• NOS4A2
    4.6k
    Political debates nowadays lay bare an obsequious human tendency towards statism. No matter what politician or party we vote for, the belief that a select coterie of fallible human beings should operate an all-powerful institution to meddle in the lives of everyone else is paramount, not only in those who seek to lead but also in those who seek to be led. Whenever I flirt with anarchism or throw shade at the government, for example, someone always brings up roads and bridges and how a state is necessary for infrastructure, the implication being that only man in his statist form can flatten ground and lay asphalt.

    Statism takes a variety of poses. My own is of the minimal, “night watchmen” variety. Others prefer the state to intervene in nearly every facet of life, if not to nominally determine and protect our rights, than to provide the most basic necessities and securities, to direct our trade and industry, to educate, to house, to regulate our lives as if it were a parent and we it’s unweaned children. I fear the latter end of the spectrum because it approaches a degree of statism expressed in fascism and made concrete by a variety of totalitarian regimes.

    At any rate, no matter the degree of statism, I hold that statism reigns in political thought, threading itself through most political ideologies, save for the ones that explicitly call for its abolition.

    As a corollary, anti-statism, too, follows this thread, albeit at a much smaller in gauge. We can find anti-statist sentiment among socialists, progressives, libertarians, liberals and conservatives.

    I wanted to open this space to discuss the general topic of statism and its varieties, its meaning, whether it is the prevailing ideology (perhaps in the Althusserian sense), the pros and cons of such a belief, etc.
  • bert1
    792
    No matter what politician or party we vote for, the belief that a select coterie of fallible human beings should operate an all-powerful institution to meddle in the lives of everyone else is paramount, not only in those who seek to lead but also in those who seek to be led.NOS4A2

    A healthy state is not all powerful. Or even a half-healthy state. High taxation in a democracy generally goes with high accountability of the state to the population. Human Rights are a huge step forward in the protection of citizens. And only democratic states can reliably act for the common good. I am in favour of more statism to tackle worldwide problems such as climate change, reduction in biodiversity and tax havens. Only global level organisations can tackle these reliably it seems to me. I'd like a world government administered online.

    It seems your objection to statism is very principled, and less practical, correct me if I'm wrong. You see it as fundamentally the removal of individual freedom, and that is such a bad thing that even common goods do not justify it.
  • NOS4A2
    4.6k


    You are right. I do not believe in any common good that must sacrifice its own members in order to reach it. That to me is a fundamental contradiction and ultimately an exclusionary project. But in practical terms I do not advocate for any abolition of the state because I think that would lead to misery.

    All that you say is well and good, I suppose, but we should also remember the horrors of statism. If history is any indication, the state moves begrudgingly and only under great pressure towards any benefit to the citizenry, but with alacrity towards anything that increases its own power and benefit.
  • tim wood
    7k
    Thoreau: 'I heartily accept the motto, — “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which I also believe, — “That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient.'
    -----

    "And when men are prepared for it..... Government is at best a expedient." This, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, from the Declaration: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed," And the US Constitution: "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

    It seems to me, @NOS4A2, your grievances are ill-informed and derive whatever substance they might have if any from examples of bad government. That is, a layered failure on your part to understand your own topic and comment in it in an adult way.
  • NOS4A2
    4.6k


    I don't understand your point, Tim. Perhaps this is because you insert quotes where your own thinking could have been.
  • James Riley
    1.1k
    I think there is a direct relationship between statism and population.
  • NOS4A2
    4.6k


    I think there is a direct relationship between statism and population.

    You're probably right. Perhaps it is inevitable, the product of proximity.
  • bert1
    792
    I think there is a direct relationship between statism and population.James Riley

    Yes that seems logical to me. Instinctively I have some sympathy with NOS on this. I love post apocalyptic stories and dramas that involve drastic population reduction so we have a nearly empty world again with no authorities. What authorities there are might be private gangs. So I'd probably start setting up a pubic authority asap and embark on a programme of public goods, as long as the electorate let me of course.
  • Tzeentch
    1.1k
    It seems as individuals grow more powerless, alignment to states and political parties and ideologies becomes a means of satiating their will to power.
  • James Riley
    1.1k
    It seems as individuals grow more powerless, alignment to states and political parties and ideologies becomes a means of satiating their will to power.Tzeentch

    I read a persuasive article some time ago, postulating that we would soon have to side with the Plutocracy or cartels. Both of those entities would permit the continuance of government to basically serve as a punching bag, or outlet for rage against the real source of the people's problems. Both would, through charity/philanthropy, take care of many good things, while letting government do the dirty jobs. I think we are almost there, especially when the plutocracy owns the government. We better take it back or suffer the consequences.
  • darthbarracuda
    3.2k
    Whenever I flirt with anarchism or throw shade at the government, for example, someone always brings up roads and bridges and how a state is necessary for infrastructure, the implication being that only man in his statist form can flatten ground and lay asphalt.NOS4A2

    I think an even deeper assumption is that only man in his civilized form can possibly live as he was meant to live; that other ways of life are savage and regressive; that only a sedentary, agriculture-based lifestyle amongst billions of other humans is the right way to go about living.

