It was Thomas Hobbes, in his book Leviathan, that declared without a state man is in a constant climate of struggle and fight. He called this the “state of nature” whereby it is a “war of all against all”. He makes a compelling argument for the coming together of all peoples, and the creation of a civil society and state. This society, and this state, was intended to protect men from a life that was otherwise “nasty, short and brutish”.
People were persuaded, coerced and sometimes forced to become members of the state because it was in their own interests. Who would want to face a life out in the wilderness, struggling to make ends meet? Under constant threat, with very little security? It seemed like an obvious decision to make. Lets step inside this “state”, lets live under its roof and lets prosper, together, as a society.
The premise of the state and its controlling figures, the government, was that with them people were better off. We were all in a more beneficial situation. The state was like a house whereby we would all have comfort, we would all have security and all of us would live a better life in this house, than we would out of it. To continue this analogy of a state being a house, that would mean the government were a sort of estate agent. Their role being fairly straightforward, to sell the house to investors, to adequately furnish and maintain the house, and to make sure the day to day running goes smoothly. This was the basic idea.
So everyone was a member of the state. We were under its roof and we were better off for it. The estate agents took care of the house, and by association, they took care of us. However, we are neglecting a key detail about estate agents, and that is that they do not tend to care about the occupants. As any student will tell you, they care primarily about money. Outside of money their highest concern is then with the house itself, as this is their source of money. What condition is it in? Will it need a lick of paint before some new occupants arrive? Would it perhaps benefit from some fencing around the front garden? At no point are the occupants of the house given priority. The occupants of the house are of little concern, as long as the money keeps coming, and as long as the house does not get destroyed, then the estate agents aren’t particularly bothered.
Surely they should be bothered though? If the house represents the state, and the people in the house represent us, the population of the state, surely we should play some sort of role in the decision making process. Was not the entire intention of the state to provide a place whereby the people were better off being members of it?
Just as the estate agents care more for their house than they do the occupants, so our governments care more for the state than they do the people.
Let us have a look at some examples. The NASA space programme in the United States was not created, or sustained, for the benefit of any of the people within the state of America. Poverty levels did not decrease, education levels did not improve and the average American was not better off. Undoubtedly space exploration and moon landings are incredible feats of technology, wonderful achievements, but who was in aid of? Who was it all for? For the people living in the house? No. It was for the house itself. It was for the glory, for the fame and to show the rival house across the road that it was not as good.
The recent introduction of workfare schemes in the UK, and zero hour contracts. Were these introduced for the people? Did the people ask for these, or even need these schemes? No. Once again these were introduced to improve the states economy. Schemes such as these are attractive to multi national businesses and investors. The schemes were for them. The house had been re-decorated, but not for the benefit of the occupants, it was for businesses.
Nuclear weapons is another blindingly obvious issue whereby matters are decided not for the benefit of the people, but for the benefit of the state. There is vast amount of data across a huge number of countries that clearly show worldwide public disapproval of nuclear weapons. The official government line, the line the estate agents sell to us, is that nukes make us safer, we need them. What the “we” in these statements is actually referring to however is the state. The state needs these weapons, the state wants these weapons. For states, a nuclear weapon is a sign of prestige, they are bragging rights on the international stage. In a public opinion poll in 2000, a staggering 84% of people said they did not feel safer knowing the US and other countries had nuclear weapons. But these are the opinions of the occupants there is no need to listen to them. The state does not exist for them, it exists for itself.
Why are anarchists considered such a threat? Why do governments put so much negative spin on the belief system and the ideas? Anarchists are no danger to the people but they are a danger to the state. It is the states own self-preservation that is at stake here and so anarchy, the discussion of and the association with, is a bad thing.
The state cares only for itself, the mechanisms of the state work only to sustain it. Improvements for the people are of secondary importance. If this was not the case, if this was not the true reality, then why would the state spend more than £79bn in a war when there are 25,600 elderly people dying in the winter because their homes are too cold? Why would the state bail out reckless bankers to the tune of £850bn when there are an estimated 185,000 people a year affected by homelessness? Why would the sixth largest economy in the world have the need for over 180,000 charities to supply services and to look after the people? If the state, if the house, really existed for the benefit of the people, why would a single one of those charities need to exist?
I am not sure the house is the best place for us. I am not sure the estate agents care for our well being at all. I think maybe it is time we opened the front door and stepped outside.