Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

An Ancient Warning: Criminal Trespass Is the State’s Essential Feature

Posted by M. C. on October 5, 2022

Jeffery Degner

Whether one takes the Hebrew as literal history or as archetypal fable, there’s no escaping the warnings given to those who reject the private law society. Those warnings are that there is one vile and destructive alternative to the peaceful resolution of conflict by market actors. That vile alternative is what we call the state.

In the eighth chapter of 1 Samuel, we are introduced to the scene of a nationwide rejection of private law in exchange for a form of rule that the people of Israel had observed in all the pagan nations that surrounded them. In their defense, their prophet, Samuel, had selected leading judges in a direct affront to the methods that Yahweh—Israel’s god—had clearly prescribed. The selection process had to emerge from the sphere of exchange, where honest dealers who had the competence and character to win over their fellow citizens through their personal uprightness would be exalted in unanimity. These people would then serve as arbiters in what Hans-Hermann Hoppe has described as private courts.

Instead of utilizing this market-centered selection mechanism, Samuel took the expedient path and simply lifted his own sons to the role. In doing so, they would move throughout the land of Israel from town to town, deciding difficult cases. These cases included every offense from the improper building of walls on a neighbor’s property all the way up to capital offenses. Rather than conducting themselves with impartiality, Samuel’s sons were incompetent and greedy for bribes, and they were not held in check by their fellow countrymen. Rather than demanding that the prophet denounce these crooks and replace them through the righteous process that Yahweh had prescribed, the people also erred by looking to power and not righteous actions in the market for the solution to judgment.

The rejection of this method wasn’t a rejection of Samuel or his sons. Rather, it was a personal rejection of Yahweh himself as sovereign ruler and arbiter of justice and righteousness. The people petulantly complained to the prophet and to the Lord to give them the state. And they were given it … good and hard.

Even so, they were warned about the nature of the state before it was inaugurated through the reign of the tall and handsome yet moronic and worthless donkey retriever named Saul. However, Yahweh didn’t speak of the personal flaws of the kings themselves. Rather, he warned his people that by rejecting Him and his market-generated path toward justice, they were wishing for a monstrous institution that was—and is—established in criminal trespass.

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