"Can you please give us an all-inclusive, objective, non-ideological definition of what you mean by "government"? Surely you must have one, since you comment on it in practically every post!" --Greg
Well first off, most folks don't have too much trouble understanding what organizations called "governments" are, since they loudly proclaim themselves and thoroughly intrude into nearly all aspects of your life. And if you try to ignore them, they often bash you.
"all-inclusive, objective, non-ideological definition?" Apparently you have way more confidence in the ablilty of my words to capture the essence of things than I do. But OK. I'll play. Since normal definitions seem to have left you with some doubt, let me give it a shot, though, relying mostly on my favorite mode, ostensive definition. More or less.
So Greg. Let's try this: There is a class of groups of people who arrogate to themselves the right to coerce others -- using force and threats of force -- to do things, not to do things, how to do things, and the right to insist on payment of their choosing for that "service" without getting the others' informed consent.
One such group might be the Mafia as depicted in film and fable, although, compared to the normal groups that operate that way, they are mild by comparison. For example, mafias rarely hassle folks for smoking marijuana, tell you you can't sell booze or burn trash on Sundays, fire bomb or nuke cities in foreign countries, etc..
The main such coercive groups however, are groups and sub-groups which people normally call "government." Typically such groups also attempt to gain a monopoly on the use of force to keep their "customers," both willing and unwilling, paying them "taxes" so they can continue to exist in the life-style to which their group has become accustomed. These organizations include the only groups that engage in "war."
Such groups, often the slightly more benign ones, may be taken over by other cliquish sub-groups who then enjoy the advantages of taxation, etc. The Nazis used this ploy quite successfully in Germany for example. In the older days, those who arrogated themselves positions in governments traditionally took on titles like "King," "Queen," "Duke," etc.
Like classical slavery, children are ass-u-med to be born into the condition of servitude to these "government" groups. They are expected to selflessly and without complaint, take up the yoke of the government debt (euphimistically called "national debt") these organizations have run up in their name, and to be subject to largely arbitrary rules they have had no say in producing.
These coercive groups, knowing they can't get away with most of this in broad daylight, usually learn to disguise their enterprise. Joel Barlow pointed out the essence of the scam centuries ago like this:
The art of constructing governments has usually been to organize the State in such a manner, as that this operation could be carried on to the best advantage for the administrators; and the art of administering those governments has been so to vary the means of seizing upon private property, as to bring the greatest possible quantity into the public coffers, without exciting insurrections.  Those governments which are called despotic, deal more in open plunder; those that call themselves free, and act under the cloak of what they teach the people to reverence as a constitution, are driven to the arts of stealing. These have succeeded better by theft than the others have by plunder; and this is the principal difference by which they can be distinguished. Under those constitutional governments the people are more industrious, and create property faster; because they are not sensible in what manner, and in what quantities, it is taken from them. The administrators, in this case, act by a compound operation; one is to induce the people to work, and the other to take from them their earnings. --Joel Barlow,  "Advice to the Privileged Orders in the Several States of Europe - Resulting from the Necessity and Propriety of a General Revolution in the Principle of Government," written between 1792 and 1795 VOTE? 109_clip18
So, the smart "governments" pretend to deliver "services" most (if not all) of which could be provided by voluntary exchange. In other words, they don't tax to provide services, they provide meager services so they can get away with taxing.
Currently such exactions amount to at least 43% of the average American's cost of living.
In short, whenever you see large numbers of people in uniforms, mass murder and violence (as in "wars" etc.) -- and mass starvation, hyperinflation and other economic mayhem -- or the possibility of nuclear extinction -- you can safely bet a "government" is intimately involved.
Did that help?
< C:\USR\WP_DOCS\TROLLEY\TRIBES~1\WK\27_CLIQU.WK The essence of government >
MUNICH Suddeutsche Zeitung (centrist): Russia's crises have been repetitive, and almost all have the same causes. The government is unable to get a grip on its finances because it is incapable of enacting an effective tax system and of parsuading taxpayers to obey the law .... What Yeltsin needs is money, and lots of it. To get it on good terms, he must convince the IMF that he is collecting taxes to reduce the budget, if necessary, by expropriating the assets of delinquents. -Josef Riedmiller [WORLD PRESS REVIEW, AUGUST 1998, p.7]
Only one in 10 Russians is registered with the taxing authorities. Communists are particularly adept at avoiding taxes. The IMF loans won't go to pay the miners, and others who haven't been paid for over six months, or for any other social welfare programs; they will go to stabilize the financial markets. -NWI, 10 Aug 1998, 4:31:32 PM EDT
The United States is urging the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, to rein in provincial warlords who are hijacking hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, and has not ruled out US military assistance in the event of a showdown.
The US views Afghanistan's deepening financial crisis - which threatens the legitimacy and the future of Mr Karzai's administration - with increasing alarm, a Western diplomat said on Monday. Karzai set for showdown over revenue, May 14 2003 return
 In 1788 Barlow went to France as the agent of the Scioto Land Company and induced the company of Frenchmen who ultimately founded Gallipolis, Ohio, to emigrate to America. In Paris he became a liberal in religion and an advanced republican in politics. In England he published various radical essays, including Advice to the Privileged Orders (1792), proscribed by the British government. In 1792 he was made a French citizen. Thomas Paine had become his friend in England, and during Paine's imprisonment in Paris Barlow effected the publication of The Age of Reason. return