. Historically, when the checks and balances are removed, the State becomes absolute and acts as if it were God and we its subjects. America has been backsliding for many decades now -- there is very little left to hold the State in check. The American People have the right idea, only they have forgotten that it is THEY who rule the State not the State that rules them -- once we forget that, it is over, just like the fall of Rome. There is so much to fix that it seems inevitable now -- unless there is a significant revolution of the American mind and courage to face the Truth.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    Good Quote. A bit lengthy, But, then some ideas have to be expressed in context, not in sound bytes or one-line throw-aways. Should you want some more lengthy ones, I can give you some three-paragraphers which consumed the best part of a page or more - but were necessary for my readers to get the full impact and fully appreciate the topic and/or the author/speaker's attitude/viewpoint.
     -- john-douglas, nassau     
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    Amen, Mr Nock is right on target. My favorite quote is " Our congress is more dangerous than a rattle snake, because a rattle snake leaves you alone unless you bother it first." The only time that we are safe from those predators in Washington is when they are in recess.
     -- Jim Kilpatrick, Austin, Texas     
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    The state has indeed overridden its boundaries. Do not under any circumstances let the state disarm the people. Its the only thing holding them in check. Personally I think that the "state" should be an "Administration" and not a "Government".
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
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    What a line... fully of "fuzzy think" and denial of our own origins.
     -- Anonymous, Reston, VA US     
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    My thoughts exactly. That is why my argument with Logan about Senators and Presidents being appointed or elected by STATES rather than the PEOPLE is wrong. The solution to Nocks view is the state must be controlled by the people thus DEMOCRACY.
     -- Waffler, Smith, Arkansas     
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    The quote is correct. The U.S. was an experiment in freedom and liberty that was different from anything, that I'm aware of, that had happened before or since. In the U.S., the founders attempted to create, not the normal criminal state but rather, an extension of the sovereign individual in advancing the rule of law and the individual sovereign's authority, power, rights, privileges, life, liberty, property, happiness, etc. From that time forward, criminals with their felonious organizations (the state in its many forms) have inflicted the once noble free Republic with Democracy, compelled compliance, license, state sponsored larceny including theft of the laborer's fruit (there is no lawful nexus tor the IRS - a non-governmental society - to seize alodium property for the non-payment of funny money - a criminal act enforced by more and bigger guns), victimless crimes, torture for information, forced ID/insurance/charity, suspension of habeas corpus, suspension of public displays of religious expression, tyranny and many more criminal state sponsored acts.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    The state will always exist while man dominates this planet, from the time we used a stick to overpower our neighbor to the fear factor we now exploit. Self-preservation is definitely the clarion call of governments and municipalities – they send out unfunded mandates and limit everyone accept themselves to a three percent increase. The state is the most inefficient organization, and what is criminal is that they are without responsibility for their actions. Most private organization will request a feasibility study when they are about to plow millions into a project – no such luck with the state, they just shoot from the hip and usually miss their target. The invasion of Iraq for instance will cost America many lives and many more needing life-time medical treatments. We went into this invasion with lies and deceit “WMD” and “Democracy” this was a criminal act of the highest magnitude – in Basra, women are being killed (some in front of their kids) because they didn’t where a head scarf or the color of the scarf was offensive – last year alone approximately 150 women were killed in Basra and many had signs of torture. The US is now paying certain tribes which before were killing our boys and girls – you tell me where the democracy is in Iraq, the democracy they were promised. There was NO TERRORISM in Iraq before the US invasion. This is an example (though horrific and incredibly expensive) of the state committing a crime without any accountability.
     -- RobertSRQ     
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    Anonymous of Reston has it right. Nock is woefully ignorant. I just hope nobody has to depend on Nock (or people like him) to defend anything in the near future.
