Chapter Overview: 31

Governance, Government, and the State

Because of the use of advancing science and technology to create weapons of mass destruction, war has become a threat to the survival of the human species.  The source of war is not conflict among nations, but is rather the existence of national states with the power to tax and to force people to submit to conscription into the armed forces of the state.

In 1690 the English philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) became the first person to write that the purpose of government is to protect property. Locke also asserted that the only legitimate governments are those that have the consent of the people.

Advocate for abolishing monarchy and establishment of democratic governance with the consent of the governed; probably author of the American Declaration of Independence

Locke’s idea of governance was adopted by Thomas Paine (1737-1809) in his influential essay Common Sense (1776) and in the American Declaration of Independence of 1776, which both state that “to secure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”


In the United States of America consent of the governed is presumed due to the nature of the representative democracy established by the Constitution of the United States. However, at the time of ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1787 and 1788 very few people were asked to consent to it, and even fewer—a small group of white men—actually consented. Since then, very few Americans have consented explicitly to the Constitution or any of the laws enacted by the legislature, the United States Congress.

There is a fundamental problem with representative democracy in the United States and elsewhere—a problem that has never been resolved to the total satisfaction of anybody. That problem was and is that when decisions are made by majority rule the minority is always dissatisfied. Those who are in the majority on some issues will be in the dissatisfied minority on others.

The only way to govern with the consent of each and every individual is with competition among governance services, whereby individuals are free to terminate their relationship with a provider of governance services and seek different providers that they find satisfactory.

Andrew Galambos developed an alternate concept of government that enables every individual to confer or withhold consent to governance. That concept is set forth in Galambos’ definition of government, as follows.

A government is any person or organization that sells products or services to protect life and property, to which individuals may voluntarily subscribe.

By this definition, a security company that installs alarm systems, patrols neighborhoods, and responds to distress calls is a government service. Other examples include insurance, fire protection, and ambulance services.

Galambos distinguished between government, which allows for competition among service providers, and the “state,” which imposes a monopoly of governance. Galambos defined the state as follows.

The state is any person or organization that claims to protect property by coercing the owner of the property to use and pay for its ‘services,’ claiming legality as its justification.

The state does not sell its services. It compels their usage. Everyone has to pay for the state’s services, whether or not they choose to buy them. A state acquires its revenues through taxation, without which it could not operate. Taxes are collected through the threat of violence. There is no choice whether to pay or in the amount that must be paid.

Notice the similarity of a protection racket to the way a state finances its operations through taxation. A protection racket and a political state operate by extorting money with threat of harm to the persons and property of those who do not pay what is demanded.

In representative democracy the concept of consent of the governed is irrelevant to the operation of the state. Through constant inculcation of the idea that the people consent to political democracy that concept has become a fraud foisted upon the people. There is a true democracy that benefits everyone and is not an imposition on anyone. That is the democracy of the free market. It is the free market that produces and provides a competitive choice in government services that obviates the false alternative of state monopoly of coercion.


When presented with the idea of choosing voluntary, subscription-based government services in preference to the state, people are concerned that the absence of the state would result in anarchy that would spawn chaos and violence. However, this is a false alternative. The choice is not between coercive state rule and anarchy.

Anarchy implies a state of no rules, devoid of leadership. Ideological leadership is the alternative to the state’s coercive control. Ideological leadership comes about from knowledge, not commands, when people benefit from knowledge that improves their lives and is compatible with their pursuit of happiness.

The automobile is an example. A contemporary automobile is a self-propelled wheeled vehicle, powered usually by an internal combustion engine that burns a refined fossil fuel and is controlled by the driver with the assistance of mechanical, electronic and computerized devices. Every aspect of an automobile is based upon human discoveries and inventions—from the invention of the wheel and axle to the development of the technology of automotive engineering, the discovery of the laws of the physical sciences, and the development of digital computers. The discoverers and inventors are the ideological leaders for the designers and manufacturers of automobiles and for the people who buy and use them.

No one is ever coerced into buying an automobile. Those who buy and use automobiles are following the ideological leadership of those whose discoveries and inventions are the basis for automobiles.

The same thing is true of the insurance purchased by owners of automobiles. People who buy insurance are following the leadership of those who developed insurance as a service and of those who have organized and operate insurance companies.

It is the political state that causes chaos and violence, due to its monopoly of coercion. It is the state that causes wars. More people have been killed in wars than were ever killed by non-state violence. It is the state that causes chaos and violence within a nation by its coercive laws. For example, in the United States prohibition of alcoholic beverages and prohibition of narcotic drugs fostered violence among criminal gangs fighting over the lucrative and illicit market created by outlawing alcohol and narcotic drugs.


The benefit of political democracy compared to other forms of political rule is that the people get to pick who rules them, can replace their rulers in an election, and the loser relinquishes power peacefully. In a few places, such as the United States, Great Britain, and a few other countries with strong democratic institutions political democracy has provided a buffer against the arbitrary rule of a dictator.

However, time and again politically elected leaders have abused their power. Many democratically selected rulers in Latin America’s post-colonial history ultimately ruled as dictators. In post-colonial, sub-Saharan Africa, the democratic ideal of “one man, one vote,” has very often been perverted to mean “one man, one vote, one time.”

A principal deficiency of political democracy has been weakness in defense of life and liberty. In 1936, France and England failed to take action to stop Nazi Germany’s aggression when timely and decisive action by the democracies could have prevented World War II in Europe without the firing of a single shot, according to Winston Churchill, as explained in Chapter 25 of this book dealing with National Defense.

