When is a State not a State?

January 16, 2010

When Peter Oborne is talking rubbish in the Daily Mail, that’s when.

I don’t usually read the Mail, for shame, but when I do I like to read it critically. So in that spirit, I’d like to advise Peter Oborne (one of the paper’s star columnists I believe) that his conception of “the state” is somewhat lacking.

He doesn’t like the state. He likes what he calls David Cameron’s “revolutionary” plans to downsize it and to “rip up” government spending plans (presumably the Tories will be winging it from here on in).

But when Oborne writes that “David Cameron has identified that state intervention simply compounds the problem” while “I, therefore, expect him to say he plans to use charities and voluntary groups to give people the opportunity to improve the condition of their lives” I have to correct him.

If Cameron as Prime Minister, i.e. the most powerful figure in the state machinery, seeks to “use” charities and voluntary groups, these groups then become part of the state and are, in fact, tools of the state.

And if these groups, which may be laudable, do not have the funds to provide the services that the state used to provide, then all of their goodwill and go-it-alone enthusiasm will not “give people the opportunity to improve the condition of their lives.”

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