The State is only a Legal Fiction

posted by Jonathan Logan on 2009.31.08, under Blog, Liberty, Probable Fiction

One of the less smart slogans repeated over and over again in Libertarian circles is:

The State is only a Legal Fiction!

But, is this true?

Does the State exist outside of legal concepts? Simplified: No. (It is however a term playing a role in other areas, like philosophy). But does that make it just fiction?

Fiction means that something is not a fact – not part of reality. This could either refer to something being objectively false, or something only imagined. So, is the State not part of reality?

Of course the State is part of reality, it has a direct effect on what we do (or don’t). Yes, the State consists of people. But just because something can be reduced to sub-parts does not make it less real. A cup of coffee does exist even when you can reduce it to its atoms. What makes a cup of coffee real is the form it takes in reality, and the State for sure gives a form to people taking part in it (or being influenced by it).

Hence, the State is not just legal fiction – it is real. But that does not mean that we should not get rid of it where possible (and sensible [everywhere?]).

Because the great thing about real things is that we can change them!