Irish Liberty Forum

An Alternative Analysis of State Criminality

with one comment

I think this tells you everything you need to know about State justice.

The bill for abuse and health scandals has reached almost 1.7bn — and is likely to exceed 2.6bn before the compensation schemes are over.

The staggering financial toll on the taxpayer arising out of health and abuse scandals is revealed today in new figures compiled by the Irish Independent.

The figures have risen dramatically thanks to the mishandling of the cases when they first emerged, because more victims have come forward over time, and because the State has borne the majority of the cost even in cases where other organisations were involved.

Everybody knows that the Irish State has a sordid history of incompetence, corruption, waste and downright malevolence. Its legacy continues to this day, as innocent taxpayers are extorted to bail out the government and its preferred interest groups for their crimes.

Over 778m for the victims of contaminated blood and blood products to date, expected to reach 1bn.

More than 700m under the redress scheme for victims of abuse in orphanages and industrial schools to date, likely to reach 1.3bn.

At least 45m set to be paid to victims of Dr Michael Neary, with the potential for more victims to be identified.

180m repaid so far to nursing home and long-stay patients who were wrongly charged.

44m to be returned this year to long-stay patients because health boards wrongly retained interest as “payment” for handling their personal accounts.

This situation is wrong in so many different ways. Within the context of natural justice, it is obviously a complete travesty and a terrible evil that anyone should be forced to pay the price for wrongs which they themselves did not commit. I imagine that most people with a reasonably objective viewpoint can recognise the unfairness inherent in that. The problem, unfortunately, is that mainstream analysis is incapable of proposing different systems of social organisation which would be significantly less exposed to the risk of this sort of fiasco.

Mainstream analysis may not even recognise that State crimes have any structural origins whatsoever. Both Left and Right seem sure that State crimes have their roots primarily in the motives and personalities of the particular individuals who reach positions of power. Within this paradigm, State power can be used for good – if only good people are wielding it.

Libertarian analysis is very different. Broadly speaking, libertarian analysis sees physical power as the key factor in the relationship between the government and its citizens, differentiating this relationship from the voluntary, peaceful relationships common amongst the citizens themselves. This power is seen to have radical effects on the incentives experienced by agents of the government, such that their actions are explicable only in the context of their status as such.

Given the unique incentives experienced by those in government, it is easily predicted by libertarians that the activities of government would seem absurd if attempted by private individuals or organisations. In the free market, incompetence and waste represent shortcuts to extinction for any business. Morally depraved behaviour leads to loss of reputation for individuals and organisations alike, and with it a corresponding loss of opportunity. Thus, through market arrangements, each acting unit experiences natural incentives to engage in positive social behaviour.

The difference could not be any more stark when it comes to agents of government. Enjoying, as they do, enforced monopolies in law, taxation, regulation, security, defense, education, health, and so on, their set of incentives is utterly different to the set of incentives faced by market participants. Because the relationship they have with their “customers” (taxpayers) is coercive, activities which would lead to their ruin in the free market can go more or less unpunished. Thus, besides the electioneering and rhetoric required to hold on to power throughout dubious electoral processes, State agents enjoy a special kind of carte blanche.

A conclusion often reached by libertarians is that only corrupt, selfish people would seek to wield such power in the first place. A milder conclusion would be that well-intentioned people may be able to attain power, but that given the incentive schemes with which they are then faced, prodigious heroism in self-denial is then required in order for such people to prevail in acting to the best of their ability for the common good.

In other words, power is likely to corrupt them. And when this view is combined with the classic problems of statist economic calculation, the possibility of a government acting well appears remote. I see little evidence in the history of the Irish state to contradict this notion.


Written by Graham

February 20, 2008 at 2:34 pm

Posted in history, Ireland, justice

One Response

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  1. hay i am working my senior thesis – graduation paper on criminal responsiblity of states under the existing international law … so please help me by providing materials which have relation with the topic i have sellecte … pls send to me ? my email is or . thanks for ur help….


    March 11, 2009 at 8:45 am

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