2 votes

Government Defined

There has been considerable discussion in other threads concerning the definition of "government."

Also, even though the words "government" and "state" are often used interchangeably, they presumably have distinct meanings.

I would suggest that each interested person offer their definition of "government" and (in a separate post) of "state."

Then, we can see if there is any clear consensus about the best definitions.

Vote for the definition you like the best by voting it up.

PS: Obviously, don't add your own definition if someone else has already added it. This would muddle the voting.

PPS: It would probably be best if everyone also vote down all other definitions that are not their top choice, since some people will undoubtedly do this. It would muddle the results if this is not done consistently. Also, you are free to change your votes whenever a new definition is added.

SEE ALSO THE POST ENTITLED "HOUSEKEEPING SUGGESTIONS" which is a continuation of this post added at a later time.

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The government is you and I.

The government is you and I. The majority doesn't even care.

Isn't democracy great?

Never be afraid to ask simple questions.

Rule by Rapists

Details may vary from sociopath to hectoring harridan, but they're all pushy jerks who got no respect in junior high and never got over it.

dynamite anthrax supreme court white house tea party jihad
West of 89
a novel of another america

Revenge of the Nerds?

Revenge of the Nerds?

Never be afraid to ask simple questions.

monopoly of force over a

monopoly of force over a region. government is the idea that a group of people make laws that everyone must abide by in that region. state is basically the same as government, except signifies the area of land that a certain govt has control over.

f___ all forms of govt.

Park Place

As pointed out below, no individual (much less a group) can have or exercise a monopoly on force. This definition, however, does contain the element that government is an idea, which puts it head and shoulders above the rest.

undefined terms

A shortcoming of many of the definitions given here, including some of the ones below that have garnered plus votes, is that they rely on some notion of collective action without defining what that means.

As soon as you say a group of people "makes," "has," "maintains," "thinks",... you have fallen into ambiguity. In these cases, the only circumstance in which the meaning does not require clarification is that of complete unanimity which, almost by definition, never obtains.

Someone, maybe Kyle, offered the example of a condominium homeowner's association as an example of government. I've thought about that quite a bit. My conclusion is that it is not an example of government. Of course, no one refers to such an association as government. They call it a homeowner's association. And they don't really normally say such a group "governs". Rather they would be more likely to say it "manages." Also, if the association (i.e., at least some individuals in the HOA) decide that Bob should be kicked out because he uses the hot tub at 3AM in violation of some rule, then what will those individuals do? Well, they will sue Bob most likely. That is, they will try to bring in the idea of government. They are dependent, therefore, on the idea of government externally, and do not view themselves as acting under any magical authority to attack Bob for his hot tub activities. They've got to go find the magic people to do that.

But another part of the problem with a homeowner's association, that makes it more complicated to think about, is that it is set in the context of fake/deceptive ownership. It is possible, I think, to delegate "control" of something one owns. Control is not inherent in the defintion of ownership. But responsibility is inherent in the definition of ownership, and consequently responsibility cannot be delegated. The matter is confused in a condominium situation because you're starting with non-ownership. No individual owns the hot tub. Therefore, no delegation of control is really possible.

And this is really important to understand about rulers (the idea of government) and the collective structures they attempt to set up: They are designed to eliminate property. The rulers are happy enough to have unpropertied peasants (people who live in condominiums) squabble over all the things they use in their lives but don't own, at least up to a point. As long as the peasants' productive lives are harvested for the convenience of the rulers, then everything is hunkey-dorey. And then, when there is a major conflict, the rulers have set up their court system with their minions to help you dependent peasants figure out your problems.

My terms were defined

The whole country does not mean the whole country of criminals.

The definition often used by people who fail at actually saying what they mean is that government = crime.

If government = crime, as they say, overtly, or in a round about way, then how is it that these criminals convince their victims that government does not = crime?

If government is defense against crime to start with then the criminals have something to lie about, to falsify, to counterfeit, to use as a false front, to lure, to deceive, to entrap.

The whole country of people who nurture and employ moral conscience constitute whatever that means when the whole country of criminals do their best.


In My Estimation

1) Government: a conscionable apparatus
[inc. just trials, civic standards, offices of leadership etc]

2) State: a scope of governance adduced by tractable autochthony
[inc. New York State, and state law]

While splendidly obtuse

and polysyllabic, your definition of "state" seems rather inchoate.


and please let me explain further:

Autochthony is the concept which argues that rights emerge from grounded station
('tractable' also meaning something by which value can be divested into)

Arguing further there are 4 Rights by which individual can exercise autonomy when standing in place
[witness / speech / gesture / embodiment]
I therefore see the State as 1 scope of 8 by which autonomic Rights are encompassed

Though admittedly philosophical, I can't help but think that government and its terminology is naturally abstract etc


government: The idea that certain special people (rulers) can legitimately do things that would be wrong for regular people (subjects) to do.

state: The rulers and their minions (in a society in which government is imagined to exist).


Note that government is an idea or concept---a wrong idea. The state is probably best viewed as a group of people but might also be expanded to include the resources controlled by those people---the rulers and their minions.

further note

The extension of the state to the resources controlled by the rulers can naturally be taken one step further: Since it includes what the rulers are held to own, it can extend to the land and the subjects. This is how we get common usage like "the state of Alabama." This is also why countries, like the United States of America or France, are refered to as "states." Once you've admitted the notion of a unicorn, you can come up with quite an impressively consistent system to talk about them.

It's really wonderful how things work when you've hit on the right definition.

We have define the State, Government and Liberty

So what is the proper balance?

Have we reached it as of today or do we need more government/state or less Liberty for tomorrow or should we role it back to yesterday, yester year or some year from our past.

