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The State is NOT a Voluntary Arrangement

January 15th, 2009

Giedrius inquires via email:

yesterday I argued with friends about statism and got from them such an argument:

State is the same as corporation. All people of particular area own all land in this area, they elect board of directors (government) which makes rules by which this land can be used. If board of directors decide that you can live on the property of this company (state) only if you buy whole packet of services provided by this company (state), you have a choice to agree or to go to the other company (state) which meet your needs better.

I have my arguments about this, but would be very interesting to hear yours.

The government-as-trustee/steward argument is closely related to the argument from Social Contract. If you’re interested in my opinions on that matter, I’d suggest the following posts:

The particular argument Giedrius relays is a pretty common Statist objection. It is 100% wrong, for the simple fact that, as Oppenheimer noted, no government was ever established in such a manner. There are other issues which one might ultimately raise, including but not limited to issues regarding the severability of jointly-held property, the impossibility of buying out one’s stake in “the corporation” in the same manner one might buy out a partner in business, etc. However, as long as the necessary precondition (i.e., a “state” formed by voluntary means as set forth in the argument above) does not hold, these further objections are not worth mentioning except in passing.

The people who disapprove of the State are always askedforced to leave, thus ensuring support among those who remain.  (cf. If You Don’t Like It, Get the F**k Out!)  At the very least, this argument subordinates whatever “ownership” rights they might’ve held in the State, which neatly invalidates the outmoded principles of “equality” or “justice”, sacrificing both in order to appease the false god of Democracy.

Suggesting that the would-be secessionist is obligated to move (to another State, mind you!) is tantamount to saying that he is not, nor was he ever in any meaningful sense, one of the alleged “owners” of the State; he will surely not be compensated for his “share” of the ownership. He cannot “sell” the share which he presumably owns, and he cannot “buy” his share from the others. He cannot even say, “It’s not worth the trouble: I’m going to peacefully resume my own life and privately secede in a non-violent, inoffensive manner.”

This is quite the paradox, indeed.

Interestingly enough, were he to mount a violent rebellion against the State, they would decry him as a criminal or a terrorist. This is interesting, because conquest is essentially the only claim to title recognized by the State, and it is in all likelihood the very foundation of the title it unilaterally claims.

A further, and significant difference between the State and the corporation (left-libertarian quibbles, aside) is the fact that the State claims absolute monopoly over a certain geographic area, which it defines for itself and which are enforced by violence in all cases. Additionally, the State claims (for itself, of course) the unique privilege of being the sole and final arbiter of all disputes arising within its borders, including those disputes to which the State itself is party (Hoppe).

As I argued in Why Can’t We Secede?

How embarrassingly nonsensical is it, for a group of men to say, “We want you to be a part of our group, our enlightened ‘Society’ so badly that we’re willing to kill you if you reject our offer?”

Of course, by “offer” what they really mean is, “You’re going to pay us for a bunch of things you don’t want, simply because we can’t (or don’t want to figure out how to) unbundle the “services” we allegedly provide for your benefit.” That X happens to be a “public” good (which is in most cases a “club” good), is not sufficient moral justification for the levying of taxes.

I concluded that post the same way I will conclude this one:

It is worse than nonsensical…It is a damnably brutish and subhuman appeal to violent force; it is ultimately the foundation upon which any appeal to government rests.



  • Zach S says on: January 15, 2009 at 9:23 pm


    Although I agree that the state is not a voluntary arrangement for us born into it today, and I agree the state has far to much power, at one point, states were either voted into the US or the land was purchased or claimed when it was “empty;” and I use the term “empty” very loosely because we all know there were people in all of our states before us. But I think you get my gist.

    Texas is a perfect example as they asked to be annexed to the U.S.

    My thought would be there should not be “states” of any sort anywhere, but I have a feeling human beings have a natural tendency to congregate and form some sort of union.

    Our problem today is, there’s nowhere to go except from one state to another…unless we found a deserted island somewhere and could claim it as ours haha

    It seems to be quite the conundrum. How do you reverse 1000’s of years of natural flow into unions of sorts to the past 2,000 years of the unnatural flow of a few people in control moving into this state of total control? Sorry I’m rambling.

  • David Z says on: January 16, 2009 at 10:51 pm


    lol yeah… the problem isn’t the association, congregation, union, etc., people are social by nature. problem is the violence, and how, when someone says “I want to be left alone!” the state reacts the only way it knows how: with more violence.

  • Zach S says on: January 18, 2009 at 10:28 am


    I think that’s the long term question: How do we stave away from violence in helping structure a society/state.

    I think “violence” as a managing technique has good intentions in the beginning, i.e. policing violent or highly unacceptable crimes. From their, you slowly get to where a lot of societies are today. Policing everything the way “the majority” wants it.

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