We rediscover the virtues of the state
Funny coincidence, the coronavirus crisis “falls on us” at the very moment when we have to carry out a particularly painful annual task, that of the production of tax reports. While the dominant discourse has it only for markets, deregulation and happy globalization, it is not surprising that some people come to wonder if the State, which collects our taxes, still has its purpose.
P arions that this year the question of the relevance of the state will arise less. While we are collectively confronted with an unprecedented health crisis, the extent of the economic consequences of which we cannot yet measure, we seem indeed to rediscover the virtues of the State.
We are not counting on the markets to get us out of the COVID-19 crisis. Even less on the globalization before which nation states are invited to bow for the greater good of international trade. In this period of great turbulence, it is governments that are on the front line.
It is the public services offered by the State, notably our health system, that we rely on to overcome the current pandemic. And we do it with a certain serenity, assured of equitable access to care and services, because … public.
Ditto economically, it is from the State that we expect active and concrete support for citizens and businesses in difficulty to allow them to absorb, as much as possible, the economic shock that this crisis is causing. And, reassuringly, governments do not hesitate to make commitments in this direction.
All this shows a completely normal reflex. The state being ultimately a citizen construction, it is to it that citizens turn in times of strong turbulence. In a crisis situation, nothing turns out to be more unstable than the markets, which evolve into a roller coaster according to the rumors and the moods of the holders of portfolios. This says a lot about the solid foundations of the world economy.
On the other hand, because of their capacity to set up gigantic means, States are perceived as being able to hold the rudder in the storm. Provided, of course, that the political will and intelligence are on hand.
That said, will governments be able to take advantage of this global crisis to learn a certain number of lessons? In particular in terms of their follow-up attitude towards the markets, their immoderate enthusiasm for globalization and liberalization of trade and finally in terms of their guilty passivity towards tax havens where the wealth of the planet, individuals and businesses alike are hiding thousands of billions of dollars in order to evade their tax obligations. Question of fairness vis-à-vis all taxpayers who normally pay their taxes, full collection of tax revenues is one of the conditions for adequate funding of public services from which, as the current crisis reminds us, all benefit. citizens.