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Well, they're not the same and often they are used as synonyms.

asked Apr 05 '14 at 11:38

Juan%20Diego%20dAnconia's gravatar image

Juan Diego dAnconia

edited Apr 05 '14 at 12:22

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

One's view of the relation between government and state depends on one's view of the relation between individuals and state (or society). At root however, government is an aspect of state. State pertains to individuals living and interacting together within the same territory under the jurisdiction of the same government; and "government" refers specifically to the "enforcement mechanism" of the state. Usually one also finds distinct cultural commonalities among members of the same state.

This view of "state" is, of course, the political usage of "state." There are many other usages and definitions, as well, normally made clear by the context. One particularly common usage of "state" is in expressions such as "a state of nature," "a state of war," "the state of the economy," "the intellectual state of the nation," "a state of consciousness," "the state of a material" (i.e., gas, liquid, or solid), "the state of an electronic circuit" (how much energy it has and in what form, or which "bits" or "flip-flops" are "on" or "off"), and so on. "Welfare state" is a variation of the political meaning used often and disapprovingly in Ayn Rand's writings. She also discusses "absolute state" in some of her writings.

In "Don't Let It Go" in PWNI, Chap. 18 (p. 282 in the Signet paperback edition), Ayn Rand observes:

The emotional keynote of most Europeans is the feeling that man belongs to the State, as a property to be used and disposed of, in compliance with his natural, metaphysically determined fate. A typical European may disapprove of a given State and may rebel, seeking to establish what he regards as a better one, like a slave who might seek a better master to serve—but the idea that he is the sovereign and the government is his servant, has no emotional reality in his consciousness. He regards service to the State as an ultimate moral sanction, as an honor, and if you told him that his life is an end in itself, he would feel insulted or rejected or lost. Generations brought up on statist philosophy and acting accordingly, have implanted this in his mind from the earliest, formative years of his childhood.

A typical American can never fully grasp that kind of feeling. An American is an independent entity.

In this perspective as Ayn Rand describes it, the difference between "state" and "government" is minimal and mainly technical -- government is the institution within the state that enforces the "state's will."

I found only one place in Ayn Rand's writings where she seems to equate "state" and "government" (from CUI p.47, underline added):

A statist is a man who believes that some men have the right to force, coerce, enslave, rob, and murder others. To be put into practice, this belief has to be implemented by the political doctrine that the government—the state—has the right to initiate the use of physical force against its citizens.

Compare this European statist perspective with the view of America's Founding Fathers, who held that individuals are the primary entities in a society, and that the government is an "add-on," established by "the consent of the governed," to protect the individual rights of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" (including property rights). The nature and proper limits of government become far more distinct and crucial on that view of the relation between individuals and state.

Additional excerpts on statism, including the passage quoted above, can be found in the topic of "Statism" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon.

answered Apr 06 '14 at 14:59

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

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Asked: Apr 05 '14 at 11:38

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Last updated: Apr 06 '14 at 14:59