A nation-state is a country. However, the words nation, state, and country are sometimes used to mean the same thing. Even though these words are used interchangeably, they can also have other meanings. A nation can refer to an ethnic group, even one that is out of power and does not have its own country. A state can also be part of a larger country.
All nation-states share certain characteristics: self-rule, organized government, territory, and population. Self-rule means that nation-states rule themselves. They are independent, not colonies of another country. For example, part of what is now the United States was a colony of Great Britain until the American Revolution. As a result of the American Revolution, the United States became a nation-state. Organized government is the way in which nation-states rule themselves. For example, the government of the United States is organized into three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. It is also organized into three levels: federal, state, and local. Not all nation-states are organized in the same way as the United States. However, they all have governments that are organized in some way.
Territory is the land and water that is governed by a nation-state. The territory of the United States includes all of its fi fty states, nearby areas of ocean, and other areas, such as Puerto Rico and Guam, which are governed by the United States. The laws of the United States are enforced within its territory.
Population refers to the people who live in the nation-state. The population of a nation-state can be made up of different ethnicities. However, all citizens share the same nationality. The term nation-state can be especially confusing to people who live in the United States because the United State is a nation made up of fi fty states. Each of the fi fty states rules itself with an organized state government, and each state has a territory and a population. However, the fi fty states are not nation-states, because they are still part of a larger unit, the nation. They rule themselves, but they are also subject to national laws. They are not completely independent.