What is do you think the state is for?

“The state is the great fiction by which everybody tries to live at the expense of everybody else.” Frederic Bastiat


One response to “What is do you think the state is for?

  1. What is the state for?

    Guaranteeing everyone a comfortable, long, and fulfilling life — what else? :)

    But seriously, tough question. The state is nothing more than the instrument through which society acts collectively. Thus, the purpose of the state is to take whatever action that society desires to take, bounded of course by respect for the rights of the individual that comprise the society.

    At a minimum, the state must provide the coercion necessary for people to exist together as a society (enforcing the criminal laws, providing for the common defense, and maintaining the systems of societal decisionmaking and dispute resolution, i.e. politics and courts). Above and beyond that, it becomes a normative question. I’ll give you my own hastily considered opinion.

    I think there are two categories of state action: (1) things that only the state can do, and (2) things that the private sector could do but is not doing (i.e. things that the state steps in and does because of private inaction). The state should do the first type of things (assuming they are desirable) and should step in and do the second (again, assuming they are desirable) to the extent that the private sector refuses to undertake them.

    What types of things do I think are desirable that fit within the above two categories? I think that the state should (1) facilitate economic transactions by providing and maintaining the necessary infrastructure, (2) provide a system of free education that prepares individuals to contribute to their communities and earn a good living, (3) ensure equal opportunity for economic and social advancement for its citizens, and (4) provide a limited safety net for those that society will not adequately care for on its own.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts. Feel free to critique!

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