Some people in society will always be bullies, tricksters, frauds, and terrorists.
The classical theory of the state has it that government is instituted to protect good citizens from the depredations of the Bully and Trickster class, and is made up of fine, upstanding leaders — heroes all! — in pursuit of this noble aim.
The Trick-or-Treat, or Halloween, Theory of the State has it that the state is made up of those bullies, tricksters, frauds and terrorists. By organizing into politically governing bodies, and accepting our bribes (taxes, not candy), their behavior becomes less obviously anti-social than otherwise (as is the case with tricksters participating in Halloween’s “trick-or-treats” tradition). The big conceit is that it is good and noble people who work for the state, get money from the taxpayers, and push us around, etc.
The comparatively minor conceit can be found in a certain core group of activities in which the members of the Bully and Trickster class police their own, taking away a fraction of the worst offenders — but mainly the ones who bully and trick independently, who won’t “play along.” This secondary function apes the classic theory of the state, as children mimic devils at Halloween. Serious protection rarely emerges.
Unfortunately, because Trick-or-Treating, er, politics, is made so fun, the rites of democracy and statesmanship so charming, and the rewards so enticing, a lot more people get caught up in the activity than would have otherwise done so. As in Halloween, we wind up with more people spending more money on candy (taxes) than the total loss would be from the straightforward damage done by tricksters acting randomly, unorganized.
The Halloween Theory of the State thus explains both the origin of the state and the growth of the state. This cannot be said of classic theories, such as State-of-Nature contractarianism, which are utopian and deludedly romantic in character.
The Halloween Theory can be extrapolated beyond the mere sketch provided here. The chief problem with it is that the title’s holiday/festive parallel suggests understatement. Children begging for candy are harmless. Mostly.
The state is not.
Cross-posted at Wirkman Netizen.