Without passing value judgments or claiming that government’s are morally right or wrong, we should at least always keep in mind what a government is, by definition. The definition of a government is: a group of people who a) claim to be able to have the moral permission to make commands upon everyone within a given sphere (jurisdiction), b) claim that everyone else has a moral obligation to obey those commands, c) use organized force and violence against the rest of the people to enforce its commands, and d) they do this in a monopolistic fashion; i.e. only one government can exist per jurisdiction. Those in govt may sometimes do these things with a hint of permission from most of the populace via some democratic mechanism, but that does not change the definition of government, and need not be a part of it. You may think that I’m being unfair by using harsh language like “force” and “violence”, which has a negative moral connotation. Don’t blame me. Those words literally describe what govts do. I’m just giving the definition. Besides, I’m not necessarily saying that “force” and “violence” are wrong (at least, not right now), I’m just describing what government is in a value free objective way.
If you look at the capitol building, and say “that’s the government”, you would be wrong, for that is just a building. If you say that the government is really just collective action, this is incomplete. There are many organizations and clubs where people do things together, but these are voluntary associations. We wouldn’t call them governments because they miss the crucial criteria to become a government, the initiation of violent force and the monopoly claim to be the only legitimate institution that can use such force. Some say, in a flowery tone that brings rainbows to mind, that “government” is the word we use for the things we choose to do together. No, that would be voluntary association. Actually, “government” is the word we use for the things some people choose to do to others, with monopolistic violent force. The monopoly use of initial violent force is the central feature that sets governments apart from other collective organizations. If you disobey the government’s rules, they will use guns and physical force (police, military) against you. In reality, the government is a very large and sophisticated gang.