Public / private economy

Land of the free (corporations).

One more trap to avoid in favour of preserving freedom.

This is tangent to the question:
What shall a state do and what not?

The answer to this question is in my opinion surprisingly simple - surprising because there happen to be serious, agitated discussions about this in some countries.
The "small state" vs. "big state" discussion is rather rare in Germany and as far as I can tell in Europe in general, but appears to be central in the U.S..

OK, what should be the division line between state and economy?

This takes a small excursion.

Our wealth and technological advance was only possible because of specialization. We would probably not have reached semiconductor technology in a million years all our families were farmer families who supply themselves (farming, fishing, hunting, gathering). It took agricultural surpluses to enable the specialized work of craftsmen and traders - trades who do not depend on their own farm for survival.

The step towards civilization is usually defined as the rise of towns, but it's also characterized by the rise of specialized trades which were not able to offer easily sell-able services or goods. A judge for example should better not work on the basis of fees, for this degenerates quickly into corruption.

There were interim solutions such as in Rome where many public offices had no salary and were thus honorary work for those who had inherited wealth. Other specializations were treated as hobbies, or to generate reputation for other trades (such as philosophers earning the reputation for a good job as teacher).

In the end, it became obvious that a central collection of money (taxes) in order to pay salaries to certain service-providers was a systematically superior solution. This approach enabled the growth to modern states.

So what should a state do and what should it not do? It should provide those cost-efficient services which do not allow an economic (service for payment) mode of self-sustainment without too much disadvantage (such as corruption).

This leads to an anecdote which made many people shake their heads in disgust a few weeks a go; a fire-fighter department which operated on a subscription base refused to fight a fire in a house of a non-subscriber:

Was that OK? Certainly not, it was a failure to render assistance that earned them very much a substantial social and political harassment.
The proper way would probably be to combine a subscription service with an emergency fee. We Germans handle this issue differently, though; fire-fighting is largely a volunteer hobby in Germany, the state employs very few professional fire-fighters and pays almost only for hardware.

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Now let's apply this to mercenaries in order to excuse this text in light of the blog theme: Mercenaries proved that they can substitute for state-paid standing troops, but both kinds are still paid with tax money. The question about use of mercenaries or not is not so much a state or not state question as it is a question about standing army only or not. And most importantly, it's a question about how tight the state's control of troops should be. A mercenary outfit led by regular officers and under military jurisdiction (such as the Légion étrangère) is a very, very different thing than the out-of-control PMC outfits who bullied civilians and at times even shot at friendly regular troops.


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