The primary criteria available to consider is whether or not an organization can claim a monopoly of legal violence within a territory. If it can, it is a state. However, modern State leaders have understood this monopoly is not sufficient by itself to maintain their power. This is why they use ideologies to hide the violent nature of their authority and make the population more accepting of the state’s coercive methods.Ferghane Azihari at Mises Daily
In the West, since the nineteenth century, nationalism has largely filled the role of manufacturing consent to government domination, by drawing arbitrarily the contours of a fantasized historical and cultural community. After that came the welfare-state ideology which aims to develop a sophisticated system of fiscal redistribution that cultivates a strong feeling of economic dependence on the political class. And then came the ideology of democracy which allows the state to identify itself with society overall by promoting the illusion that the citizenry maintains control over the state bureaucracy.
Through these means, states in the West have been able to “legitimize” their monopolies over coercion.
For established states, achieving statehood confers a sort of title of nobility on the international stage. That is why many political movements aim to gain international recognition of their state. The status of “state” implies “civilized society”.
And yet, there is nothing honorable about the formation and maintenance of states. States are essentially bellicose and exploitative institutions. None of them can claim to be the fruit of a peaceful or contractual process.
Unfortunately, much of the problem comes from Western citizens themselves who don’t pay attention to their governments, which never hesitate to use a single tragic event in order to increase their power and their “protection” by limiting their citizens’ individual freedoms. By fueling and exploiting fear, governments create a vicious circle which exacerbates the security demands from their populations, which translates into an increase of states” prerogatives. Military spending increases in turn, which satisfies the powerful interest groups that make up the military-industrial complex.
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