    Of course technological progress entails centralized statecraft. Only a state can possibly provide the organization needed to facilitate the aims of technique. Technology and statecraft go hand-in-hand. The state is only a consequence of the development of technique (being a technique in itself). I believe that it is naive to think it can be otherwise, as if one could reject the state but retain "the rest" of our techniques.

    Rejecting technique entails rejecting the state. Rejecting the state alone is just myopic.
  • Apollodorus
    1.3k
    I fear the latter end of the spectrum because it approaches a degree of statism expressed in fascism and made concrete by a variety of totalitarian regimes.NOS4A2

    I think the main problem is that there are too many different views and too little time to test them. There are views held in common and views held individually and both sets of views are equally open to question.

    With regard to statism, we need to determine certain principles on which we want society to be governed, direct government as to what it should do to realize them, how to organize itself to realize those principles, and find a mechanism that insures that this is achieved in a satisfactory way.

    For example, in liberal democracy we elect a particular party for a few years. But we have no means of forcing the ruling party to govern in a way that is satisfactory to the majority or even that fulfills promises made during election campaigns. All we can do is to elect a different party next time around but there is no guaranty that the new party will be any better.

    Additionally, when society changes at a very fast rate as is currently the case, we also need to very fast devise policies that enable us to keep up with those changes. And you can't make well-thought-out policy in a very limited space of time.

    The danger is that people eventually give up and just accept their life being run by an increasingly powerful and intrusive state. Things can only change if society changes first. But this is difficult to achieve when society is subject to changes over which it has little or no control.

    It seems that we are approaching a Tower of Babel situation where society becomes more and more fragmented on political, cultural and other lines and incapable of resisting the growing powers of the state.
  • James Riley
    1.1k
    The state is only a consequence of the development of technique (being a technique in itself).darthbarracuda

    I think you may be right, but I am saddened by the thought of politicians constituting a beneficial technique; especially the conniving ones. Those that have the technique down tend to dominate and last like herpes.
  • 180 Proof
    4k
    Shareholder states are statist. Stakeholder governance is anti-statist. 'The legitimacy crisis' is reduced, maybe eliminated completely, only by the latter; therefore, the former fortifies and mobilizes and automates against the latter. A global population crash () might accelerate transition of shareholder states to stakeholder governed 'zones' by, at or beyond a critical threshold, aggregately decoupling the means of consumption from the means of production. I suspect it comes down to the age-old question: How many Big Macs need to be eaten per annum in order to maintain the shareholder state?
  • Echarmion
    2.1k
    Yes that seems logical to me. Instinctively I have some sympathy with NOS on this. I love post apocalyptic stories and dramas that involve drastic population reduction so we have a nearly empty world again with no authorities. What authorities there are might be private gangs. So I'd probably start setting up a pubic authority asap and embark on a programme of public goods, as long as the electorate let me of course.bert1

    And that's perhaps the answer to the question of why statism reigns. States may be historically contingent, but they're not an accident, and if we look at world history, do not seem to have been optional. Ultimately "state" is just a name we give a specific from of organisation a community can take. Technically a 12th century european kingdom was not a "state" in the modern form, yet no anarchist imagines their goal to look like such a kingdom, or a tribe rigidly governed by custom and strongmen. When we imagine a stateless society as a desirable goal, we probably all imagine something that has not already existed in the past.

    So, statism dominates because we haven't yet found the alternative we prefer. That might be due to a lack of experimentation, as @Apollodorus said. We might simply not have hit the right combination of circumstances yet. But fundamentally, overcoming statism can only be an evolution from where we are, not a mere rejection of the status quo.
  • James Riley
    1.1k
    at or beyond a critical threshold,180 Proof

    Where/when do you think that break point is?

    aggregately decoupling the means of consumption from the means of production.180 Proof

    I'm having a little brain lock-up on that one. Can you give me an example of when that might have been, past or present, as a reference? Would that just be when we used to make and consume everything on site, ourselves?
  • NOS4A2
    4.6k


    That is a decent point about technology. Perhaps the state, too, is a technology. Over time it has made obedience, subjugation, oppression and exploitation at least manageable for those of us born into it.
  • NOS4A2
    4.6k


    Good insights.

