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Well-intentioned reliance on error cedes the truth to sinister uses...

The key to politics is the uses of force for public purposes (the power of the state), and the key to the political mentality, whether it be conservative or reformist, revolutionary or reactionary, despotic or not, is that it regards itself as uniquely fit to determine the extent of the public domain along with the proper use of force within it. Political institutions - which are either themselves an expression of human iniquity, or are meant as remedies for such iniquity - are manned by creatures no different from those whose flaws give rise to political institutions in the first place. As such they should be regarded with suspicion by those subject to their decisions, whatever the particulars of the institutional framework within which those decisions are made.

Yet the fact that political institutions merit wary suspicion need not mean that they have no utility whatsoever. What then might be a legitimate scope and exercise of state power? In the final analysis the state is an instrument of coersion (if you doubt this, openly stop paying your taxes, and watch the consequences), and since coersion is inherently undesirable, the less of it that is needed, the better. Accordingly, the more that can be accomplished without it, by non-coersive means, the better. Since, ultimately, any exercise of state power is an exercise in coersion, this leaves little scope for its use except as a check on non-state coersion, to the end of enabling us to conduct our lives with a smaller net quotient of coersion than we might manage without it.

Is the state capable of fulfilling such a function? Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that there are state institutions that would allow us to conduct our lives with a smaller net quotient of coersion than we might manage without them. If so, this provides a concise definition of the legitimate scope for and use of state power.

From this it follows that the use of state power to accomplish positive ends amounts to an increase in coersion which it should be the primary purpose of the state to curtail. In particular, the exercise of state power on behalf of any separate or special interest whatsoever is inherently at odds with the grounds for its legitimacy. Thus used, state power ceases to be legitimate and becomes a form of tyranny.

What, then, is a special interest? It is any interest flowing in any manner from any way in which we differ from one another, be it in our characteristics of race, creed, culture, occupation, talent, class, wealth, gender, sexual orientation, taste, interest, aspiration or any other trait setting us apart from one another. Every such particular, individual interest, attribute, characteristic, need, wish or goal lies outside the proper purview of the state, as an illegitimate object for the exercise of its power. To promote or proscribe any of them with its help amounts to an exercise in tyranny.

The pursuit of those particulars - which constitute a boundless and expansible set for which the sky is the limit - has a proper domain of its own. Their expression, cultivation and exercise defines and is at home in the non-state, non-official, private arenas and associations of civil society. That is the domain of culture, special interests, differentiated identities and pursuits, an arena whose diversity and potential for conflicts of interest, coersion, and violence is the very reason for setting aside a special agency, the official one entrusted with the legitimate exercise of power based on force called the state, as a remedy and a resort. Needless to say, the entire development of the state in the modern world runs counter to this conception of the grounds for its legitimacy. In fact, it is being turned exactly inside out, in the name of implementing visions of the good life through the power of the state, i.e., through coersion, which amounts to a contradiction in terms...

The Book of Lord Shang;
Agganna Sutta, or Discourse on Knowledge Regarding the Beginning;
Wang An-Shih (1021–1086) and the socialist phenomenon;
The Lockean provisio;
Rawls' conjuring trick;
The myth of the "body politic";