By Jack Curtis
The great myth of this post-Christian age is the substitution of Godvernment for God and it is a swindle self-evidently obvious to any thoughtful observer whether or not a believer.
A human government is a small group of people relying upon force and at least the tacit consent of the governed to control the behavior of a much larger group of people. Consider:
Governments inevitably arise from innate human behavior and are thereby compromised:
- The average human is biologically driven toward maximizing personal outcomes.
- Human groups provide outcomes superior to those individuals can provide.
- Group membership brings disparate individual self-interests into conflict.
- Governments naturally arise to maximize the average group interest and minimize certain individual losses, maintaining the group and its benefits.
- But the relationships between governors, government and the governed remain subject to the inherently conflicting interests.
These propositions are self–evident; much of this is wrapped neatly in the colloquial wisdom: “TANSTAAFL,” expanded as: “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”
Unsurprisingly considering its antecedents, human government is a criminal enterprise. Authoritarian governments take wealth from their citizens by force and use it to compel imposed behaviors while enriching the governors. Democratic politicians buy electoral offices by promising to confiscate someone else’s wealth and ignoring economic reality, substituting a swindle for a robbery. Thus it is assured that government will always arise in human groups and that the interests of such government will always present a risk to the interests of the group. Human government is not a cure, but an awkward and expensive crutch for the vicissitudes of human progress in a challenging universe.
Whether a given government is authoritarian or democratic rests mostly upon the culture embraced by the governed society. Conversely, the productivity of a given society depends heavily upon the degree to which it is penetrated and controlled by government. Productivity may be constrained by too much government, or by too little. Too much government limits and impedes the individual effort that produces wealth; too little fragments the productive group. Productive economic activities require enhanced trust and security but cannot thrive under second guessing by an overlord subject to competing political rather than economic interests.
Human societies, always assembled upon conflicting compromises, are therefore both mad and unstable. Succeeding generations inevitably come to find the foundational compromises burdensome; consider the present circumstances of the Judeo-Christian doctrine of the sanctity of human life. The relevant government of a society must adapt as its underlying society changes or it will at some point be repudiated. While adapting to social changes, governments must also balance their own conflicting interests; governments are therefore even less stable than societies.
Human societies may be stultified for a time, but ultimately they and their governments will face change imposed from within or without. They and their governments must adapt or they will fall. The Soviet Communist government collapsed amid economic failure; its Chinese ideological sibling remains (for the moment) after abandoning its Communist ideology and reinstating limited capitalism.
It is no coincidence that Reformed Judeo-Christian culture has led the explosion of human progress in recent centuries; it both set up the church as society’s and government’s visible conscience, and by reversing sovereignty from king to people, freed incalculable individual effort into the more productive directions celebrated by Adam Smith in his The Wealth of Nations. The first provided a foundation for the reduced corruption and enhanced public trust that advance economic progress; the second accelerated human achievement. Tales of extraordinary human accomplishment have always centered upon motivated individuals, ordered serfdom has never been considered very productive and slavery, least of all. This is a reality typically brushed off by those selling the idea that alterations of government structure can be used to alter innate human behavior. The idea however, remains an enduring political swindle enshrined among public educators naturally interested in producing complaisant citizens for their employer.
The idea is ancient and history is replete with its demonstrated failures but it is simply too tempting a political tool to die. “Give me power and I will remake the government to protect and provide for you” appeals irresistibly to both politicians and perennial masses of naively hopeful citizens. Particularly, to post-Christian citizens to whom “TANSTAAFL”” has become offensive.
This great fallacy of our time would put humanity back where it was, substituting human politicians for George III, a modern restoration of government supremacy. For this, the first step was removal of the inconvenient presence of God and His authority; that was accomplished by Herr Nietzsche when in 1882, he proclaimed Him dead. That accomplished, it requires only the removal of America’s Declaration of Independence and its straightforward enshrinement of the Deity over the people and the people over the state. As that precious document is both armored and guarded, said removal has not yet succeeded and the usual tactic is to dismiss it as superseded by the less inconvenient Constitution, an example of jurisprudential nonsense. But jurisprudence is theory and one way or another, many judges are selected by politicians.
Today’s zeitgeist has defenestrated God and His intrusive church and is wresting sovereignty from the people, demoting them back to obligated dependency sugar-coated as entitlement. But Godvernment decides who is entitled, and to what, based upon current political rather than ancient Testamentary principles. That should be no surprise; Alexis de Tocqueville wrote a warning in his 1835 Democracy in America. More recently, President Ronald Reagan reminded us that government is not the solution; government is the problem. Such cautions punctuate our history; we can hardly claim that we have not been warned. But as P.T. Barnum may or may not have said: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”