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11. Our Problems - Our Solutions

The more laws and restrictions there are,
The poorer people become.
The sharper men's weapons,
The more trouble in the land.
The more ingenious and clever men are,
The more strange things happen.
The more rules and regulations,
The more thieves and robbers.

Lao Tzu, 600 B.C.- Chinese philosopher
Why do we think it natural and right that the state should be the agent through which society deals with its more difficult problems, such as unemployment, bigotry, child abuse and homelessness? Their growing involvement began as a bold experiment early this century, probably with the very best of intentions, as the state began to take responsibility for society's problems. We forget that towards the end of the last century society became increasingly concerned about "social" issues; many early institutions and organizations were set up by rich industrialists with bags of money, or individuals with devotion and bags of time. The days of having bags of money, spendable locally instead of offshore, have long gone and fewer individuals have much free time, as we all scrabble to support both ourselves and the enormous machine of the state. We cannot assume that the problems of the 19th century would have remained static and unsolved had the state not become responsible for them, as we cannot know how successfully society would have evolved to deal with them. We do know that in the past eighty years, the state - putting its "terminal toolbag" to use - has spawned countless agencies to deal with the problems, as most of them have become more entrenched.

Much of our decision making, consideration, and life-planning is now bound by the assumption that the state should provide a safety net protecting us from ourselves, instead of just protecting us from those like them across the red line on the map. For many thousands of years the state was not charged with looking after many of our problems and, as far as I know, the overall levels of homelessness, unemployment, burglary, mugging, broken families, murder, assault and date-rape were lower then, and have been increasing ever since. The works of Charles Dickens and their impact upon millions of readers were probably more responsible for changing the social attitudes and practices of 19th century England than was any subsequent growth in the law and its enforcers.

The state has no God-given responsibility to look after us all, whatever may befall us. It is neither any law of nature nor a practice used by any other species on this planet. Once we accept the flawed view that being cared for by an all-powerful state is the natural order of things, we accept a severe restriction of our freedom. We end up with a hugely expensive structure that is supposed to stop people from sleeping on the streets, being mugged, being unemployed or taking dangerous drugs, while itself exacerbating - if not causing - these problems. However, that which the state is supposed to prevent continues growing at a rapid pace and this should give us pause for thought. The fact that over 70% of bankruptcies and subsequent job losses are triggered by tax collectors could give us further cause to pause. One could be forgiven for suspecting that the more money that is taken from society to spend on a problem, the greater that problem becomes. Statistical evidence undoubtedly supports this suspicion. Big Brother does not deliver value and the sooner we respond to this realisation the sooner will our problems begin to retreat.
These increases took place during a DOUBLING in real terms of EXPENDITURE on LAW and ORDER.

1000's of Notifiable Offences (England and Wales)

1978/9 1993/4 CRIME INCREASE
544 1355 Burglary 149%
321 893 Criminal Damage 178%
118 169 Fraud and Forgery 43%
13 53 Robbery 308%
22 29 Sexual Offences 32%
1416 2852 Theft and Handling 101%
95 202 Violence against person 133%
9 39 Other offences 333%

Source: Annual Abstract of Statistics (compiled for Saturn's Children by A Duncan and D Hobson)
Society, whilst it does not have any imposed duty to look after its poor and problematic, still makes a considerable effort through charity and institutions to deal with many of these people. The fact that this contribution from society continues to be substantial, despite the awful ravages of taxation and the damage caused by the posturing and weaponry financed with it, forces one to consider the resources that society might willingly spend on its problems in a state of freedom and retained wealth.

Institutions exist to look after a vast array of problems, and people become active even to the point of breaking the state's law in their efforts to rectify society's ailments. We find non-governmental groups and organisations forming to support abused donkeys, war orphans, lifeboat services, threatened woodlands, vital medical research, alcoholics, the disabled, and a myriad other areas where a member or members of society have perceived a problem and sought to forge a solution to it, starting only with the chaotic mix of their initial position. The people trying hardest, and having most success at dealing with some of the problems facing our world, are not the governments of the day but organisations started by people who saw a problem and did something about it, rather than laying back and expecting somebody else to take responsibility. Greenpeace and Reclaim the Streets are good examples, as are Amnesty and Friends of the Earth or even the Salvation Army and Boy Scouts in their day.

The state has co-opted the duty of care from society with an increasing degree of acceleration this century. Initially much of this assumption of new responsibilities was prompted by well-meaning statesmen, lobby groups and individuals seeking to ensure a greater level of care by instituting it as government policy. Whatever the initial intentions, the state is not doing a good job of it today. Whilst private agencies primarily seek to feed, clothe and protect those devastated by war, disaster or famine (most of which is caused by war) it is the governments who hand out money (our money) destined for the Swiss bank accounts of despots, or to finance nuclear power plants, or to fund environmentally damaging projects, or to purchase chemical insecticides and fertilisers, or military hardware. Usually, of course, the construction works, insecticides, or fighter jets are purchased from the country which is donating or lending the money in the first place. The list goes on as every week, in every country of the world, there are new revelations about current and past wastage and scandals involving so called "aid budgets."

Yes we need to deal with problems like homelessness, drug-addiction, pollution, malnutrition, sexual abuse, poor education, bad health and indeed the whole catalogue of society's ills. But by letting the state take responsibility for these problems we usually condemn them to ultimately becoming worse as we deprive ourselves (society) of the funds and motivation that would enable us to be more effective in finding positive and flexible solutions.
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From the book "Uncommon Sense - The State is Out of Date"
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