There are always dangers of a state exercising too much power as seen in the past in Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany. Although these parties were positioned at the opposite end of the political spectrum to each other they shared a total dominance of their countries people. Initially claiming to act in favour of the common man both parties soon became self-serving and murdered anybody who opposed them. Stalin would label his opposition not as enemies of Stalin but enemies of the people, still capturing himself as guardian and savour of the Russian people while at the same time murdering them or making slaves of them.
It seems true that as the power of the state grows the power of the individual reduces. If the state was a true reflection of the peoples will and this was also regulated perhaps the state could be given more power. If the state existed as a measure of recommendation and subscription to the ideas were completely a matter of choice this would work but this is all too idealistic. Karl Marx disputed the power of the state as he regarded it as a tool of oppression. Marx believed that ‘when freedom exists there will be no state’ but a shared ideology where everybody will work together for the good of the people.
This allows a lot of problems to arise but also attacks the power of capitalism at the root. On the other hand Jean-Jacques Rousseau insisted on the need for a state but highlighted that the laws of that state must be ‘prescribed by the people’ for the people (Rousseau, 1968, p65). It is very likely that an increase of state control would not be a popular decision but at the same time any less control may also be damaging to society, at least initially. An example of this is in Holland reduced the choice to use soft from a state decision to a personal decision.
At the time figures escalated but ten years on, they have actually been reduced from the original number. The state should remain more of a guideline rather than an imposition where the opinion of the majority is recognised and highlighted but not necessarily enforced as law. The citizenship should always outweigh the will of those in power and the state should reflect the people, the people should not reflect the state. As mentioned previously the Labour government in power in Great Britain at the present time sees the family as vital for the stability of society.
They believe many social problems stem from family break down and their policies were aimed to strengthen family values. Although Labour has possibly played more of a role in deciding what is good for society than previous governments there are always going to be some people who disagree with the decisions a state makes. In response to the original question there is no real specific answer to whether the state should play more or less of a role as it all depends on personal opinion.
Some people will think the state is not involved enough; some people will think they are too involved and others will think they have it right. Perhaps the real debate is who benefits from the state, those in power or the people obedient to it, but that is a whole new question.
A Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Oxford University Press, (1976) C Wright Mills, The Power Elite, Oxford University Press, (1956) Hall & Gieben, Formations of Modernity, Polity Press, (1992) B Hindess, Discourses of Power: From Hobbes to Foucault, Oxford University Press, (1995)