The state monopoly on the legitimate use of violence in Europe and North America has been central to the development of security as a collective good. Not only has it institutionalized the state as the prime national and international security provider, it has helped to reduce the threat from other actors by either prohibiting or limiting their use of violence. The recent growth of the private security industry appears to undermine this view. Not only are private security firms proliferating at the national level; private military companies are also taking over an increasing range of military functions in both national defence and international interventions. This article seeks to provide an examination of the theoretical and practical implications of the shift from states to markets in the provision of security. Specifically, it discusses how the conceptualization of security as a commodity rather than a collective good affects the meaning and implementation of security in Western democracies.