The myth of a smaller state.

Right wing libertarians, Tories and the more free-market oriented Lib Dems make me laugh every time they say they want to make the state ‘smaller’; how they want the state to interfere less in the lives of people and how they want to devolve power to the individual. The thing is, they don’t have the guts to dismantle the state.  They are, after all, part of the state. They are statists but they are dishonest about their love for the state. They accept salaries from the state and without the state, they wouldn’t have jobs. There is an obvious cognitive dissonance here.

A smaller state, in the mind of the anarcho-capitalists, Objectivists and other libertarian types,  means no welfare, no public services and so on and would also suggest an explicitly socially Darwinian approach to life that is supported by a hyper-capitalist system in which libertarians are free to exploit others and pollute the planet.  So if you don’t have the money, it’s kind of tough…this is natural selection! If Thatcher’s deregulation of the nationalised industries produced capital flight and the wholesale destruction of Britain’s industrial base, think what a libertarian world might look like.

But a smaller state should also include the wholesale excision of the  other parts of the state, leaving only those parts that Althusser referred to as the “Repressive State Apparatus”. In other words, the police or the military. Yet they’re part of the state and they take up a lot of the state’s budget. Odd how you never hear these soi-disant libertarians (with the possible exception of the Randists and others) talk about reducing war spending – let’s face it, it isn’t defence that we’re talking about here, it’s the capacity for war-making – the very thing that drives the consumer economy and vice versa.

You can’t talk about wanting a smaller state when you take your salary from it. Who is going to pay for you to sit in the Commons? Sandline? Glaxo-SmithKlein? Diageo? Nor can you claim to want a smaller state when you ring fence certain functions of the state like the military or by keeping Trident. Those who call for a smaller state only want to create a system where those who have money can continue to enslave those who don’t have money.

In the States, some right-wing  libertarians talk about wanting a “smaller government” when they actually mean a smaller state. I don’t think the likes of Republicans Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich are anarchists but, at the same time, they aren’t clear in their thinking either: do they really understand what it is they’re actually saying or do they just churn out this rhetoric in order to woo voters over to their ‘vision” of a world where everyone is materially wealthy? You can’t have smaller government, what would those elected politicians do? Sit around playing Mah Jong or strip poker? What would the president do? Play golf all day? The point of electing someone to office is for them to either serve in a government or form the opposition to the elected government. No government means anarchism, is this really what they want? Or is it really the case that their obsession with trickle down economics leads them to use the cover of ‘smaller government’ to justify their wealth-making activities and their continued exploitation of those below them?

I guess there’s an upside to this if you’re one of those ‘self-help gurus’ or ‘motivational speakers’: there will plenty of people practically killing themselves to hand over heir hard-earned wedge to sign up to their empty promise of “I did it and so can you”.  Money for old rope.

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Filed under Conservative Party, Government & politics, Ideologies

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