Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek                      

 S - State


State: The government of a country.

Every complex society needs some form of government, to regulate the goings on between groups and individual men, including transport and traffic, and to maintain the laws and preserve the peace, and thus needs some state. (See: Anarchism)

But in as much as human beings are egoistic, evil, self-interesed, or simply callous or indifferent to the suffering of others, the state, as the group and institution where social power has been concentrated, and that often has the legal monopoly on arms, has been a tool of dictators and tyrants, a means of oppression and persecution, and has been, also in many cases, by far the most dangerous form of organized terrorism: No terrorist succeeds so easily when cloaked in the uniform of a state's institution, whether (secret) police or otherwise, and no terrorism is as powerful, remunerating and relatively safe as is state terrorism for state officials.

The danger of the state and the officials of the state for the rest of the population; the ease with which power corrupts; the abuses of government; and the strong attraction of government on dishonest people out for power or riches, are obvious to anyone who has read seriously in history.

The only ways to prevent the officials of the state to gather power to themselves and abuse it is by:

  • separating the church and the state (no state-church) and
  • separating the law and the state (no courts or judges serving the state interests);
  • promoting and preserving the freedoms and rights of speech, printing and association (no censureship, no guilds or corporations);
  • habeas corpus (no arbitrary arrests);
  • fair trial (no secret trials, no convictions except by public and prior laws);
  • free and regular elections (non-violent periodic changes of government);
  • keeping the state small and
  • keeping state officials responsible to the population and the independent courts. 

Without the active preservation of these principles of government - or rather: principles to curb the dangers of government and the corruption of governors - it may be fairly expected - given some realism about human beings - that every state, whatever its name and the pretenses of its officials to do and want what is good, will eventually (usually sooner than later) grow corrupt, totalitarian, absolute and authoritarian, for thus it has been as long as human history can tell.

See also: Anarchism, Conservatism, Democracy, Government, Liberalism, Society


Aristotle, Aron, Browning, Burckhardt, Burnham, Goffman, Gibbon, Hamilton et al., Laqueur, Machiavelli, Mills, Mosca, Thucydides,

 Original: Apr 7, 2005                                                Last edited: 24 October 2007.   Top