Moritz Schlick

The State

(1952)

 



Note

This extract is from a booklet (Natur und Kultur) by Moritz Schlick, written probably during the 1920s and published in 1952 after Schlick’s tragic assassination on the steps of Vienna University.
In this text Schlick puts forward the proposal of non-territorial states to which people decide to belong on a voluntary basis. In other words, the re-proposition of the idea of Panarchy by one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century.

 


 

Why is the territorial expansion of its space precious to a people? It is not in itself, but because the means of livelihood of the subjugated countries contribute to the raising of the quality of life, as it was in the case of the Romans, and as it is today for the British Empire.
But it is clear that the political domination of a territory can be at most a sufficient condition for the exchange of goods or resources in the regions; however it cannot instead be a necessary condition for the exchange of values ​​among peoples, or of a country with another. The same purpose can be achieved through a process of mutual agreement. And, after all, this journey goes much further, leading to the understanding of all individuals in all regions and can allow contacts without dominance. The less artificial are the borders and the government of the countries, the more exchanges and communications take place, and above all, they are effective, when they occur between individuals and small groups.

The creation of borders between countries makes our present life so hard, it prevents this exchange and each state must seek, on its own, to level the damage caused by artificial commercial contracts. The situation is so severe that it often creates invisible barriers even against intellectual exchange, growing internal opposition against the reception "of foreigners to the country" or promoting ideas of an "alien race." Things like that are unique to our time. At the time when Schiller wrote, "It is a very poor ideal to write only for one nation," few imagined that the state would one day attempt to limit in space the diffusion of thought. We have to thank those countries that do with other so-called "cultural agreements" and establish institutions for the care of the intellectual relations between neighbouring countries. But that such measures are necessary, that the current ideas cannot run alone freely up and down through the political boundaries, is not a good sign of the times.

The common life in a physical space can develop a sense of belonging and this causes all the evils that lead to conflicts that beset the world, fragmented into many states. Are territorial issues ultimately the source of discontent? Mineral resources, raw materials, land fertility, advantages of its geographical location, are all factors that determine in a strong way the relations between the peoples, and from it war and peace originate.

Which factors of belonging exist in addition to the physical space? The most effective in history seem to be: common origin, common activities, and common convictions, especially in the political and religious fields.

It is the racial origin that gives rise to the principle of the racial state; the common practical activity is the source of the civil state, political beliefs are the principle of the rule of political parties; and the common religious belief leads to large organisations called churches.

The division of humanity into races is accompanied, with a few noteworthy exceptions, by regional isolation, and division by confession of faith can split to a lesser extent. The various classes and parties always live completely separate; associations and political parties generally try not to spatially divide their members. In these last two cases we are dealing also with purely internal principles of division and belonging. Here we can examine the effects.

You cannot just ask: which individuals can join together? The question makes sense only if the purpose of the union is made clear. It could in fact be - and it is - that various groupings are required for different purposes, so that the boundaries of the groups must overlap. Two people can very well be in an association for the protection of animals while they cannot stand each other in a political association.

Our question was, however: which people must unite to form a state? But what does this mean? Which goal does it pursue? Clearly it depends on the purpose of the state itself. The goal we gave was that of peace and security. According to which principle should the group form itself so that this end will be reached? If it happened that other’s aims require other groups that contradict those of the state, it would quickly appear that the state could not take any purposes other than its own. They must be left to other organisations, otherwise it would be in conflict because of the impossibility to pursue, with its means, ends that are entirely irreconcilable with its aims: peace. The means and the ends of the state can be defined as political, and distinct from all other means and ends. It follows, and here I am totally convinced, that the highest aim of policy is Peace.

What principles should be defined by the association of individuals so that the purpose of the State, peace in the world, is reached?
I have no reason to play hide and seek with the reader nor do I intend to prepare him carefully for the truths that I have to express. So now forthwith I declare that none of the principles of association listed here seems suitable to be the basis of the natural state. Race, religion, political conviction, interest and employment, none of these is right for being the foundation of great peace, while the only reliable basis is the character of individuals, their ethical qualities (not "Beliefs").

