In this series on the "well regulated" economy, let me be clear that there is no small degree of sarcasm involved in what I mean by "well regulated". What I mean by "well regulated" is an economy that's pretty much completely controlled, where the government "protects" employees from employers, "protects" consumers from producers, "protects" the poor from the rich, "protects" the rich from the poor, and, most importantly, "protects" all of us from ourselves. For the "well regulated" economy, the government is essentially one giant protection racket.
The fundamental force that enables both protection rackets and governments to impose their will is violence. The German philosopher Max Weber "defined the state as an entity which successfully claims a 'monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.'" The main difference between government and organized crime in that definition is the word "legitimate," and the degree of legitimacy depends on the degree to which the citizens "voluntarily" comply with government legislation, where "voluntarily" means they would comply even if there were no penalties for not doing so.
In order for a government to be violent, it has to have the will to be violent, which in turn means that its capacity for violence needs to be fulfilled by people willing to order and commit violent acts. The more "well regulated" an economy and the less "voluntary" the compliance of the citizens, subjects, or serfs, the greater the capacity for government violence is required.
One of the most "well regulated" economies the world has ever seen was the Soviet Union. Not surprisingly, one of the most totalitarian, ruthless, and violent governments the world has ever seen was also the Soviet Union during the same time period.
Stalin pulls all of the concepts above into one nasty package. Before he was chief thug of the Soviet Union and responsible for the deaths of at least 20 million people, he was the chief thug of an organized crime group. Via Stephen Hicks, we have the fascinating story of a major bank robbery orchestrated by Stalin:
[O]ne of its most swashbuckling leaders, Josef Djugashvili - better known as Stalin - was about to pull off a dazzling heist. [...]
The carriages were transporting an enormous sum of money - as much as one million roubles (£7 million) - to the new State Bank. [...]
Stalin knew it would require great daring to pull of such a coup. He also knew he’d need a dependable gang of fellow criminals to help. These were easy to find in Tiflis: Stalin had already been involved in previous robberies and had a trusty band of individuals who could be relied upon.
The robbery was meticulously planned. [...]
The carriages swung into the square exactly as expected. One of the gangsters slowly lowered his rolled newspaper, the signal for the attack to begin. Seconds later, there was a blinding flash and deafening roar as Stalin’s band hurled their hand grenades towards the horses.
The unfortunate animals were torn to pieces. So, too, were the policeman and soldiers. In a matter of seconds, the peaceful square was turned into a scene of carnage. The cobbles were splattered with blood, entrails and human limbs.
As the gangsters ran towards the carriages, one of the horses - maimed but not killed - reared up and began dragging the money-bearing cavalcade across the square. He picked up speed and there was a real danger he would get away.
One of Stalin's men chased after the horse and frantically hurled another grenade under its belly. It exploded beneath the animal, with devastating effect. The horse was blown apart and the carriages were brought to a definitive halt.
Before anyone in the square could make sense of what was happening, Stalin’s most faithful accomplice - a bandit named Captain Kamo - rode into the square. The gangsters hurled the banknotes into his carriage and then Kamo rode off at high speed.
The carnage caused by the attack was spectacular. Some 40 people were killed by the grenades and gunfire and a further 50 wounded. Amazingly, none of the gangsters was killed.
Lives and pain clearly meant nothing to Stalin. With the bank robbery he proved beyond a shadow of doubt that he had both the ruthlessness and capacity for violence for both organized crime and government.
And with that capacity for violence we can see where the "well regulated" economy begins.