By: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND

Tom & Margo,
I would be interested in hearing your Christian perspective on the following article. I find that I agree largely with it, and I see a Christian solution being one of principally “self-government”  – government over oneself  – not a government by one or more individuals over one or more others. Secondly, from a practical perspective there are never enough resources to supply enough surveillance and retribution for an effective government by one individual over another. (In short, the police cannot be everywhere. Not only can the police not be everywhere but realistically police can be in only a very few places.)

John, Quick response to your discussion, without having read your article, yet. The whole premise of the Constitution was self governance by the individual based on Christian Principles.  Specifically the Founders discussed between themselves that the “general principles of Christianity” were the foundation of the government, in particular the Sermon on the Mount, Chapter 5 of Matthew, and the Ten Commandments. Beyond that, the local government handled most issues, if they couldn’t resolve a problem it went to county government and then state government. The Federal Government was to regulate (in their definition – “to keep regular”) the interstate relationships between states, where there were disputes, and also for the collective states, in matters of foreign relations with other nations, treaties, etc., and to provide for the common defense. As Rob Natelson pointed out in his ebook on the Constitution, there are only 30 things listed in the Constitution that the Federal Government can do. No one would have approved the Constitution, had it not been specifically and legally understood that the Federal Government was restricted to just those functions. Anyone who reads it now can get the wrong impression that taxation and other powers were providing all the power in the Federal Government. That is a wrong impression. Because of some commonly known Latin legal phrases of the day, the people understood that the Federal Government was very restricted in what it could do, according to the Constitution, which is only 4 pages. The Founders were very specific, that if the people don’t govern themselves from within, then the laws would be endlessly long, cumbersome and restrictive to the freedoms of the people. It was common practice in those early days to restrict bills to a single page, so the people could understand the law and follow it.

This particular consideration and set of arguments in the Consent of the Governed essay strongly illuminate and argue for the Libertarian solution.  The essay is articulate and condemns the American form of government with humorous caricature that sadly reflects the degradation to which our society has fallen.  However, his bias toward Libertarianism blunts the credibility of his attack on our Constitutional Republic.

In his Consent of the Governed essay, Higgs argues: “What gives some people the right to rule others? At least since John Locke’s time, the most common and seemingly compelling answer has been “the consent of the governed.” When the North American revolutionaries set out to justify their secession from the British Empire, they declared, among other things: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.” This sounds good, especially if one doesn’t think about it very hard or very long, but the harder and longer one thinks about it, the more problematic it becomes.”

The premise of Higgs’ essay is wrong.  The problem is not with government as a principle, rather Higgs is criticizing the government where men rule men.  The Revolutionary War was fought and the Declaration of Independence written as an active rebellion against the tyrannical implementation of government.  Men innately bristle at being subjects and slaves.  The Constitution was written to create a government of, by, and for the people, to replace the hated government of rulers of people.  

God gave the Israelites a form of government based on Judges.  But, the Israelites wanted to have a king like all the surrounding pagan nations.  God warned them through his prophets that a king would tax, conscript, and enslave them.  The people ignored God’s warning and He gave them a king, who promptly fulfilled His warnings.  Under the righteous kings, the people prospered and were happy, and under the evil kings the people groaned.  Our current administration is the equivalent of an evil king, and we will soon see the full measure of pain an evil administration can inflict on a people.

During the time the Israelites were ruled by Judges, God and His Law were king.  This was His plan, to give the people freedom within the boundaries of Law.  In Latin, Lex means law, and Rex means king, and the Founders used the phrase, “Lex Rex” to give a Latin motto to their God-honoring philosophy of government.  They wished to impress upon the minds and hearts of the people that Law is King.  The battle cry of the Revolutionary War was “No King but King Jesus,” which summarized their belief that no man should be king other than Jesus, who is the Law.  

When the people asked for a king, they were rejecting God as their king and calling for Rex Lex, which gave a man the power to be the law.  Such is the case with our current government.  We have men who make the laws, and their law is king, thus we have a government of men and we groan under the tyranny of Rex Lex.

A proper implementation of government, and the one given to us by our Founders, is a government where men serve and act to implement the group needs.  We refer to governmental office holders as “public servants”, because their job is service of the group, rather than advancement of self interest.  Jesus said in Matthew 23:11-12, “But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  

When government is seen as an institution where men rule men, the framing of such a relationship is inherently hierarchical, master-slave, ruler-subject.  As the rule becomes stronger, we label government a tyranny.  But, when government is seen as an institution where the will of the majority of the people is executed, we have an institution based on service.

