The Duties of the Righteous State

From The Righteous State
by Severin Christensen

10.—The Duties of the Righteous State

It we take as the point of departure the short formula: common ownership may only be used for common tasks; the objective is to have the concept common task as closely considered as possible and to investigate, if it is possible by principle to establish, what can be defined as such. Since without a fundamental decision about this point one would under any constitution, even the best, still to be forsaken to arbitrariness. Without such a principle one is either reduced to a sovereign’s or a majority’s opinionated interpretation of the concept of common responsibilities. It is most likely to define them as tasks, whose realisation everyone from the beginning should have an equal interest in.

Can these tasks even be the object of a choice? It is easily understood that if the rightful principles should be followed the responsibilities of the state cannot be made the object of a free choice; one has to accept, what logically can be deducted from the preconditions, as the inevitable consequences. One cannot let the majority vote decide, whether some desirable purpose should be a common responsibility or not. It is self-evident that the judicial system is a responsibility, which directly can be deduced from the founding principle of the constitutional state, and which is just one expression of the responsibilities of this state. Since if not a rightful distribution of property is upheld by a neutral and authoritative institution, the very concept of common ownership could not possible be upheld in reality. That it is taken from the public purse what is necessary to exercise this activity, can thus be understood as the logical consequence of what the concept of a constitutional state contains; it is a question which cannot be decided by the ideas held by one or the other about the good it brings forth.

This institution, the judicial system, is apart from that also a responsibility, which only can be made to work, when it is centralised, it cannot be broken up or distributed among more individually independent centres; it must rest in the hands of the superior central power, if it is to work in a trustworthy fashion. The advantage, which this activity contains, is also not of such a nature, that it can be shared proportionally, based on the contribution of the individual into the public purse, as it would have happened in a co-operative enterprise. The security of life and property is not a co-operative good, but an indivisible common good.

It is a fundamental misunderstanding that common responsibilities should be understood as such, which necessarily gave to all the citizens in the state exactly the same positive advantages, since then there would have to be thought about further advantages than that the state under certain circumstances guards the holiness of the principle of compensation amongst partners and sees to it to gain compensation to the citizen, who have suffered from unfair treatment.. Our individual circumstances are so varied that each of us for himself much better than the state can acknowledge what would be a positive advantage for us; therefore we ask to be spared that the state uses our money to play providence on our behalf in all such areas, in which we see fit to satisfy our own personal needs. But there is one common need, which we have in common with all human beings, and which we ourselves neither singularly nor as a group are able to satisfy, a universal wish, which we all carry equally, and that is to have settled, what we rightfully own, security to keep it, the greatest possible degree of safety against injustices inflicted by others, and the greatest possible guarantee to have losses reimbursed.

That a man who has an unruly neighbour has more leave to use the settling industry of the judiciary system than some other therefore is no objection to have this industry in its entirety as a common good. The above-mentioned person does also not get any richer through the help of the court than he was before the occasion arose; and the social security which is the true gain of the judiciary system, he does not enjoy to a higher degree than any other, who just indirectly feels the silent power, which is exercised by its mere existence.

These principles undoubtedly draw a decidedly break-away from the normally held ideas about the nature of the state and its responsibilities. As the common interests are introduced in the aforementioned understanding of their only rightful purpose for a state power, it must be realised that this contains a great reduction of the power and responsibilities of the state; but is a limit to its penetration shall be set; it can only be set here. The opposite of the common interests are the separate interests, the individually limited areas of possession, which the state should respect. The limits of the state are where the individual can uphold a privilege; and everything which the state has to do with privileges is to regulate them. But this regulation from above – if necessary backed up by power – also happens to be necessary; without it the safe possession of separate belongings would collapse as an illusion.

In the limited function, the regulation between people, the state has its most important responsibility; here it has a task, which is essentially different from, both from all individual self-labouring, as well as from all individual help. Any help apart from this (which is also not any positive help) as far as it can provide and secure each his own, will be either personal, i.e. partisan, or – illusory (if the state willingly would deduct more than is needed for the preservation of the protection of ownership, believing it could achieve a positive advantage for everyone). A third possibility does not exist.

As the main responsibility of the state one can, based on the concept of the common goods as defined above, temporarily put forward the following: 1) internal guarding of rights, 2) external guarding of rights, 3) care for the incapable, and 4) the securing of intercommunication and the bringing about of the means of communication.

The four listed responsibilities must basically be understood as four special usages of the judiciary system. As much as they are, by the same measure their true character as common goods is given. As the internal guarding of rights we understand the health service, of securing fresh water, of drains etc. – As the guarding of right externally can be understood the securing of the coasts, the dune plantations, the regulations of streams and such, guarding of the territory of the country against the forces of nature. – The care for the intercommunication includes such responsibilities as the public lightening, paving, snow clearing, the construction of certain ports, lighthouses, navigation marks and so forth. That rightful possessions must be protected against both internal and external enemies is immediately evident, just as one as far as possible should move towards international legal conditions. The care for the incapable is only a public responsibility if it has as its aim to guarantee that they can fully profit from their rightful possession.

That the securing of the communication and its conditions also just is a special use of the legal principles is perhaps not very obvious. Men let us take a closer look at it. One could think that a group of landowners agreed to close their territory for all traffic, maybe for the purpose of enforcing a dire compensation to be allowed through. If it happens to be simply a benefit, if the state intervenes here to secure the general traffic, it would not be a matter for the judicial system. Does the right of the state to expropriate simply rest on a calculation of utilities? No, the right to move around freely is an important component of the right of property; any hindrance of making contact to things or persons in other territories is a violation. . The only thing to doubt is, whether it can be considered a necessary and rightful responsibility of the state to go further than expropriation of the for the traffic necessary areas, if in other words the constructions themselves also should be considered part of its necessary functions.

We have seen that there are common responsibilities, which necessarily must be maintained by any constitutional state, because they represent the basis for the complete structure (forced or necessary common obligations). But would it not be possible that voluntary common tasks could exist? All activities in associations rest essentially on voluntarily chosen common tasks, each member of an association has upon joining voluntarily agreed to support these purposes. It could also be thought that in a state there are tasks which all could – not just should – do in unity. To be able to talk about complete voluntarity, unanimous participation would have to be demanded, since in the state the possibility of choosing whether to join or not does not exist. When the necessary state responsibilities have been covered by the monopoly taxes, which in a constitutional state make up the public purse, the profit belongs to all the citizens, and at least from a theoretical point of view it could happen that it was unanimously agreed to use a part of it for self-elected common tasks (voluntary common tasks). As an example one could think about the parts of the country, which is haunted by catastrophes of nature, such as floodings, earthquakes and other such national disasters, whose consequences hardly could be eased by through insurance. Here is an area in which national solidarity could be thought to have an impact, if it exists. A simple majority vote cannot be considered sufficient to do this in a valid way.