The state is not your friend

I sometimes post stuff like “the state is not your friend” on twitter and somebody asked me about it. As an example, I wrote:

The government is not your friend. They’re not providing services. They’re not trying to help anybody. To them you’re just a peasant and if they think you’re too uppity they’ll try to destroy you. I wish Grimes good luck. He’ll need it.

This was in response to the government threatening a man called Darren Grimes with prosecution for doing an interview in which the historian David Starkey referred to black people in a way that has been interpreted as derogatory. The government previously tried to prosecute Grimes for an alleged violation of election law during the brexit referendum. The attempted prosecution didn’t result in a conviction because there was no evidence of any criminal intent from Grimes. The government’s actions toward Grimes are malicious. The British government prosecutes lots of people for speech it doesn’t like. The British government is dangerous.

The government raises money by taxation and inflation, which amount to taking money from people without their consent. They claim to provide services in return for doing this. They are not serving anybody by threatening Grimes. The government has cut the budget for the justice system despite the fact that it seems to be falling apart. This isn’t an isolated example. On every area of policy they have terrible and destructive ideas. For example, the government announced a policy to let first time buyers get property with a 5% deposit. Are banks going to be forced to provide such mortgages? What effect will that have on incentives to build? Will the government subsidise these mortgages? What happens to the people with those mortgages if and when the government withdraws the subsidy? What happens if property values go down or interest rates go up and people with these mortgages are left with a mountain of bad debt? Ten years ago the US had a crisis caused partly by the US government trying to get mortgage providers to “help” poor buyers. Why is this new policy not going to be a repeat of that disaster? The government takes money for services that it can’t provide competently.

I don’t think this can be ascribed solely to ignorance or stupidity. The conservative party is aware of the work of FA Hayek and has been aware of him since the 1940s. And if you’ve read Hayek you know of the existence of Mises and could look up criticisms of government intervention in the economy. So why has the conservative government done nothing about government intervention over the past ten years? It’s not like they have a reply to Mises pointing out flaws in his ideas. They just don’t make any effort to explain why government intervention is bad, or to reply to criticisms of government intervention and they make no effort at reform either. Politicians in other parties also know of Hayek by virtue of the fact that they have heard of his existence from the conservatives, so they have the same problem. And anybody working for the state also has that problem.

Many people in the UK worship the state and even when they disagree with the government in power. Their idea is that the state is the solution to every problem and that government employees are great people. If people keep thinking like that then the government will continue to function as a giant burden if it continues to function at all. We have a lot of very serious political problems in the UK and the government is contributing to making them worse without addressing known problems with their conduct. 

“The government is not your friend.” They’re being hostile to a lot of people for bad reasons. “They’re not providing services.” Does trying to do a lot of things incompetently count as providing services? “They’re not trying to help anybody.” Does acting incompetently or maliciously while creating many new problems count as trying to help? Overall I think people should avoid contact with the British government as much as possible and should not sanction it. Is there something wrong with what I’m saying?

About conjecturesandrefutations
My name is Alan Forrester. I am interested in science and philosophy: especially David Deutsch, Ayn Rand, Karl Popper and William Godwin.

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