• Tom Cleary

The Sin of Government


Original sin is not much talked about anymore but we have institutionalized it in the form of government. Let me explain. If we look at the story of the Fall it is not about simple disobedience. Genesis 3:5 has the serpent stating about the forbidden fruit “for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Thus, Original Sin is really about conflation of humanity with God. This has been our problem ever since. Even Paul recognizes the issue with this as he states that Christ “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,” (Phil 2:6). If Christ does not grasp equality with God we had best not even consider it.

So, what has this to do with government? Everything as it turns out. Governments of any size claim for themselves the knowledge to make decisions for other people. As governments grow this claim only grows with it. By the time you get a government the size of the U.S. government the claim is astounding. The federal government regulates everything from how much water to flush down your toilet to the shape of your electrical outlets to how your cars run. This is just the micro regulations. At the macro level the government sets the interest rate (the single most important price in the economy), regulates hundreds if not thousands of agricultural and industrial prices, subsidizes production across industries as well as managing the labor market via union policy and immigration flows. In short it massively interferes with the interactions of 335 million Americans who make billions of decisions every day.

There are many theoretical economic and practical arguments showing how governments create distortions that retard wealth creation. See Hayek and Mises for a practical demolition of the idea that the government can effectively utilize economy-wide knowledge to manage human affairs. If you want the easiest to understand explanation of how information is shared in a modern society read Leonard E. Read’s masterpiece I Pencil in which he states of a #2 lead pencil that “not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me.” It is astounding that anything gets built in our world and yet it occurs because information is diffuse and available and actionable by those who know what to do with it: individual market participants, not an all-seeing government bureaucracy.

What these works will drive home is that there is only one entity in all the universe that could possibly possess enough knowledge to command an economy and that is God. It is the height of human arrogance to believe otherwise. Therefore it is clear that government itself is the institutionalization of Original Sin. God, after having justly kicked us out of Eden, gave us the resources, in and on the Earth, to create an unimaginably high level of comfort for an unimaginably wide range of people if we but follow His direction and peacefully cooperate. That cannot happen when we allow a group of potentates to conflate themselves with God.

Now I know that the standard Biblical justification for government is Romans 13:1 “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God”. To use this and subsequent verses as a justification of government is a serious misinterpretation of this text. God is working out everything in His creation for His purposes, which as Christians we believe are merciful and redemptive. Yes, somehow, government serves these purposes, often in ways we do not understand. We are called to respond to government and everything else in a Gospel manner; with love, patience and absolute non-violence. As Paul states “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.” (Rom12:17) What we are never called to do is to remain silent. That government and everything else is a part of the Orders of Creation and is used by God is not at all the same thing as granting moral acceptance of government and anything it might do. To go down this path leads to all sorts of moral danger, like justifying genocide or total war. A good, accessible view of Romans 13 can be found here. As well as in the work of Jean Lasserre.

Further, government violates the First Commandment. The first thing a government, any government, wants is obeisance and worship. As an example, consider the first words above the statue at the Lincoln Memorial “In this Temple…”. Seriously, a temple? From Pledges of Allegiance to standing during the national anthem (like it is Amazing Grace or something) to all the other outward forms of religious observance, governments demand worship. These are only U.S. examples, it gets worse in other countries. No matter the epoch or the culture, government places itself as the highest most important power in the world. Few things should be more offensive to the Christian conscience than this.

While we’re at it government violates the Fifth Commandment not to murder. I will offer as proof, all recorded history. Government also violates the Seventh Commandment not to steal. Taxation is theft and being in a majority does not make this acceptable as moral rights don’t accumulate. Clearly government violates the Golden Rule as nobody would have done to themselves what they ask government to do to others. It also violates the New Commandment (JN 13:31-34) as government does not allow us to love one another as God loves us. In short there is nothing in the life and teaching of Jesus that should make us grant an imprimatur of Christian approval to government. In fact, Jesus explicitly rejects this “and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”’ (MT 4:9-10)

Now keeping with the notion that God would not give us principles that are not practical I will conclude with a reference to the current, tragic situation in Venezuela and let it be plain which is better for humanity; more liberty or more government.

Praise Be to God

#Theology #Justice #Economy

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