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A state is an organization that maintains a monopoly on force within a given territory over which it claims ultimate legal jurisdiction. Proponents of the state defend it with the social contract. The validity of the social contract has been questioned by many libertarians, for example Stefan Molyneux.[1]


Ludwig von Mises defines the state as "the social apparatus of compulsion and coercion that induces people to abide by the rules of life in society"[2][3] and notes that "It has the monopoly of violent action. No individual is free to use violence or the threat of violence if the government has not accorded this right to him."[4] Murray Rothbard defines the state as "that institution which possesses one or both (almost always both) of the following properties: (1) it acquires its income by the physical coercion known as 'taxation'; and (2) it asserts and usually obtains a coerced monopoly of the provision of defense service (police and courts) over a given territorial area."[5] The Market for Liberty defines government as "a coercive monopoly which has assumed power over and certain responsibilities for every human being within the geographical area which it claims as its own."[6] Hans-Hermann Hoppe defines the state as "a compulsory territorial monopolist of protection and jurisdiction equipped with the power to tax without unanimous consent."[7]


States arose around 3700 B.C. in Mesopotamia and around 300 B.C. in Mesoamerica, over 2000 years ago in the Andes, China, and Southeast Asia, and over 1000 years ago in West Africa.

As recently as A.D. 1500, less than 20 percent of the world's land area was marked off by boundaries into states run by bureaucrats and governed by laws. Today, all land except Antarctica is so divided.[8]


  1. The Social Contract: Defined and Destroyed in under 5 mins, 2008
  2. von Mises, Ludwig. "The Foundations of Liberal Policy". Liberalism. 
  3. Mises, Ludwig von. "State and Government". Liberalism. "We call the social apparatus of compulsion and coercion that induces people to abide by the rules of life in society, the state; the rules according to which the state proceeds, law; and the organs charged with the responsibility of administering the apparatus of compulsion, government." 
  4. Mises, Ludwig von. "A Critique of the Holistic and Metaphysical View of Society". Human Action. 
  5. "Society without a State" by Rothbard, Murray, 28 December 2006
  6. Tannehill, Morris and Linda. "Government — An Unnecessary Evil". The Market for Liberty. 
  7. Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. "Introduction". The Myth of National Defense. pp. 8. 
  8. Jared Diamond. Guns, Germs and Steel, p. 266, 278. Published 1997. Referenced 2012-05-21.