The rise in the popularity of Bernie Sanders should give one pause. His visit to Liberty University was interesting; more interesting were the cheers during his remarks. Most startling were that the cheers were during his defense of the “woman’s right to choose.” He seems especially endearing to younger voters who see in him as a visionary of sorts. While I do not doubt his sincerity, his views seem to me old news.1 I do not claim to be an expert in political matters. However, given the dangers we presently face; I felt to present some commonsense thoughts.
If anything could be learned from the 20th century, it should be that the state doesn’t make a good god. If fact, it seems to devour those who come to worship at its altar. While some might argue that the democratic socialist model of present day Europe is nothing like the totalitarianism of say, the 20th century Soviets, the European model’s presuppositions are only a couple steps removed from that monster. Once we accept that the idea that the state should be the focus of our governance, rather than the individual or family unit, we are well on our way toward some kind of totalitarianism. The radical shift toward the greater and greater control of the federal government in American life is necessarily a shift toward statism.
What is statism? It is in essence to make the state god. Someone or something must rule; that is a given. Once a people look to the state as their sufficiency and source, they have made the state god. While I do not believe America has yet succumbed fully to this deadly illusion, we are in peril and we must resist the temptation. Here are a few random thoughts on statism and why the state does not make a good god.
- Power always corrupts. Remove the constraint of God and you are well on your way to totalitarianism. The founding fathers understood the dangers of power which is why they built in to our system careful checks and balances to limit any group or person from seizing more and more power. The use of executive “order” by the executive branch (of either party) undermines this careful balance. The recent “nuclear option” of the Democrats in the Senate was simply a power play. With a simple majority they can now install judges that will be more “cooperative” with their agenda and thus further undermine the balance through the judiciary.
- The larger the federal government, the more corruption. This should be no surprise. There is simply too much temptation to make use of the ever increasing reach of government for self-aggrandizement.
- The state necessarily must justify its own existence. E.g., if you are a “good” regulator, then you must create more regulations to insure your job; which means you must make up more “problems” that need regulation. Ask the coal industry how this is working out for them. “Never fail to take advantage of a crisis” say some. If you don’t have a legitimate crisis, then make one up and solve it – thus a transfer of power to the state.
- The idea that the state, in and of itself, is benevolent is a dangerous illusion. The state is composed of people and people are more or less sinful. Again, our founders accepted this fact and chose a system to limit the expression of the sinfulness of people in governing.
- It is an illusion that somehow the state is more “fair” or “just” than the free market. In fact, the free market, when only mildly constrained by the government, is far more fair and just because the free market makes the individual the sovereign through freedom of choice. Of course, any society is only as just as its people. This should help us to see why it becomes important for us to be “salt and light” into every arena of life.
- The states foster the utopian illusion that it can produce a “just society.” A perfectly “just society” this side of Jesus return is a fallacy. Only people living under the loving rule of Jesus and using their influence to apply Biblical truth to every area of life can create justice – and that has its limitations in a fallen world. The state has a very poor track record in creating a just society; in fact, it has always produced the opposite – increasing disparity in wealth, increasing injustice in the legal system and overall oppression of dissent.
- The state will replace the influence of the church as the church through either ignorance or rebellion toward God refuses to take up its responsibility to influence every area of life with Biblical truth. This is the tragedy of the church in American today; we are self-absorbed and selfish and think it’s all about us. We are neither interested in effecting the whole of life with the truth nor interested in doing the hard work necessary (or pay the cost) to influence the world around us.
- Statism by its very nature will produce unintended consequences. If you think that the state does a good job foreseeing unintended consequences, consider the recent makeover of the health care system. The free market does a better job and adjusts more quickly to changes in circumstances.
- Statism is always less efficient and less effective than the free market. The examples are too many to name. In fact, I would suggest that you cannot name a counter example. While the state has legitimate roles (e.g., national defense), it cannot do things more efficiently or cheaper than the free market.
- Every increase in the state’s authority must entail a loss of personal freedom. Francis Schaeffer prophetically noted that Americans would give up their personal freedom for security and prosperity and unfortunately he has been proved correct.
- For the Christian either Jesus is Lord or the state. To vote for or support any increase in the state’s role beyond what is Biblically necessary is to invalidate your allegiance and affirmation of Jesus authority in the world. Either Jesus is Lord or the state. It matters not whether you are Democrat, Republican or Independent.
- Decentralized government limits the consolidation of power and thus the evil unrestricted power can produce. This is why we need to support local governance of our schools and communities. As should seem obvious, the more local, the more responsive to the citizenry.
- State’s power to coerce makes every aspect of power given to it inherently dangerous.
- We were created to be dependent upon God and interdependent with one another, not upon a “faceless” bureaucracy.
- To encourage dependence on the state and its “perks” encourages idolatry. Someone must rule and that someone or something must be the source of provision. If we accept the state’s role to provide, then we are in effect acknowledging its role as god.
The American founders were a mixed bag, religiously speaking. They spanned the spectrum from devote followers of Jesus to Deists and Agnostics. Yet, they shared a common Biblical worldview and believed that religious belief was essential to moral character without which freedom could not exist.
The famous response of Franklin to a query on what they were so busy creating during their work on the Constitution is telling, “We are giving you a Republic, if you can keep it.” We need a revival of moral character and a return to common sense. Such can come, but only in the aftermath of a true, thorough and deep revival in the hearts of God’s people.
Bill Burtness, The Third Alternative. Bill is a personal friend and mentor; he has laid out the alternatives: either we will have tyranny or chaos or God’s alternative.
Check out the website of Alan Snyder http://ponderingprinciples.com/ He has excellent insight into issues related to civil government.
Os Guinness, A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future. How is freedom sustained and passed on from one generation to the next?
Copyright by Mike Huckins September 2015.
1 His message extolling the virtues of socialism feel a bit tired to me; can you say “Greece?”