Government is not about implementing the desires of an individual, and thus each man could object that the government was ruling against his will, or complain that he did not read, or agree to, the social contract that justifies government.  And all these complaints are true from the individual perspective, but small minded from the perspective of implementing group policy and program.  The more mature question is whether the group mind holds a generally righteous perspective, and whether the governmental structure allows for influence of program and protocol.  

If the electorate have the medium and mechanism by which government can be influenced, it is only a matter of effort and organization to eventually produce the fruit of desired change.  But Hope and Change can produce good or bad fruit, since the individual can organize for good or ill.  The kingdoms of good and evil eternally compete for dominance, and Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  (2 Corinthians 7:14)  Thus, while change is available in our governmental system, we must have a filter that the majority holds as a righteous standard against which all change is judged.  We cannot expect that the world will comply with our every concept of correct protocol and program.  Such is the nature of life.  It is an adequate accommodation to the individual perspective that the structure of government is adequately flexible and accessible to allow modification by the will of the majority.  

The market allows for more rapid transformation of a circumstance, or participation/non participation in a particular activity, but even the market has delays of time, and requires effort and following protocols to effect transformation.  Government should simply be a market-like activity with a different medium of purchase and price.  The vote and assent of the people should be the price of payment required for governmental action.  Without that, governmental is simply an animal composed of individuals forming a group spirit that exercises autocratic control over the people regardless of their assent.  The name we give such behavior is tyranny, and we all recoil against it.  Those who have found themselves inside the beast, become one with it, and feed on its spirit and prey as they give life and animation to the beast of tyrannical government.

When government is framed as an institution of rulership, the solution sounds obvious, just eliminate government, let people establish their own interpersonal law, contracts, and enforcement.  Let the market forces determine prices.  Let the forces organizing within the society oppose each other and establish an equilibrium.   Let the market provide the services for fee that government would provide.  In other words, an entirely government-less system, where no one tells another what to do, other than by their purchase-based agreement.

Obviously, we cannot validate the legitimacy of a government based on the concept of “the consent of the governed” if consent means 100% of the populace agrees to everything that the government does.  The consent must be considerably more general at its base than a lockstep endorsement of every representative and agreement with every law.  “Consent of the governed” can be accepted as a unifying banner of approval if the government broadly embodies the heart and philosophy of the people.  We cannot expect perfection in government, nor in corporations, nor families, nor individuals.  Even the best system will necessarily take excursions of excessive and deficient force.  That excellent government will make errors and follow the siren song of foolish policy and program.  These are necessary failings of mortals and their institutions.  

More productive considerations are: “Can we actually organize and charge a representative government with governing according to righteous principles?  Can the people apply effective corrective force against the government when it errs in its judgment of righteousness?  Can a government be given the right to strongly restrain unrighteous behavior, without using that power to oppress those who object to its own unrighteousness?”  

In response to the above rhetorical questions, the answer is, “Yes, we can frame a government that balances power and flexibility, provided the nation’s people are righteous.”  Our Constitution frames such a government, but it will allow tyranny and special interests to prosper if the people have little sense of, or commitment to, righteous discrimination.  No system of government or market will be adequate to bridle the passion of men by the forces by the static structures of law.  Men must choose to remain vigilant to repel the evil that constantly probes the edges of law.  

A government has legitimacy under the concept of “the consent of the governed” as long as, 1) The governmental framework is rightly organized around a proper balance between law and grace and the powers of governor and governed, and built upon the true nature of God and man.  The power of the people requires an effective method of influencing the populace and government with facts.  Such a governmental structure, governing a nation of Godly people, will self-regulate to restore the proper standards and enforcement of principles.  The press, vote, speech, religion, and guns are required tools of a free and righteous self-governed people.  If the first amendment is properly executed, the 2nd amendment will never be needed to throw tyranny off the backs of the people.  In ordinary conduct of societal commerce, law and grace will balance with a graceful ebb and flow, one yielding alternately to the other as error is confronted and acknowledged.  As long as the boundaries of righteousness are properly established, the government, society, economy, nature, and the people will coexist in harmony.  Each principle plays its part in warning, acting, and supporting the righteous commerce of group relationship.

The essay Higgs was cutting, critical, and a valid indictment of our current state of government, but it should not have extended so far as to indict all government.  The essay was clearly setting up a straw man to knock down.  The goal of examining the concept of the “consent of the governed” should not be to validate a predisposition for the solution of “no government” or Libertarianism.  Rather, we should always be looking for a political philosophy and way of ordering the group mind and actions which will maximize the quality of life.