People of character, the good and peaceful, naturally belong to the same group, form the Civitas of the unseen, the Collective which is over the states, over the nations, over the confessions and parties. The bonds that form between the characters, resulting from sympathy, are stronger than those arising from customs, education, religion and so-called blood and all the others. Will I not a thousand times more willingly do things with a Chinese who I believe reliable and of good nature, than with a European false and selfish? What matters if the white man has the same habits of mine, did the same studies and belongs to the same religion? And what does it matter that the yellow man lives in a completely different way and thinks differently from me and dresses and eats differently? The divide between he and I is much thinner, and I get along with him better than with the one who outwardly has so much more in common with me.

Because all war is immoral unless it is against something immoral, so you should never fight only one political party but what is not right in it. And if this happens, the struggle of the parties is not a conflict between parties but a struggle of groups that are no longer covered by the parties, and they must be defined through their political purposes. In other words: the moral position would mean the dissolution of political parties. Or we should come to the formation of new parties which can be distinguished from each other on the basis of their moral stances. Here it would then come to the real opposites that must find agreement on a higher level.

Our idea of the state is: union for the protection of all the necessities of life. With this definition, it remains to be determined whether the boundaries of the state, i.e. the range of citizens who belong to it, should be determined by common life in a physical space, or if the boundaries of separation should take place on the basis of another principle. So, not only the countries or groups of countries deserve the name of state; it may also be referred to other organisations, provided they serve the common protection. Clearly this does not apply, for example, to the church; we cannot reduce it to the principle of the state, although of course it is possible that it will develop under the form of a state, assuming those purposes and uniting those principles with its own.

Another possibility of forming a state out of the criterion of the physical principle may be the cohesion of political convictions. It seems at first glance a natural process because politics is what forms the state. As mentioned, the principles related to this are found in the party-based states, but they are only principles because, generally, the parties are not states within the state. They lack the traditional means of power that are needed for internal and external protection, which remain prerogatives of the country and its government. If, however, they were able to get the means of power through a secret weapon or by conviction of some sections of the army or the police, then the tensions would generate quite soon into a revolution or civil war. As scary as such events might be, it must however be noticed that they are carried out, in comparison, in a less bloody way and with less losses of human lives with respect to wars between states divided by territory, that is, between enemy countries. This is good. Indeed contrary tendencies, when they exist, should not also divide spatially,but the opponents must mix; in this case the inevitable settlement takes place between disasters of a more limited scale. If opponents and followers of slavery in the United States had never been separated geographically in the southern and northern states, the civil war could not have assumed dimensions so devastating.

We imagine that the separation according to political beliefs replaces the division in territorial states. Then there would not be countries in the usual sense but there would be political organisations whose members would have their homes in all parts of the world and in different areas. Each of these invisible societies might have their own laws, their habits, their right and government and also their form of state. There might be invisible republics and monarchies, but the presidents and princes would not dominate territories but only people who voluntarily belong to their state. And because the beliefs of an individual may also change, then inherent in this principle is the possibility of switching from one organisation to another at any time.
Such a situation would clearly be sustainable only if there are also special rules for mutual relations of members of various organisations (I say it with intention: not among the organisations themselves).

There should therefore be agreement on a certain minimum basis of law or supranational or inter-states right, and, if you want, you can say that this would lead precisely to the establishment of a single world state. But the boundaries between a very extended state and many small states bound together by rules, are always fluid, no matter what you call it. The "world state" when you think of it would be very light, and would be made ​​up of relatively simple rules that will probably be limited to being defined by arbitration. To give an example, it could be determined that disputes between two members of different parties would be resolved by a court made ​​up of various members of other parties through a common police power, to monitor the implementation of decisions.
It should not be difficult to make such statutes world-wide (or rather put them in place, because it is always easy to set them up). In fact, if we realise how little effort is necessary in terms of rules of international law for the states nowadays to coexist quite well in normal times, then it is recognised that these very general rules have a tendency to function autonomously because the general interest for their existence is great.
They might temporarily hinder or look bad only for small groups or individuals, who would otherwise have against them the will of the majority that counts, and to which they should oblige.

The necessary condition is always that group members live mixed together, because as soon as a division of space takes over, new interests and complications arise. The effectiveness of our criminal law is based on the fact that criminals are people who live separately or in small groups within human society; if you join tens of thousands of them, for example, to create a city of their own, then it would not be enough to have normal laws and rules. Physical dissemination normally eliminates or reduces the need for a special intervention. Interests are isolated and each group can pursue its own ends, or at least believe to do so, while in reality sooner or later a contact with others takes place, and this soon develops a hostile dissent.

