I’ve been conducting a literature review lately. It’s more intense than just reading for the heck of it. My focus is on what is the state; how do we define it. I haven’t come up with my own definitive meaning yet, but I wanted to at least share one or two cursory observations.
First, I think the state is us. I’m not talking about us as Georgians or Floridians. I’m also not talking about who has captured and runs government although who controls the state has the most influence on government. People hear “state” and they think of the department of motor vehicles or some other regulatory agency; something exogenous and separate from themselves. They think of some entity they only come across when they have to pay taxes or go to court to settle a parking ticket. These are not the characteristics of the state.
The state is a bundle of relationships; social contracts tying different classes of society together. The exchanges between the classes are political and economic with government providing a black box of rules for how we are to interact with each other. This sounds like a definition of society, but societies don’t need or at least start out with the black box. They regulate themselves through organic social agencies such as family, religious organizations, civic associations, etc. As societies grow, property ownership becomes contentious, and the pressures on accessing resources and capital expand, only then do we see more formal rules of societal order come into existence.
Second, the Constitution does not expressly discuss the political or economic makeup of these relationships. Societies have varying rates of flux and it is impossible to determine what an economy may look like a few years from now. Will the economy be agrarian in perpetuity (Thomas Jefferson expected that) or would it be based on manufacturing and be urbanized (Alexander Hamilton’s expectations). While the Constitution describes how representatives to and executives of the government are elected, it doesn’t speak to imbalances in capital flow between its citizens or the responsibility of government to manage an economy in the interest of all of its citizens.
Instead it gives the impression to its citizens that the state is something exogenous to their interests with participation limited to the vote. The ordering of the state is left up to those with sufficient social, human, and financial capital to capture office, draft policy, and manipulate political outcomes. The Framers of the second constitution were not poor men or illiterate. Those who also served in government made sure men of character similar to theirs enjoyed appointments to government offices.
Why is it important to have a definition of the state that includes all of us? It’s important from a civil rights and economic freedom perspective. A citizen looking at the state as some exogenous “sky daddy” leads to one of two results. The citizen will either settle for a subservient mindset, never questioning the social and economic class hierarchy upon which the state or society is built on or become a destabilizing agent, the result of disillusionment with his place in society. Both scenarios are unacceptable to a free society.
Again my observations are cursory. Hopefully I can add more meat to the skeleton over the next several weeks.