The state will transform but it will not disappear. We may change the way the educational system works, but the goal of the changes will be to ensure more and better universal education. We may change the policies aimed at helping low income people move up the ladder of life, but American society does not want to write off the poor. We may liberalize drug laws and look for alternatives to imprisonment for non-violent offenders, but we won’t abandon the effort to protect the public from unsafe or impure drugs and we won’t turn law and order over to the private sector. We may look for ways to reduce the bureaucratic delays when it comes to permitting processes, but we will not abandon the effort to impose safety and environmental standards. The state will go high tech, its processes will accelerate, bureaucracies will become flatter and more open, but it won’t wither away.
Ultimately even the doughtiest New Englanders are going to accept the need for deep governmental reform. The American public is much better educated than it used to be and knowledge is much more widely available. It is simply no longer possible for an elite of technocrats in appointive offices and regulatory bureaus to issue decrees and have them obeyed. Prussian bureaucratic civil service models from the 19th century are too cumbersome, too slow and too expensive to handle much of the business of a 21st century information society. It is not possible to reconcile the desire of individuals to control their own fate if authority is centralized at the federal level; we will have to find ways to decentralize authority so that states and local jurisdictions can make more of the decisions that directly affect peoples’ lives.