zondag 6 maart 2016

Failed states

What is worse than a violent state? Answer: a failed state.

That means, at least from the perspective of ordinary citizens, that you can better live in Iran than in Iraq, and that you are better off in Egypt than in Libya. In these cases it isn’t any longer about having a nice time, rather about degrees of chaos and terror. In Iran, you can be arrested for walking without a veil, and hanging people is the order of the day, but there is also protection from criminals, there is still water from the tap and public lighting still works. In the failed states of Iraq and Libya you cann’t even be sure of that.

The development of Western thought about the state follows the line of the above degrees of (un)organizedness. Generally Thomas Hobbes (first half 17th century) is considered to be the one who called for strong central authority as a means of guaranteeing a minimum of order and security for citizens. To achieve that, the monopoly, ie the exclusive right to the use of force, should be attributed to the state.

Thus Hobbes stands for the step of failed or non-existent state to state, while he did not care much about abuse of the state monopoly on violence. The risk of internal violence of the state towards its citizens did not interest him a lot.

That only came in the second half of the 17th century with John Locke, who formulated basic rights for citizens, such as freedom of religion and expression and assembly, with a corresponding obligation on the state to respect them. The orderly violent state thus made way for an orderly decent state.

So far the development of a state in a positive direction, but obviously states can also pass through the various stages of state development in the wrong direction. With  Turkey this seems to be the case: it was about to step through the route from Hobbes to Locke, but Erdogan made it turn tail.

Sometimes I’m afraid the same will happen to Israel. In my opinion until recently with regard to Israel you could speak of a decent state – w ith the not inconsiderable note that this was true insofar as you are a Jewish resident. But at the moment it is too much about curtailment of cultural expressions and freedoms for its own residents. Israel is not going to be a failed state soon, but could it perhaps be that the road back from Locke to Hobbes is taken here indeed?