I begin with The Criminality of the State by Alfred Jay Nock. It first appeared in the March, 1939 issue of The American Mercury but was brought back to life this past year by Lew Rockwell:
All our institutional voices – the press, pulpit, forum – are pitched to the note of amazed indignation at one or another phase of the current goings-on in Europe and Asia. This leads me to believe that our people generally are viewing with wonder as well as repugnance certain conspicuous actions of various foreign States . . .
I am cordially with them on every point but one. I am with them in repugnance, horror, indignation, disgust, but not in astonishment. The history of the State being what it is, and its testimony being as invariable and eloquent as it is, I am obliged to say that the naive tone of surprise wherewith our people complain of these matters strikes me as a pretty sad reflection on their intelligence. Suppose someone were impolite enough to ask them the gruff question, "Well, what do you expect?" – what rational answer could they give? I know of none.
Here is the part I thought made Nock's article more than exceptional:
Polite or impolite, that is just the question which ought to be put every time a story of State villainy appears in the news. It ought to be thrown at our public day after day, from every newspaper, periodical, lecture platform, and radio station in the land; and it ought to be backed up by a simple appeal to history, a simple invitation to look at the record. The British State has sold the Czech State down the river by a despicable trick; very well, be as disgusted and angry as you like, but don't be astonished; what would you expect? – just take a look at the British State's record! The German State is persecuting great masses of its people, the Russian State is holding a purge, the Italian State is grabbing territory, the Japanese State is buccaneering along the Asiatic Coast; horrible, yes, but for Heaven's sake don't lose your head over it, for what would you expect? – look at the record! [Emphasis added.]
But he doesn't stop there:
That is how every public presentation of these facts ought to run if Americans are ever going to grow up into an adult attitude towards them. Also, in order to keep down the great American sin of self-righteousness, every public presentation ought to draw the deadly parallel with the record of the American State. The German State is persecuting a minority, just as the American State did after 1776; the Italian State breaks into Ethiopia, just as the American State broke into Mexico; the Japanese State kills off the Manchurian tribes in wholesale lots, just as the American State did the Indian tribes . . .
In 1935, Nock published his magnum opus Our Enemy, the State, which came to this despairing conclusion:
Taking the sum of the State's physical strength, with the force of powerful spiritual influences behind it, one asks again, what can be done against the State's progress in self-aggrandizement? Simply nothing. So far from encouraging any hopeful contemplation of the unattainable, the student of civilized man will offer no conclusion but that nothing can be done. He can regard the course of our civilization only as he would regard the course of a man in a row-boat on the lower reaches of the Niagara . . .Yet four years later, in The Criminality of the State, he wants all commentaries to shout the truth about the State in whatever form they take. The criminal nature of the state "ought to be thrown at our public day after day, from every newspaper, periodical, lecture platform, and radio station in the land." Why bother if our situation is hopeless? Obviously, it isn't.