When Louis XIV magisterially claimed that he was the state, he was pointing out a truth that as a highly powerful King in a centralised autocracy he decided what the state did. To him, and to the many who had to obey him, he and the state were the same thing. Subject peoples in France had to work round his dictats and live with this identity.
In a democracy some think we are all the state, we should all be able to feel and say that the state is us collectively. To try to get voters to buy in to this common feeling, many politicians and political parties work at trying to show the state is there for us in need. They seek to involve the state in many facets of our lives. They seek to bribe us with our money, taking money off us in taxes, only to give some of it back in ways of their choosing.
This model works for some of the people all of the time, and for many of the people for some of the time. It is a more stable and freer system than socialist tyrannies or military dictatorships. It does leave significant numbers feeling the state is their enemy, taking too much from their efforts, and doing the wrong things to them. In a democracy we are at least allowed to express our anger at what the state does, to press for it to reform its ways, and to change the people who direct it from time to time. That is certainly better than having to put up with a Sun King until he dies.
The big problem with western democracy is the tendency for politicians driving the state to spend and tax too much, damaging the freedom and independence of the people who have to support the state. I wish over the next few days to explore this paradox of freedom. Many people contributing to this blog will say “L’etat ce n’est pas moi”. They do not want the state to spend so much of their money, and disagree with many of its decisions. As we will see, they will however end up paying the bills if they stay in the country.