Often we wonder why has the state endured for so many centuries and why people that seem to be adversely affected by the state, defend it so ardently. How can we convince people to move towards a more free society?

Why is it, that when the state fails people rally around it and demand more state power instead of seeking alternatives?

After the US government failed to prevent the 9/11 attacks the American people did not start to criticize the government for having a too aggressive foreign policy, that provoked terrorism, they demanded a more government intrusion both domestically and abroad.

In an academic paper, On Social Stability and Social Change: Understanding When System Justification Does and Does Not Occur, the authors give a psychological explanation to why people justify systems, especially when these systems fail.

The authors explain that there are four things that cause people to justify unjust systems in their mind:

  • System Threat
  • System Dependence
  • System Inescapability
  • Low Personal Control

 

When people are dependent on a system and that system is attacked, people justify that system in their mind, and counter intuitively they justify the system more strongly if they can’t escape that system easily. The psychological term is System Justification.  It is sort of like how children defend their parents when their parents are criticized even when the parents are abusive towards their children. “You can’t say that about my government.” Further, the authors note that people that feel they do not have control over their lives are more willing to have government take control.

Understanding this might help with strategies to de-legitimize the state.  If System Justification is real what are the implications for working towards a more free world.

Don’t attack the state. When pointing out the problems with the status quo to a statist, be careful not to verbally attack the state. Also advocating for violent overthrow of the state will likely push people to justify the state in their mind even more.  In Nazi Germany Hitler was able to remove his opposition and expand the power of government after the German equivalent of the parliament building, the Reichstag building, was bombed and set ablaze.  The German people rallied around the government. A similar thing happened in the US after the Oklahoma City Bombing, though to a lesser extent.  Violent attacks against that state work to the advantage of the state.

Make opportunities for independence from the state. People who are dependent on the state will defend it.  We need to help people not be dependent on government handouts. We need to support charities that help people get on their feet again.  We need to support and build more mutual aid societies, and other alternatives to government welfare.

Create alternatives that allow escape. We need to push for open borders, and support startup cities, seasteading, virtual currencies and anything that gives people from around the world more options to escape the state.

Create ways for people to take back control. People that feel their lives are out of control seek the power of the state to help.  We need to promote education and tools that help people get back in control of their lives in ways they can be comfortable with and manage.

These are only a few of the things we can do. By understanding System Justification Theory we can make efforts to prevent people from justifying unjust systems in their own minds, and erode the legitimacy of the state.