Anatomy of the State is a small (60 pages) but helpful book from the late economist, Murray Rothbard. The book occupies itself with a less than flattering depiction of the state.
Rothbard begins by defining the state negatively in terms of what it is not. The state and its citizenry are not interchangeable but two very distinct entities. According to Rothbard, the state does not represent the majority of its citizenry (p. 11). Even in representative democracies as here in Canada, this is quite obvious. To give but one example, the provincial government of Ontario will force a tax increase (under the guise of "tax reform" no less), a harmonized sales tax, on the province this summer. This is a tax which virtually no one in Ontario asked for nor supports.
What this example demonstrates is that although the machinery of representative democracy is present (elected representatives, votes, etc.), representative democracy itself is often missing in action.
Having defined the state negatively, Rothbard defines the state positively in terms of what it is:
"...the State is that organization in society which attempts to maintain a monopoly of the use of force and violence in a given territorial area; in particular, it is the only organization in society that obtains its revenue not by voluntary contribution or payment for services rendered but by coercion." (p. 11)
There are two means to the acquisition of wealth in society: the economic means via production and free exchange, and the political means via seizure and confiscation. The state, Rothbard insists, is involved in the latter activity only. It is the organization of the political means (p. 15). It is a predator and a parasite on the productive citizenry.
Since the state's role is to confiscate the surplus of its productive citizenry, the state must necessarily be a relatively small ruling class, else the parasite will consume entirely its host. The challenge then becomes one of persuading the mass of people to either actively endorse the state's rule or be passively resigned to the fact of its existence and heavy hand (p. 19). Rothbard outlines the different ways in which the state succeeds in this persuasion via ideology, appeasement of special interest groups, instilling of fear, identification of the state with the land (patriotism), minimization of individualism and promotion of collectivism, inducement of guilt (e.g., the private sector is greedy and materialistic), science, etc.
Next, Rothbard addresses the methods that have been used to try and limit government (e.g., parliamentary democracy, constitutionalism) and shows them to fail in their intended design. In the United States, for example, the government through its appointment of judges has a de facto monopoly on interpretation of the constitution, thus enabling it to be judge of itself on constitutional matters.
Rothbard ends by viewing history as a struggle between social power (man's power over nature) and state power (power over man); peaceful cooperation contra coercive exploitation.
In reading this book, the reader must surely feel as though the veil has temporarily been lifted and the dark side of government seen for all that it is. But what is the answer? What is the state supposed to look like? Or should it even exist? Rothbard does not address these questions here. His purpose is only to present the anatomy of the state in its unflattering form, an objective he has accomplished quite easily.
This book undoubtedly serves as an apologetic for anarcho-capitalism, by way of negation, which is an expression of free-market anarchism developed by Rothbard.