Nothing Outside the State
by Robert Higgs
A popular slogan of the Italian Fascists under Mussolini was, “Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato” (everything for the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state). I recall this expression frequently as I observe the state’s far-reaching penetration of my own society.
What of any consequence remains beyond the state’s reach in the United States today? Not wages, working conditions, or labor-management relations; not health care; not money, banking, or financial services; not personal privacy; not transportation or communication; not education or scientific research; not farming or food supply; not nutrition or food quality; not marriage or divorce; not child care; not provision for retirement; not recreation; not insurance of any kind; not smoking or drinking; not gambling; not political campaign funding or publicity; not real estate development, house construction, or housing finance; not international travel, trade, or finance; not a thousand other areas and aspects of social life.
One might affirm that the state still keeps its hands off religion, but it actually does not. It certifies certain religious organizations as legitimate and condemns others, as many young men discovered to their sorrow when they attempted to claim the status of conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. It assigns members of certain religions, but not members of others, as chaplains in its armed services.
Besides, isn’t statism itself a religion for most Americans? Do they not honor the state above all else, above even the commandments of a conventional religion they may embrace? If their religion tells them “thou shalt not murder,” but the state orders them to murder, then they murder. If the state tells them to rob, to destroy property, and to imprison innocent people, then, notwithstanding any religious strictures, they rob, destroy property, and imprison innocent people, as millions of victims of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and millions of victims of the so-called Drug War in this country will attest. Moreover, in every form of adversity, Americans look to the state for their personal salvation, just as before the twentieth century their ancestors looked to Divine Providence.
When the state produces unworkable or unsatisfactory conditions in any area of life, and therefore elicits complaints and protests, as it has for example in every area related to health care, it responds to these complaints and protests by making “reforms” that heap new laws, regulations, and government bureaus atop the existing mountain of counterproductive interventions. Thus, each new “reform” makes the government more monstrous and destructive than it was before. Citizen, be careful what you wish for; the government just might give it to you good and hard.
The areas of life that remain outside the government’s participation, taxation, subsidization, regulation, surveillance, and other intrusion or control have become so few and so trivial that they scarcely merit mention. We verge ever closer upon the condition in which everything that is not prohibited is required. Yet, the average American will declare loudly that he is a free man and that his country is the freest in the world. Thus, in a country where more and more is for the state, where virtually nothing is outside the State, and where, aside from pointless complaints, nothing against the State is permitted, Americans have become ideal fascist citizens. Like the average German during the years that Hitler ruled Germany, most Americans today, inhabiting one of the most pervasively controlled countries in the history of the world, think they are free.