Why is the state made out to be the problem?

Ed Milliband and Ed Balls, commenting on the Liberal Democrats/Tory deal, have both condemned the way in which the state has been constructed as the enemy.

Milliband said:

“They believe in the state getting out of the way in terms of economics, and in terms of many of the things people value in our society.”

Balls said:

“The thing that unifies Clegg and Cameron and the people round them is that they believe the state is a problem, that the liberation of individual potential happens through liberating the individual from state intervention. That is fundamentally different from the view of Vince Cable and Simon Hughes, and will cause big political tensions with the left of the Liberal Democrats, who are much closer to us.”

I think this raises an interesting point around the current dominant view towards the state. Now the LibDems have embraced the ‘Big Society’, this government looks set on reducing the state as much as possible, replacing it with involuntary and charitable provision as well as increasing the private sector in a bid to reshape the economy so that we rely even more on private sector interests. It was interesting to hear Cameron’s speech the other day, talking about the need to reshape the economy so the private sector becomes even more dominant – Vince Cable (despite Balls above believing he is against decreased state intervention) has also commented on how the private sector needs to be promoted as the driving force for economic recovery.

This worryingly relates to the economic reform, especially in terms of the banking sector and taxation. If the economy is going to be titled more so towards private sector interests, the logical consequence is a relaxation of regulation and barriers for businesses such as the bankers, to make money. It was only a few weeks before the election that Ken Clarke was talking about the need for further deregulation, for example. If our economy is focused upon business and the private sector, the taxation will reflect this – such as the inability to have a high pay commission, Tobin tax, fairer taxes and the conflict surrounding the capital gains tax.

The state should not be seen as a problem. This was one thing that I used to get into quite a few debates with when in the LibDems. To me, the state has a vital role – there should be increasing control for the state over areas that should not be governed in private interests. All this talk of the national interest, well things such as education, health and the banking sectors are national interests and should not be left to the will of the market.At the same time, the state has too much control over areas that undermine our civil rights – and with the ‘solutions’ to the ‘Big Society’ and the ‘Broken Society’, there will be a further reduction in people’s civil rights. Instead, here, there should be a reduction in state control.


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