The 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference drew a fairly international swarm of conservatives possessing a variety of ideas about limiting and specializing the role of civil government. The obfuscations of a (to use Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s term) plus sized, overreaching bureaucracy have made some young people wonder why we need a civil government in the first place and why we can’t have anarchy instead.
How do you respond to the statement: “The system isn’t broken; the system never worked”?
This is the question posed to the author of this article by the lovely and well-spoken Julia Tourianski of Brave the World conducting man-on-the-street interviews at CPAC 2014.
The aforementioned author longs to be someone who can master brevity and quick wittedness enough to give a concise answer to so simple a question, as opposed to bumbling through a convoluted response that if decrypted might read: “Systems fail to work when people put too much trust in them…so it all comes down to individual responsibility.”
But if it comes down to the individual rather than the system, asks Miss Tourianski, then why can’t we have anarchy?
Fair question. Statism is the sin nature of government, because government rises like leaven if left unchecked. Why, then, is government necessary at all? Is there any explanation for why anarchy fails?
James Madison nailed it in Federalist No. 51:
“But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
Some have observed, however, that even angels themselves require some form of government, because harmonious society is a result of designed order rather than chaos. Like oxygen, we might say that government is vital but fatal in unlimited amounts. Laws govern both the natural and the supernatural.
But there is a catch to even the most efficient of laws, which John Adams noted on October 11th, 1798:
“…[W]e have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Self-governance is essential to the function of any civil government. Scripture tells us that he who rules his spirit is better than he who captures a city (Proverbs 16:32). After all, it is individuals who ultimately make decisions regarding the electing of public officials, and it is individuals who make decisions once they are in public office.
But although individuals are endowed with a conscience, human nature is not basically good. If there is no fear for evil behavior according to enforced, impartial law, innocent life is made even more vulnerable. Law exists to protect God-given rights in a godless world.
Quite simply, people will always try to overpower one another, whether it be through force by government or force in absence of government. Anarchy isn’t truly feasible until everybody is willing to leave everybody else alone, which will never happen on this earth as we know it. A proper civil government is one that operates according to this failing of humanity rather than in denial.
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