What is “The State”?
The word “state” is an often misunderstood term. In the United States of America, the word state is often used in the way that other nations use the term province, for example. People in every nation on the planet seem to use the term as a synonym for government and the word government is then a synonym for order, such that when you start talking about the removal of the state they think you’re talking about destroying all social order and inaugurating nothing but blind, unending chaos. In order to correct this error as well as help people to see the danger of and shackles placed upon them by the state, we must therefore start by correctly identifying all these terms. This will especially be necessary as we go forward and evaluate the ways in which the state as a form of government effects the world we live in and how liberty and individual choice would be better adapted to responding to the crises our world finds itself inundated with.
First we will define the concept of government. Government is merely the idea that there are rules by which a community is governed. There are many types of government by this definition. Everything from the government of the United States to your church to the local PTA are governments. They all have rules governing the conducted of those under their purview, along with consequences for acting poorly. But not all those are the same types of government. And the types of governments are vital distinctions to make.
Government can be roughly divided into two types:
Statist (state-ist): A statist form of government is one in which there is a formalized central political system that has the power to compel obedience from its subjects through the threat or actuality of violence. The forms of statist governments are varied. They run from minarchism (the idea of a minimum state with few powers) to totalitarianism (the idea of a state with total power). Monarchies, republics, dictatorships, democracies are all statist regimes as these governments have the power to force you to obey the law or it will beat, kidnap, cage, even kill you if you don’t obey its every edict, even if the law you’re commanded to obey is fundamentally unjust.
Anarchy: The word anarchy is a loaded term for most people. Its use immediately conjures images of bomb throwing madmen, assassins, and mayhem. And it is true that in terms of definitions, one of the definitions for anarchy is just that- chaos. But that is not the sole definition. Anarchism is also a political system. Anarchist government forms are just as varied as statist forms but all anarchist forms have one common idea: the rejection of political power as a means to compel obedience from individuals and groups. As a result voluntaryism, the idea that all human interactions and relationships should be purely voluntary, is the basis of government. The people that share a government system and agree to live by its laws do so because they voluntarily agree to be a part of that system. Anarchists believe that this is the only way you can have a just government as just governments can only exist by the consent of the governed. It also prevents overweening governments from being able to compel you to obey unjust rules because if it did so it would lose support and funding as people quit it for better systems.
Most governments today, including the United States government and all Western nations, are statist governments. If you don’t do what you are told to by those in power they will send the policing and military agents of the government out to, at best, extort money from you under the threat of overwhelming, life-destroying violence if you don’t give them what they want, typically under the guise of a “fine.” If that doesn’t work then they will assault you, kidnap you, strip you naked and sexually assault you, and finally lock you in a cage. If that doesn’t work, or if you resist their initial invasion of your life too successfully, i.e. if you fight back, they will kill you. The nature of the state can be boiled down to one phrase- “Obey or die.”
It isn’t just the major laws -like murder or rape- that the government will kill you for disobeying. There is no law so trivial that the gov’t will not murder you to enforce. As Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter put it:
“Every law is violent. We try not to think about this, but we should. On the first day of law school, I tell my Contracts students never to argue for invoking the power of law except in a cause for which they are willing to kill…even a breach of contract requires a judicial remedy; and if the breacher will not pay damages, the sheriff will sequester his house and goods; and if he resists the forced sale of his property, the sheriff might have to shoot him.”
With but little resistance, the government’s agents will kill you over the most minor of laws. They’ll throttle you to death for selling individual cigarettes. They will laugh at you at you lay dying on the jail cell floor, coughing up blood. They will murder you in cold blood as you lay on the ground with your hands in the air. This is the state in its purest, truest form, stripped of the glamour of stirring song, strident marching, and soaring national banners. It is compulsion, domination, and death.
It is against this form of brutality that we stand arrayed against. The flippant will often respond, “That is the price you pay for civilization,” but the state is not civilization. This is merely barbarism dressed up, playing the seductive whore. And it is against this base violence that the good men and women of all nations, faiths, and beliefs are called to stand, but it is especially the calling of the Christian to resist such reckless inhumanity. Christ commands us saying:
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
In other articles we discuss the First and Second Great Commandments in the face of the state, but here it is simple enough to note that you cannot claim to love others as yourself if you are willing to beat them, cage them, destroy their homes, and kill them whether you’re doing it personally or through some hired functionary such as a government employee. Thus the state, in all its forms, can only exist and continue to survive through an intentional breaking of the commandments of Christ and in opposition to how He commands His disciples to live and treat all the people of the world. The Christian must reject the state and the kingdoms of this world for Zion and the Kingdom of our Lord and His Christ.