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Did Rothbard use the terms State and government as synonyms?

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RothbardsDisciple Posted: Mon, Oct 10 2011 12:33 AM

Topic.

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http://thesaurus.com/browse/government#visualthesaurus

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Cool. "State" is indeed listed as a synonym for government. I think that is also the way Rothbard idiosyncratically used the terms (i.e., he would equally support exclaiming "abolish the government!" as "abolish the State!")

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Praetyre replied on Mon, Oct 10 2011 2:22 AM

Some people I've talked to (largely British) seem to have this rather weird semantic issue with these two words. Best as I can tell, "state" means what most people outside of there just call "government" and "government" either refers to the parliament or to the ruling coalition/party, plus the executive branch in the Prime Minister (but not the monarch).

None of this is relevant to Rothbard, of course, who as an American would have used the terms synonymously. Of course in America, the term "state" means something else entirely... wonder if Germany and Australia have the same commonplace usage of it in the regional government sense.

 

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James replied on Mon, Oct 10 2011 2:58 AM

As Praetyre points out, there's a minor technical distinction between the quasi-mythological state which is eternal and associated with the sovereign and his or her divine right, and the government, which specifically refers to the administration appointed by or acting on behalf of said sovereign at a given time.  Depending on context, "Government" can refer to the ruling party or coalition in Parliament as opposed to the Opposition, or it can refer to the executive government administration and its policies.  It can also describe regional and local government.  I think people in Europe would also be disinclined to refer to the judiciary as part of the 'government' per se, though obviously it is an organ of state.

I think the distinction is less clear in a country like the United States, where the roles of 'head of state' and 'head of government' are embodied in a single office.  But if you consider a country where they have a monarch or president as head of state and a prime minister as head of government, the difference is a bit clearer...  The head of state is almost a religious position with mostly ceremonial roles based on the privilege of a reigning monarch.  The head of state has the power to pardon/commute punishments extrajudicially, which is symbolic of the fact that the state's penal system serves the personal interests of the monarch, and not natural justice.  They often have the power to dissolve cabinet and/or Parliament, which is symbolic of the fact that the popularly elected government sits at the pleasure of the sovereign, and not the people.  There is extensive diplomatic protocol concerning the treatment and reception of heads of state - red carpet treatment, they must be greeted by your own head of state etc.  Symbolic, once again, of the head of state's exalted, pseudo-divine position.  Perhaps most significantly, the head of government is normally appointed by the head of state, even if they are supposed to do this, by custom, within the constraints of democratic government.

I've heard some people go so far as to say that voluntary dispute resolution services, defense etc might still correctly be referred to as 'government' without a state, but I think that's stretching the language a bit far personally.  I think it's simpler for government to be considered an appendage of the state, if not an outright synonym for it.

There's an easy way to remember the difference...  Government is to the State what the Church is to God.  They are effectively synonyms if you don't believe in the latter. :p 

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Marko replied on Mon, Oct 10 2011 4:22 AM

I think people in Europe would also be disinclined to refer to the judiciary as part of the 'government' per se, though obviously it is an organ of state.


Well in English you have "the three branches of government", but you would never say that in the two other languages I know. English seems to lack the 'intermediate' word between state and government, which in the cases I know is oblast/vlast and means something like authority or power. So we speak about the three branches of "vlasti".

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James replied on Mon, Oct 10 2011 5:30 AM

I think oblast/vlast would translate to "dominium" in Latin, though I stand to be corrected.  "Herrshaft" in German.

In other words, inherent authority conferred by constitutional office.  A judge has inherent dominion to make judgements, similarly to how the legislature has the inherent dominion to legislate - the one is not subject to the other.  But the state is still the top-level which confers 'dominion' onto the executive, legislature and judiciary.

Perhaps they don't talk about the three brances of dominion in English, because 'dominus' is what a slave calls their master...

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Does "three branches of ownage" sound better?

IMHO, "vlast" in Slavic languages has this mixed taste of "power/authorities" - the overlord masters, whose legitimacy is not discussed.

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MaikU replied on Mon, Oct 10 2011 3:23 PM

In my native language the words "State" (valstybe) and "government" (valdzia) has the same root. So yeah, we use it as synonyms, me including. Even though semantically it's not the same.

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Marko replied on Mon, Oct 10 2011 3:32 PM

Perhaps they don't talk about the three brances of dominion in English, because 'dominus' is what a slave calls their master...

I do find that English is more sanitized when it comes to terms relating to the state, as they come from harmless roots. For example someone may be an "authorithy on dog breeding", or they can "govern their estate" or "work as a governess". But vlast, vlada, gosudarstvo by comparison all come with unconcealed, eerie connotations.

IMHO, "vlast" in Slavic languages has this mixed taste of "power/authorities" - the overlord masters, whose legitimacy is not discussed.

Something like that. When the cabinet of ministers changes then you have a change government, but when the people who have the guns change then you have a change in "oblast".

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I brought this up myself before: http://mises.org/Community/forums/t/23445.aspx

I'm pretty sure Rothbard uses them interchangeably.

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