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Assess what should be the role of the state

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Assess what should be the role of the state The issue of the role of the state, and the activities it should therefore undertake, is one that has long been contested by political theorists and commentators alike. The enormous span of permutations of what the state's role may involve leads to much dispute over definition, and with this, overlapping views from different thinkers and ideological groups. There is of course no real-life example that can be cited as the 'perfect' state - each society has its own unique requirements and conflicts - but human experience of the 20th century has seen the basic discrediting of some theories of state role, whilst giving credibility to others. For example, totalitarian regimes have essentially been rejected outright by the free-thinking world since the Second World War, whilst communism had very publicly fallen by the 1990s. However, the debate over what should be the role of the state continues, and seems unlikely to subside. A quite extreme view on the subject of the role of the state is one whose modern roots lie in the first half of the 20th century. Obviously, many nations in the developed world lay in a dire politico-economic situation - for example, Italy and Germany following the First World War. ...read more.


That is not to say that the opinion is by any means dead - many would argue that hitherto, George W. Bush has displayed a penchant for the reinforcement of law and order, passing substantial legislation in the pursuit of increased security. Certainly, despite the aforementioned undesirable associations, the strong enforcement of law and order is a state role seen by many as a just one, especially in the current international climate. An entirely different outlook sees the state's role as being the (radical) re-distributor of wealth amongst its subjects. For an effective redistribution to be achieved, high taxes are a clear necessity. They must be progressively staggered so as to achieve a more equal outcome. Thus, the view is socialist in its essence. Where a liberal would seek the provision of equal opportunity, an equal outcome, effectively regardless of the means required to provide it, is the primary concern of a socialist. For wealth to be radically redistributed it is necessary for industry to be nationalised - this will ensure equality and prevent exploitation. The view's roots have obvious connotations with Marx's insistence that we secure the workers the full fruits of their industry and the equitable distribution thereof, but more modern champions of the vision have also offered their own views on the subject. ...read more.


Observing western democracies at the start of the 21st Century, it appears that this view is one currently popular with mass electorates. More extreme administrations appear to have subsided, at least for the time being; their views on state role usually discredited as they fell. It is of course difficult not to assess the most popular current view on state role as the 'best'; if an alternative was seen to be 'better', it would presuamably be enforced. It is also important to bear in mind that the world's political climate is never static. Especially in internationally hostile times such as these, it is not inconceivable that very different outlooks could become dominant very quickly, changing our views on state role just as rapidly. A 'world electorate' of growing incomes could become swiftly disgruntled with state welfarism if economic downturn saw their wealth crippled. Of course, as history has shown, it is precisely this type of event that has necessitated and ensured the transition of state into different roles than before, and will continue to see such transition into the future. 1 C.J. Friedrich & Z. Brzezinski, Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy 2J. Gray, Totalitarianism at the crossroads 3 B. Barry, Political Arguments 4 T. Benn, Arguments for Socialism 5 A. Smith, The Wealth of Nations 6 L. Hobhouse, Liberalism ...read more.

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