The group is made of individuals, and each must be satisfied within the boundaries of righteousness.  This means that those who offend righteous principles must be restrained, and those who recoil at righteous conduct must retrain their souls to accept the spectrum of Godly humanity.  Government should be a tool of the people to act upon their behalf to execute the tasks required for performing functions required by the group.  Most projects are outside of the Constitutionally authorized domain of Federal Government.  

The scope of power changed with the “progressive” movement of the 20’s.  FDR used the Great Depression as a method (a crisis used as justification/excuse) to institute Federal programs that violated the Constitutional limits of Federal government.  He packed the  Supreme Court, obtained favorable rulings, and perverted the intent of the Founders by purposeful corruption of the Constitutional limits.  

The commerce clause has been a key tool used by the “Progressive/Liberal” legislators, judiciary, and executive to give the color of legal justification for the government controlling nearly every aspect of our lives from education to medicine.  But, such Federal intervention was not the intent of the Founders, and the framework of the original Constitution cannot be attributed to the rise of our current authoritarian government.  The Constitution was purposefully violated for the purpose of instituting the authoritarian rule we now see maturing.  Vigilant moral men, willing (and able) to use the tools of media to mobilize public opinion to oppose the perversion of righteous government are the final bulwark against creeping authoritarianism.  

The short version of the body of Law is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.”  When we accept Godly law, we are loving the essence of God, we are loving who He is, we are loving His way of being, personality, and character, we Love Him.  It is this essence that pervades and directs the universe.  There is an alternative way of being to Godliness, the “Not God” way, and that way is seductive.  It includes the philosophy that all law that hurts no one is an acceptable way of being.  And, to the extent that this is True, that no one is hurt, this philosophy actually reflects reality.  Ultimately, the group body must be controlled like an individual controls his own body.  We are each made of competing voices, and ultimately there is a governor which decides.  We must restrain the unruly rebel that tempts our spirit, and we must nurture the good and Godly counsel that urges us to righteousness.  If a man is constantly reading the Bible, he will more likely recognize the patterns of Godliness, and more likely choose those actions.  But, the Bible is complex, and there was few rules that can be used to judge a particular isolated behavior as right or wrong a priori outside of the context.  Thus, when life and wisdom convict us of our error, we should be continually learning and growing in wisdom and righteousness.  Thus, error, success, learning, and growth for both individuals and groups are all part of the ongoing process of maturing souls in the process of life as preparation for eternity.

People do not like having other people tell them what to do, it is a type of slavery, and the human soul recoils against it.  But, a society which allows no one to tell anyone what to do will degenerate into animalistic individualism.  Children must be instructed, trained, and disciplined to follow right patterns of thought, speech, and action, else they grow wild and self indulgent.  Rebels must be restrained, otherwise their destructive trails will deeply disrupt their world.

Freedom must be balanced against all the other factors of life.  Freedom properly balanced against the other virtues of life is an indicator of a healthy society.  The question is, “How should a society optimize freedom?”  I contend that it is not possible to come to a point of optimum freedom without government of some sort.  Boundary-less anarchy allows very little freedom, and extreme government control is oppressive.  The logical conclusion is that the place of freedom optimization lies between the two extremes of totalitarian government and anarchy, and thus the optimum solution is a combination of government and market.

And yes, I totally agree with your comment that we must take personal responsibility to regulate ourselves and exert discipline on our boundary-violating neighbors.  But, even this, as important and correct a point and concept as it is, does not answer the question of, “What is the right amount of government?”

The abuse of the implicit social contract described by Robert Higgs, is an example of living in hell, and it approximately describes America of 2010.  But, as bad as it is now, the full intervention and control of the government has not reached its full expression.  

The social contract that optimizes freedom, is one where the inhabitants of the land have a reasonably uniform sense of justice and boundaries, and are willing to impose that sense of values and group behavior upon themselves and others using primarily informal pressure, and where necessary the force of law.  

For example, a man who does not accept the social contract, who wanted to take other people’s property without compensation, should be confronted by others, make restitution, and come under group support to change his behavior.  If the violator was unwilling to change his behavior by the pressure of his community, then there should be an option available to the community to remove those who refuse to accept the social contract.  

The underlying question you have asked is, “What is the best method of judgment and correction?”   I believe the governmental police, court, and corrections system could be made to truly be effective.  As a Libertarian, you might argue for a fee for service police and judicial body.  

