“Well, What Do You Expect?”

In an essay titled “The Criminality of the State,” appearing in the March 1939 issue of The American Mercury, Albert Jay Nock lists many of the nations that consolidated power to a central authority, became corrupt, and tyrannized their own citizens, seeking to control other nations as well. Nock then addresses those of his day who express shock and indignation over the then-current goings-on overseas. To them he asks the question: “Well, what do you expect?”

There is no doubt that that very question would also elicit the same shock and dismay from his contemporaries, as well as those of our present day. He then goes on to say his question should be shouted and repeated from the highest mountain.

Regarding the consolidation of power, what is more fearsome to the hiker: encountering a lone wolf, or being surrounded by a large pack of wolves? Does a soldier stand a better chance against a solitary enemy soldier, or would he fare better against an entire company of the enemy? It’s commonly referred to as strength in numbers. It’s the consolidation of strength to wield power. Why shouldn’t unscrupulous politicians and bureaucrats replicate what comes naturally to many animals? But at least animals can blame their nature. People have no such out and are supposed to know better. They have natural as well as man-made law. They also have history—if they choose to heed its brutal lessons.

Aside from the big state’s obvious transgressions against the U.S. Constitution. Aside from the countless deaths and destruction the big state has visited on young military personnel in undeclared wars and police actions where our nation was not under direct—and in many instances not even an indirect—attack. Aside from all of that, what other damage has the big state done to humanity. Nock states it plainly: the state has assumed power to “…afford relief to proletarians; and see what the state has done to those proletarians now in the way of systematic debauchery of whatever self-respect and self-reliance they may have had!”

And this was in 1939!