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Mark Twain vs. The State



April 21, 2010 – Comments (18)

Three articles I came across today show the interesting divide between libertarians and statists.  I would classify a statist as anyone who believes that the State* rules with consent, justice, and wisdom.  I would classify a libertarian as anyone that laughed at that previous sentence.

The first article is about Mark Twain, the great American writer, classical liberal, champion of the working man and free enterprise (yes, you can be both - in fact, you have to be if you wish to be consistent.)  Twain was also a vicious critic of the State.  In his view, government was nothing more than a den of theives. Twain's opinions on politics mirror those of Ron Paul's mentor, Murray N. Rothbard, who once charactized the State as a gang of criminals writ large.

The second article (hat tip to Drudge):
Both national party committees spend big chunks on fancy meals, hotels, travel

Both the national Democratic and Republican party committees spend about two-thirds of the money they take in on the care and comfort of committee staffs and on efforts to raise more funds, with lavish spending on limousines, expensive hotels, meals and tips, an analysis of the latest financial disclosure data shows.

Third article (my apologies for sending you to NeoCon News):
U.N.'s Ballooning $732 Million Haiti Peacekeeping Budget Goes Mostly to Its Own Personnel

The United Nations has quietly upped this year's peacekeeping budget for earthquake-shattered Haiti to $732.4 million, with two-thirds of that amount going for the salary, perks and upkeep of its own personnel, not residents of the devastated island.

In this argument:
Mark Twain 2, The State 0

In your pocketbook:
The State 2, Taxpayers 0

I don't think the statists want us to keep score.

David in Qatar

* I like the definition of the State as a minority that has a comparitve advantage in force/violence in a given territory.

18 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On April 21, 2010 at 1:12 PM, chk999 (99.97) wrote:

My favorite Twain quote: "It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress."

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#2) On April 21, 2010 at 4:06 PM, kdakota630 (29.41) wrote:

David, regarding Murray N. Rothbard, if one were to go about learning about him or reading his books, where would you recommend someone start? 

My impression is that most people believe Man, Economy, and State is his best/most important book, but I wasn't sure if that was the best starting point.

Thanks in advance.

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#3) On April 21, 2010 at 5:21 PM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:


That's the magnum opus, but probably not the best place to start.  I think Ethics of Liberty is a pretty straight forward read with a lot of good info.  Anatomy of the State is a great, short essay that is included in the larger book Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature, which is a pretty good book as well.  However, the one I've enjoyed the most is The History of Economic Thought, since it fills in so many blanks as to how we ended up with so many crackpots and hacks in prominent economic roles, and where their silly ideas originate from.  The modern day quacks are surprisingly unoriginal.

All are free, as you prob know, over at LvMI.

Take care,

David in Qatar

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#4) On April 21, 2010 at 5:25 PM, kdakota630 (29.41) wrote:


Thanks for the heads up.  Any biography of him worth reading that you know of?

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#5) On April 21, 2010 at 5:32 PM, CharlesEasterly (< 20) wrote:



Although you did not ask for recommendations in addition to those of "David in Qatar", I suggest that you check the following website for ideas.


I look forward to reading the response to your requested recommendation, as I found the article by "David in Qatar" quite commendable.  


Best regards,



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#6) On April 21, 2010 at 5:39 PM, neutrinoman (< 20) wrote:

There's Twain's quote about no man's life or property being safe when Congress is in session.  That becomes more and more true with every passing day.

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#7) On April 21, 2010 at 5:41 PM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

Oh, I forgot The Mystery of Banking, What Has Government Done to My Money, and The Case Against the Fed. There's just so many great works from Murray.

I haven't read this biography, just a couple of excerpts, but I am a fan of Raimondo and I'm sure I would enjoy it.

(Now you have a christmas present idea for me.  Thanks, K!)

David in Qatar

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#8) On April 21, 2010 at 5:43 PM, kdakota630 (29.41) wrote:


I asked David because he's mentioned what a big Murray Rothbard fan he is, so I figured he'd be fairly knowledgeable on the subject, and is pretty good at replying to questions.

I was at when I first got the idea to do more reading about the subject, but was overwhelmed with the number of choices there and thought David could suggest a good starting point.

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#9) On April 21, 2010 at 5:47 PM, kdakota630 (29.41) wrote:


Thanks.  That's the one I was considering when I decided to ask.

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#10) On April 21, 2010 at 7:47 PM, starbucks4ever (89.25) wrote:

Sometimes a state can rule with consent, justice and wisdom, but most states do not. This is just a reflection of the fact that governments are also human and as such, are subject to the same vices as your average citizen. But if the average citizen is lacking justice and wisdom, what makes you think that an ungoverned crowd of citizens will show any more justice and wisdom than a government? If anything, you have a better chance with the government because it's much more realistic to find 10 or 12 good people than to find a crowd where such people will constitute a majority. I am obviously paraphrasing Socrates, but I believe he was 100% right.

