(Originally published at Mises UK)
The state is the embodiment of collective irresponsibility and, for this reason, it incentivises its own growth. Having to maintain a good reputation in a community can be hard work; but, we live in a time of declining birth rates and a growing nanny state – our communities are all but dead as the growth of the state presents an increasingly hostile environment for them. The following anecdote will help illustrate:
Very recently, someone had her Nursery School business ranked inadequate by the UK government childcare regulator, Ofsted, for the simple fact that the staff was not preparing reports to prevent the radicalisation of these 1-3 year olds. It beggars belief that I should have to point out that the business caters to mostly middle class white folks of Western and Eastern European backgrounds (not what you would call a high terror threat area), especially when this lady’s business has been described as an institution to the local community many times in the decades since it was first established.
Nevertheless, because this lady finds using the internet a nightmare (and we all know how user-friendly local council websites and networks are), and because nothing is sent to her via post anymore (to save the whales and all that), she was unaware of this government regulation designed to prevent toddlers from becoming suicide bombers or white supremacists! She was planning to retire soon, yet the state, with this slap in her face, seems completely out of touch with the community she has provided a service to.
So, the questions naturally arise: How did we get to the point where businesses of good faith count for nothing? How did we reach the stage where the state can declare pillars of the community inadequate over bureaucratic minutiae? More importantly, why do the masses automatically look to the state to fix these local issues when it is the state that is creating an inhospitable environment for the very communities we sorely lack?
Once the state gets its foot in the door, that’s it – game over! Give it the proverbial inch and it will eventually become a handsomely paid middleman for every conceivable human interaction. Many will say this is a good thing; even those readers who fancy themselves ‘conservatives’. But all this does is incentivise the abdication of responsibility: if the state will take the blame, pick up the pieces, protect me etc., what need have I for a good reputation with my neighbours, my local contacts, customers…etc.?
This is the downward spiral of Western civilization. Since Luther’s irresponsibility to spiritual authority was seized upon by various Northern European plutocrats, the state emerged to monopolise and centralise systems of control over the people – national churches, national currencies etc. etc. Hobbes’ Leviathan – above the law, dictator of the law and, thus, chiefly irresponsible – reared its monstrous head, only to grow to Godzilla-like proportions of societal destruction. Various liberalising European movements, whilst rightly demanding greater freedom for the people, nevertheless looked to Leviathan to provide it and so began the separation of the folk from every existing community institution and their replacement with a new god. ‘Greater freedom’ amounted to no more than greater irresponsibility from group expectations in one’s local community. Now, the state is the only platform through which anyone can do and, increasingly, think anything.
The problem is, being so far removed from real, rational, personable, human interaction, the state simply seeks to impose more regulations on our interactions in order to avoid having to take responsibility itself for certain failings. ‘What a litigious society we live in’ – well, we have made the state the all-father and, like father, like son, our only motivation in an irresponsible society is to cover our arses. The simple reason being, the state is no more than the manifestation of collective irresponsibility – everyone passing the buck to everyone else, collectively, so that no one might take the blame, except for those circumstances where a scapegoat is needed to quash any troublesome matter which requires the public to think. It is our refusal to take individual responsibility for our actions and for the safety and stability of our communities that has created the power-vacuum now filled with a torrent of state regulations. Only strong, healthy communities can take the power back for our own good.
Yet, it isn’t just leftists who feed the monster; they are not alone in their general desire for the state to use its irresponsibility to interfere in another’s private affairs for selfish ends. So-called “conservatives” have long-forgotten the belief that communities, built from the bottom-up, are the answer to our many social woes. They too think that the state can impose some top-down solution to incentivise greater social cohesion but all this does is store up greater state power for the day when dissent against the Leviathan results in family members going missing in the night. In short, they believe they can wield the One Ring of Power and not vice versa.
If you think this is an exaggeration, just look at how those countries which have emerged from the dreadful ashes of the Soviet Union have sought to reinvigorate those institutions and communities which sought to limit state power. This battle for social stability is very real and you must pick a side – individual responsibility or collective irresponsibility. Instead of burying one’s head in the sand and imagining a Marxist utopia, on the one hand, or an equally illusory state which encourages communities full of highly responsible individuals, on the other, start taking greater responsibility in your local area and demanding it of others.