In recent posts and comments, I have endeavoured to advise against the inclination of many fellow-libertarians to effectively stop the process of building a positive theory of the state as a result of adopting a largely normative theory that systematically selects aspects of the state considered undesirable at the expense of a(n unbiased) comprehensive picture of the state-society-nexus.
These recent comments can be read as a homage to James M. Buchanan, a classical liberal, to whose sober and incisive mind the state has been equally important and worthy of in-depth study (i) as a condition of liberty and (ii) as her antagonist.
My initial encounter with Buchanan was effected by reading his What Should Economists Do? - a paper that made him stand out vis-à-vis most of the economists I had hitherto studied. Exchange, not choice, he argues, not maximization, not allocation, is the most fundamental subject-matter of economics.
I still have the book with my tremulous underlining and lots of scrawly comments, some by pencil, some by ball-pen. Here is a passage I somehow felt urged to underscore with particular ardency, apparently first using pencil and then ball-pen:
Economics is the study of the whole system of exchange relationships. Politics is the study of the whole system of coercive or potentially coercive relationships.
Watch here Buchanan interview Hayek.