Fierce critic of organized stupidity, deliberate ignorance, empowered self-righteousness, empty education, the State as God
The world deserves restored access to the words of its most brilliant exponent of individual rights and responsibilities, its fiercest social critic, and the State’s most incisive antagonist. This site was conceived to conserve and impart Nock’s writing and wisdom to the curious.
His biography is readily available on line and this site will not rush to repeat it. What matters is not when and where he lived and died — (OK, 1870 to 1945) — but what he wrote and thought. Albert Jay Nock was an editor and author of many articles in well-read journals of his time. He is best known, though, for two of his enduring books, Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, and Our Enemy the State. (See By Nock at this site for a helpful list.)
Besides the idea that an individual person could be superfluous, and along with many other original notions, Nock also contributed three more fundamental ideas to American — indeed, worldwide — social and political thought:
- He defined the State as a monster distinguishable from government.
- He made a clear distinction between education and job training.
- He defined Isaiah’s job, giving the thinking person a reprieve from the burden of educating the world.
These several concepts — that a person can be superfluous, that the State is a parasite distinct from government, what it means to be educated, and Isaiah’s job — are described more fully elsewhere on this site.
This web site consists of a wide sampling from Nock’s writing, some comparable ideas from other writers, some application of individualist principles to current events, some observations about the antics of those with coercive and other collectivist tendencies, and whatever we happen to add so that it all might make sense to a thinking person.
An inquiring, thinking person was his target in that Nock did not presume to write a thesis on each topic or pose as a philosopher. In fact he dubbed himself a philosophical anarchist and cultivated as detached a philosophical objectivity as a human mind can achieve. He did not reckon himself an authority on government or an expert on law. (Law needs experts only after it has become so egregiously obfuscated by mystical inscrutability that the people for whom it was written need high priests to interpret it. Or to quote an old joke: If it weren’t for lawyers, my boy, we wouldn’t need lawyers.)
Nock was an observer of what he called invincible ignorance. (In words of his own he presaged the adage: Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.) With a command of languages and rare gift for eloquence he wrote about that which he observed. Especially where common beliefs and habits had no discernible underpinning, and especially where stupidity paraded itself in pompous splendor, he merely pointed it out and gave his readers something to cogitate about. And having once thought about it, his readers could never view the same thing again without seeing its naked weakness.
Jim Powell, then a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, provided FEE with an in-depth biographical essay on Nock. Independent Institute provides a summary of Nock’s thought at this web page.
Nock opened my eyes. Using his own words as much as possible, I hope his ideals continue to reach people newly questioning the arrogance of ignorance and those newly awakening to inner peace in clear thinking and objectivity. That is what this site is about.
=David A. Woodbury= discovered Nock in 1970
Ownership and Purpose
This web site, AlbertJayNock.org, is maintained by private U.S. citizens at their own expense for the purpose of sharing the insight and ideals advanced by the site’s namesake, Albert Jay Nock.
The little that it costs to maintain this site is borne by its owners. We are not sponsored or supported by any other company or organization. We do not sell memberships or charge for premium content, we do not sell merchandise, and we do not solicit donations (although we may accept contributions to the site’s actual costs or improvements, if offered).*
We do provide many links to sites where written works by Nock or other authors may be purchased but we stand to gain nothing by pointing you to those resources. There is one exception to this, and that is that this site’s organizer, David A. Woodbury, is an author in his own right. There are links here to DamnYankee.com, which publishes his works and which cooperates to publish this site as well.
We sometimes post excerpts of books and links to, excerpts from, or whole articles written by others. In fact, if you see anything useful on here at all, we’re probably just paraphrasing or passing on the work of someone smarter. If you, as a copyright holder, feel we have violated or infringed on your copyright, please email us, and we will take down the link or modify the article in question. (email: email@example.com)
Any content original to this web site and not belonging to another copyright holder may be quoted in part or in whole provided that it is done in such a way as does not change its meaning, that the author of the quoted words is credited if known, and that the site name (AlbertJayNock.org) or a page link is appended to the quote.
The content of this web site represents only the opinions of the person or people to whom any particular piece is attributed. The content herein is intended solely for the enlightenment, and to some degree, the entertainment, of the reader.
Nothing in these pages should be construed as encouraging a reader to commit any act bringing harm to another person including by violence, ridicule, harassment, libel, or slander. Infringing on the character, person, or property of another is in opposition to the ideals of individualism that Albert Jay Nock espoused.
A person in a position to wield political, economic, or military power, however, may be derided in these pages when that power has been or is being used to restrict the respectfully-exercised freedom of others, to stymie anyone’s free association with individuals of one’s choosing, or to coerce others to perform actions which run against their own non-intrusive principles.
You may make comments on certain articles that you see here and you may email us with your thoughts or ideas. This web site is a private space, not a public street corner, so your comments, while welcome, are subject to our standards for appropriateness to the subject at hand, decency, and respect for others. If you have made a comment that you later want to modify or remove, please email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
By choosing to access, link to, or use this web site you accept our assurance that we have not, do not, and will not distribute or sell any information you give us about yourself. To the extent that we retain your personal data, probably nothing more than your name and contact information, it will mainly allow us to reach you in the event that someone asks to get in touch with you regarding a comment you made. We will not pass contact information from one person to another on our list but will tell you that someone has asked to reach you and let you decide how to respond.
Many honorable, secular organizations exist to promote liberty, limited government, personal responsibility, free markets, harmony among nations, and honesty in education. Each has a primary focus in one of these areas. Some organizations do believe that the U.S. Constitution confers onto the federal government certain collectivist powers. We may not agree but may still hold those organizations in high esteem. Some deserving organizations are laser-focused on the strictest individualism and may promote civil disobedience. We may index organizations with either focus, however this list is intended to include organizations that are more educational than activist.
As we learn of different organizations’ existence and are able to verify the sincerity of each one’s principles we will add them, with links, to the following Other Resources. Single-issue organizations, for instance the National Rifle Association, some groups chiefly backing one or another political party, and groups heavily promoting a religious theme, while honorable and laudable, are worthy of a different kind of list, which we will not attempt to offer here.
Cato Institute — The Daily Signal — Foundation for Economic Education — The Fund for American Studies — The Heritage Foundation — Hoover Institution — Independent Institute — Judicial Watch — Libertarianism.org
*The Nockian Society was founded with no officers, no dues, no meetings. This was not a joke. It was conceived to acknowledge that Nock has his fellow travelers but he would not subject them to the torture of organizationalism. Wander in, gawk, study, converse, contribute, and take away what inspires you. In time, you may identify yourself as part of the Remnant (see Isaiah’s Job).