Today's Lesson From Libertarianism: A Primer
by David Boaz
Historically, the real origins of the state lie in conquest and economic exploitation. The sociologist Franz Opperheimer pointed out that there are two basic ways to acquire the means to satisfy our human needs. "There are work and robbery, one's own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others." He called work and free exchange the "economic means" of acquiring wealth, and the appropriation of the work of others the "political means."
From this basic insight, Oppenheimer said, we can discern the origins of the state. Banditry and robbery and fraud are the usual ways in which people seek to forcibly appropriate what others have produced. But how much more efficient it would be to organize and regularize robbery! According to Oppenheimer, "The state is the organization of the political means." States arose when one group conquered another and settled in to rule them. Instead of looting the conquered group and moving on, the conquerors settled down and switched from looting to taxation.