In today's political hotbed of ideological divisions there seems to be no end to the catch phrases that are used to convey some sentiment regarding the evils of government.  A popular bumper-sticker notes "I love my country, but I fear my government".

What does that even mean?  What is a country without a government?  It certainly can't be so trivial as to pronounce a love for the square of dirt someone is standing on, so what is this statement supposed to represent?  

I'm sure that proponents of such a statement would suggest that it refers to the founding ideals of this country, but that doesn't make sense either since those were the ideals of the first government established.  In other words, any ideals that we think are significant are governmental ideals and have no relationship to anything one would call a country.

I can certainly understand people being discontent with the government and/or concerned about the direction political leaders are moving, but it is foolish to make such simple declarations as if they are anything other than bumper-sticker slogans.

Another phrase that is often cited (out of context) is Ayn Rand's
"... a government holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force"
This is a perfect example of how words can be manipulated to create a sinister impression and convey little or no meaning.  

In the first place, the use of the word "legal" is irrelevant since by definition a government defines the laws.  This isn't some arbitrary act of compulsion, but represents the means by which societies operate.  While you may disagree with the laws, there is nothing in "legality" that is binding if one elects to oppose it.  This is precisely why many governments have been overthrown by revolutions and insurrections, because people have elected to use physical force to make changes.  The entire basis of the American Revolution deals with the use of force to overthrow the ruling monarch, so to suggest that "legality" has anything to do with anything is simply absurd.

In the second instance, the use of the word "monopoly" is simply wrong.  A monopoly suggests the inability of people to participate and implies absolute control.  As evidenced in many places around the world today, and certainly throughout history, governments have never held a monopoly on the violence that its citizens can perpetrate.  

More importantly the use of these two terms, "legal monopoly" are intended to convey some exclusivity as if this is necessarily a bad thing, but let's look at the alternative.  Should every citizen have the right to be "legally violent" when it suits them?  

Does this statement actually reflect Ayn Rand's intent though?  Apparently not, because she goes on to add:
"It has to hold such a monopoly, since it is the agent of restraining and combating the use of force; and for that very same reason, its actions have to be rigidly defined, delimited and circumscribed; no touch of whim or caprice should be permitted in its performance; it should be an impersonal robot, with the laws as its only motive power. If a society is to be free, its government has to be controlled."
So the initial statement, taken out of context is shown to be misleading and not indicative of what Ayn Rand meant at all.  The only point being made was that all governments need to be controlled by the people they represent.  

According to Ayn Rand, the use of force by government isn't wrong.
"The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man’s self-defense, and, as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force."
There's no problem with the obvious issue of constraining government, but it becomes more naive with the preceding statement and suggests that government take on a more parental role.  Find out who started it, and punish only them.  Of course, she neglects to mention that this is the primary purpose of most of the laws anyway, so unless we're talking about some dictatorial state, this statement takes us nowhere.

More specifically, how do we determine "who started it"?  Are there no instances of justifiable violence?  How do we define what constitutes force?  Is a threat sufficient to constitute first use of force?  Destruction of private property?  Corporate malfeasance?  

Many of the legal problems encountered by citizens cannot be categorized as simply "violent or not".  

There is no question that government often over-reaches and can be inept in the laws it passes and their enforcement. However, to suggest that there is a government somewhere that is somehow perfect is foolishly utopian.

More importantly, this sentence misses the larger picture in assuming that "physical force" is the only means of coercion.  Specifically with the elevation of big business in her philosophy, it is assumed that the only coercion that ever occurs is from force.  This statement completely ignores the fact that the average citizen is routinely coerced by economic power that is eminently more effective.  

It is easy to talk about "choices" as if individuals are free to act completely independent of their circumstances, but this is simply nonsense.  An individual is an intrinsic part of the economic system and the social environment around them.  Even the most primitive tribesman isn't so foolish as to think that they can live and survive alone.

If the government didn't compel behavior, the Civil War would have resulted in two separate nations.  Slavery would've never been abolished.  Unions would never have been allowed to form.  Civil rights could never have progressed.  By what stretch of the imagination does anyone believe that these changes would've occurred by people's voluntary compliance?  How is a government supposed to ensure the rights of its citizens without the ability to force compulsion?  Are drunk drivers to be permitted their rights until they kill someone?  Is that what we mean by "start the use of force"?

Ayn Rand's point was actually the obvious one, which is that the government should never be allowed to be an unconstrained ruler. However, too many of those repeating these lines have failed to read what she actually said.
This is the means of subordinating “might” to “right.” This is the American concept of “a government of laws and not of men.”
In the end, one has to consider where the government derives this coercive power to compel obedience. It gets it from the people that pressure their representatives and government officials to produce and pass such laws.  Government is not some nebulous entity that has no roots.  It is made up of the very people that would criticize it and it's up to them to change it if it is no longer satisfactory.  That fundamental sentiment was clearly articulated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence.
"That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."