Conflicts between states that plague humanity today are born precisely from the fact that we have physical countries, divided by boundaries of physical space. So it happens that every state believes he can say: "This is an internal affair and no one should interfere." If instead of the physical divisions there were simple separations of inner or spiritual type, then there would not be anymore "private" businesses or, which eventually boils to the same thing, every business would be "internal". The interests would not accept to be isolated; those who think differently would be always at hand; what we do will always concern them, at least partially. All projects should be formulated in such a way to be respected, and the differences would not become conflicts between peoples.

The unnatural aspect concerning our states are their borders. Each physical border is artificial because there is never a sensible reason why on one side should be welcomed what on the other side is condemnable. Originally, when the means of transport were not sufficiently developed, the people were separated by seas and mountains; they could not congregate together and so they could not agree among themselves. Then people thought that borders should exist, since there were also in nature, and separator lines were built where there were none. People have learned to overcome mountains and seas, but one thing which seems impossible to destroy are the borders created by humans.

Currently it is common to make a complaint about the presence of platonic borders, especially economic. But people do not see how deep the source of evil is; it is in the reality of the state itself. And this needs to be changed; only then will borders disappear.

The borders between countries cannot disappear through agreements, because they are the real and more evident result of human action. When we pass from Italy to Switzerland, from Germany to France, then we find that this side of the border is really different than the other side. Borders can fall naturally if these differences will disappear, as the dividing line between two colours of an area no longer exists when the two sides become the same colour.
The ignorant and limited believe that through this mixing the colourful multiplicity of the earth, that I also commend, could turn into monotony; with the mix of people they produce the contrary, i.e. always new diversity, and this is the progress of culture. A people that wants to grow only by itself waives a factor of renewal and transformation of its monotony. Thanks to blending, individual differences grow, but the physical distribution becomes more uniform.
A uniform distribution of people in the space with possible large individual differences does not mean sameness but the maximum of variety.

The question was: according to which principle must people unite in society to be able to protect themselves against external enemies, considering that the individual cannot provide security on his own and will need the combined forces of many? That the space-geography factor must certainly have a role derives already from the concept of the “external” enemy. The “association” must then refer always to the space. So the question is: under what principle should people live together? Would it be good to form a state including all those who, by chance, have established their residence in a district defined geographically (peninsula, space between two mountain ranges, etc.). Or must it be ensured that in such a space only those who adhere already to another principle can establish themselves? When does it happen that individuals belong to the same typology? When are they formed in such a manner that they back, bear and support each other? And when does this happen? When does everyone support the same idea? Perhaps, if the idea is just to belong together, then they are involved in a tragic circle of meaningless nationalism. Are there really genuine ideas that unite? Religions? They did not pass the test. Indeed, they have joined the believers, but they have developed the bloodiest wars against non-believers. Even Christianity has not been able to meet the great hope which Dante and Campanella cherished: it was unable to unify humanity in Europe.
Currently the people (the "blood") are encouraged to become the object of religious veneration; the fire is stoked in order to feed the sacred national flame, and this is like a declaration of war against any union of peoples through religions. If these efforts succeed, the national clashes would also always be religious. The idea of a supranational religion would be derided as that of a universal humanity.
To this idea of universal humanity, has it ever been given the chance to express all its power? If we did it, we would not need to seek a further brighter star. In fact, the idea of humanity is, at the same time, moral thought and the only true content of all religion. To our question "What individuals are part of a community?" we must respond “the good people”. The good will is the only guarantee of a common understanding and development. And when men of good will struggle against all the others who do not want peace, this is the only war that has in it the idea of the right, the only one for which the philosopher can carry the flag, the only rational and natural war. Finally, only good will can be the principle of association. The state that results from it is the true city of God (civitas Dei) and all other forms of states which are based on different principles are the cities of the Devil (civitates diaboli).

