In terms of objections to certain forms of government and political theory, one argument that I find too often is this notion that “the state” is always a force of evil. This is of course the territory of libertarians and minarchists, who argue that any political body that holds power in a nation is a negative force, so therefore the state should be restricted to having as few responsibilities as is possible for a country to be maintained. This argument goes hand in hand with the concept of free markets, as the conception is generally that the state spends money badly, taxation is robbery and that individual freedom is based solely around how much autonomy one has with regards to one’s own hard-earned money.
The issue with this objection to the state is that the proponents of this argument aren’t taking the state as an objective concept, but rather they are using an establishment government of a particular political persuasion that they dislike as a rule for what the state represents. For instance, the libertarian movement in America gained ground during the tenure of Barack Obama, but mostly because they objected to what Obama was doing with the state’s power, not as an objection to the power in itself. The same can be said in Europe in the post-war period, when free-marketeers like Margaret Thatcher came to power as an antidote to years of stagnation under ‘big state’ socialist parties.
However, the fact that the political party of the day happens to be using the power of the state for purposes which you disagree at the time is not a valid argument against the state as a concept. The majority of people who take these positions would have a more favourable view of state power if that power was used to achieve ends that they approved of. In any case, Europe in socio-political terms has a culture and tradition of a reasonably powerful state, so libertarian views tend to be of a minority. Having said that, in recent years many have seen libertarianism as an antidote to what the present European establishment governments are doing, as it is often seen to be against the will of the majority.
The fact is, we have state power to thank for a lot of the freedoms that we enjoy today, even in spite of what the current establishment parties are doing with this power. This view is particularly enhanced when one considers freedom as a deeper notion than simply the freedom to spend one’s money how they see fit. Take for instance the concept of socialised health care. Yes, your freedom is restricted if you consider deciding which vulture capitalist health providers to hand over all your money too before a brief stay in hospital, but if you take a more common sense and compassionate view that your own people deserve freedom from the worry of financial burdens caused by ill-health, then the European-style universal healthcare system offers much more freedom than the markets.
Just to labour this point somewhat, it is estimated that between 20,000 and 45,000 deaths occur each year in the United States of America as a result of people not having adequate health insurance and consequently being unable to afford crucial treatment. Do you know how many people die each year in England as a result of the same issue? None. Not a single one. This is thanks to the universal healthcare system we’ve had in place since 1946, the National Health Service, that was introduced by the then Labour Party government. They used the power of the state to pull the nation together and introduce an ethos of everybody contributing for the good health of one another, not just each individual getting the best premium for themselves at the expense of those in need.
That is just one example. But across the board, there are points throughout history whereby the power of the state has achieved goals that would be otherwise insurmountable had the issues simply been left to market forces to work out.
A more contemporary example – given that the British government is attempting to sell off the National Health Service at the present time – is the energy sector. In the United Kingdom, where the Conservative and liberal governments have paid only lip service to the concept of market regulation, the “big 6” energy firms who hold a monopoly on the provision of energy, make over £110 profit per household every year. This has given rise to a situation in which many elderly people on smaller pensions have to choose during the winter months between a warm meal and a warm home. Contrast this with the Hungarian energy market for example, which is largely state owned, where the energy is the cheapest in the whole of the European Union. No such inhumane choices face the elderly residents of Hungary. That is just another example where the state has used its power to achieve common sense aims.
Its not just economic terms in which the state and state power can achieve good things. It is often necessary to use the state to shape the cultural life of a nation towards a more healthy situation. Margret Thacther, the famous anti-statist Prime Minister of Britain, once declared that there was no such thing as society. The result of this attitude was the creation of a large underclass in the UK, devoid of culture, intelligence or any hope of changing their financial situation. Contrast this with some of the most cultured peoples of Europe of the most culturally pertinent times, such as Germany under the National Socialists and East Germany – and I make no apologies for deliberately including a socialist regime – again under the GDR, along with post-war France under the famous statist Charles de Gaulle, and Italy under Mussolini’s fascists; all nations living during these periods under advocates of a large state model, often an authoritarian state model, who produced some of the world’s most renowned works of art, classical music, architecture, literature, sports men and women and so on.
Of course, one could argue that many of these regimes deprived their people of freedom. Yes, sadly they didn’t have the freedom to purchase Big Macs by the bucket-load or consume culturally deficient B-list Hollywood films, so they had to amuse themselves with other things instead.
The point is, you cannot judge the concept of the state by your experiences of the current establishment. I appeal specifically to those of nationalistic tendencies when I say that realistically, you won’t achieve even a fraction of what you wish to without a strong state. The problems that we face, particularly in Europe, are both social and economic and there is no way that the free market can solve them. The “state”-endorsed multicultural societies that have been forced upon us will not simply dissipate if we let the market run wild. It took state power to create abominations of society such as this, therefore it will take even more state power to reverse them.
Similarly, you will not help the poor either socially or economically by rolling back the power of the state and unleashing the markets. What these large sections of society that have become known as the underclass really need is a state that will make them the priority, using its power to lift them to a position of economic freedom and a higher cultural consciousness. It does not need a free market that tells the poor that the highest point of aspiration they should have is fast food and a large flat-screen television. It does not need a free market that encourages the mindless consumption of socially degenerate motion pictures and black gang-inspired rap music.
Unless of course you too believe that this is what the achievements of mankind should culminate in. If this is your view, then of course your libertarian ideals are the way to achieve this. If this is the case, then we may as well all give up now and spiral into a path of self-destructive nihilism. If, however, you believe there are higher attainments to aspire to, then you must come to see that there is a big difference between the current establishment that you dislike, and the general concept of ‘the state’. Stop complaining about how the state is working against your interests and instead, work out how you can come to wield the power of the state to achieve your own circumstances which you believe society should work within.