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Words Matter: How “Government” differs from “the State”

Writers like Frédéric Bastiat, Albert Jay Nock, Murray Rothbard, and Franz Oppenheimer have made the invaluable distinction between the state and society, and between the political means and the economic means.

But there is a more subtle distinction that needs to be made, especially in the American context.

Americans usually refer to the thing properly called “the state” as “the government.” It’s unfortunate for clear thinking about politics that these two terms have, through long use, become interchangeable.