Republicans have disappointed conservatives for a long time. Establishment Republicans want power so they can spend the same amount of money as Democrats but in different ways to protect their business buddies. We saw this in the three Bush administrations, especially with the younger Bush with a program like No Child Left Behind and a general increase in the budget.
Very few politicians want to understand the design, purpose, and jurisdictional limits of civil government even though they pay lip service to the principles when they take an oath to uphold the Constitution. Today’s politicians, like a majority of Americans, need a brief refresher course on the definition of government. When we understand these principles, we will get better civil leaders.
What is government? Most people respond by equating the word ‘government’ to the State, what used to be called “civil government.” Historically, the term ‘government’ was always qualified in some way.
A generation ago, high school students took a class in “Civics.” The emphasis was on the function of government in civil matters. This is no longer the case. Before World War I, textbooks dealing with national government carried the title “Civil.” An example of this can be seen in a textbook used in 1903: Elements of Civil Government. According to the author, “The family… Is a form of government, established for the good of children themselves, and the first government that each of us must obey.”1 The book continues by defining five areas of civil government: “the township or civil district, the village or the city, the county, the State, and the United States.”2 Textbook writers at the time were aware that there were personal (self-), family, church, school, and civil governments. Civil government was one government among other governments.
To deny the validity of the many governments and the responsibilities that each has under God, would be to deny the authority that belongs to each of them in the realm of their activity. If we as individuals neglect our personal governing duties, then we can expect the State to assume the role and claim to be the only government while labeling all others as counterfeits.
The concept of the multiplicity of governments is as old as our country.
Noah Webster’s (1758–1843) definition of government in his American Dictionary of the English Language (1828) reflects the biblical concept of the diversity of governmental authority. Webster defined government in this way: “Direction; regulation. ‘These precepts will serve for the government of our conduct.’ Control; restraint. ‘Men are apt to neglect the government of their temper and passions.’”
While Webster defined government in terms of personal self-control, most modern definitions limit government to the realm of institutions, especially civil or statist governments. This is made evident by the fact that the definition for civil government is placed first in modern dictionaries. Nowhere are self- and family governments even listed. For example, an edition of Webster’s New World Dictionary defines government as “The exercise of authority over a state, district, organization, institution, etc.”
Noah Webster, in the older definition, goes on to include family government as part of the complete definition before he deals with civil government at the state or national level. He defines family government as: “The exercise of authority by a parent or householder. ‘Children are often ruined by a neglect of government in parents.’”
If generations continue to be indoctrinated with the modern definition of “government,” they will neglect their own personal, family, church, and local governing duties. They will believe that these responsibilities are outside their area of authority and jurisdiction. Each generation will become more dependent on the “benevolent” State for care and security.
We are beginning to see this trend. “Today, most Americans have lost their faith in Christ as Savior, and they expect civil government to be their savior. They have no desire for the responsibilities of self-government, and so they say to politicians, ‘Do thou rule over us.’ Instead of Jesus Christ as their good shepherd, they elect politicians to be their shepherds on a program of socialistic security for all.”3
Conde Pallen’s “utopian” novel Crucible Island depicts what happens when the State becomes God. Man looks for a substitute provider so “the individual should have no thought, desire, or object other than the public welfare, of which the State is the creator and the inviolable guardian. As soon as the child is capable of learning, he is taught the Socialist catechism, whose first questions run as follows”:
Q. By whom were you begotten?
A. By the sovereign State.
Q. Why were you begotten?
A. That I might know, love, and serve the Sovereign State always.
Q. What is the sovereign State?
A. The sovereign State is humanity in composite and perfect being.
Q. Why is the State supreme?
A. The State is supreme because it is my Creator and Conserver in which I am and move and have my being and without which I am nothing.
Q. What is the individual?
A. The individual is only a part of the whole, and made for the whole, and finds his complete and perfect expression in the sovereign State. Individuals are made for cooperation only, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth.4
If people are in rebellion against God, we can expect undisciplined and ungovernable people. When this happens, the State is ready, willing, and able to serve as a substitute.
- Alex L. Peterman, Elements of Civil Government (New York: American Book Co., 1903), 18. [↩]
- Peterman, Elements of Civil Government, 18. [↩]
- Rushdoony, Law and Liberty, 61. [↩]
- Condé B. Pallen, Crucible Island: A Romance, an Adventure and an Experiment (New York: The Manhattanville Press, 1919), 109–110. [↩]