Definitions may seem to be dusty things but they offer the incalculable benefit of clarifying your thoughts so that you better understand the ideas that deeply impact your life. Defining “the state” and “society” allows you to know where the line is drawn that separates one from the other.
The state uses the political means — in other words, it uses force — to acquire wealth and power. It neither produces wealth nor trades for it on the marketplace. Instead, it takes wealth from the productive people who constitute society. It takes riches directly through such means as taxation and indirectly through such means as regulation. The ultimate source of the state’s power is the use or threatened use of force.
By contrast, society uses the economic means — in other words, it creates and cooperates — to produce wealth and social dynamics. Any power acquired by those within society is the result of earned wealth or reputation.
An effective path to personal freedom is to withdraw from the state as much as possible while continuing to live in and embrace society .. Why not just leave and “gulch” instead of “going galt”? ..
And, yet it is possible to imagine a society from which some people would gladly flee into solitude; for example, in antebellum South, slaves fled from plantations. The point at which reasonable people flee is when the state is so totalitarian that being within society no longer maximizes their choices but minimizes them. They can no longer benefit by trading with others because the trade is taxed too highly or choked by regulations. Their life savings is stolen by currency inflation, bailouts for miscreants, senseless bureaucracy and projects, or by wars and policies that affront their morality.
It takes a great deal of theft and corruption by the state to outweigh the extraordinary benefits of society .. the state has not yet succeeded ..