Friday, May 02, 2008

Government and the State

There are two parts to this, first part is a general criticism of the State in relation to socialism, second part is a more anarchist critique of the State in relation to socialism.

The State as we know it isn't meant to implement socialism. There's an enormous gulf between the increased responsibilities that would have to be taken up by the State and the kind of democratic participation and oversight that would be necessary to make the arrangement truly popular and less oppressive.

The more programs are taken up by the State, like health care and basic social welfare functions, the more urgent the necessity to transform the structure of the State into something that's more representative becomes. While social welfare programs no doubt help very much, and would really improve things in the U.S. in my opinion, when grafted onto a Congressional or Parliamentary system they increase the separation between the government and the people, strengthening the government while not automatically including any strengthening of individual power over government. Having Congress on one side, with representatives, and the people on the other, while giving Congress increasing responsibility over peoples' lives through social programs is a recipe for some very bad stuff, at least potentially. While traditional pro-capitalist libertarians might say that the solution to this is to just not extend the powers of government into social programs an alternative way out of it would be to devolve administration of them to more local levels and increase local participation in that administration. It could start out with programs implemented in the Congressional system but it should not end there.

Another alternative, something that goes to the root of it, would be to replace the system of government that we have now with a confederated system of councils that start from the bottom and go up, with different established levels of action, like local, state, and federal, but with the division between federal government and local government being eliminated in favor of bottom up control. This could be melded with an economic system organized on similar lines that would interact with the general government, or even potentially help replace it, so that there would be workers' councils, consumers' councils, neighborhood councils, and general governmental councils.

The more Anarchist critique of the State is that while the liberal state represents itself as being a "night watchman State", that is to say a kind of security guard, in reality the State serves the purposes of the economic elite. The economic elite controls the State, which in turn has a monopoly on force and violence, leading the police to be the active arm of the ruling class.

If a political party wins seats in Congress and is able to push through social programs the danger exists that these programs will be co-opted by the ruling class elements in the government and transformed from something that would liberate and empower people into something that could oppress and control them.

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