I wouldn't normally post these type of things because they are not entirely related with the purpose of the blog, however, I did this essay a few months ago for my philosophy class and felt quite proud of it. Here it is!
What is the role of the state?
“A man is born free, but everywhere lives in chains”. Theoretically, it would be great if we could break free from these chains but, would this benefit the human race? Could we trust individuals to do the best for others and not only think of themselves? I very much agree with Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s quote but disagree with his argument. I think that some “chains” are necessary and that, without these, the world would be total chaos. Although finding the perfect political system is an almost impossible task, I think that the average democratic political system is better than nothing and that, as John Locke said, “where law ends, tyranny begins”.
I believe that without any social organisation whatsoever the world would be much more vulnerable. Vulnerable and exposed to psychopaths, tyrants, frauds, extremists etc... People tend to place each other before others and, without any law enforcement, people would fear nothing and would do anything for their own benefit. It is sad, but I think that some democratic political systems are often based on the fear people have of the consequences that breaking the law entails (e.g;prison).
When talking about the ROLE of the state, I think it should be based on an utilitarian way of thinking. For example, many people think that communism should be the system used by governments, that the right system to follow is the one where everybody is equal, however, I believe that inequality is justified when, and only if, a vast majority benefits. So lets put the example of ZARA, the owner of this company is obviously much more wealthy than any other worker in the company. BUT, by founding the company, he created lots of jobs and therefore his “wealth inequality” is justified by the vast number of jobs he creates.
Here, the inequality is justified because everyone benefits
As I see it, communism could only exist in an environment where everyone was altruistic and, like it or not, humans tend to be selfish and place themselves before others. History has shown that the original concept of communism has repeatedly been twisted and adapted by leaders to their own personal and economic gain. Take China for example. According to Bloomberg Business Week, “The richest 70 members of China’s legislature added more to their wealth last year than the combined net worth of all 535 members of the U.S. Congress, the president, his cabinet, and the entire Supreme Court”. So unfortunately the success of potentially altruistic political ideas ultimately depends on the will of human beings, who by nature are not altruistic. It is sad, but most humans place their own needs before other’s, and people have to acknowledge and accept that.
When coming back to Rousseau’s idea of the chains, another question can be raised... What chains are up to the individual and what chains are up to the state? Should the state for example right to decide when to die? Should the state decide the number of children you are allowed to have? Now this, is where the questions start getting complicated. In this case, I return to the utilitarian way of thinking, the state should not think of the happiness of each individual, but of the general happiness. If the population is growing and there is a risk of suffering from famine, why is it bad for the state to limit the amount of births? This can be seen in the case of china with the anti natalist policy, very criticized because of the government limiting something that people saw as “their right”. But if by doing this, they can find a way to prevent famine and increase the standard of living why is this bad? If by reducing each individual’s happiness they create a general happiness where everybody can have a good standard of living this is, in my opinion, more than justified. Perhaps China is not a very good example because of their unfair and dictactorial political system, but what Im trying to underline are the possible advantages of limiting personal freedom in favour of the collective good.
“If I were a dictator, religion and state would be separate. I swear by my religion. I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The state has nothing to do with it. The state would look after your secular welfare, health, communications, foreign relations, currency and so on, but not your or my religion. That is everybody's personal concern!” . Ghandi, as I see it, meant that religion is a matter that is up to the individual but, is this right for every case or only to a certain extent? Did Ghandi mean that people should let the radical islamic people stone women to death just because of having an affair? Did he mean that, every “religious” act can be justified and therefore not punished by saying that it is what their religion states? So lets imagine that I create a new religion that says that it is good to attack people with blond hair. Does this then mean, that the state and therefore the police can do nothing to me? Does this then mean that because it is my religion, it is a personal affair? I am sorry but I disagree with this. A personal affair stops being a personal affair when it affects people around you, and this is why religion,
although it is up to each individual, has to have a bit of state control over it.
In conclusion, I think that the state should work on the basis of trying to make everyone as happy and as comfortable as possible. It is a very difficult task because every human has a different idea of happiness, but it is what the state should at least TRY. Although people tend to criticise the role of the state in human society, they have to realise that it is not at all an easy job to create a set of rules and norms that satisfy the whole population. It is naïve to think that it is possible for all members of society to live together and expect to have no problems whatsoever.