This love affair with the idea of the state is what baffles me most about non-libertarians. Arguments about data I understand. Disputes about whether free markets or heavy regulations produce better results I can get. But at some deep level, I simply don’t see how someone can look at one group of people telling another group of people what to do—and backing it up with threats of force—and say, “Therein lies utopia.”
One reason the state looks like such an appealing avenue for such action—as opposed to, say, one-on-one intimidation—is that using the state to coerce others costs the voters so little. If you don’t do what I want you to do, and I vote for a law to make you, enforcement of that law gets done by someone else. I don’t have to risk my own safety or take up my own time compelling you.
The state is not “us.” Rather, it’s a group of us, acting (sometimes) on the orders of a larger group of us, and using force to compel another group of us to do things they don’t want to do. We need a state because there are some people who would do awful things if given the opportunity, and because when awful things are done, the perpetrators need to be coerced into compensating the victims. But we should never lose sight of what the state is, and never let utopian thinking about “government as ‘us’” cloud our moral standards to such a degree that we shrug at—or, worse, encourage—outright evils.