What is The State?

The State
The State is the negation of government.
  • The State is a monopoly that initiates force under the pretense of governing
  • The State compels obedience on matters far beyond the scope of legitimate government
  • The State uses threats of violence to extort submission
  • The State uses actual violence to harm people who resist its dictates

All of this is crime, not governance.

You will avoid contradictory thinking if you distinguish between government and The State.

  • Governing is a service that protects your rights by only using force defensively
  • But The State initiates force in nearly everything it does, and is therefore NOT a government
  • This constant use of initiated force means that The State is really an organized criminal gang

There is a long habit of NOT thinking about The State in this way, but we must stop using a double standard. We must come to judge The State by the same moral principles we apply to all other human institutions.

To promote empathy, Zero Aggression, and legitimate government, you must oppose The State.

Share this mini-article on social networks.  Join ZAP by subscribing to our informative email newsletter, using the free subscription form below.

Jim Babka

About the Author

Jim Babka

Facebook Twitter

Jim Babka is co-founder of the Zero Aggression Project and President of DownsizeDC.org, Inc. He’s an author and former talk show host.
Previously, he was the President of RealCampaignReform.org, Inc., defending free press rights all the way to the Supreme Court. He and Susie are the proud, home-schooling parents of three teenagers. He enjoys theology, UFC, target practice, and Tai Chi.

Perry Willis

About the Author

Perry Willis

Facebook Twitter Google+

Perry Willis is the co-founder of the Zero Aggression Project and Downsize DC. He was the National Director of the Libertarian National Committee on two occasions, and ran two Libertarian Party presidential campaigns. He has an extensive background in marketing and fundraising, and has ghost written direct mail appeals for numerous luminaries, including Karl Hess, Ron Paul, Charlton Heston and Harry Browne.

Subscribe form for Lever Pages


Show Comments 15


  1. The most often used state tool of control is not violence, but threat thereof, or deception. Deception is necessary because cooperation of the victim is needed to make oppression/exploitation efficient. Without self enslavement of the victims rule becomes so inefficient as to be impractical.
    Seemingly all-powerful states fall without popular support. No violence against the state is needed, only withdrawal of moral and practical support. It is theorized that if just 10-15% of the population lost belief in the state, it would fall. I would love to see that theory tested.

  2. A campaign to discourage voting, hence participation in the State’s theater, if successful would be enlightening.

  3. More than 58% of registered voters already participated in voting (2012 presidential election numbers!). That 58% is derived from the 55% of voting age population (vap) that actually registers. That means that only 32% of the voting age population voted in the 2012 elections. Out of that 32%, 1% voted Libertarian, 98.2% voted the two party system and 0.8% voted other. The democrat vote represented 16.3% of the vap and the republicans 15.1%. How much lower do we have to go before we consider it worthless?
    The reality is any incorporation including our government can move forward just fine as long as anyone votes. To not vote simply indicates you go along with the recommendations of the board.
    The real issue here is we are using voting for the president to create a dictator with a term. We were never meant to vote for the president – we were only meant to elect house representatives.

    1. TPTB fear no turnout at the polls. If a vote boycott meant you agree with any outcome that would not be the case. It could mean laziness. It could mean apathy. It could mean you have become enlightened and now see the whole process as an excuse to justify authoritarianism.
      As a voluntarist I boycott on principal. I will not let TPTB use my vote along with others to declare I have had my say and now I must obey whatever they command. BS.
      “Social Contract” myth was invented like “original sin” to confuse and control. Being born in a region does not morally justify being ruled. This is the antithesis of the concept of rights.

  4. There are some very valid points here. However, I don’t agree with the idea, put forth elsewhere on this site, that anarchy is “lawlessness” and therefore the current form of government is anarchist.

    “Governing is a service that protects your rights by only using force defensively.”

    For this to be true, the governing service necessarily must be voluntary. If it’s voluntary, I can opt out. If I can opt out, that by definition is anarchy. That’s the only way to go.

  5. Hi Perry. Thanks for your ever-thoughtful responses. I’m no scholar, but to the degree that the current, popular understanding of the word “anarchy” diverges from its original meaning is a perversion, much like the word “liberalism” as of the early twentieth century came to mean essentially the exact opposite. Hence the adoption of the distinction, “classical liberal.” Maybe we need to start using, “classical anarchy.”

