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Friday, 20 January 2017

When crime ceases

Let men learn that a legislature is not "our God upon earth," though, by the authority they ascribe to it and the things they expect from it, they would seem to think it is. Let them learn rather that it is an institution serving a purely temporary purpose, whose power, when not stolen, is, at the best, borrowed.

Nay, indeed, have we not seen that government is essentially immoral? Is it not the offspring of evil, bearing about it all the marks of its parentage? Does it not exist because crime exists? Is it not strong, or, as we say, despotic, when crime is great? Is there not more liberty—that is, less government—as crime diminishes? And must not government cease when crime ceases, for very lack of objects on which to perform its function?

Herbert Spencer - The Right To Ignore The State (1851)

Sometimes it is worth going back to period when the welfare state did not distort our view of government and how big it ought to be. Derby lad Herbert Spencer suggests here that bearing down on crime is what government is for. It has expanded mightily since his day, but it is worth noting that crime still looms large in what governments do.

In which case, as we become more law-abiding one might expect new crimes to be invented to keep this key function well fed. There is no need to point out that this is exactly what we see, but perhaps worth adding that if Spencer was right we will see it long into the future too. 

5 comments:

Sackerson said...

Good point.

Demetrius said...

We have an interesting situation at present where to think something is criminal can be a crime itself.

James Higham said...

Neither Nottingham, Sheffield, Stoke or Birmingham, Derby is that place in the middle.

Roger said...

In a state of nature I should think killing, robbery and destruction would be fairly common - too good to miss. So someone decides to run the show and take those 'rights' away from the common herd but keep those rights for themselves - just too handy. So, do not covet thy neighbour's ass for he may covet yours.

A K Haart said...

Sackers - yet obvious enough when we focus on it.

Demetrius - indeed it can.

James - the hub.

Roger - I hope he doesn't covet my ass.