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What characteristics define a state?

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Quick Answer

A state is characterized by recognized boundaries, a permanent population, centralized institutions, an organized economy and a government. A state can be an independent country or a member of a federation. A state has external recognition and can negotiate with other states.

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Full Answer

A state is a political entity that is self-governing. The government of a state provides police power and public services, such as health care. A state also regulates domestic and foreign trade and money issues. It also has the power of engineering its society through processes such as education. A state has a transportation system for moving people and goods.

Most states have sovereignty, which means other states do not have power over their territories. However, some states are subject to hegemony or external sovereignty. For example, states of a federation transfer part of their sovereignty to the federal government. A state also has a compulsory political organization through which the government uses legitimate force to govern its people. The institutions of a state include legal systems, administration bureaucracies, religious organizations and the military.

Different governments come to power in continuous succession to serve a state. States are immaterial, while governments are the people who exercise state power. The government runs a state by making political decisions, making laws and enforcing them, arbitrating conflicts and providing security for its people. A state is distinguished from a nation, which is a large geographical area with people who have a common identity. There are 119 independent states in the world.

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