Every form of state action has the effect of reducing human cooperation. If the state will take care of it, why meet my buddy at the end of the street to take of that flooding problem that’s hurting our lawns? If the state will take care of it, why see if my friend needs some money during his lay-off? If the state will take care of it, why give a rip about anybody else?
The state = atomization. We lament that everybody’s bowling alone, but we don’t give them any good reasons—important reasons, like the need for food and shelter—to come together. If the only thing left is recreational pursuits, people will lose the habit of being with one another. The result: when recreation time comes, they’ll pursue it the way they pursue everything else: alone.
What’s even more devastating: as people stop taking care of things themselves, they forget how to take care of things. People might forget how to load a gun or how to clean their own house.
Most disturbingly, people forget how to make moral judgments. As the law pervades and tells people how to behave on more and more matters, the practice of making moral decisions dwindles. This applies to every law that is enforced by government, even ones we need. Albert Jay Nock may have said it best, “Any enlargement [of government], good or bad, reduces the scope of individual responsibility, and thus retards and cripples the education which can be a produce of nothing but the free exercise of moral judgment.” The State of the Union, p. 322.
Even a common sense law, like a statute that prohibits murder, reduces our moral decision making. If one’s wife is murdered, does the widowed husband avenge or forgive? The decision is taken out of his hands: the state takes revenge. In certain areas (like murder) it’s a good thing, but it’s crucial to understand that every law has this effect. As the laws pile up, individual decision making dwindles. Eventually, the population consists of what Flannery O’Connor called “moral morons”: a populace that is simply unable to make moral decisions.
It’s no coincidence that the most common refrain heard after the collapse of Communism was, “The social fabric of Russia and the former eastern-block nations is in shambles.” By trying to manage every aspect of society, it killed every aspect of society, from community activities to individual decision making.