It seems to me that this is more and more of a problem as our current government appears to be of the opinion that in fact the state has little, or even, no purpose.
In spite of the fact that they are in charge of it.
Clearly the Johnson government like being in charge because they enjoy the power and the, often corrupt, financial rewards for them and their friends and hangers on.
But they, as a government, do not seem to be convinced that they have any actual purpose – thus Johnson is always on holiday and rarely accountably interviewed.
Craven though the current government is, it should be clearly accountable.
We, their electorate, should grasp the reasons why the government is in office – even if its members, themselves have no idea.
The state needs some government and the state exists for a reason.
The historians’ general view of the purpose of the state was always simply the defence of, and justice for, its people.
Defence is clear cut, but justice also includes the rule of law, which actually these days, means the effective rule of financialised capitalism.
If that is what we all want – although I doubt it is – then we have to rely either on the courts to enforce it or the legislature to change it.
The more modern version of that state purpose includes, something I think should now be very evident – especially during Covid; which is money creation.
Indeed I would suggest that that this state money creation has itself to be pursued in order to achieve those other two state reasons of defence and justice..
So historians – as well as the rest of us – need to not that there are now three basic purposes for the state:
We currently have a UK state that fails in large part, to defend its people from hardship (which is surely in itself a reason for state failure through injustice) and also, especially through its inability to prevent its education staff and students from another hardship – illness (in failing properly to protect them from Covid).
Furthermore we have a state that allows the criminal justice system itself to virtually collapse so that it can take four years for criminal cases to get to court – by which time witnesses may have forgotten, moved on or given up hope – or all three.
We seemed to have been further deceived that the state is incapable of making things better: the narrative seems to be that serious reform is ‘unrealistic’.
The actual reality is surely, in fact, something that ought to be taught in every class in the land – that the purpose of the state is, to ensure, on behalf of its members: defence, justice, and money creation in order to get things done.
If only Labour could agree on those basics, they – and in the end probably all of us – would indeed all be really progresssive….