To desire separation and isolation prevents the development of a state of people peacefully living together; it prevents the emergence of a morality between the people. Morality is always the product of a life in common. If people lived completely separated from and closed to each other, there would not be the good and the bad in acting, but only the useful and the harmful in the most crass way; there would not be goodness or justice or respect; no one would be affected by the acting of each solitary person because no one would know anything about it. Whoever wants to have his own law, must physically isolate himself and create barriers. In the case of the States, this is what is called “autarky”. Autarky prevents a common morality. For the development of morality, it is necessary that each individual is in daily contact with many other individuals. The necessary intercourses and trades of the various parts are the condition for the birth and development of conscience and respect for the rules of coexistence.
There is only one true foundation of the state that is durable, and that is morality. Look no more! If you do not want to rule the world with goodness and justice, then you shouldn’t rule because you would be the origin of the struggle and discord that would lead to the destruction of your work.

The state defends the individual from external enemies? But does it not happen quite often that instead it creates new ones? Moreover, is it not true that it becomes the enemy of the individual, by taking a position of power and coercion? And sometimes it becomes so hard that the individual would prefer to be confronted with a larger uncertainty of dangers from the outside, rather than tolerate the tyranny of the state that haunts him constantly with its threats, thus depriving him of liberty more than would an external enemy. The limitation of freedom is always present wherever that which is prohibited is permitted “before God” (many moral things can be expressed mainly in a theological language).

It is perfectly true that the interests of the individual, the nation and of all humanity eventually converge. But as it happens that the individual is most happy when he cares for others and does not directly pursue only his own ends, so it is for humanity: it is not best served when we do everything only for the nation, but we serve the nation in the best way when we keep our eyes on the ends of humanity.

The oppression of freedom of conscience should ultimately be a danger for any state power. The danger for the state is to appear like a fool, and the more it does so, the less fear it will provoke. The politician who wants to impose on the citizen a particular way of seeing (and in this appears the manipulation of the expressions of thought) is in fact a comic figure. Who is this that purports to decide which among all philosophies is the only true one?
No ruler should in fact be able to afford to tell his subjects “I'm not sure that the ideology that I demand from you is right, but I expect you all to follow it”.

Experience shows that a state can continue to act for a time when no citizen can express his views, but it is a giant with feet of clay, because a state that consciously does without the intelligence of its citizens renounces its vital vitamin.

When care is taken to represent the moral decisions of the individual under the beautiful image that his “conscience” stands against his selfishness and overcomes him, so likewise groups of individuals - parties and states - need a conscience to develop a common morality. Representatives of groups and people who come together in national and international parliaments should be the conscience of their clients and not the expression of their selfishness; so far they are almost only the latter, especially in international negotiations. They have a mandate to defend the “interests” of their constituents or of their state; instead they should be ordered to look after the interests of humanity, regardless of whether or not this will lead to some sacrifice for their own people. But a diplomat or a representative of the popular will would get the reputation of being a hopeless idealist if he decided, for once, to speak or vote in favour of an interest greater than the one of his own people; and definitely he will not do any harm because, eventually, everybody would benefit from the harmony that would arise from these noble ideas.
Certainly it is difficult to look to the good of all and only to that when somebody has been brought up in a certain circle or in a country where he is confronted with the principle of not opposing people’s ideas and of serving their particular good.

There should therefore be an international school for diplomats who should not be driven by a single country. There, learners would study in an objective and balanced way the ideals and desires of all peoples. Every country should be required to send the best young minds; there they would be for years far off from any partisan influence; for example, they should be sent to a beautiful island far away; and only those who finished this school would later be appointed diplomatic representatives of their country, and their capacity would be expressly recognised by the International Forum of the school. And here not only the level of knowledge would be taken into account, but also and especially the character, love for humanity and the incorruptibility of judgment. I would even take the view that not only the diplomats representing the people abroad should attend this school, even the rulers who are the head of their country. In fact I think only one who knows the needs of all peoples and understands them can advise and care for the people.

You cannot expect to receive generally such an “hearty” understanding from the history that is taught in schools and universities. Historians succumb so terribly to the domain of prejudice. Someone who is used to breathing in an atmosphere of pure mathematics and natural sciences must be shaken by such an impression when he throws a look at the works of almost all historians who deal with the issues of their day, or of their people. Great figures like Ranke and Gibbon are rare. Many are almost always more political than historical. Just look at a man like Treitschke!

For this reason there should also be International Universities where History, Literature and especially the Law should be taught with true objectivity. Thank God medicine, natural sciences and mathematics are already inherently objective and do not require protective measures.

 


[Home] [Top]