October 28, 2013

Defining the State

By In Blogs, C.Jay Engel

Is the State a “the organization of robbery systematized and writ large,” as posited by Murray Rothbard?

Or how about Robert LeFevre’s analysis? “Government, when it is examined, turns out to be nothing more nor less than a group of fallible men with the political force to act as though they were infallible.”

Hans-Hermann Hoppe also has a definition to offer: “a compulsory territorial monopolist of protection and jurisdiction equipped with the power to tax without unanimous consent.”

Even the minarchist Ludwig von Mises puts forth a zinger: “the social apparatus of compulsion and coercion that induces people to abide by the rules of life in society.”

 

The Christian has much to consider.  After all, did not God ordain the existence of the State?  And moreover, are there not three spheres of government in Christian theology?  Namely: family government, church government, and civil government?  And shouldn’t Christians refrain from speaking evil about those who are in charge?  Should we or should we not honor “even the emperor”?  Must we choose between a consistent libertarianism and our Christian worldview?

Such are the very questions that The Reformed Libertarian exists to answer!

It is our conviction that there is nothing inherently contradictory in what the Bible teaches us about justice and the earthly “justice-enforcement” on the one hand and the definitions given to us by people like those at the top.  By contradictory we mean committing the logical fallacy of ignoring the logical law of non-contradiction.  This law posits that “A is B” and “A is not B” are mutually exclusive.  To say that they are both true at the same time is contradictory.

 

It is helpful though, again and again, to point out that we must draw a distinction between what we might call the State and what we might call “government.”  Some sort of justice-enforcing service would exist on the free market according to the anarcho-capitalists and such a service should be given a name.  What’s wrong with “government” to serve as a label?  To be consistent on this site, we refer to the State as a very specific type of institution and we refer to government as a role.  Perhaps the State provides government services when its not meddling in foreign affairs, propagandizing the children, and redistributing the wealth.  Such government services can be wonderful, but it seems that they are always tainted when provided by the State.  Shoes too are a wonderful commodity.  But many of us would likely have bare feet, or else painful blisters if the State was in charge of shoe production.  Let the free market provide the courts and the shoes.

 

With such a distinction, according to definition, it is my hope that the above four definitions can refer to the State, not the government.  For clarity’s sake.  State is bad! Government is good –when provided on the free market and consistently with God’s own standard of ethics.

Thus, when we consider the challenges that the Christian might put forth in the questions provided in the second paragraph, we have some sort of structure by which to begin an answer.  Yes, God ordains everything.  Don’t we believe in the sovereignty of God?  No, this does not mean he morally approves of all things.  Calvinism 101.  Sure there are three spheres of “government.”  But this cannot mean that each type has the authority to reach beyond its own jurisdiction.  Why should “thou shall not steal” be dismissed on the simple claim that God wants justice to be carried out?  How can a person acting in the “government role” suddenly be above ethical standard? It seems that this would present a grand irony:  Protect the people’s property by first expropriating from these people the funds necessary to protect the people.  

I believe it is good to refrain from speaking evil about others.  But is it really immoral to call the thug a thug?  Speaking truth cannot be evil, so long as it is spoken in love.  Are the rulers of the United States not bullies when they bomb and drone the world simply because they refer to themselves as the “government?”  If they are not bullies, thugs, liars, and crooks, then such things don’t exist.  But even Jesus called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers” and “sons of Hell.”  And Christ told no lie and neither did he sin.  What does it mean to “honor the Emperor?”  I have attempted to answer this question here.  We ought to pray for our rulers because Jesus says to pray for those who treat you badly.  That is the best answer to the leftist would piously says: “obey the government because the Bible says so.”  We could answer him by simply retorting (leaving out the consideration of whether or not the Bible actually says this): “indeed, turn the other cheek when assaulted by an evil man.”  The leftist hates this response.  For they want you to treat the State like God.

 

My point is this: whenever and wherever the role of the government is turned into an excuse to create a State, there is no reason not to apply the type of definitions at the very beginning of this post.  The reason that I have taken the time to quickly type this out is because some may find it concerning that we have referred to the State so irreverently.  The point then is to ask whether or not the government goes beyond its just powers.  And I would submit that it does exactly that when it steals, murders, kidnaps, and monopolizes its services.  Let not the shoe business create, by force, a monopoly on its goods and let not the government service providers do so either.

Is the State “the organization of robbery systematized and writ large?”  Yes indeed.  But doesn’t God ordain the State? Yes, and also he ordains the devil too.  Now tell me where He morally approves of Satan’s activity.  On definition, State is bad and government can be good, as long as it stays within its proper jurisdiction.  Which is?  We quote Rothbard:

Those who invade the rights of others by violence deserve their proper check and punishment by the force of law.

The government should be defined as the “punisher” in society.  I have to provide all that background before I can share fun photos like the following.  The assumption that I rely on is that by “government” he should mean “State.”

Photo

 

 

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com