I believe in the state, but not the feral form that’s spying on us

Those who hate the state love leaks of the sort The Guardian has been publishing. They justify their 'Big Brother' view of all that is supposedly bad about government.

Richard Murphy is the founder of the Tax Justice Network

Those who hate the state love leaks of the sort The Guardian has been publishing. They justify their ‘Big Brother’ view of all that is supposedly bad about government.

I don’t agree. As a liberal, rather than a libertarian, I am no lover of snooping. And I condemn it, especially if done beyond the law.

But I hold the state in high regard. The state and the funds it can marshal is the only efficient way we know to provide high quality mass education, healthcare, safety, pensions, infrastructure, social security, public spaces, arts, housing (in no small part) and more.

It is key to almost all technical innovation. It is the way we can get out of recession now when the private sector will never achieve that goal. It can be the engine of change for most people’s well-being.

It isn’t all those thing right now, I agree. That’s because it has been captured by the 1 per cent who control most wealth to pursue its goals. They also now, to a large degree, define the enemies of the state as well: most (but of course not all) have always been those who threaten the property rights of the few.

That is, I suspect, what motivates much of the NSA’s actions. I don’t therefore condemn the state for what has happened. I condemn those who are using the state to control populations in the interests of a few for what has happened.

That’s not to deny the need for surveillance: it exists. But not like this. What we’re seeing is the feral state at work to support the feral economy dominated by a feral, (perversely) stateless few who operate on behalf of feral capitalism. And I’m happy to condemn that, whilst upholding the alternative, which is think is the Courageous State.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.