Night watchman state
Night watchman state or minimal state refers to a state that is based on the principle of laissez-faire and is limited to the protection of private property and the maintenance of public safety and order. Ferdinand Lassalle coined this term - alluding to the task of a night watchman - in a speech in Berlin in 1862. The mass impoverishment in the 19th century, which was caused not only by the laissez-faire economic system of that time, but also by the enormous increase in population, led to the emergence of the social question . The night watchman state was replaced by the welfare state at the end of the 19th century . The night watchman state is advocated by minarchists . Minarchism is a current of libertarianism . In today's political discussion, the catchphrase small government is sometimes preferred to the terms night watchman state or minimal state.
In the 19th century, the model of laissez-faire dominated economic debates. The idea or ideology of laissez-faire is based on a natural order in which the selfish and individualistic actions of individuals are coordinated by the “ invisible hand ” to achieve the best possible result. From this arose the demand on the state to stay out of the economic life as far as possible, this idea derided Lasalle as a night watchman state. He used the expression as a “battle term against the liberal concept of the state and society”. He used the “night watchman idea” (in his “Workers' Program” in 1862) to describe the image of the state that (not only) liberals make for themselves, and thereby mockingly against contemporary Manchester liberalism . “Manchesterism” is also a derisive expression that comes from Ferdinand Lassalle or Benjamin Disraeli .
The laissez-faire model dominated the economic and political debate until well into the 19th century. In addition, the prevailing economically liberal understanding of the state prevented the state from resolving the social question consistently until the 1880s . Every citizen should take care of his or her own well-being. In the 19th century, industrialization and the advances in agrochemicals alleviated employment and nutrition problems, but the social question only changed; the problem of inhumane living and working conditions for industrial workers arose. Loss of wages due to illness, disability, unemployment or old age led to social hardship as there was no welfare state . Another problem was widespread child labor . This liberal night watchman state only changed to a welfare state with the Bismarckian social legislation, since the impoverishment of the masses made the necessity of welfare state regulations visible. The wage conditions improved in particular through the formation of the trade unions . Since the abolition of the coalition bans there has been a positive long-term development in the wage share, which rose from 43.1% in 1870 to 60.2% in 1930.
A night watchman state in the sense that the state would not have restricted the political freedom of its citizens beyond laissez-faire liberalism, however, according to many views, did not exist in the 19th century. According to Frank Deppe, the “liberal night watchman state” in England and Germany only existed on paper in liberal state papers and in parliamentary speeches, but never in reality. The liberal state was by no means that tolerant and cautious "night watchman state"; there was legal political freedom within certain limits, but in fact it was absent.
Lassalle's vision of the state
Lassalle's political background is as follows: Lassalle aimed at an economic system in which the creation of “unpowered income” is prevented. In order to improve the economic situation of the workers, Lassalle demanded that the state, instead of remaining passive, support workers' self-help institutions such as production cooperatives by providing capital. However, this will only happen if the workers are adequately represented in parliament (see three-tier voting rights ). With his “Workers Program”, presented on April 12, 1862, he equates the “fourth estate” (the workers' class) with the whole human race, since every worker is who has the will to be useful to human society in some way. He contrasted the “moral idea of the working class”, namely solidarity, community and reciprocity with the “night watchman state” of the “bourgeoisie”. He justified this as follows:
“History is a struggle with nature; with the misery, ignorance, poverty, powerlessness and thus the lack of freedom of all kinds in which we found ourselves when the human race appeared at the beginning of history. The progressive conquest of powerlessness - that is the development of freedom that history represents. In this struggle we would never have taken a step forward or ever continue if we had led or wanted to lead it as individuals, each for himself, each alone. It is the state that has the function of bringing about this development of freedom, this development of the human race towards freedom. "
Lassalle's understanding of the state was diametrically opposed to the liberal state negation. The liberal "night watchman state" is immoral, since it only fulfills negative functions based on the "false principle" of equality for all people and citizens. Lassalle's belief in the German state and its future moral task was also shown in one episode: When a progressive critic accused Lassalle that he expected the state to do the impossible with his social policy, the latter replied: “What do you want? The state is God! "
Reception of the label
Ludwig von Mises commented on Lassalle's formulations against narrowly limited state activity with the following, among other things:
"But it is hard to see why the night watchman state should be more ridiculous or worse than the state that deals with the preparation of sauerkraut, the manufacture of buttons or the publication of newspapers."
According to von Mises, Lassalle's ideas were only so successful because the Germans at that time were still remembered by absolutism and were influenced by the Hegelian philosophy, which elevated the state to a divine being. In this respect, it should have been viewed as blasphemy if someone wanted to limit the state's tasks to night watchman duty.
Robert Nozick found that even the night watchman state of classical liberalism , which restricts itself exclusively to protection against violence, theft and fraud, as well as the protection of property , seems to have a redistributive effect insofar as it forces people to pay for the protection of others.
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