You denied the existence of axioms as self-evident propositions, and declared that they must be demonstrated:
I went to some lengths to explain that they need to be agreed upon in the context of the discussion. Your requoting my comments about the Quran did that job for me. Many muslims – though I can’t speak for all of them - might well accept as self-evident – and therefore axiomatic - that the Quran is a revelation from Allah. Unbelievers would probably not. In a conversation between muslims and unbelievers, such a statement would not be accepted as axiomatic. I addressed the interpretation of axiomatic and the interpretation of self-evident. It is beyond me how you think I have changed my mind.
Your assertion that something is axiomatic is no guarantee that it is axiomatic. Your saying that axioms do not have to be demonstrated opens the gate for anything to be regarded as self-evident or axiomatic. I don’t agree to that.
In philosophy, and in English common speech, "thing" is the universal noun. It can be used to denote utterly anything. For the purposes of that proposition a "thing" is whatever an agent desires, seeks, pursues, assigns a value. I.e., whatever he invests any effort, time, or resource to acquire or retain. Everything from a earning college degree to climbing Mt Everest to visiting New Zealand to buying a beach house to marrying his sweetheart to winning a Gold Medal in the Olympics to becoming a father to owning an original Picasso. Or just watching a certain movie. Or anything else.
As I suggested, such arguments could occupy a whole post. Yes, ‘thing’ can denote ‘anything’. Or ‘something’. Or ‘everything’. And you have ignored the overall point that, by requiring a discussion to clarify such finesses of the language, the statement is not self-evident. It requires clearing up. We could continue to try to do do so at length. You have demonstrated my point. If I was prepared to accept the statement as self-evident for the purposes of the discussion, it does not follow that everybody would.
I answered that question earlier (more than once, I think). An act is morally justifiable if is permitted by a sound, rational moral theory. A government is morally justifiable to the extent its acts are permitted by a sound, rational moral theory. A sound, rational moral theory is one which begins from premises that are either self-evident (the axioms) or are empirically verifiable, and the theorems of which are logically derivable from the verifiable premises or the axioms.
My ‘moral theory’ does not match your ‘moral theory’ and I have given you plenty of indications of that. We could have an extremely long conversation about what constitutes sound and rational and reference, as a focus, acts such as the Holocaust, bombing of Hiroshima and abortion. In all such cases there are people who have argued the cases for and against from ‘moral’ points of reference. What one person calls morally justifiable another person condemns. If you have an axiom which covers all these points of disagreement then I would like to hear it.
If you are claiming that your theory is ‘morally sound’ because of the ‘moral context’ in which you set it, then your theory is dependent on that moral context. Somebody who agrees with that context may judge it as moral. Somebody who disagrees with that context may judge it otherwise.
Regarding "Government is force”:
The premise quoted ("Government is force") is not a definition of government. It is a statement of its essential property --- the property which distinguishes it from all other social institutions, which property is implied by every one of the other characterizations you list. Look at them again: "direction," "controlling," "power," "rule" --- all of them imply force. Hence, an inquiry into when the use of force is morally justifiable is not just reasonable, it is morally mandatory.
No, it is certainly not a definition of government. That would require an examination of its purposes, which you are obviously keen to avoid. Nor it is at all a statement of its “essential property” which distinguishes it from all other social institutions.
How about, ‘an army is force’, ‘a police force is force’, ‘a compulsory education system is force’, ‘a transport system is force’ (acquiring land), ‘a census is force’, ‘a boxing match is force’, ‘crowd control’ is force’, ‘the employment of exams is force’? Do I need to go on? I swear that, if you quibble with individual examples without addressing the point as a whole, then we are done.
On the other hand, if, by “its essential property”, you mean its only essential property, then what about, ‘government is bureacracy’, ‘government is decision-making’, government is ‘problem-solving’, ‘government is administration’, ‘government is planning’, ‘government is direction’, ‘government is discussion’, ‘government is regulation’, ‘government is protection’?
You might have had the vaguest excuse to examine force as an example of something. But you didn’t. Or as the product of something. But you didn’t. Even if force was a manifestation of all of the various functions of governments – which it clearly isn’t – you are ignoring any and all possible purposes and benefits.
You didn’t relate the force to any purpose. So how could you possibly consider “when the use of force is morally justifiable is not just reasonable, it is morally mandatory”, when you have made no attempt to put your examination of force in any social setting? Your total development of the premise is, “an institution which promulgates and enforces laws”. It is set in a vacuum.
Moreover, you have made no attempt to examine society without government. Would that then require no possible use of force? Would that mean there would be no attempt to establish a ‘master-slave’ relationship? No rampaging bandits or armies? No thefts? No violence? If force is the ‘essential property’ of government, then is it that which distinguishes it from anarchy or any other system which does not involve government?
You have also made the assumption that the use of force automatically disrupts all possiblities for ‘formal equality’. You have not considered any possibility that it may be necessary to ensure that, “all persons must be afforded equal opportunities to achieve their goals, regardless of any disadvantages imposed by Nature or circumstances”. If ‘persons must be afforded opportunities’, then that requires a government to provide those opportunities which you have completely ignored by refusing to examine the function of governments in your argument. And not only provide, but to ensure.
Yet you have ignored all possible functions of government, taken one effect or tactic (don’t quibble!) out of many, and interpreted it in an entirely negative way. From this you have concluded that:
No government more extensive than the Augmented Minimal State is compatible with the principle of formal equality. Anyone who seeks a more extensive State will have, per force, abandoned that principle.
The argument starts with nonsense and it ends with nonsense.
There are several points which I have not yet addressed but, since this is your primary premise, we need to address this first.