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One of the most frustrating things about discussing the State with its apologists is the seeming reluctance, indeed, the outright hostility in some cases, to being free. The lengths gone to justify the actions of the State in many cases are downright astonishing, and can at times be simply befuddling.

However, there may be an explanation for why people resist liberty so vehemently while embracing government: the Stockholm Syndrome. For those who are not familiar with it, the Stockholm Syndrome is the name given to the identification hostages have with their captors as being benevolent and downright admirable. This usually takes a few days to set in, as after denying the hostages their liberty and threatening them with death, the captors turn around and begin to offer small liberties and luxuries in exchange for obedience. For example, a person who does not misbehave can be given better food than the other hostages, or allowed more comfortable shelter. By extending a carrot in exchange for servility, the captor begins to be seen as the bringer of freedom to the hostage, and looked up to as a child may look upon a parent.

So, what does the Stockholm Syndrome have to do with the State? First, the relationship between a State and its citizens is virtually identical to that of a hijacker and his hostages. A State denies its citizens basic rights and freedoms, and uses force to keep them under its thumb, just as a captor does with his victim. If you are good and live by the State’s laws, then you can enjoy whatever freedom it allows you to have without interference (note that what this amounts to is the State saying it will not take anymore of your freedom than it already has — for now anyway). This is analogous to a captor setting down the rules by which the hostages must live by while under his purview, and if they are good then “no one gets hurt.” Good behavior is rewarded, and as the hostages continue to have their needs provided by their captors, much as a State provides certain services to its citizens, they are seen less as the criminals they are and more like benevolent caretakers.

Also, the rationalizations hostages give are similar to the arguments for the necessity of State action. Without the State, we are told, there would be no [insert good or service here], and so the State is actually providing a positive benefit to society through its existence. Similarly, hostages say that those who held them against their will went out of their way to please and provide for them, and thus are not the evil people others see them as. As the State supposedly institutes law and order, and thus brings stability and protects life, hostages can see their overseers as giving and protecting their lives as well, simply because they do not take it from them.

While the Stockholm Syndrome goes a long way towards explaining the willing subservience of most citizens, what if the truth is something much worse (for these points I would like to thank our esteemed posters MercedesRules and Paul Birch)? What if State apologetics was not a case of the Stockholm Syndrome, but the Stockholm Syndrome was a special case of State apologetics? In other words, what if the reason people end up defending those who oppress them is because they identify these people on some level as a State who will protect and care for them back? Going even further, perhaps it is the love and care given by parents during the young and vulnerable stages of life which conditions people to naturally accept and adore these people. The State, then, is identified as a guardian, much like a person’s parents, and its presence reminds people of the time when they were coddled, and all their wants and needs were provided for.

This raises the question of what is the cure to such thinking. Toward this end it is possible to look at the parent/child relationship for answers. When children become older and begin to think for themselves, they no longer require the assistance of their parents in order to live their lives. It is not simply, or even primarily, a matter of physical maturity in this case, but of mental and emotional maturity. The children must take full responsibility for ordering their own lives. Even in those facets where a person may delegate responsibilities to others, such as a financial advisor for example, a person is responsible for making sure that outside person is performing in accordance with expectations. The cure, it would seem, to Stockholm/State Syndrome is to help people “grow up”, and get them to realize that they not only should take responsibility for their lives, but, much like the maturing child finds out at some point, they are in fact capable of taking responsibility for their lives. The most effective way to accomplish this would appear to be an exposition of how those things which are currently government produced and granted could be created either by each person individually or through cooperative effort devoid of the coercion the State utilizes to meet its ends.

The roots of Statism clearly run deep into the psyche of most people, and its manifestations can be seen in societies the world over. Only by understanding the underlying causes can there be any hope of overcoming the oppressive edicts of State rule. Perhaps in time, people will cease to view the State as akin to their parents, and more like how they would normally view kidnappers.

– Jason B. Romano

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One Response to Is the World Suffering From Stockholm Syndrome?

  1. Jonny Howie says:

    Great Post Jason. Towards the ends I couldn’t help thinking of the new healthcare law and its extension to cover 26 year old children (not an exact quote, perhaps) on their parent’s health policy, which may, in certain ways, force children to continue in known or unknown abusive relationship with their parents. The state is constantly engineering ways to keep the masses dependent, which makes it more and more difficult to teach people to “grow up” or be self-sufficient. If its not possible to be self-sufficient without breaking every law in the book, then we are forever sucked back into the system, only to plan the next escape. Another thought that popped into my mind was Foucalt’s Panopticon, but I haven’t figure out where to tie it in with your post yet. Regardless, I wholeheartedly agree with the “state-as-a-prison” concept, if that is what your were going for.

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