Incentives have a heavy bearing on all the topics I discuss on this blog, the most obvious consequence being of course propaganda. Now, I don’t think that propaganda is an exclusivity of the state by far. For instance, most advertisements can be counted as propaganda without controversy- I’m quite aware of that fact. But these advertisements do not overly concern me. As Aaron Kinney pointed out in a past comment, there will always be some rival company or some activist organization ready to oppose any given piece of private propaganda. I am mostly concerned with the fantastic cage created by collectivist belief systems, which perforce remains unopposed.
Statist propaganda has existed for as long as statism has existed. The substance of that propaganda, however, has drastically changed. During Antiquity and the Middle Ages, the power of religion, coupled with the drastic lack of legitimacy of monarchic systems, meant that a monarch pretty much depended on religious propaganda in order to maintain his power. With the fall of religion in the Western world and the rise of democracy as a replacement, the state now depends heavily on democratic propaganda. The relativism of democracy, therefore, has become the new religion of the modern nation-states.
To understand why and how propaganda exists, we need to go back to the basics (you can skip this part if you are already familiar with market anarchy). The state always seeks to maintain and expand its power, simply because politicians want to be elected and stay elected. The best way to get elected is to maintain and expand the power of the state. People support the expansion of the state because they believe that the state is a permanent fixture of society and seek to capture as much of its power to fulfill their own values instead of other people’s values. The latter must obtain because the state, by definition, imposes a monopolizing value system on the whole of society. We call this democratic struggle “social warfare”.
In order to keep expanding, the state has to constantly maintain the shared delusion that the state is morally justified, through propaganda. A lack of propaganda would have disastrous consequences, as belief in the state is unnatural and failure to maintain it would entail its eventual fall (as much as a lack of religious indoctrination would free the next generation). One may note that even with all its propaganda, the state has failed in maintaining the credibility of its politicians.
The state is able to deploy propaganda gradually, through either taking over, or exerting direct or indirect control over, all social institutions. It is able to take over or control social institutions because of its monopolizing law and capacity to wield taxed resources.
In short, propaganda is both needed and possible on a grand scale because of the state’s monopolizing law. Corporate propaganda, in contrast, exists to sell products, and is limited by the potential demand for a product that can be reached by a campaign. Corporate legitimacy in general is only threatened by statist “corporate responsibility” propaganda- without the state, corporations as a whole would not need to defend their legitimacy, because said legitimacy is pretty obvious: they sell products that people buy.
Incentives also have an influence on popular morality. A longstanding regimen of democratic and cultural supremacist propaganda have changed morality to the point that relativism rules the day. Democratic propaganda tries to inculcate the premises that everyone’s opinion is equally valid and tenable (otherwise the belief in voting would be unjustifiable) and that one must impose his opinion on others (low voting rates lowers legitimacy). Cultural supremacism only enforces the “equally valid” premise on a grand scale, putting slavery and murder on the same pedestal as wearing baggy pants or showing cleavage.
The end result is the erosion of people’s moral compass, confusion, internal struggle. The strong-willed attitude of free people is lost in social warfare and the need to conciliate that warfare with the necessity of getting along in daily life. Because of this, the state needs to promote “tolerence” as a way to solve the problem that its own existence created.