Is it not odd that the population never requires the modern, post-monarchical State to demonstrate its virtue through self-denial? On the contrary, it is always members of the population that must provide proof, by the suppression of their wishes and by evident sacrifices, often enough sacrifices to the state. This would appear to result from the fact that the current form of State has no personal reality in the minds of population; we do not see the people composing the State, as we once did in the persons of the King or Queen and their Court. We may even naively think that the State is ourselves, an error not limited to democracies but probably more frequent within such systems than in others.

But was it really much different under a Monarch? Perhaps not, for even then the people might see themselves in the Crown, as Hobbes suggested was possible. But obviously in the 17th Century this was not always so, and sometimes the state seemed to be a competing person that the citizen must resist and even execute. In our time the opacity of the state all but completely conceals its personnel, an effect deepened by the way in which the civil service hides behind the politicians who struggle to control them.

The state is not a person, in our eyes, and is therefore excused the need to demonstrate its virtue. The virtue that we undoubtedly attribute to the state is nothing more than a reflection of our own sacrifice. It has become in many respects like a God, with the self-seeking of the priesthood screened from view, and though intermittently suspected and sometimes glimpsed, it is never at present long enough before our eyes for it to become evidently a permanent and systemic characteristic. The historical record tells us that this can and does change, sometimes very quickly.