If the State Were a Man, it Would be Josef Fritzl

If there is one human being who personifies the state, it is a man by the name of Josef Fritzl.

Seventy-four year-old Josef Fritzl became one of Europe’s most notorious criminals when he was convicted of false imprisonment, rape, manslaughter by negligence, slavery and incest in Austria in 2009.

He had held his daughter, Elisabeth, captive for 24 years in a windowless basement he had secretly converted into a prison chamber. During her imprisonment, Elisabeth was repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted by her father and as a result gave birth to seven children, three of whom remained in captivity with their mother and never saw the light of day until they were freed in 2008. One child died a few days after birth as a result of being denied medical care by Fritzl who burned the body.

Economic historian and economist, Robert Higgs, once described the unique nature of the state’s criminal behaviour. He wrote:

“When a mugger or a home invader accosts you, he points a gun at you or waves a knife in your face and demands your wallet or some other property. In most cases, if you surrender your property to him as he demands, he takes it and flees, and you will most likely never see him again. He is, in the classic phrase, the roving bandit.

In contrast, the state is the stationary bandit. It extorts your money constantly, ceaselessly, and no amount of plunder sates its appetite for what rightfully belongs to you. You are milked endlessly by people who have no rightful claim to loot you, but do have the power to take even more of your wealth in the form of interest or penalties or to place you in a steel cage if you make too much of a fuss about being looted.”

Like the state, Josef Fritzl was not a roaming aggressor and his abuse of his captive daughter was as ceaseless as the state’s plunder of its citizens. Like the state, no amount of abuse satiated Josef Fritzl. Like the state, he had no regard for human life.

He saw his daughter as a means to his ends and she was forced to live in a way that served her captor, just as citizens of the state are seen as a means to the state’s ends. Josef Fritzl exploited his position as the moral authority in his daughter’s life; he used and abused morality for his own evil ends. The state does this too. People in government power exploit the state’s position as the enforcer of moral law in order to plunder and coerce the masses.

Most people would not hesitate to describe Josef Fritzl as evil or a monster, but few would acknowledge that if an individual were imbued with the characteristics of the state, the agency many people see as a force for social good, you would produce someone very much like Josef Fritzl.

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