Kevin Williamson argues that organised crime and government spring from the same root, in his book The End is Near and it’s Going to be Awesome. That is to say, government began as a mafia protection racket claiming a monopoly on violence and extracting a rent (tax) in return for protecting its citizens from outsiders.
Matt Ridley quotes this in his own book, The Evolution of Everything and says that
in ancient Rome, consuls, generals, governors and senators, each with his own organised crime syndicate of thugs and legions, fought over the spoils of imperial conquest in a series of civil wars, assassinations, and plots that grew steadily more desperate–until one emerged with sufficient wealth and power to impose a monopoly of military might. He called himself Augustus and ushered in a Pax Romana that lasted, with occasional bloody interruption, for 200 years.
Ridley adds that with the notable exception of the United States and some other ex-colonies, government originated as a group of thugs who, as Pope Gregory VII put it in the eleventh century,
raised themselves above their fellows by pride, plunder, treachery, murder…
The first president of the U.S., George Washington (may have) said this:
Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. Government is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant, and a fearful master.
Just as Henry VII acted like a Corleone, so Islamic State, the Colombian FARC, the Mafia itself, the Irish Republican Army all come to behave more and more like government – enforcing a strict moral code, ‘taxing’ commodities (opium, cocaine, waste disposal), punishing transgressors, providing welfare.
And even modern governments have an element of the crime syndicate about them. Police forces repeatedly harbor criminals all over the world: the US Department of Homeland Security is only a little more than a decade old, but in 2011 over three hundred of its employees were arrested for crimes such as drug smuggling, child pornography and selling intelligence to drug cartels.
Ridley did not mention this, but Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch said this during an interview with Boston Public Radio:
Back in August, we did an investigation—the inspector general did—of the Department of Homeland Security, and they had 72 individuals that were on the terrorist watch list that were actually working at the Department of Homeland Security..
So what are we to make of all this? If we live in a democracy that long ago replaced a prior dictatorship, we may realize that we have some rogues in the bureaucracy, but surely our leaders are well-intentioned, and if they are not, surely we can get rid of them?
I would normally think so, but we see an elected government in Russia that has changed into one that actually rehabilitates Stalin, (see sources). Stalin was responsible for the death of millions of his own citizens, and moreover, was so paranoid that he purged most of his own Russian military generals so that few experienced commanders were able to take their places in the field when the Nazis invaded. He was ruthless, a trait which may be admired in Russia, but he was also destructive of his own country.
Kimberly Strassel, who writes for the Wall Street Journal, said this of our great leader:
Barack Obama has done plenty of damage to the country, but perhaps the worst is his determined destruction of Washington’s guardrails. Mr. Obama wants what he wants. If ObamaCare is problematic, he unilaterally alters the law. If Congress won’t change the immigration system, he refuses to enforce it. If the nation won’t support laws to fight climate change, he creates one with regulation. If the Senate won’t confirm his nominees, he declares it in recess and installs them anyway. “As to limits, you set your own,” observed Dan in that editorial. This is our president’s motto.
Mr. Obama doesn’t need anyone to justify his actions, because he’s realized no one can stop him.
… Mr. Obama egged on his IRS to target conservatives, used his Justice Department to exact retribution on politically unpopular banks, and had his EPA lead an armed raid of an Alaskan mine. Is it any wonder that Bernie Sanders’s climate plan, released this week, includes a vow to bring criminal prosecutions against “climate deniers”? And he would.
A critic of Obama, Dinesh D’Souza, improperly donated money to a friend who was running for the Senate, and so was sentenced to eight months in a state-run confinement center near his home in San Diego. In the facility, he lived among hardened criminals—drug dealers, thieves, gangbangers, rapists, and murderers. In the view of the hardened criminals, America is a jungle in which various armed gangs face off against one another, with the biggest and most powerful gangs inhabiting the federal government. That may sound like a rationalization or excuse, but D’Souza thinks that America is beginning to resemble corrupt third world nations, run by gangs of kleptocrats.
In fact, he wrote a book about it, Stealing America (2015), which I hope to review.
But none of the above proves that we are currently ruled by gangsters. It is true that gangsters don’t have much of a problem getting into government positions – for instance a Texas Police Chief named Juan Gonzalez says that “We all know for a fact that the cartels have infiltrated law enforcement at all levels here: local level, county, municipal, state, federal…”.
We also know that ideologues who do not believe that democracy is a good thing do get into government positions: Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin claims that people with connections to the Muslim Brotherhood are in vital positions within every significant area of the U.S. government such as the Pentagon, DHS, etc.
We also know that various senators, congressmen, and bureaucrats have gotten remarkably rich in government – much more than their salaries would indicate.
So there are various incentives for gangsters to get into government, and of course various ideologues see government as a means of implementing their agenda. The best solution is to shrink the power and size of government.
The Evolution of Everything – Matt Ridley (2015)