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From the Intelligent State to the Responsible One

From the Intelligent State to the Responsible One Economy Near Us (XXIII)

  1. Preamble 

The state is not a manager only with regard to the society as a whole. If it was to be like that, a performant computer could have better accomplished whatsoever administrative tasks. The social contract on the basis of which the state is supposed to be generated implies both much more and much less than that. Let me provide some analytical explanations:

  • the state, as a social and, especially, as a political actor, is bound to perform not on an economic excellency basis, but on a moral one; consequently, the public money must be administered not in the efficiency key, but in a efficacity one (paradoxically, such an obvious distinction is very often ignored even by reputed economists or political theorists);
  • even when the state is involved into an economic matter, as the distribution and redistribution of the economic product of society (the GDP), it must only monitor the merit-based distribution and the moral-based (i.e. based on the principle of intra and inter-generational solidarity) re-distribution. Such a monitoring implies only a conformity task, not an optimality one;
  • the state can perform its efficacity-based actions (either as acts, or as abstentions from acting)[1] if and only if it has other criteria for intervention than the economic ones.

Since the intelligence is generally understood as the capacity to adequately assign the means to the ends, and the responsibility must be generally understood as the capacity to adequately design the ends, it remains the state should be rather responsible than intelligent.[2] Below, I’ll try to develop such an idea. 

  1. Why must the state be responsible? 

The state responsibility[3] is originated into the generic social contract (although, Robert Nozick finds such a responsibility outside any social contract, but inside the process of the minimal state emerging as dominant protection association through the „invisible hand” mechanism). No matter how the state arises (within or outside contractualism), its reason is to produce, distribute, and adjust (if the case) the primary public goods – i.e. individual equal rights and opportunities – which, in turn, ensure the production, distribution and adjustment of the secondary ones (both public and private). This generic commitment constitutes its responsibility in designing and maintaining in force the social normative arrangements, so the freedom be preserved at/in the individual level/meaning. In fact, I think the freedom is the primary (and crucial) value which must be performed by a responsible state. Any other public goods (including the democracy, for example) can be logically and institutionally (and even culturally) derived from the state of freedom. But never inversely. 

  1. Is responsibility inconsistent with intelligence? 

The answer is not so obviously, as some might be expecting. So, some additional qualifications of the relationships between the two concepts in relation to the state seem necessary:

  • to be responsible means to provide, as much as possible, the three features of freedom: assurance, guarantees and operational tools of regulation for individual freedom (and, consequently, for individual human rights – with its modern version of citizen rights); so, the responsibility is focused on the symbolic utility;
  • to be intelligent means to provide, as much as possible, the optimality of the individual life from the perspective of substantive utility – that is, to provide goodness;
  • while freedom must address the individual in the first instance, goodness must address the individual in the last instance; that is, if responsibility derivates social freedom from the individual one, intelligence derivates individual goodness from the social one.[4]

Based on the above mentioned, I think the responsibility of the state is not, ab ovo, inconsistent with its intelligence. However, the two capabilities of the state should be lexicographically ordered, so their implementation into the society be: firstly, responsibility, secondly (and only if responsibility is implemented) intelligence. In such a paradigm of state functioning, never the efficiency of public action is relevant, but always its efficacity. The efficacity means, of course, to assume the responsible targets no matter the economic costs (the freedom hasn’t price, no matter how costly it is, probably it is the only thing for which the cost does not become price). 

  1. What about the new Government of Romania? 

As a transition Government, designated to manage the current public affairs until the new general elections at the end of 2020, the new Government just empowered by the Parliament must do and must not do the following (in order to implement rather its responsibility side):

  • It must:
  • ensure the economic, social, and institutional stability;
  • honour all institutional commitments of the previous Government, including financial ones, if they are embedded by normative acts in force;
  • use the European Treaties provisions for accepting the temporary possible (and argued as reversible) exceedings of the public budget threshold of deficit established by the Maastricht Treaty;
  • professionally prepare the fundamental set of laws aimed at improving (or even changing) the economic model of Romania for the next period;
  • attentively and responsibly contribute to the edification of the European institutions within the new legislature which has just begun.
  • It must not:
  • introduce legislative shocks, of any nature (regarding, especially, the incomes of the population);
  • massively replace the technical personnel in public institutions and authorities (as well as in the private domain of the state), without obvious and stringent necessities;
  • radically change the procedures in the administrative bodies of the state (especially in the fiscal field). 

Notes:

[1] Readers should remember there is a clear criterion of the legitimacy of the state intervention into the economic phenomenology (about this criterion based, by the way, on an idea of von Mises, I’ll discuss within other intervention).

[2] In such a key of conceptual discussion, the term “smart” introduced in the main recent strategic official documents of European Union seems to be quite rebarbative. For example, in my opinion, a syntagma as “responsible economic development” is more adequate than the syntagma as “smart economic development”.

[3] I’d bring into the readers’ memory that the responsibility is completely different from the accountability: the first has a moral judger, while the second has a legal one.

[4] Such a (maybe too strong, however) difference is based, of course, on the conceptual difference between the substantive utility and the symbolic one.

 

 
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OEconomica No. 1, 2016