That is the REAL question instead of debating definitions.

With a “DEFINED GOAL” all these definitions are useless blather

The benefit of clearly defining government is to ensure that

we are able to accomplish whatever goal we set.

for example, if you think that government is a tool of the people, or government works for the people, then you may recreate the conditions that have caused our mutual suffering.
My goal is to achieve maximum/rightful individual liberty for all.

Counterfeit Government

Criminals have learned how to counterfeit any defensive power employed by innocent people including the criminal counterfeiting of government.

A counterfeit government is a sum total of all the power of all the individual criminals into one power of crime employed by criminals to destroy every living thing.

A form of counterfeit government is a counterfeit state, the word state is merely a false front covering up the crime done by the criminals to every living thing.



A form of government is a state whereby the people in the state constitute a state when those people unanimously agree to form a unified defensive power comprised of the total sum of the individual defensive parts.



Effective defense of the innocent from the guilty criminals as defined according to the judgment of the whole people; exemplified in trial by jury, constitutional republics, and federated republics, such as the time period between 1776 and 1787 in America.

Government = defense = Liberty = peace = prosperity = people driven to action by moral conscience


Thinking about "government"

So far, I have not offered any sort of definition for "government." It does not seem to be as well defined as "state" within the libertarian community.

Once again, I am interested in the essential features of "government" which makes it different from other organizations.

When used broadly, it appears that "government" refers to any "governing body" within organizations, whether nominally "public" or "private." For example, we speak of "corporate governance," the "governing council" of a local charity, etc.

One feature (the essential feature?) of "government" appears to be that it is nominally a set of people, institutions, policies, and procedures used to facilitate and implement group decision making which does not require unanimity from all members of the group in order to embark on a particular action or policy.

Breaking it down, it would appear that the two main roles of "government" are (1) making decisions for a group when unanimity is not present and (2) implementing those decisions through executive action.

define Liberty


Rightful individual liberty:

Rightful individual liberty is having the freedom to behave any way one wishes without interference from others so long as one does not initiate direct, proximate, and nonconsensual harm.

Good idea,

but that would be for a different thread.

governance is not a govenrment

any rule making can be considered governance. Not every rule maker is a government/state. Only government can grant itself the power to initiate harm with legal impunity.

Generally, the state refers to the bodies and mechanisms that compose a particular/specific government.

but state and government can be used interchangeably depending on the context.

For our purposes,

they can mean whatever we say they mean. If the terms "government" and "state" are to be mostly interchangeable in the way you suggest, then perhaps there is no reason to attempt to define both, and just leave it at "state."

In any event, I do think that there are two concepts which are important to address in one or both definitions.

First is the issue that I have raised, above, regarding the lack of unanimity in decision making.

Second is the issue of asserting sovereignty over persons and/or lands which have not consented to the agreement by expanding the sphere of influence of the state/government through violent aggression.

DEFINITION - State (revised)

After discussion, I propose the following revised definition of "state."

State - An organization which plausibly asserts sovereignty over the use of violence within a geographic region under its control.

Government is what the State sells

the unwitting so that they can plunder the people of their Liberty…..period …..full stop.

Personally, even though I posted it

I am not completely satisfied with the normative libertarian/ancap definition of "state."

In its favor, it captures the "main idea" in a very succinct way.

But it is also (necessarily?) ambiguous or inaccurate in several important respects.

I am not (necessarily) interested in historical definitions, or dictionary definitions, etc. I am more interested in a definition that is meaningful from the libertarian/ancap perspective. Although I have "issues" with the Objectivists, I have been impressed by their quest to achieve logical consistency, and to create a common lexicon whereby they can communicate with one another, and know that they are talking about the same set of ideas when they use a particular word. I would think that an "ideal" definition would be as short as possible, while still capturing the "essence" of the word being defined which differentiates it from other similar words.

For example, the "state" does not really hold a "monopoly on violence" per se (even by libertarian standards). Most societies (including postulated libertarian societies) recognize a right to self defense in the "heat of the moment" (i.e.: when one is actually under attack).

It seems to me that it would be more correct to say that a "state" asserts "sovereignty over violence" within a geographic region. That is, the state asserts a right to be the final arbiter of when violence has been used "justly" or "unjustly" within the region under its control.

I am considering proposing a revised definition that encapsulates this concept, but I want to think about it more deeply before I do.

that is really well put.

It addresses the self defense aspect I had a problem with very well.


Here is the normative libertarian/ancap definition of "the state" which I previously posted. I am reposting it with "definition" in the title pursuant to the new proposed housekeeping rules.

If this if your favorite definition, please vote it up, and vote other definitions down.

NOTE: Editorial comments (those comments NOT starting with the word DEFINITION) may be voted up or down, or not voted on at all, according to your preference. They have no bearing on the poll.

State - An organization holding the monopoly on violence within a particular geographic region, funded by coercive taxation.


1)An organization-Correct.
2)...holding the monopoly on violence-False. Even our government recognizes the individual right to self defense.
3)...within a particular geographic region-Possible. Some governments laws extend to its citizens regardless of where they go.
4)...funded by coercive taxation-False. A)Coercive taxation is redundant. B) Governments can and do use other methods to raise revenue therefore not making it critical to its definition.

Thanks for starting this thread, I've been wanting to debunk the "ancap" definition of state/government for a long time. :)

I think its critical to understand these basic civics so that we can properly innovate a way out of this mess. Otherwise we may find ourselves recreating the machine that has caused us all so much harm.

I want to achieve individual liberty in my lifetime, and I know we can do it if we work together and pool our intellects.

I would love to discuss the exact how government goes astray. if you are up to it.