Richard Stallman's personal site.

For current political commentary, see the daily political notes.

RMS' Bio | The GNU Project

Toggle Dark Theme

Why we need a state


I'm not an anarchist, and it's not just because I have a pro-state gland ;-). It's because we need a state to do many important things.

We need a state for providing food, clothing and shelter to the poor; providing medical care and education to all; building roads, train lines, water pipes and sewers; funding research, including testing of pharmaceuticals; protecting public health; defending the nation; prosecuting perpetrators of crimes whether committed on a street or in a bank office; regulating businesses so they don't harm our health or our environment; ensuring workers can form unions; preventing exploitative working conditions; making sure employers don't steal employees' wages; inspecting foods for safety; banning digital products that do DRM or censorship; reducing CO2 emissions to save us from global heating disaster; ensure that chemical products are not toxic; and protecting human rights for all. (This list is not meant to be complete or exclusive.)

Doing these jobs costs money, so we need the state to collect taxes. It should make the rich (and big businesses) pay a much higher tax rate because they can afford it. Taxes are bad only when the state tends to spend them on war and corruption.

Above all, we need a state in order to have democracy, which is the system by which the many non-rich join together to overcome the power of the rich and thus deny them control over society.

It's true that the US government does many of these things badly, and some not at all. The only things it does well nowadays are corporate welfare and massive general surveillance. This is because, in practical terms, it is no longer a democracy: it has fallen under the power of the plutocrats, so it no longer serves to keep them in check. The plutocrats also control the mainstream media, and use them to spread lies and distract people from real issues.

We need a state to stop businesses from conspiring to do away with competition, or becoming so big and powerful that the state doesn't dare regulate or tax them as is necessary.

The plutocrats don't want us to reclaim control of our government and make it do its many jobs. Therefore, the most basic lie they spread is the claim that government is never the solution for any problem. (They even have Americans believing that the government was to blame for the fiscal crisis and recession, rather than the banksters.) If we believe that, we won't see any solution for our main problem: curbing the plutocrats!

Noam Chomsky explains how the "tea party" idea that "We want the government off our backs" is used to distract working-class Americans from organizing for Liberal (social-democratic) policies that they favor when asked.

Copyright (c) 2013, 2015, 2017 Richard Stallman Verbatim copying and redistribution of this entire page are permitted provided this notice is preserved.