    We should remember that state institutions tend to outlive its creators, those it was designed to favor, and finally, its original purpose. The New Deal programs that still exist in the American administrative state are myriad. Fannie Mae was created to alleviate the burdens of the Great Depression, only to have the public bail it out in the Great Recession some 80 years later. The Farm Credit System is over 100 years old, and during its life other regulative institutions, associations, “government-sponsored enterprises” have popped up to keep it going. That the state might wither away over time, I fear, is mistaken.
  • tim wood
    7k
    I don't understand your point, Tim. Perhaps this is because you insert quotes where your own thinking could have been.NOS4A2
    Aristotle wrote Politics, which is merely to say that for at least 2300 years and no doubt double that, people have been thinking about government. The US founding fathers thought about it and decided that some government was necessary, and the form they cast it into, subject to correction, is the oldest currently continuously existing form of government on the planet, excepting the governments of the thirteen colonies that preceded it, from which much was borrowed, and perhaps the Iroquois Nation, from which apparently much was borrowed.

    In other words, all this well-thought through at least 300 years ago. You seem to be not up to speed on that fact, never mind the details of the thinking. But in this you have plenty of company. Not very good company to be sure, but at least you shouldn't be lonely. And who knows, with all that company you might have to consider the possibility of some form of government.
  • NOS4A2
    4.6k


    I’ve already stated the extent of my own statism in the OP, which directly aligns with that of Paine. But in your febrile responses you need to pretend I know nothing about it. I suppose fakery and mischaracterization is how you get on in life.
  • Banno
    12.7k
    What you call statism is what is commonly called society or sometimes community.
  • 180 Proof
    4k

    No clue.
    Approximately 60%-75% of GDP in neoliberal securitized late capitalist / shareholder states are consumption-driven; starve the beast and the beast starves or restructures (not reforms). Crash mass consumption to pre-WW2 / pre-1929 levels and wipe-out the shareholder-investor class status quo (re: the "strategic necessity" after 1945 to establish the National Security Military Industrial Complex (i.e. military keynesianism via NSC 47 & the "Cold War", interstate highways, suburban sprawl, "fastfood" franchises, malls, etc) that maintained high enough levels of effective demand, or over-consumption (war economy in "peace time" for 75+ years so far) in order to prop-up 'zombie capitalism' – fiat hyper-statist nonsense on stilts).
  • NOS4A2
    4.6k


    No, it isn’t. The suffix ism and the way in which I used the term indicate otherwise.
  • Banno
    12.7k


    :razz:

    What do you get if you add "-ism" to "social"...?


    Or perhaps to "Community..."?
  • Cuthbert
    254
    The banks used to swagger about the virtues of freedom in financial markets. Then 2008 happened and they rushed to hold on to nanny's skirts. I don't trust the rhetoric of state minimalism too much till I see it tested in painful times. But still, there are some good questions, e.g. is the proper function of law to promote good or just to restrain evil?

    I admit I have a personal interest. The State saved my life. I continue to depend on it for security. I am at least a little grateful for that.
  • bert1
    792
    Let me try!

    Ok, here we go:

    social + ism = socialism!

    community + ism = communityism!

    Wow! cool!
  • Banno
    12.7k
    ...almost.
  • frank
    7.4k
    Statism takes a variety of poses. My own is of the minimal, “night watchmen” variety. Others prefer the state to intervene in nearly every facet of life, if not to nominally determine and protect our rights, than to provide the most basic necessities and securities, to direct our trade and industry, to educate, to house, to regulate our lives as if it were a parent and we it’s unweaned children. I fear the latter end of the spectrum because it approaches a degree of statism expressed in fascism and made concrete by a variety of totalitarian regimes.NOS4A2

    Was the emancipation proclamation statist?
  • NOS4A2
    4.6k


    Was the emancipation proclamation statist?

    Perhaps it was.
  • James Riley
    1.1k
    /
    Crash mass consumption180 Proof

    Sounds intractable. Somewhat off topic, and fiction, but have you ever seen "Captain Fantastic" 2016? I always recommend people not read reviews, but if you want to kill a few hours, it's fun.
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