The terms State and Government confuse the layman. People generally use them in an identical sense. Even kings like Louis XIV confused state with government.
He used to say, “I am the state”. He could claim that he was the government as he was an absolute monarch and all governmental authority was vested in him.
But he himself could not claim to be the state as the state is altogether a different concept. Similarly, the Stuart kings of England laboured under the same misconception.
It is not only the great kings and monarchs who used the term state and government in the identical sense. Even in ordinary life, we find that the two terms are used interchangeably as if there were no differences between the two.
It is most noticeable when a classification of governments is mistaken for classification of states or when acts of government are treated as if these were the acts of the State.
State and Government are two different terms having altogether different meanings. Most of the intricate problems of Political Science are solved on the basis of the distinction between state and the government. The following points bring out the distinction between the two:—
1. State is the whole, while government is a part thereof:
State is a combination of four factors, viz, population, territory, government and sovereignty, whereas government is only one of the factors which constitute the State. The State is co-extensive with the entire population living on its territory but a smaller number of men constitute the government.
Government is the agency through which the purposes of the state are formulated and carried into effect. To be more precise the government includes the sum total of the legislative, executive and judicial bodies in the state engaged in the work of making, enforcing and interpreting laws.
2. State is a principal body while Government is a subordinate agency :
State is the principal body having original powers while Government is a subordinate body enjoying only delegated powers. The position of government is analogous to that of a board of directors of a
joint stock company. The share-holders are the real owners of the joint stock company and the directors only enjoy powers that are transferred to them by the general body of the former.
Similarly, the people of the state have original power with them and these powers are transferred by them to their representatives who constitute the government. ‘Government possess no sovereignty,no original unlimited authority but only derivative powers delegated by the state through its constitution.
3. State is permanent whereas Government is temporary:
The state is more or less permanent though not immortal. A state remains a state so long as it fulfils four conditions viz., population, territory, government and sovereignty. Obviously, these factors are not easily destructible. Although the fact remains that a state ceases to be a state if it is conquered by another power.
As for example, Abyssinia ceased to exist as a state when it was subjugated by Italy in 1939. But governments are temporary. They always go on changing. They come and go but states continue for ever. Death of a monarch or a ruler or the change of a government in general election does not mean the extinction of the state. This means that changes in the form of government do not constitute a change in the state.
4. State is an abstraction:
The state is only a concept but the government on the other hand, is a concrete term and its form varies from state to state. Some states have a democratic government, some have dictatorship and some might have a monarchical form of government.
The types of government would vary from state to state but state as an institution or concept will not be effected in any way so long it is sovereign. The state endures ; it possesses the quality of continuity.
It may be noted that distinction between state and government is more of the theoretical nature than of any practical-value because in actual fact all actions of the state are performed by the government and whatever government does, it does in the name of the state. Laws which express the will of the state are framed and given effect to only by the government.