Statism is the belief that the individual
should relinquish some of his personal freedoms
for the good of the state
. Economic Statism, which I shall discuss, can be equated with Socialism
, and therefore with Communism
First, we shall consider the diametric opposite of Statism: Libertarianism. In a Libertarian country where laissez-faire capitalism is the form of the economy, the government does not interfere with the economy at all. There is no taxation, no welfare state, and no nationalised industries. All citizens are free to produce whatever they wish, and to retain all the profits of their work. This, the denouncers of Statism say, is supreme freedom. The individual has freedom to do esentially anything he wishes and exist for his own sake, so long as he does not violate the rights of others.
This includes the freedom to starve, go homeless, and die because one cannot afford health care1.
Now consider Socialism. In a Socialist state, it is held that each indivdual has the fundamental right to a job, food, health care, education and a home. There is one problem: At whose expense?
Such it is that Socialist states find they need to take control of all aspects of the economy, to decide on production quotas and assign people to jobs. Even if this system can be achieved properly (and it is harder to do so in a modern industrial society than it ever was before), people have lost their most fundamental rights: the right to freedom. The state has to dictate to them were they work, for how long, and for what rewards - otherwise its carefully planned system of providing people with all their "fundamental rights" will fall down. Thus it is that the price of these seemingly-innocuous "rights" is liberty - people no longer exist solely for themselves, but for the other citizens of the state as well.
Statism is a concept fundamentally rooted in Europe - its history of the feudal system, were the monarch was supreme ruler and owner of all is in line with it. The monarch had the right to seize land from his servents at any time via an Act of Attainder, and a typical monarch would do this many times during his or her reign. The United States of America was the first state founded with the opposite principle - that the individual did not exist to serve the state, but the state existed to serve the individual.
Unfortunately, the issue of Economic Statism v. Capitalism is seldom discussed these days - the issue instead is typically Liberalism v. Conservatism, with the extremes seen as Communism and Fascism. Liberals and Conservatives are both esentially Statists - and by hilighting the two extremes as Communism and Fascism, they encourage people to instead seek some moderation in between the two. This moderation is still Statism.
Gorgonzola notes that there is another form of Statism rampant today - Consumerism. People are enouraged, through the Fallacy of Consumption, to spend their money on inane products and invest in the stock market, all for the benefit of the economy and its collective good. This form is not such a huge threat to capitalism as the other, but still threatens people by making them feel as if they have duties which impose on their freedoms.
1 This does not mean that alternatives to the Statist programs for education, health care and so-on cannot exist in a totally free market - the charity of private individuals and organisations (with ultimate motivations of either human interest or wealth creation) and support networks can all help replace these programs.