Webster’s dictionary, in 1828, defined politics as follows:
“Science of government; that part of ethics which consists in the regulation and government of a nation or state, for the preservation of its safety, peace and prosperity… …and the protection of its citizens… …with the preservation and improvement of their morals.”
The “science of government.” That’s quite a statement. You see, science studies the natural world, it does not invent its own facts. Two hundred years ago, society saw politics as a science that probed the natural world to see what natural rights humans have — given by God and not men — and to create a government (i.e.: the state) that would recognize them and preserve them. Government was NOT in the business of making up rights. Or taken them away. The same way a university cannot erase the fact that electrons exist. And its business is not to do so, but simply to teach us about them accurately, as they are in reality.
Consequently, if ethics are found in reality and not in the imagination of humankind, then they must be discovered and taught. And no institution can erase them. Also, because governments are not creators of rights and morals, they cannot simply act any way they choose.
In other words, it is possible for governments to be guilty of being immoral. For example, the Nazi government in Germany during the 1930’s and early 1940’s, decided that Jews and others within its borders did not have a life “worth living.” As a result, the Nazi government systematically executed at least 10 million people (including 6 million jews). No one assumes that simply because a government acts that justice has been done.
In the Old Testament we see the account of Ahab, king of Samaria, as he tries to take the vineyard of a civilian. This civilian refuses to sell the land to the king and eventually the king’s wife has this civilian killed (1 Kings 21). God declares that the State (king Ahab) has not only murdered the innocent civilian but has stolen his land. Governments — including kings — have to abide by the rule of Good & Evil or else they too are guilty before the Law of Nature.
Unfortunately, not all leaders feel this way about their roles as politicians. Chairman Mao saw himself as supreme ruler over the Chinese people. And because for 3,000 years before him Chinese political theory was that of the “mandate of heaven” (belief that the gods selected and blessed a single supreme leader for China) he assumed complete control. As a result, if he felt something was good, he would force it onto his people. In fact, from 1958 to 1962 Mao tried to force China to go from being a country of farmers to a 1st world industrial power. This was something that had taken Europe (with a much smaller population than China’s) 80 years to do, and Mao wanted it done in just 15 years.
Of course this failed and almost 60 million Chinese people died as a result. Besides the obvious danger of a ruler thinking he can re-write the Law of Nature when it comes to ethics, another oft-missed evil of dictators is that by placing themselves as gods over a people, they implement what their limited intellect thinks is best for a civilization. Unfortunately, not only is this using a small brain trust to try and re-arrange reality, it bypasses the natural order God has placed into civilization. If God exists and is the author of order in nature (such as the natural order in an ant hill community) then civilization has a built-in design that no single man (or group of men) can fully understand, predict or control. And the fact that free market economies with little government intervention far out perform dictatorial regimes proves this point.
Our next entry in this series will look at the uniqueness of the founding of the United States. No other social experiment in history has been constructed like that of America. Its founders were adamant that if an individual was morally guided by God in his or her private life, then they would come together naturally, forming a society that could play out God’s design. And this society would not have to be micro-managed by dictators or Caesars. The free and moral society would manifest God’s natural design for civilization. And from our vantage point in history, the United States has built the strongest economy ever as well as become the country whose laws are the least restrictive on the individual.
In fact, in the “wild west” of the American frontier, circa 1800’s, the State did not allow the Texas Rangers to chase criminals into a church. The church’s land was considered “God’s soil” and the government did not have jurisdiction there.
Again, it is obvious that humanity requires to be governed. Not everyone plays by the rules (not even the government itself) and we have to enforce the law. It is also appropriate (and biblical) to gather some of the income within society to help those in need. However, there are limits to what the State should be. It can become too powerul and too oppressive. If you realized that your government had increased your taxes for the sole reason of increasing the pay of already well paid bureaucrats, you would most likely object. The State is not there to needlessly take your money and give it to those who have the power to take it. It is there to recognize the natural rights you, as a citizen, have and to ensure you do not lose them.
In free market societies, those rights have included (but are not limited to) the following:
- the right to own your own property (hence laws against stealing)
- the right to life (hence laws against murder and false imprisonment)
- the right to speak your mind (freedom of speech)
- the right to determine who comes to your country (borders and immigration laws)
None of these rights, in free countries, are considered privileges given to you by your State. Or else that same State could just as easily take those rights away. If a State creates and distributes rights, then that same State owns those rights and can revoke them. Picture for a moment the horror of knowing your government could, at any time, take your right to life. This was the reality of millions who lived under the Soviet Russian republic after Lenin overthrow the Russian Czar in October of 1917. In fact, under Lenin’s successor, Joseph Stalin dozens of millions of Russians were wrongly jailed and/or killed. Some have estimated that 20 to 60 million Russians lost their lives due to famine, executions and labour camps1.
