The state we?re in

Whoever said that the crisis has made us more level-headed?

There are many put there who, even at this time of crisis, are looking out for cracks in the system that will allow them to satisfy their unlawful whims and desires. There are many who are exploiting the nation?s economic misery as an excuse to continue perpetuating all that was wrong: clandestine labor (?take it or leave it, but there will be no social security contributions?), kickbacks, squandering public wealth (?while it?s still possible?), political favoritism and dodgy dealing.

It?s a parody. No one out there is really convinced that the system is being purged of graft and corruption. At the same time, protests by syndicates and vested interest groups are snowballing, threatening to derail any attempt to clean up the ailing system.

It seems to be something more than the usual anything-goes mentality or our misguided impression that everything is permitted and permissible. It goes deeper than that; it?s systemic.

Perhaps, the decline of our democratic polity has to do with the way in which individuals perceive their position in society: is it as members of a bigger community of citizens, or as people fighting for their own interests?

There is a clear distinction between political and social class — and our political parties have worked hard to cement this divide. The state, the political system, civil society are all distinct domains; they sometimes overlap, but they are not pillars in the same structure. Does the individual interest come before the institutions?

In any case, the main objective of any action or mobilization these days is not the construction of a fair society but, instead, the expansion of individuals? zone of liberty and responsibility in a fundamentally unjust society. State and economic power become one, and this power runs against the substance of politics and society.

Personal morality has come to substitute politics. Dominant is the idea that the institutions cannot be trusted and that the state is increasingly incapable of reducing inequality, the idea that the state is not in a position to protect those who need it most.

The issue now is not whether we need a bigger or a smaller state but, rather, where should the state come in and under what circumstances? The answer will decide whether we can have a more effective, and hence more reliable, state.