Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan tweeted this earlier today:
If people are intrinsically good, a big state is unnecessary; if they’re intrinsically evil, it’s dangerous.
— Daniel Hannan (@DanHannanMEP) May 30, 2014
The Mutualist shares this sentiment. If people are intrinsically good then there is little need for the state to regulate the everyday affairs of its citizens, other than to tackle systematic risks that individuals themselves may not be able to tackle by themselves. If people are intrinsically evil then the state will most likely be used as a tool for evil purposes.
What happens though if no one is intrinsically good or intrinsically evil. What role does the state play then. Is the role of the state to simply maximise liberty even if at the expense of other consideration? Is the role of the state to maximise liberty but give that little nudge to help people make better decisions? Is the role of the state to protect its citizens from themselves?
Given that most people certainly are not intrinsically good or evil, Daniel Hannan’s quote is devoid of real life application. The quote doesn’t help the libertarians in justifying a reduction of the state. It merely demonstrates their idealism. An idealism that can be applauded, but an idealism that can be potentially dangerous to the impoverished if mistaken for reality.
The quote though is good at alluding to the dangers of a big state whether people are intrinsically good or not. A better one would have been:
Were there is power onto others, lays the potential for the evil heart to rise and seek most of what it craves. Were there is power onto others, lays the potential for the good hearted to be corrupted by its lure. Freedom is the test by which we measure our moral competence to do what is right.