Statism is the official religion of the most countries in the modern world. The statist priesthood is comprised of accountants, lawyers, bureaucrats, cops, soldiers, etc. These statist priests have vastly more power than any non-stastist priest, at least In theory.
The theology of statism has an unusual amount of logical contradiction built into it. Most religions are based on some sort of moral equivalence principle like the golden rule. There are many non-theological ways of stating this principle also: Monkey see, monkey do. What goes around comes around. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.
The founding document of the US statist movement is the declaration of independence which is largely based on the moral equivalence principle of all men are created equal. Of course this statement is offensive to women. That has probably made relations between the sexes more difficult in this country. All organisms are equal is a more inclusive phrasing, but then I expect a lot of women would maintain that all organisms are not equal.
Personally, I approve of equal rights for all to the degree possible. All people should be evaluated by the same criteria, and I define people as broadly possible, including intelligent machines.
I find it to be interesting to rate institutions on a libertarian/authoritarian scale. One candidate for the most libertarian form of social organization might be a bar. Getting drunk and loosing you inhibitions is the purpose of a bar. What could be more libertarian than that.
On the other hand, one often hears the phrase: bar fight. A place with a high incidence of violence would hardly seem to be a libertarian bastion. Libertarians frown on the initiation of force. Does that mean they must also frown on the use of alcohol because its use relaxes inhibitions against the use of force and fraud. Knowing that a bar is somewhat dangerous, are patrons more reluctant to start trouble?
A restaurant that doesn't serve booze, might be a candidate for the most libertarian institution. They don't allow drinking, but then there are fewer problems dealing with belligerent drunks.
Among restaurants, the fast food variety might be more libertarian than the traditional type because you have to spend less time waiting.
But you have to spend even less time waiting in a grocery store. Some groceries even have tables where you can sit and eat.
One might think that the Christian church would be high on the scale of libertarian institutions, but perhaps not because of the time you spend waiting. In order to get to the part of the service you find rewarding, you need to wait through the boring parts. I like the singing, but I don't care for the chit-chat. You are expected to obey church officials during the entire ceremony. The tell you when to stand up, when to sit down, and you are usually not expected to talk. That's not an extremely libertarian format.
The web is a very libertarian place. You spend less and less time waiting. You can say what you want listen to what you want.
It is supremely ironic that the web was designed and implemented by the government. One of the first applications of the web was email. Email is electronic memos with a subject, a date, a sender, recipients, and even routing information. In other words a fairly structured and bureaucratic system.
But then we got the web. At first is was just black and white text, but it didn't take long for moving pictures and talkies to appear.
The web is a lot less structured than email. The web gives you the ability to be anonymous. If the designer of a web site doesn't know who you are, then there is no way for her to discriminate against you based on your identity. Many web sites require you to disclose an identity to receive services, but then you can have as many identities as you have email addresses, and email addresses are free.
Government is at the authoritarian end of the egalitarian/authoritarian spectrum. In theory, that makes it the most powerful institution in a country, but that might not really be true depending on how you define power.
Political power boils down to the ability to command. A powerful person has the ability to say things that are then put into practice by those who listen.
I think there is a strong case to be made that statist are not really the most powerful people in our society, they are the least powerful, at least when you use the above definition.
If someone points a gun at you, you are likely to do what they say, but what about when they go away, usually with your money, time or possessions. I think most people just try to figure out how they can not take as large a loss on the next transaction, which in a lot of cases involves attempts to take back the government. But that kind of political activism just strengthens the coercive state and gives it more justification for its coercive and deceptive policies. Tax avoidance is more effective at controlling the size of government than tax resistance.
On the other hand, someone that people respect and love can influence people in a more permanent way. They are likely to do as that person suggests long after he has made the suggestion.
The state has a lot of licenses to commit coercive actions. There is a lot of competition for those licenses. It seems likely that that competition is more based on graft and corruption possibilities than a love of adrenaline. How else can we explain the fact that a group of people are willing to spend a billion dollars to secure the US Presidency that nominally pays only in the low hundred thousands per year. The state has a lot of these licenses to hand out. In the words of a famous Governor, they are golden and not to be traded lightly.
It seems to be coming down to the governments vs. flash mobs, and there is a good case to be made that flash mobs are winning. They are not winning all the time, but they are winning some of the time, and perhaps most of the time. The Arab spring provides some good examples of the effectiveness of egalitarian forms of social organization, and I expect well see a lot more of that in the summer of 2012.
Government propaganda efforts are being effectively countered by egalitarian groups. The Kony affair is one recent example.
It could be that we are about to witness the fall of authoritarianism as the dominate principle of social organization on planet earth.
Freedom works. Coercion is counterproductive.