Economic Pathologies of the State

What is the appropriate role of the state? The list of desired activities that many people want the state to perform is potentially endless and includes national defense, policing, dispute resolution, healthcare, humanitarian aid, welfare, environmental regulation, the funding of scientific research, immigration control, financial regulation, monetary policy, park maintenance, health and safety regulation, and drug prohibition, among many others. Proponents of these and other roles for the state tend to assume that the state’s taking on a task guarantees that it will achieve the desired end. From this perspective, if the right people are in charge and they have the appropriate resources and “political will” to accomplish a task, they can succeed. Where markets and voluntary association may fail, the state can fill the gap, provided its leaders are good, resolute people with the right ideas and resources to implement their plans.

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