    But I don’t mean to split hairs. It seems like we’re expressing much the same ideology using different words. I would argue for the same reason you advise against the use of the label “anarchy” we should be equally reluctant to use the word “government.” It appears that the current, popular understanding of “government” is (intentionally) synonymous with the “state.” Advocating for “true government” then is likely to produce predictable resistance. It certainly does in me.

    Thank you for providing an excellent forum.

    1. Hi Guy. Sorry for the slow response. Things got busy. I agree with your comments overall. I think they could be summarized by two points…

      1. Sometimes good words get ruined
      2. We have to decide which ruined words are worth the effort to salvage

      In general, I think we should make no effort to salvage words in cases where equal or better substitutes are available. So let’s examine a few words by this criteria.

      The word liberal is a close call. I can see advantages to salvaging it, and there may perhaps be an opportunity to do that at some point, as many left-statists have abandoned it in favor of the term progressive. But it doesn’t seem to be an area that’s ripe for effort given the growing success of the word libertarian.

      I think voluntaryist and our new ZAP coinage post-statist are both better than the term anarchy. I also think anarchy fails in another way — there are still rulers in the libertarian non-state approach to governance. For instance, if you buy into an intentional community governed by a covenant administered by a homeowner’s association then there will be rulers. The difference is that you will have chosen to be ruled and can exit at any time. Neither thing is possible in the current political system.

      I think the same approach applies to the word government. Libertarian voluntaryists/post-statists tend to favor institutions such as private police and juries. We also favor non-state regulatory institutions such as UL and NSF. What should we call such institutions of governance? Government seems like a good word to me, and it’s hard to think of a better one. Yes, the word government is tainted by many acts of aggression. But it seems to me that we gain something in the war of ideas by saying that acts of aggression negate the supposed purpose of government. Here too is a case where we have a good alternative to the word government that we can use when speaking of this “aggressive taint.” That alternative word is The State, which carries with it the nasty sounding labels, statist, left-statist, right-statist. Plus…

      If we say that The State uses force aggressively while legitimate government uses force only defensively, then we can also say that we are pro-government and anti-state. I think this formulation is both accurate and brain twisting. It can start a process of thought that leads to good places.

      In summary, I think anarchy is a word that was ruined and that we should let go, because we have better alternatives to it. Government is a word that has been tainted, but not completely ruined, and that we can turn to our own purposes.

      Thanks for the conversation.

      1. Ok Perry, you convinced me. I very reluctantly leave “anarchy” to its opponents. I have been using voluntaryism/voluntaryist for years now anyway. It is a positive word I spell like the original. I have been a subscriber to “The Voluntaryist” (damn spell check to hell) since the early ’80s. Carl Watner was my only connection to voluntaryists for many years.

        Accepting/rehabilitating “government” will be tough, but I accept the challenge. I must remember to constantly contrast it to “state”. This will be a good way to teach our concepts, as in, “self-governance”.

        1. Thanks Don. Here are a few little tricks I use on the government thing. Whenever I have to use the word government where I would rather use the word State, I either say “our so-called government” or I put the word “government” in scare quotes. I also tend to capitalize State, and/or call it The State (capital T capital S), o help differentiate been The State as a concept and the little U.S. states. Good luck. Let me know how it goes.

          1. Your reminded me. I use “The US Empire” or “The USSA” for the USA. When I want to indicate the people I use, Americans or “We the People” or the masses.

  6. I don’t understand the comments about “The State”
    It seems the States of which the United States are made of, is not what is being referred to here? It sounds like “The State” and a government are the same thing?

    1. We use the capital T capital S formulation of The State to differentiate the concept of the state from all the little versions thereof that we have in the U.S. Because the U.S. is a collection of states it is unique in the world in creating this confusion. Everywhere else in the world the term state is instantly understood to refer to a monopoly form of governance that can compel people to do things. So…

      Why don’t we simply call it the government? We don’t do that because we think it is possible to have forms of government that do not require having a state. But we go even further than that. We argue that The State contradicts the very purpose of government. We have a collection of mini articles that explain these concepts in more detail.


      We provide answers to the following questions – Are some people confused about what a government is? What is a legitimate government? What is The State? Can you be pro-government but anti-state? Thanks for your interest.

Leave a Comment:

Fields marked with * are required