Saturday, February 18, 2006

Nock-ing Collectivism

I am re-reading Albert Jay Nock's Our Enemy, the State (1935). Here's one of the many passages I'll be posting:
The superficial distinctions of Fascism, Bolshevism, Hitlerism, are the concerns of journalists and publicists; the serious student sees in them only the one root-idea of a complete conversion of social power into State power. . . .

This process -- the conversion of social power into State power -- has not been carried as far here as it has elsewhere; as it has in Russia, Italy, or Germany, for example. Two things, however, are to be observed. First, that it has gone a long way, at a rate of progress that has of late been greatly accelerated. What has chiefly differentiated its progress here from its progress in other countries is its unspectacular character. . . .

The second thing to be observed is that certain formulas, certain arrangements of words stand as an obstacle to our perceiving how far the conversion of social power into State power has actually gone. . . . We may imagine, for example, the shock to popular sentiment that would ensue Mr. Roosevelt's declaring publicly that "the State embraces everything, and nothing has value outside the State. The State creates right." Yet the American politician, as long as he does not formulate that doctrine in set terms, may go further with it in a practical way than Mussolini has gone. Suppose Mr. Roosevelt should defend his regime by publicly reasserting Hegel's dictum that "the State alone possesses rights, because it is the strongest." One can hardly imagine that our public would get that down without a great deal of retching. Yet how far, really, is that doctrine alien to our public's actual acquiescences? Surely not far. (Hallberg Publishing Corporation edition, 1983, pp. 30-2)
Not far at all. And the acquiescences have multiplied mightily since 1935.