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#11) On April 21, 2010 at 8:44 PM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:


Consider this:

Both you and I know that it is ethically wrong to steal.  You aren't going to steal from me and I won't steal from you.  The majority of humans on this planet feel the same way.  However, those that work in government intentionally steal every day.

Both you and I know that it is wrong to murder.  You won't go about searching for reasons to starve and kill me, and I won't go looking for reasons to starve and kill you. I would say that 99.9999% of humans feel this way.  If I was wrong, none of us would be here today. Obviously, humans value life in general. Yet, when the State goes out searching for monsters abroad (and at home) to starve and murder, it is glorified.

Both you and I know that counterfeiting is wrong.  We don't have funny money machines in our basement ripping off dollar bills to our heart's content.  I don't make fancy references to the multiplier effect to convince you that it's ok for me to rob of your hard earned pay because I'm going to spend it at the store down the street.  You don't do the same to me.  And we know where the State stands on this issue.

I could go on and on. We, you and I, are not the same as the State. We behave differently. We act differently. We have different values. They are not us. 

David in Qatar

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#12) On April 21, 2010 at 9:16 PM, AvianFlu (< 20) wrote:

My favorite Twain quote (paraphrased):

 "Three people can keep a secret...if two are dead"

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#13) On April 21, 2010 at 10:17 PM, starbucks4ever (89.25) wrote:

Hi  whereaminow,

Do you really think that the average man is fundamentally good, and only a small bunch of parasites at the very top are so spoiled that they even think it conscionable to sponge off of the general population? Don't you see it's the same Communist thinking disguised as Libertarianism? If only we could get rid of greedy evil landowners and capitalists, there would be no more exploitation of man by man because it's only under this rotten capitalist system that an individual would ever engage in such unsocial behavior... Or so the theory goes :):):)

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#14) On April 22, 2010 at 1:16 AM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:


Of course not.  I believe that man is a mixture of good and evil, however the conventions that societies naturally organize themselves around, such as not killing and stealing from each other, seem only to matter to us, while the State follows a different set of rules.

But I do think that the individual is generally a better person than you give them credit for.  I don't think we're all hopeless slobs.  I think we incentivize being a hopeless slob, making it a worthwhile occupation, thereby increasing its number.

David in Qatar

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#15) On April 22, 2010 at 10:51 PM, starbucks4ever (89.25) wrote:

The State simply introduces a degree of abstraction that makes it easy to commit crimes without dirtying your hands by just sitting in a comfortable office and drawing lines on the map. That's the only difference in moral standards of the State and your average good-intentioned common citizen. But the same degree of abstraction also makes it easier to do good stuff. How easy is it for an individual to give away his hard-earned $5 to save the white-headed eagle? Oh well, I'm all for it, but maybe next time...Maybe I can postpone it until tomorrow...And then until after tomorrow...And why me anyway? A state bureaucrat, on the other hand, can decree the required tax without a second thought. Detachment by itself is neither good nor bad. It's just an instrument like any other and one must learn to use it intelligently.

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#16) On April 23, 2010 at 1:52 PM, nzsvz9 (< 20) wrote:

There is a generally accepted view here which I do not hold to be true. Not by you David, but by many.

The "Left" is composed of communists, liberals, socialists, and democrats on some sliding scale of extremes toward a supposed mushy independent center.

The "Right" is composed of nazis, neo-cons, conservatives, and republicans on some sliding scale of extremes toward a supposed mushy independent center.

As already mentioned many times - the nazis were national socialists (by definition "lefties" not "righties") as this common false perception states.

But where does that leave me? As a liberty-minded not-registered as a Libertarian but votes with them, and national taxpayers union and others of the ilk person? I am not to the right of "Atilla the Hun" nor do I like the state at all.

I think the whole "political spectrum" is a flawed model of AGW-like proportions! I choose to look at ALL those other choices as statists - while my position is that I am for smaller government while they are all for larger and more pervasive (or in the case of the SEC - perverse) government.

When their choices leve you with the same growing government just with their ideology it would work "better" I say reject that notion and vote for the person who advocates that government is not the solution to all your problems, promises you less from the treasury, and is reluctant to the position.

Look for statesmen, not statists.

Known as Liberty-Loving nzsvz9

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#17) On April 23, 2010 at 1:57 PM, kdakota630 (29.41) wrote:


Speaking of the political spectrum, have a look at this and enjoy.

The American form of government.

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#18) On April 26, 2010 at 11:28 PM, FleaBagger (27.32) wrote:

I am one who believes that the State rules with the consent of people who are as ignorant as it is. Envy supplants justice and wisdom in the hearts of the people before the government grows in its influence (and its murderous rampaging) to the Total State we are all too familiar with in the past century or so.

I am an optimist, in that I believe that when a people does not consent to certain behaviors on the part of their government, those behaviors do not take place. As a wise man once said, "They came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I was not a Communist..." It takes the tacit consent of the governed, or at least of the majority, to commit atrocities.

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