The state is there to organize everything important pertaining to society. Let’s use the oldest, largest, most detailed example we have: Rome.
Rome controlled a greater percentage of the world population than any state, ever. Rome was also, arguably, the most continually constitutionally evolving state, ever. We are using Rome’s legal, institutional, and civilizational, model, to this day.
In 800 CE, the Franks proclaimed Rome “Renovated”. Several Roman public structures had been not just renovated, but massively extended, to wit, mandatory public education. Ever since, we have been renovating Rome, keeping in mind, and extending, the public-private mix which characterized Roman society. Thus if we ask what the state is for, we have to interrogate our origins, Rome.
The Roman state under the Republic, ordered the army to build public infrastructure. For example, in France, a major canal was built under Consul Marius in the Second Century BEFORE the present era (2C BCE). Then a major via was built, through south France and the Alpae Maritimae. Roman via built by the legions were one meter thick, and some are used to this day. Then Caesar drained the swamps, to fight malaria. Later, under Trajan, poor yet meritorious children had their entire education paid by the state (“alimenti“).
Segovia is a city in Spain. Segovia’s aqueduct, like all Roman public works, was ordered by government.
Need I say more? (I have broached this subject many times in the past, more recently to answer Ian Miller, “A Role For Government“.)
In Francia, France, the successor state of Rome, by the Eight Century, public education was mandatory and free. All over. A thoroughly modern police was built by 1300 CE. It allowed to arrest all Templar Monks simultaneously, all over.
Then the state organized free hospitals, all over. Leprosy disappeared.
Many Americans claim the state should be on
American anti-state propagandists are generally paid by plutocrats for saying things so stupid that they are then ready to vote for G. W. Bush, Ted Cruz, Goldman Sachs, and hedge fund managers. That has worked well, because plutocracy has fed the American people well. But now some inkling of understanding is slowly creeping in…
In France, a couple of hospitals with special services use now last resort antibiotics (against resistant TB, for example: patients come from Russia). But they are not available anywhere else.
So what is the state?
The state American plutocrats and survivalists claim, should be only about only about force:
- The force of defending territory
- The force of imposing the Fiat Currency
Those who have a bit more smarts add to this the force of imposing justice. This was actually the role of Consuls, Proconsuls and their subordinates in Rome.
There is also a metastate, in democracy, which is how We The People select the government. This, in democracy, has to be public. Not so in plutocracy, and Obama spent much of his presidency plotting with plutocrats, who, in exchange, gave him money. (OK, not to him personally, American corruption, to claim it’s not corruption, erects apparent, only apparent, firewalls…)
Is the state, reduced to this minimum, viable? No. Think about it. 20,000 years ago, the state was the tribe, with its total democracy. 10,000 years ago, the first city-states appeared. five centuries ago, most the economy of the state was agricultural. The states or cities which marked civilization the most, though were less agricultural. examples are Athens, Rome (when it became urbi and orbi), Venice, Florence, etc. And also Paris, when it was by far europe’s largest city of 200,000, around 1200 CE.
The Roman State started as a monarchy. 15 centuries later, it was officially “renovated” by the Franks. Meanwhile, much happened, including the Huns. In 390 CE marauding Gauls invaded and occupied Rome (they were bought out, and once out of Rome, consecutive to this payment, exterminated by (dictator) Camille’s army).
This showed clearly that Rome needed giant fortifications, and fast communications. In 312 BCE, the Via Appia, the first serious Roman road was built, straight down south, by the army. It’s still in use today.
The SPQR, Senatus PopulusQue Romanus, the Senate And Roman People were in an evolving relationship. The Senate lasted more than 13 centuries. The People’s rule, though, a much shorter time. We The People lost its fight to plutocracy (… to this day!). It lost it, after a fight which lasted more than a century (between the Gracchi’s tragic lives, until the assassination of Caesar, who whatever his flaws, was, like the Gracchi, or the two presidents Roosevelt, a top aristocrat fighting for the People).
When the fascist empire got established by Augustus, attention was paid to the cultural dimension. That was financed by the state, all over the empire. Extremely expensive, extremely well made amphitheaters and theaters were built all over.
Most Roman monuments did not survive to this day, precisely because they were of such high quality. Long lasting, they were used as building material sources later (especially by the resentful Christians). Indeed, the quality of construction was amazing: the Pantheon in Rome, model of all domed buildings ever since, is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world.
On February 21, 1916, the German fascists launched a surprise attack on the little defended city of Verdun. One million shells, many from 420 mm guns, in a few hours, shattered the French lines. However, the French counter-attacked, and the surprise failed. The French army soon brought 3,000 trucks of ammunitions and supplies a day.
The battle lasted 300 days. More than 700,000 French and German soldiers died in combat there.
So yes, the state is there for defense. But defense requires public works. And private work ordered by the state: France had only a few hundreds trucks in 1914, but soon the army ordered thousands (and thousands of planes, tanks, etc.). In the USA, under Roosevelt, the Canadian Galbraith reorganized all US industry. Later, all of the educational system was reorganized by the GI Bill.
The truth is simple:
Greed is just one human motivation dwarfed by others, which are much more fundamental: love, curiosity, sharing, teaching, communicating, caring for self & others, good life, appreciating the world…
Let’s mention in passing that this implies the futility of founding the state around the so-called “free market” and its “invisible hand” (all what’s invisible is the hand of Pluto). The state is about more important motivations (contemplate the Inca empire).
Greed unfettered, unclipped, unbowed, morphs into plutocracy, power so corrupt that Pluto’s satanic ways have to be called in to cling to it.
So the effects of greed are terrible. The entire idea of greed is to dominate, subjugate, terrify, subdue, and domesticate others. It’s intrinsically about hurt. Rome showed a more important and noble, literally and figuratively, way: public service. Public service as a mandatory passage for those who counted the most.
The state is there to enable civilization, the ability to live in cities. The state thus replaces the tribe, which was an extended family. Thus the state has to be like a sort of extended family. That means it has to be a democracy. The state is not just about killing people, and enforcing law. It’s also about public education, public hospitals… And defending against the enemy of democracy, which is what’s destroying it now, plutocracy.