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LoBagola

Defining government, properly

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I've just spent some time trying to define the concept government. I got to a messy definition of "government is an organization forcing certain terms between men in a given area." I tried some more but then gave up and checked the AR Lexicon: "A government is an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area." (See http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/government.html).

The problem with my definition and my understanding of the AR Lexicon definition is that it seems too broad, still. It would still include something like an organization of bank robbers: they control the geographical area of the bank and enforce the social conduct of giving your money to someone with a gun. Or what about a cult which forces you to commit suicide, or an organization of murderers who govern a given house of victims at a given time. 

When I think of current governments and previous governments that I have some knowledge on, they all fit this loose definition, and yet there are still big differences between the US govt and an organization of murderers. But I'm a little stuck in compressing these into a neat definition. 

 

 

Edited by LoBagola

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Okay I think I got it a few minutes after posting this :/ 

The key is "exclusive power" or "monopoly" over force, which, if I simply interpret as having the most powerful tools of force, the definition begins to make more sense. In this interpretation an "organization" (I'm using the term loosely here) of bank robbers or murderers are not government in the geographical area of the bank or victim's house, simply because there's another organization with more powerful tools of force which includes that area as it's own. 

If an area was in anarchy then any guns in any given area might form a government for one or two days before being killed by another "government"--this is the only situation where I can think of the concept being useless and meaning nothing, i.e., when one organization doesn't have the overwhelming physical power.

Also I think earlier I thought the definition had to be proper, i.e., moral or right, but I realize just now that's incorrect too since a concept like "morality" is useful to referring to many kinds of codes, e.g., Islamic one. And the same is the case with government where it's useful in being able to refer to the controlling gang in a given area, e.g., Iran or Nazi Germany. 

Edited by LoBagola

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2 hours ago, LoBagola said:

 The key is "exclusive power" or "monopoly" over force, which, if I simply interpret as having the most powerful tools of force, the definition begins to make more sense.

You can have the most powerful tools without a geographic monopoly. I think the point is that a monopoly on force is just some agreement or requirement that no one else may determine how force is to be wielded. That "agreement" may be a forced agreement, or may be an agreement of any standard. You're right the definition of government isn't specifying what a moral government is.

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