After Nietzsche’s atheistic philosophy permeated Europe, convincing more and more academics that “God is dead,” the trust that God had implemented a design into human civilization began to erode. With the publication and spread of Darwin’s “On the Origin of the Species,” the secularization of Europe picked up speed. Afterall, if the arrival of humanity on earth was not a Grand Design but an accidental meandering of biological accidents, how could the totality of civilization be an ordered whole? Not surprisingly, the decrease in theistic political theory in Europe began the rise of the State’s power and control over its people. Something which had been on the decline before the early 1900’s.
Nietzsche predicted that, as man realized he was the ultimate power in the universe, the world would devolve into a “might makes right” ugly scramble. He predicted that the 20th century (the 1900’s) would be the bloodiest in history. Unfortunately, he was right. Atheistic communist regimes, in the 1900’s, account for a dazzling number of deaths. In his 1994 book “Death by Government,” R.J. Rummel estatimated that, either through famines resulting from government mismanagement of food sources, through wars they initiated or through labour/death camps, an estimated minimum of 100 million people were killed by the governments of dictators such as Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Tojo, Pol Pot and Chiang Kai shek.
In our modern world, the State has risen and now has given itself the right to define things that as it sees fit. Instead of looking to Nature for reality, it looks within itself to pronounce fundamental changes on our lives. Gender is no longer what Nature has determined it to be, but whatever an individual feels it should be. Families are no longer defined by the natural laws of procreation and nurturing, the State has redefined marriage and family. If you are still in your mother’s womb, the State has decided it can take away your right to life in certain circumstances. When the State rises above nature and Natural Rights, it has become a totalitarian authority.
Secular psychologist Carl Rogers (1903-1987) began to shift the practice of psychology towards more atheistic and humanistic fields. He and his contemporary humanist, secular colleagues saw “cultural influences [that] are the major factors in our evil behaviours.” In other words, men and women are born normal, but are corrupted by society and ignorance. Hence, there is no need for spiritual renewal, only education and government services. Fellow secular psychologist Abraham Malsow chimed in: “Sick people are made by a sick cutlure; healthy people are made possible by a healthy culture.” Although there is definite truth to these statements, these principles are not able to explain all of human ills and are actually forgetting the fact that it is a sick human nature that makes culture sick. One thing you will notice as you study human history is that all corners of the earth, throughout all of time, have shown humans abusing other humans. It seems obvious that humans suffer from some deficiency that guarantees that whatever culture they create, no matter where or when they do so, is going to reflect their sickness.
The reason thinkers such as Nietzsche, Voltaire, Jean-Paul Sartre, Rogers and Maslow are important is because they are defining reality without God at its centre. As humans we realize we need order. If God has not designed humanity and the world in a specific way, then we are not guaranteed harmony on a societal level. Perhaps chaos awaits us. Therefore secular culture tends to force the State into God’s role in order to ensure order over the human machine of civilization. Yet this leads to human brain power trying to predict, control and improve a large population in a complex world. Every time a dictator has tried to do this it has failed. Human minds, like those of ants in an ant colony, are incapable of fully understanding human civilization and therefor should never be charged with managing its every facet. Furthermore, secular man disregards human sin. Instead, he replaces it with ignorance. Hence, he only uses education to “fix” man and fails miserably. This is why the removal of God from the centre of individual and corporate life will radically transform society away from where it was in the Western world during its judeochristian days.
The first edition of the American Humanist Manifesto stated:
“No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.”
In short, God does not exist, so waiting on Him or looking to Him for guidance is idiotic. And if humanists are right and there is no God, then obviously we must step up and take His place. This was precisely what the Old Testament records that God did not want. He established Israel as a nation that lived directly under His Laws. An administration layer of priests were to judge cases in relations to Hebrew Divine Law. No king. No dictator. No political class. Unfortunately the Jews eventually rejected this and elected Judges to rule over them. This was a dismal failure so they chose a King. And the same thing happened to Israel that has happened throughout monarchic history. It suffered under a series of mostly corrupt kings.
It seems as though too much power in too few hands makes life miserable for the masses. Israel was supposed to be ruled by just laws and not men. Interestingly, thousands of years later, European puritans established a government on the American continent and returned to this principle. They tried to minimize the power of the State by establishing no king, only a rule of law based on the obvious rights given to man by Nature and her God. See our next entry for a study of the American experiment in political theory.
In Edward Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” he details the characteristics of dying Rome. Things that have been noted with all dying empires throughout history: love of self, sexual obsession and deviance, vulgarity in the arts and the kicker, a rise in the role and power of the State. We are living in what appears to be the beginning of the end of Western Civilization as she was originally birthed when Constantine legalized Christianity in A.D. 312. Only time will tell…