     -- Dougmcr8, Springfield, VA     
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    Waffler, get an education. When the colonies came together to form the United States, the common knowledge and law was that each formed state would be its own separate and sovereign entity -- exactly in the same way we consider Germany and France and England to be separate sovereign entities. When discussing federalism, the founders understood that each state was its own sovereign entity that needed "Ambassadors" to represent the sovereignty of the state to the small federal alliance in matters of state that effected the state directly. At the same time, they understood that the people should also be represented at the federal level -- hence the reason for the House of Representatives! It's not hard, Waffler, to understand these things, you just have to pick up a history book and start reading! Each state entered the union of states on the agreement that they could leave at anytime (because they were their own sovereign entity!) -- the "war between the states" (aka: the Civil War) changed this with the establishment of the 14th Amendment! This isn't a conspiracy Waffler, this is plain, simple, straight-forward 3rd grade American history! Your model for democracy would be laughed at by any professor of political science or any amateur historian -- both of which you obviously are not! Do you realize that democratization doesn't even measure the civil rights or liberties of a state? In fact, Civil Rights and liberty are purposefully excluded from the index! You know why? Because there are no Civil Rights or liberties in a democracy! You know why? Because democracy is merely majority rule! Whatever the majority can give to you on one day, they can take away from you on the next -- where in this model for democracy can you elucidate ANY inalienable rights? Do you know HOW the UN measures democracy around the world? There are two factors that they look for: (1) Contestation and (2) Participation. Contestation is nearly synonymous with competition -- for a majority to really vote, it needs to have more than one person to vote for to make voting legit. Participation means that fully qualified individuals can vote at regular intervals... There are regular political journals that you can read this stuff on! Pay to have an account at JSTOR and educate yourself!
     -- Logan, Memphis, TN     
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    The founding fathers maintained that the government was a necessary evil. They put as much checks on that evil as they could think of. It is up to the people of this country to see that all the checks are not removed. We are the final check that was intended for our system by the founders. This country was not founded with criminal intent.
     -- warren, olathe     
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    Our own government is following the pattern of all governments. Our DC employees in both parties and in all three branches are ignoring the controls placed on them by our Constitution and committing any crimes they consider to be expedient. The only feasible answer is to restore and strengthen our Constitution by a convention of states.

    Visit and support www.conventionofstates.com today.
     -- Durham Ellis, Birmingham, AL     
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     -- Wallace Devlin, Cootamundra,NSW Australia      
    Actually, while I take his point, I think Mr. Nock didn't look back far enough. I'd be willing to bet that the first "state" existed in early human history when tribes, or more likely clans, banded together for self-defense against predators (both 2 and 4-legged), and I doubt those early "states" wee founded in anything but a "social contract" for the common good. This is not to say we haven't strayed very far from that concept in modern times. I just think the historical accuracy of Mr. Nock's ;statement is shaky.
     -- Geoff Meade, San Antonio, TX     
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    The experiment of good intentions for a purpose. The individual sovereigns liberty and freedom from oppression. Afforded a free market of trade within our nation. Under siege for 150 years or so by designing socialist communist elites. Government is a fire needed but should never be ignored. Social issues championed by designing minds sometimes bent on nothing more than plunder for self support. Gaming the tax payer through centralized government. Such are the ways of socialist indoctrinating congregations. Perpetuating doubt and usury. Creating willful slaves for the sake of the State. Ignorance manifest itself in fear due to an unsustainable life style. Convulsions within the nation are a natural result of oppression. Cyrus the great understood oppression vs economic liberty and personal freedom. unleashing the potential of life, liberty and happiness. Restoring natural law, the foundation of order is already present.
     -- Ronw13, Oregon     
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    How funny, I have always thought of governments as highly organized gangs.
     -- SCSURFR, La Mirada     
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    Being a Bible believer I accept that the power of government is ordained of God (Romans 13:1). good men governed by divine precept can implement good government. However, I also know that the world is broken and that men are corrupted by sin; therefore, evil men seek power in government in order to oppress and abuse their fellows. This is not the fault of government, but wicked men.
     -- Jeff Asher, Nacogdoches, TX     
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    Jeff Asher, you may be a Bible believer but, your interpretation is WAY off.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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