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To be fair, government is one possible solution to a collective action problem. There are other possible solutions involving various kinds of voluntary cooperation. It just turns out that some collective action problems (such as the existence of child labour, for example) are much easier to solve by a body with coercive power than one without.

But you're quite right that the notion that 'the people' once had such power before being oppressed by the creation of collective government is an ahistorical idea, normally deriving from dubious state-of-nature theories.

"Property" itself cannot exist without involuntary coercion. Cooperative collective action resulting in some form of free market solutions cannot function without a base layer of coersion, which is then implicitly supporting the collection action, rendering them no longer truly purely cooperative.

That base layer of "involuntary coercion" being "punishing people who steal".

"hurting people who take stuff other people are keeping from them"

You can spin it all kinds of ways, but the concept steal is not a fundamental one, but one that we invented and enforce through government, through coercive action.

As opposed to you just coming along and saying you deserve my stuff?

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