If you really want to know whether a large state is a good idea there are some pretty obvious indicators scattered throughout history.
Every single tyranny in history, from that of the First Emperor of China or the first Pharaoh of the Upper or Lower Nile through to dictatorships of the 20th century or the Communist Party in China today, has required a large state. Every mass execution in history, every great wartime atrocity, every organised genocide, has been conducted by the agents of a large state or by a faction seeking to impose a large state.
State power or the process of seizing state power has been a requirement of these evils more commonplace than religious fanaticism, political extremism or the leadership of charismatic sociopaths. Religion and ideology supply the psychological conditions for atrocity and mass murder, but state power is the practical engine by which the atrocity is delivered. A Nazi Party that didn’t have control of the judiciary and the police could not have delivered the Holocaust, but more tellingly still the infrastructure of genocide depended on state control of things like the rail network.
Those who argue that tasks are better served by the state than by free enterprise or voluntary association ignore two things simultaneously. They ignore the multiple and endless manifestations of state inefficiency and waste, of the habit of large state bureaucracies to make large scale errors, and they simultaneously ignore the chilling fact that the most efficient expressions of state organisation, the only instances in which an all powerful state gets really, really good at something, is when that state has devoted itself to oppression and murder.
A powerful state is not very good at saving people. It is not very good at protecting people. It is not very good at making a better world. But it is very, very good at killing people, controlling people and imprisoning people for having the wrong ideas. That is when it really does become efficient and well organised. Index card systems telling you who to arrest and torture are large state efficiency at its best.
But even if you think this is all reductive and simplistic and wrong and want to point to the good that the state does in medical care (step forward, NHS fetishists), social care and welfare then I’m afraid the facts don’t support your argument. And there is one very simple and direct way of pointing that out.
It is to ask ‘would you like to have been raised by loving parents or by the state? Would you choose to have been raised in a state run facility for orphans or abandoned children, cared for by people paid to do so?’. If you can honestly say you’d have preferred that for yourself or your children, then and only then is a love of the large state consistent. You’d be preferring, of course, the following effects:
- A much greater chance of being sexually abused
- A much greater chance of being murdered
- A much greater chance of failing school and achieving no qualifications
- A much greater chance of lifelong alcoholism
- An earlier death
- A much greater chance of lifelong drug addiction
- A much greater chance of possessing a range of psychological issues such as depression
- A much greater chance of committing suicide
These are just the first few negatives that spring to mind. These are the things that happen to those whose care is conducted solely by the state. It is quite literally the case that if you have more contact with the state as a child and a growing adult all of your life chances are reduced and every negative outcome and every possible kind of suffering is more likely for you.
Nothing replaces a loving family. Nothing equals the care of a father or a mother. Nothing is as meaningful and as useful to your life chances as the nuclear family. And nothing achieves more for you or ever will than those natural, personal connections of family and friendship. You can’t defer those things to a bureaucracy. You can’t replace those things with a welfare cheque. The state will never love you, and it is somewhat sad, sick and misguided if you love it.