On the liberal side of the argument there is too much careless talk of 'the state' without any precise indication of its substantial presence or presences. No one should ever forget that the state is unreal, only realised in the monarch, and, latterly, in the persons of its employees. Our current position in the United Kingdom is the outcome of a collapse of monarchical instantiation in the 1640s. Similar progressions have occurred around the world. So long as the monarch is a person, a King or a Queen, and unfettered, absolute, a state with many terrible disadvantages of course, the servants of the state cannot embody it, they are merely tools, and no more an embodiment of the state than the throne on which the monarch sits, or the palaces in which they live. With the monarch removed, or rendered constitutional (which is the same thing), the state servants become the embodiment of state power, often enough arbitrary power, and the struggle between the people and the wilful monarch must shift to new ground.
But, judging from our own case, this adjustment is slow. The citizenry does not notice at first that it is in conflict with the state in another form, since electoral politics gives the appearance of individual influence over administration. But this appearance, though not quite an illusion, has very little substance, and what substance it has does not show a rising trend. If anything, it declines. The civil service grows steadily in mass and power, almost unnoticed by the rest of the people. There is no conspiracy here, merely the steady development of an emergent property. Moreover, the civil service recruits from the surrounding population as well as from its own families, a fact that also weakens opposition, since it tends to recruit those who would be the most troublesome, those who are unlikely to thrive as private persons but are intellectually able.
The political process steadily becomes a charade, with a change of politicians producing no change of government. Unfocused discontent grows, both at the stagnation and the powerless state of the people, and also at the loss of freedom. As yet in this country it tends to rest on archaic and redundant concepts, and so mistakenly blames politicians for the perceived ills. But politicians could not succeed in addressing the problems, even assuming that they were able to identify them, since they are powerless even and especially when they are in office. The civil service has little difficulty in dealing with ministers who try to weaken its authority, and the eye of the public is on the politician and holds them to standards unattainable by any living person. The civil service, on the other hand, is all but unscrutinised.
Although the public is barely aware of it, the state is now embodied by that subsection of the population that is nominally the servant of the commonwealth. But they are also voting citizens, a fact that no one today would question, but on reflection this is an extraordinary and probably deeply undesirable fact, for the electoral power of a large civil service is not to be dismissed; collectively, their bulk is probably the single largest common-interest group. But they do not, qua interest group, rely on their electoral resources alone, and during those periods, inevitable in a democracy, when a relatively individualist, anti-statist party is in power, retired civil servants, if there can be such a thing, assist their preferred party in opposition as they prepare for government.
Individuals substantially independent of the state, either because they are self-employed or because they are employed by companies that not reliant state patronage – admittedly a shrinking fraction of the economy – will gravitate towards the most individualist party the can find, with surprising results, such as blue collar support for individualist parties. Though wage earning, they are independent people in the sense of not being the recipients of direct or indirect state patronage. While the free intellectuals, and the middle classes are important, it is not from these people that any resistance to the state will emerge, but from the much more courageous, unpretentious but intelligent and proudly independent people found in the lower income bands. The state party and the civil service is conscious of the risk, and defuses discontent by means of state support (benefits), and by exploiting rational fear of wealth differentials.
There is no reason why this complex balance of powers should not continue indefinitely, except that the civil service are both arrogant and fallible, and external shocks may disrupt the system, exposing the aggregate weakness of a collectivised and state dominated people as compared to a population of freely self-serving individuals. Only disaster and suffering can provide sufficient positive proof of state incompetence to reverse the long term trend, and even that reversal is inevitably susceptible to counter pressure. So long as there is a state and a people, the dynamic oscillation seems likely to continue.