of what their governments do—the high taxes and burdensomernregulations—or fail to do, when the streets are unswept or therngarbage is not picked up, but only anarchists complain whenrnthe state fulfills its primary obligation to defend the nation fromrnpredators, both foreign and domestic—the general defense andrndomestic tranquility promised by the American Constitution.rnToo often, however, the agencies of government serve the interestsrnof criminals who prey upon the people whose protectionrnjustifies the very existence of the state. Even an official textbookrnversion of American history can produce such examples as thernclose collaboration between the Capone Mob and the Chicagornpolice. Jack Kennedy’s involvement with Mafia bosses whornhelped deliver the vote, the association of Senator Paul Laxaltrnwith certain businessmen in Las Vegas, or the friendship ofrnJohn Glenn and John McCain with Charles Keating—the billrnfor Keating’s congressional friendships nearly bankrupted thernTreasury.rnOn a higher plane, large investors have brought off leveragedrnbuy-outs of large parts of the American state: the bankers underrnHamilton; the railroads under Lincoln and his successors; thernTreasury under Grant. One could go, as they say, on and on,rnlisting scandals like Credit Mobilier, Teapot Dome, BCCI, andrnWhitewater, which have disfigured the administrations of bothrnparties.rnThe common way of describing these scandals is to say thatrnthey are lapses in an otherwise honest system, and that may stillrnbe the best answer, that is, an answer that allows us to sleep atrnnight. But in other areas of our experience with government,rnwe grow suspicious of well-worn arguments about “unintendedrnconsequences.” Is it not ironic, say the pundits, that welfare onlyrndegrades the poor it is designed to uplift, that women’s liberationrnforces women to work two jobs and exposes them to unprecedentedrnrisks of exploitation and rape, that publicrneducation insures the ignorance not only of the lower classesrnbut even of the middle classes? Ironic, yes, if the word is definedrn(according to our former colleague Christian Kopff) asrnthe relationship of cause and effect Isn’t it ironic, the detectivernshould say of the suicide, that—after he loaded the gun, put itrnto his head, and pulled the trigger—he blew his brains all overrnthe Turkey carpet?rnPerhaps, in our zeal to point the finger at the malefactors ofrnthe other party, we are missing something essential. Whatrnif politics in the modern state really is, by definition, a criminalrnprofession? The idea sounds insane, if onlv for its simplicity.rnThe whole duty of government is more than any one theoryrnmay describe. To attempt to account for the rise of the state, thernpurposes it serves, and the distortions it suffers by any singlernprinciple is an effort doomed to stupidity. From Hobbes tornWittfogel, philosophers have barked their shins upon historicalrnexperience, and universal historians as ignorant as Wells and asrnlearned as Toynbee have succeeded only in trivializing history.rnRather than choke, trying to swallow the whole of the state, wernmight gain some food for thought if we nibble away at one littlerncorner and pose the simple question: What is the modern staternif not an instrument to serve the particular interests of thosernwho contiol it?rnBy modern state, I mean the European regimes that arosernduring and after the Renaissance as well as their non-Europeanrnimitators. Earlier governments (and primitive societies) were,rnfor the most part, on so small a scale or of so personal a natiirernthat they scarcely deserve to be called states. This is obvious inrnthe case of small-scale tribal societies such as the SudanesernNuer described by E.E. Evans-Pritchard or the Hebrews whosernaccount is given in the Pentateuch. But even classicalrnAthens —a successful and coherent commonwealth —canrnhardly be said to foreshadow the modern state. Athens was arnkin- and neighborhood-based society, funded largely by tiibuternand import duties and by a quasi-voluntary system of benefactionsrnfrom the rich, a nation without police or standing army,rnwhose magistiates were mostly chosen by lot, where corruptionrnwas almost always the corruption of individuals and not of governmentrnper se, because there was no government per se.rnIn looking backwards from the end of the second millennium,rnwe have a certain feeling about what a state is. First andrnforemost, it is the sense of us and them, not merely of us thernpeople and them the rulers, but of us the people and that entityrnwhich Hobbes described as a “mortal god.” The state is mortalrnonly because it can be overthrown or conquered; in all elsernit is as far beyond our ken as the will of Zeus. Christians and paganrnGreeks might believe that human beings can participate inrnthe divine; Diomedes might wound the war-god with a spear,rnand Jacob might wrestle with an angel, but most subjects of arnmodern state know that “you can’t fight city hall,” and thatrnthere is nothing sure except “death and taxes.”rnThis perception of the state’s divine status is valid, whetherrnthe rulers’ power is justified on the basis of divine right, popularrnwill, or the dictatorship of the proletariat. A political revolutionrnis, therefore, a mere change of religions, a substitution of gods.rnThe king is dead, long live the king—or the dynasty or the institutionalrnrevolutionary party.rnAnother characteristic of the modern state is the largely successfulrnattempt to exercise the monopoly on violence which,rnaccording to Treitschke, was one of the state’s essential attiibutes.rnIn many ancient and medieval societies, the responsiblernclasses virtually defined themselves as those who ownedrnarms and knew how to use them, and in the past few years VictorrnDavis Hanson has made a good case for classical Greece asrna civilization of armed farmers. But, to take only the examplernof a state formed as the result of conquest (namely, England),rnthe Norman kings worked hard to eliminate all the Anglo-Saxonrncustoms that gave the people a dangerous feeling of independence:rnblood feuds, dueling, the right of barons to try andrnexecute criminals. Although the English state was not perfected,rnperhaps, until Walpole’s time, the Tudors were able, by thern16th century, to extort taxes, impose justice, and levy troopsrneven in the teeth of opposition from the hereditary nobility.rnThere is no need to review the textbook examples of statebuildingrnfrom Louis XIV to Bismarck and Lincoln, except tornpoint out that progress was occasionally interrupted. Early inrnthe reign of Louis XIV, the provincial nobility of France reassertedrnthemselves and rebelled against the centialization ofrnpower being plotted by the French monarchy. The Polish nobilityrnresisted ever,– invasion of their hereditary right to chaos,rnand in England’s American colonies, the frontier experiencerntaught the Virginians and New Englanders that they could dornvery well with governments that were small, cheap, and locallyrncontiolled.rnThere were many reasons for the American Revolution, butrnthe chief of them was the colonists’ experience of living far fromrnthe center of power and having to rely on their own efforts tornraise a barn, fight the Indians, and hang a horse-thief In thatrnsense, our ancestors were rebelling not so much against thernabuses of a particular king and parliament as against the in-rnOCrOBER 1998/11rnrnrn