police state Police *states are normally seen as having such things as secret police, indefinite detention and interrogation without *criminal charges, spying and keeping records on people in addition to any alleged criminal activity and no *rule of law; all these things being designed to keep the existing *regime in *power and doing what it wants in defiance of what the people want. Most *statists think it obvious that so-called *democracies are nothing like police states, and the best alternative to them. Once one examines matters from a more *libertarian viewpoint, however, the alleged differences begin to dissolve.
Even ‘democratic’ states have state police (when they could have private police) and also secret state police (FBI, MI5, etc.). And these are clearly used to *proactively impose the state’s illiberal commands (often posing as *law) on its *subjects rather than solely to protect *persons and their *property. Their records on not detaining or spying on the innocent and upholding the rule of law are also often dubious (but so are their records on detaining, spying on and catching the guilty). Maybe a minimal state is clearly not a police state if it does restrict itself to genuine protection. In which case, a dictatorship that is sufficiently minimal will be less of a police state than any ‘democracy’. It must be admitted, however, that in many *countries with a *liberal tradition, such as the US and Britain, people live under an *authoritarian police state rather than a *totalitarian police state. And that is not an insignificant difference.A Dictionary of Libertarianism