Spain has been without a government for 10 months. This is not a product of the government suddenly disappearing, but rather that after two elections, no party, or coalition of parties, has won a large enough share of the vote to form a majority needed for the constitution of a government.
SEE ALSO: Spain Faces 3rd Election In One Year by Alex Joseph Baker
Does this mean there is anarchy and horror in the country? Quite the contrary.
Unemployment has declined from 20% to 18.9% in the last three months – the lowest it has been in six years – and Spain is expected to be one of the fastest-growing Eurozone economies this coming year. The number of unemployed people dropped by 253,900 from July to September, and the economy is expected to grow by a rapid 3.2%. It’s a testament to underlying factors of the modern government and society: How the modern state works and how irrelevant governments often are, relative to broader economic trends and conditions.
Spain lacking a government does not mean that the trash isn’t being picked up, taxes aren’t being collected, roads aren’t being swept, and a variety of other functions aren’t being perform.
How can this be, if there is no government?
Because the government isn’t the be-all and end-all of the state, and it isn’t a single behemoth of an entity: Government is a managerial enterprise that presides over a collection of interrelated but otherwise self-functioning state services and bureaucracies. A defining aspect of the modern state is the civil service or bureaucracy. Much like cells in the body performing their autonomous task independent of the factors above and below, bureaucratic departments have specified jobs that they will do regardless of who is in charge. This is not to say elected governments are meaningless. If a bureaucracy is a piece of software, the government designs the code. If a bureaucracy is a ship, the government steers the wheel. However, despite government supposedly setting the rules that govern operations, bureaucracies are still organic mechanisms that grow and exist independent of government, hence how the modern state can remain so stable even in times of political gridlock and crisis.
Additionally, not all powers are concentrated in a national government.
Madrid may be in a stasis, but Barcelona, Seville, Valencia, and Cadiz are not. Cities and regions collect their own taxes and provide their own services, especially in a country with a federal system of autonomous regions, like Spain. The power of local politics, with their own distinct sets of issues, interest, and factors to account for, serves as a protector of citizen well-being in the face of a government forced into stasis as a result of the collective interests of society being unable to cohere into an organizing coalition of governance.
Meanwhile, with all of this focus on the powers and duties of governance, it is important to note that there is a whole world out there that exists independent of governments. There is a saying that taxes are the cost of participation in society, but this notion equates government with society itself. Surely, governments play a large role in society, but to equate it with society is hyperbolic, at the very least. When you engage with your neighbors, you’re partaking in society. When you go to the store and buy goods, you are engaging in society. When you go to church or schul or mosque, you are engaging in society.
Given that there is a whole society independent of the government, it should be noted that there is a whole economy out there independent of the government, as well. The market system, which all economies today operate under, tend is an aggregating mechanism of an uncountable multitude of individual decisions. Every decision to do one thing instead of another is an economic act. In the face of this, there are broader economic factors at play that exist independent of government intervention. Spain’s absence of a national government has meant 10 months of consistency in laws and policies. Broader economic trends that exist independent of any government action and people going about their business in an environment of consistency is what has shaped and defined the overall economic and social condition of Spain in these past years.
Governments are remarkably limited in their capacity in terms of their impact on society and their influence on the deeper mechanisms of the state.
The idea of a state that continues to exist and run regardless of and independently of democratic decision-making may seem frightening, but it is no more nefarious than a plane on autopilot. The fact that governments are in reality such small parts of society in the grand scheme of things, that there is so much authority concentrated closer to citizens in the form of local and regional governments, and how the duties of government can be performed independently of the stubborn, self-interested, or perhaps even narcissistic actions of politicians who are accountable only to those who propelled them into power to the exclusion of other segments of society should be something we can take comfort in. Looking at things empirically in Spain, it isn’t the end of the world.
* Jacob Linker is a Campus Coordinator with Students For Liberty and the State Chair of Young Americans for Liberty in his state.
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