The state—the organization of the political means—is the institution that allows an idle, unproductive class of parasites to live at the expense of ordinary, working people, whose means are industrious activity and consensual exchange in the marketplace. We ought not assume, however, that the indigent segment of society, those who receive social welfare aid from the state, are necessarily foremost among the parasites of the political means. Rather, free-market libertarians from Albert Jay Nock to Murray Rothbard and Butler Shaffer have demonstrated that in the statist economy of theft and wealth redistribution, it is the elite—powerful, entrenched commercial players—who most benefit. Historically and empirically, this phenomenon of elite command of the apparatuses of government is readily apparent and unmistakable in its expression, particularly as regards the twentieth-century American economy. Economic historian Robert Higgs has argued that the American economy developed into a variant of corporatism or “tripartism,” an economic fascism defined by formal collusion between certain key interests and various arms of the state. “Corporatism,” writes Higgs, “faces the problem of factions directly; in effect, it resolves the problem of the people versus the interests by forthrightly declaring that the interests, when properly organized and channeled, are the people” (emphasis added). Like every permutation of the authoritarian idea, the corporatism described by Higgs attempts to submerge the individual within the anatomy of the leviathan state—of which we must now regard many nominally “private” actors as a part.
 as payment for a level of control exercised by government. The iron triangles that form the fascist tripartism detailed by Higgs recall the thesis of C. Wright Mills’s groundbreaking sociological study, The Power Elite. In his masterwork, published first in 1956, Mills gives an account of an intermeshed elite made up of a “political directorate,” the “warlords” of the military establishment, and “corporate chieftains” at the helm of Big Business bureaucracies. Hardly resulting from the legitimate free market defended by libertarians, the social and economic problems and crises we see all around us are in fact the moldering fruits of elite statism. And war, as both the engine of an entire economic paradigm and its attendant psychological and sociological substructure, has been the American state’s most preferred expedient, burdening peaceful, productive society with class rule. The permanent war economy, the unremitting exercise in plunder that now makes up a terrifyingly large portion of the economy at large, must necessarily poise itself upon antisocial state-worship. As Vicesimus Knox wrote, “Fear is the principle of all despotic government, and therefore despots make war their first study and delight.” The existence of a corporate command-and-control economy, whose configuration grows out of layered state interventions, depends crucially on popular attitudes regarding the state. Only a public trusting of elite judgment and expertise would abide a system built on just the kinds of subjugation that the American ruling elite hypocritically claimed to defy in two world wars.
 Left and right designations become particularly troublesome when we consider modern American conservatism as a “barren defense of the status quo.” The concord of war statism reached by the political elite during the twentieth century certainly wasn’t liberal in any coherent or meaningful sense—a near antithesis of the liberalism of which Mises and Hayek regarded themselves as the legatees.
 Very much a rebuke of the established order, the free market ideas of Comte and Dunoyer’s industrialist journal Le Censeur européen had radical and thus very unconservative implications: a hope to completely replace government with “the administration of things” (a phrase coined by Comte and only later used by Saint-Simon). Just as did Rothbard hundreds of years later, Comte and Dunoyer folded economic analyses—inherited primarily from Jean-Baptiste Say—in with historical and philosophical narratives, fashioning a unique and libertarian notion of class. Their economic propositions emerged from a holistic, methodological approach, tracing a historical divide between“the devouring” (“the hornets”) and “the industrious” (“the bees”). Indeed, Comte and Dunoyer championed a classless society, though not in the sense of absolute equality or the end of private property. If the free market truly was the means of “dissolving the ruling classes,” then it was privilege and monopoly, upheld by the coercive power of the state, and not legitimate property and trade, that were to be opposed.
In the present day, following the maturation of the connections identified by Mills, Rothbard, Higgs and others, the economy has been “centralized . . . into a highly structured bureaucracy under the effective direction and control of leading business interests.” We can in no way be said to have a free market, as the ties between powerful interests and the federal government are as strong as ever. Politics is an expensive, high-stakes game of favors and bribery, a fact that libertarians like Comte and Dunoyer saw clearly hundreds of years ago.
Robert Higgs, Against Leviathan, page 178.
Philippe Schmitter in Higgs, Against Leviathan, page 179.
Laurance S. Moss, "The Power Elite Revisited", Left and Right.
Vicesimus Knox, The Spirit of Despotism, page 68.
Murray Rothbard, The General Line.
Sidney Lens quoted in Leonard Liggio, Why the Futile Crusade.
Murray Rothbard, Economic Thought Before Adam Smith, page 386.
The work of Comte and Dunoyer therefore shares at least one similarity with that of the socialist anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, of disrepute among many libertarians for the declaration, “Property is theft.” Many don’t know that Proudhon also extolled the idea of contract as opposite that of government, advocating “the reign of contract, the industrial or economic system,” as substituted for “ military rule.” To paraphrase him, Proudhon sought the eventual and gradual dissolution of the governmental system within the economic system.Ralph Raico, Classical Liberalism and the Austrian School, page 193.
Economic Thought Before Adam Smith, page 386.
Butler Shaffer, In Restraint of Trade, page 22.