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October 24, 2011

Our Lexicon: The Violent Monopoly

In my article “Coercion” I showed how the distinction between initiation and retaliation in the use of force, is crucial to determine what government is and is not. Retaliation can be an act of governance. Initiation, on the other hand, is always a crime, and NOT an act of governance.

Based on this distinction between initiation and retaliation, I argued in my article “The State” that most of what our so-called “government” does has nothing to do with governing. Therefore . . .

We should stop using the name “the government.” We should call it “The State” instead.

The name “The State” better captures the air of menace that should naturally be attached to any institution that is a monopoly, and that uses the threat of violence for everything it does. I have further suggested that we might want to use a capital “T,” and a capital “S,” to help differentiate The State, from the little states, such as Texas and California.

Likewise, I think we should stop using the labels “liberal,” “socialist,” “progressive,” and “conservative.” There is nothing liberal or progressive about advocating violence and monopoly as a solution to social problems. The label “socialism” is wrong for the same reason. Most of what so-called “socialists” promote is actually anti-social. And there is nothing conservative about trying to use police to impose personal religious views about individual behavior, or using the military to re-engineer foreign societies. These are radical, aggressive acts, not conservative ones.

Our partisan labels, Republican and Democrat, are even worse. As applied to the major political parties, the words Democrat and Republican are completely meaningless. Consider . . .

Are the Democrats against the idea of a republic? Do Republicans oppose democracy? Of course not.

These names were chosen for manipulation, because they are words of which everyone approves. But the names don’t actually identify anything unique about the organizations that bear them. By comparison . . .

I think the word “statism” more accurately captures the fundamental beliefs and values of all these groups. Everyone who self-applies one of the above labels is advocating monopoly and violence, in some way or another. The labels they wear should reflect this fact. Therefore . . .

Since The State is the best name for the violent monopoly that most people mistakenly call “the government,” STATISM is the best name for the philosophy that promotes an expansive State. It naturally follows that the person who advocates such statism is a STATIST. And, if we need to differentiate between types of statism, it would be far better to use the terms left-statist and right-statist.

We should stop using all of these words — government, the government, liberal, progressive, socialist, conservative, Republican, Democrat.

In their place we should consistently use these words — The State, statism, statist, left-statist, right-statist.

I have so far heard only one good argument against adopting these linguistic suggestions. In the United States of America, unlike in the rest of the world, the word “state” has been used to designate the little states of which the United States is comprised. This means that using the term The State could lead some people to wonder which state you are talking about. I actually think this is a benefit, NOT a problem. This is a discussion you WANT to have, so you can get people to start thinking about what a State really is.

The State is a violent monopoly. It is NOT a government, UNLESS it limits itself to using retaliatory force only. In addition, The State is NOT the same as the country, or society. To think that it is, as many people do, is to get things exactly backward. The State should be at the bottom of society, serving with humility, NOT at the top of society, ruling over it. These are issues that we want people to focus on, and any confusion about the use of the name “The State” can lead to conversations that will help foster that focus.

But there is one secondary problem to address — word variation. Constant use of the words “The State” can grow a bit tiresome. It’s interesting to note that the terms “government” and “the government” are overused in precisely this way. There is almost no attempt to use alternative words for the purpose of word variation, but we have grown used to this overuse of “government,” so that we hardly even notice it. In any case, there are numerous alternatives we can use for “The State.” I have suggested . . .

  • Federal state, to make clear the differentiation between the Feds and the little states, such as California and Texas.
  • The Coercive Entity — whenever you want to focus on the fact that violence is central to what The State does

Jim Babka has also suggested “Leviathan State,” which is another good variation. Now, I propose that we add “The Violent Monopoly,” as yet another alternative, and perhaps the best one of all. This is the most direct and concrete name we can use. It says specifically what The State is, and how it behaves. We should use it constantly, so that it becomes a part of common speech. This is the way you become an effective change agent, by influencing the very words that people use.

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Copyright (c) 2011 by Perry Willis. Permission to distribute this blog post for educational purposes is granted, if done with attribution to the author and the Downsize DC Foundation. Permission to use for commercial purposes is denied.

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