In a political democracy the state does not have a proprietary interest in protecting life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is operated on a not-for-profit basis. The state loses nothing when its citizens suffer losses that could have been prevented by efficient protective services.


Wars are fought by political states. It takes two states to fight a war, but only one to start war. Prior to merging into a strong, centralized state in the mid-19th century under Otto von Bismarck, the German speaking people were not a major threat to their neighbors. After unification into a strong, centralized state, the German state stated in three major wars of aggression until suffering total defeat and extinction in World War II.

The United States fought wars of aggression as well, including the Mexican-American War and  the Spanish-American War. The American Civil War was fought not to abolish slavery in the Southern states, but to require that the United States remained a strong, centralized state. Abraham Lincoln, in a letter to the editor of the New York Tribune in 1862, stated “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it.”


Andrew Galambos asserted that political states fail because through its coercive powers the state always attacks and weakens the productive ability of the people. Over time, the more coercive and aggressive the state, the sooner it is likely to fall. The Russian Empire under the Czars and then communists, the Roman Empire, the Empire of Japan and the German empire in the 20th century are examples of the decline and fall of the state apparatus under the weight of aggressive policies of war, conquest, and repression. The British Empire, once the largest in world history, failed because many of the people it once ruled could not be kept indefinitely under British dominance.

Switzerland is the unique example of a political state that has survived intact for seven centuries and continues to thrive into the modern age. In contrast to empires and nations that failed or became extinct, the Swiss people have maintained a domestic policy of decentralized power, a strong military defensive capability, and a strict foreign policy of avoiding involvement in wars outside of the nation’s borders. Consequently, for over 200 years, since the Napoleonic wars, the Swiss have enjoyed a peaceful existence.

Lakeside village in peaceful Switzerland


When a state fails, the conventional wisdom holds that anarchy, chaos and violence must ensue. That is not true. Today in the United States there are thousands of private companies that provide protective services, such as insurance, personal and home security, fire protection, and much more, all of which can operate independent of a state authority dictating how they must conduct business.

There are many examples of these kinds of companies operating in areas where the state provides inadequate service, for example a security company in Grants Pass, Oregon, that picked up the slack when the local police department was gutted by budget cuts; and a private fire protection company in Scottsdale, Arizona that was founded by an individual who created a company to provide  fire protection to the community in which he lived after a neighbor’s house burned down because there was no fire department in the community.

Whether it is public transportation networks, large-scale defense against external aggression, or any other service that is today considered to be the domain of the state, private alternatives either already exist, or their foundations are in place to serve the public when the state fails to do so.


Insurance and security services are governance services because their primary functions are protecting life and property. They developed separately but are tending to become integrated in economically advanced nations.

These two industries in many instances cooperate, and in the absence of the state would form the basis of genuine, comprehensive protection from harm or loss. When an individual or business suffers a loss on an insured property, the insurance company also suffers a loss. The insurance company has a huge incentive to prevent losses from occurring in the first place, and would work closely with protective security services to deter loss from ever occurring, or find out who is responsible for the loss and hold them to account, financially or otherwise.

When compared with state so-called protection services, such as police, the difference is manifest. The state suffers no loss when an individual suffers loss. The state has very little incentive in preventing losses from occurring or holding those responsible to account. A small proportion of transgressors are caught and held accountable by the state, and when they are, they are sent to prison rather than made to pay real restitution to the people they harmed, thus compounding the loss, as taxpayers are forced to pay for the maintenance of vast and expensive prisons.


Andrew J. Galambos, the man whose lectures this book memorializes, asked a rhetorical question: Why is it that in the thousands of years of recorded human history no one challenged the idea that coercion was the only tool available for resolution of humanity’s social problems?

Galambos was not the first to recognize that a political state is a hindrance to human progress, rather than a means of achieving progress. The great musical artist Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) wrote that “Only art and science give us a hope for a higher life.”

In 1849 the remarkable American philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote:

This government [of the United States] never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the west. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way.

This book’s message offers a vision of a future in which humanity gradually turns away from the false alternative of coercion. Civilization is not built by coercion. It is built by cooperation, knowledge, innovation, and freedom.

La Liberté éclairant le monde (Liberty Enlightening the World) by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi—gift from the People of France to the People of the United States of America

In the harbor of New York City there stands a magnificent symbol of human aspiration for freedom, the Statue of Liberty, entitled by its French builder Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904)  La Liberté éclairant le monde—Liberty Enlightening the World.

On the other side of the North American continent there is another symbol of human freedom, creativity, and enterprise—the Golden Gate Bridge that spans the entrance to San Francisco Bay. The bridge was born in the imagination of Joseph Baermann Strauss (1870-1938), an American structural engineer who served as chief engineer in charge of overall design and construction of the bridge project.

Both edifices, the Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge, were paid for by private subscription, not taxation.

The Golden Gate Bridge, one of the wonders of the modern world and a symbol of American achievement

Just as people, individually and cooperatively conceived of and built the Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge, so can people conceive of and build human governance that is voluntary, non-coercive, and effective. To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, through innovation, enterprise, and cooperation individuals conceived of and have built institutions of governance—the insurance and security industries—and would have done much more to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness if the state had not gotten in the way.

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  1. Pingback: Finally - A Better Kind of Government - Eye On Freedom Site

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