By Javier Paz García
Image credit: Liberty.org
Many assume that the state puts the common good before private interests and that therefore the state is benevolent and that by contrast the private sector is selfish and malevolent. Collectivist ideologies are nothing more than the apotheosis of this notion, which, taken to the extreme, leads to the proposition of total control by the State of property, the means of production, the sciences and even thought and religion.
This idea of the state presupposes state officials who are morally superior to the rest of the population; it presupposes persons who are honest and disinterested in that which is not “the common good”; it also presupposes intellectually superior officials capable of guiding the nation towards glorious destinies; it presupposes a certain consensus on what “the common good” means and how to achieve it.
This is not the case in reality. The state apparatus is composed of ordinary people, with similar ambitions and aspirations as the rest of the population. A tax college teacher is no more noble, nor more intelligent to work for the state, than a teacher who works in a private school. A deputy or a minister thinks as much in his pocket as a private businessman does. A private entrepreneur may be just as interested in charitable work and economic development as a career politician.
The state apparatus is not exempt from power struggles and the state in practice is a great generator of particular interests, of monopolies, of actions that consider everything but “the common good”. The fact that state officials handle money that does not belong to them and that does not cost them, causes many decisions to be taken irresponsibly and also generates corruption and pillage. In fact, it is not uncommon for mediocre, donkeys and rogues to be successful politicians.
In this scenario, the solution of those who have this idyllic notion of the State is to change officials and give more power to the State. They believe that the State is good but that the officials are bad and that therefore the solution to redirect the State is to take out the bad ones and put in the good ones. But those who enter are still as human as the previous ones, with their own personal aspirations. And this generates a vicious circle where, faced with the failure of the State, the solution is to give more power to the State, producing more and more authoritarian governments.
This idyllic vision of the State is harmful because it prevents us from making an accurate diagnosis of the problems of the State and therefore does not allow us to propose adequate solutions to those problems. This vision is dangerous because it can lead us to give too much power to the State, leading to totalitarianism.
A realistic vision of the State must not have unrealistic premises. It should not be based on utopias where everyone is good, wise, generous and honest, but in the real world, where every human being has vices and virtues. The State must be built thinking that it will be managed by imperfect beings, full of personal appetites. To ignore this reality is to condemn the State and society to failure.
This article was published by Libertad.org on October 14th, 2019. Reproduced on Political Hispanic with authorization from said source. Translated by Political Hispanic.
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