The Justification of the modern State

When we voluntaryists declare that the state is an immoral coercive authority we are challenged usually with the argument “but without the state the weak would be at the mercy of the strong”.

As voluntaryists we care about the coercion of the weak by the strong more than most would, and so we sympathise with this predicament, we would still say that the coercive power of the state is worse: the cure is worse than the ailment; if the answer is ‘the state’ then you’re asking the wrong question.

But let us assume for the moment that a coercive power has been enacted as an agent ‘of the people’ by a substantial minority of its subjects, and without this coercive power the poor would be abused, robbed, libelled, evicted, or even imprisoned, raped and murdered.

Ignoring the positive rights that many infer on the modern state, let us assume that protecting the weak from the strong is the sole justification for a ‘legitimised’ coercive power, such as the modern state.

So shall we review the current situation in the UK?

  • Legal aid has been effectively withdrawn from many of the poorest people, thereby enabling the ‘powerful’ to ride roughshod over their rights. At the same time habeas corpus and double indemnity have been withdrawn;
  • The libel laws in the UK prevent anyone but the richest from starting, or more importantly winning, a court case;
  • Many of the poorest are subject to sub-standard education reducing their life options, provided with little or no useful career guidance, and condemning them to the dead-end jobs at best, or worse: a life on benefits;
  • The ‘poor’ suffer higher effective tax rates due the application of VAT and ‘sin taxes’ on ‘luxury purchases’, such as fuel, tobacco and alcohol;
  • Many of the poorest are left with few legitimate career options and can end up convicted of victimless crimes, such as prostitution, drug use (with associated theft) and drug dealing. Once imprisoned they struggle to break out of the vicious circle of imprisonment, release and recidivism;
  • Recent historical cases have shown that many in power have raped and potentially murdered young children with the state covering their tracks for decades.

In light of these examples it should be obvious that the modern state is not protecting the weakest from the strong; in fact in the last example it is doing the complete opposite.

Hasn’t the state proved itself to have breached its only justification for existing?