Clarence B. Carson, historian. 1925 - 2003.
In my stroll through the thrift store last week, I encountered a remarkable book by Clarence B. Carson, entitled Basic Communism: Its Rise, Spread and Debacle in the 20th Century.
Carson is writing here about the Soviet system (the book was self-published in 1990) but his observations are universal to all systems, especially our own these days.
One of the major conclusions to be drawn from the Soviet experience in this regard is that law is not essential to the exercise of the power of the state. Since governments have commonly used law in the exercise of their power, it might be supposed that law is necessary to that end. On the contrary, law is frequently and in certain ways essentially an impediment to the exercise of governmental power. Government operates essentially by the use of force, and by its nature tends to monopolize the use of force in its jurisdiction. Law regularizes and LIMITS the use of force by government. It limits it by prescribing how force shall be used, to what extent, and under what conditions. In this sense, law is no more necessary to governments than handcuffs to a boxer.There is an intricate connection between law and property. Probably, private property is essential to the existence of law. In the light of what has happened it does appear that when private property is largely abolished that law does indeed wither away. Certainly, much of it withers away, for law no longer has its main object to deal with. Most important, all rights and liberties wither away in the absence of private property. All rights tend to be more or less extensions of property rights, though they are often not thought of in that light. Freedom of speech, of press, and of religion, for example, are much more dependent upon property than we might casually conclude. Freedom of the press is most meaningful only when one has access to a press, by way either of ownership or consent to its use by some owner. If government owns all the presses, there might conceivably be a government privilege to use the press under certain conditions, but freedom of the press would have no content. Freedom of speech depends upon a place (property) from which to speak, and, for its defense, the means (property) by which to enter into an adversary relationship with those (including government) who might deny it. By extension, freedom of speech is a property right to one's utterances. As for religion, its public practice depends upon the ownership or control over houses of worship and all the physical paraphernalia (musical instruments, song books, prayer nooks, surplices, and so on). The Soviet Union has amply demonstrated the dependence of freedom of religion upon private property. Abolish private property and you undermine law as well. Law can no more survive without private rights in property than can a building be suspended from sky hooks. Neither has any foundation.Government requires neither private property nor law in order to function. They are both inhibitors of its use of force. There is an alternative to law for government; it is terror. Government must act by law or terror or some combination of them. In the absence of private property and its corollary, law, government must act by terror, when the chips are down. The exercise of force without the restraint of law is terror. No better definition can be given, and none is needed. It does not become terror because of the especially horrible character of the acts. Rather it is terroristic because it is arbitrary, unpredictable, and has no certain cause or explanation. None may know when force will be applied or when it will be halted, for there are no enforceable restraints.
"Government must act by law or terror or some combination of them."