To me, the medium of enforcement is not the primary issue.   Rather, the real problem lies in the establishment of a societal agreement regarding the terms of the group contract.  And yes, there is a societal contract, whether explicit or implicit, whether established by government or the marketplace of public debate and action.  Society will establish a standard of conduct and judge, reward, and punish according to the terms of that contract.  We can argue that standards established by government are dictatorial, and standards established by the market more closely reflect the values and desires of the group.  And, this in fact may be true, which is why the Founders restricted the Federal government from establishing law in areas other than the arena of largest group concern, such as defense.  The market and government are both possible mediums for delivering the service of policing, judgement, justice, and rehabilitation.  And, when properly administered and implemented they should both be in full interactive participation with the governed and the consumer.

I contend that neither government nor the market should determine the social contract, but rather government, market, people, the environment, and God are its authors, recipients, and context.  The question is not whether we should have a social contract, it is only a question of what are its terms.  

The desires and aversions of men, and the limitations of the body and environment largely dictate the terms of the social contract.  God has shaped the basic mind and heart of man, and hence, they reflect His Law and Way.  But, since God seldom speaks in ways we all recognize as divine direction, we must resort to indirect signs as we attempt to divine His will and way.  Therefore, we each filter the divine through our own experience of pain and pleasure and vote for our self interest through various media.  We speak and act in ways that move life in the direction of self satisfaction.  And, just as no one should be the dictator and direct the entire world in ways that satisfied his every whim of desire, no one should be excluded from advocating that his internal state be honored and accommodated.  

The median solution that resolves the cacophony of competing desires into a coherent social contract of mutually acceptable individual and group behavior is mediated and enforced by the pressures of both government and market.  Governmental decisions are typically arbitrated by a popular or representative vote, with the nod going toward the establishment of majority will as law.  And while a majority of 50.00001% is clearly not a mandate, an agreement to abide by the will of the majority for a season, with the possibility of revisiting the rules for modification or reversal, makes the time of subjugation tolerable.  

In a pure and representative democracy, the general expectation of the masses is the determinant factor that directs the social contract.  Thus, education in all its forms is the primary tool for transforming the mind, vision, and will of the majority.  As long as the group contract has the proper balance of rigidity and flexibility, the rules imposed upon the society will have sufficient force to shape its people, while allowing the people to shape the rules to more perfectly match the requirement of each societal terrain.

The Libertarian desire may be to allow absolute flexibility, with the option to obey or disobey any convention established by a government or majority, and opt for an alternative market-based government supported by dues and voluntary membership.  Such contracts are already largely implemented in communities with neighborhood covenants, with rule making bodies of owner associations.  And while these ad hoc associations are not official governmental bodies, they still operate either as autocracies influenced largely by one or two strong personalities, or by rules established based upon a majority or super majority.  In other words, the market-based solution uses largely the same tools of group decision as government.  

In an optimum implementation, the flexibility of the government and market are roughly the same.  But when implemented, government has proven to be intransigent because of its interest in maintaining its own agenda and the benefits.  But, the market can also present large barriers to implementing new solutions or making change, as illustrated by our example of moving to another house to obtain freedom from onerous covenants and association rules.  Some market-based solutions are as simple as choosing from another shelf, while others require incredible effort to develop new inventions or organizations.  The tools of market transformation ultimately involve voting, but the outcome can produce multiple solutions instead of a single implementation.  The tools of governmental transformation are lobbying, educating, voting, or moving to another governmental jurisdiction.  

In other words, the fundamental processes of decision, rule, and enforcement are approximately the same in both government and market solutions.  Both can render horrible decisions that cause the people to groan, as well as produce an environment of prosperity and joy.

To provide a successful societal structure, the rule making body, whether governmental or market based, must establish boundaries of sufficient solidity to inform business, organizations, and individuals, of the acceptable and restricted paths of behavior.  

Human institutions model nature in terms of their adaptation and appropriate environment for surviving and thriving.  In nature we see how each species occupies its own ecological niche, and thrives or fails depending on its microenvironment.  As social engineers and theorists, we are attempting to design an ideal societal structure, and argue for its implementation.  

Thus, we cannot argue reasonably for any social solution without defining the environment in which it will live.  Therefore, I shall describe the environment of today.  We see the current administration pursuing what appears to be the socialization and mediocritization of the social classes.  We have a society of extreme dis-homogeneity, with pluralism of religion, race, wealth, and moral structures, all competing for dominance.  We have advocates that exalt every virtue  as though it were supreme (e.g. love, peace, freedom, equality, privacy, tolerance…).  But, such is the nature of a universe with true meaning, it must have an edge, a place of the unknown where we each reason based on the basic principles of Godliness.  And to give the creation even more texture and interest, Godliness has a societal variation in each societal/cultural context.  

We can attempt to solve the problem of agreement on the social contract by separating into like-minded communities.  But even that solution will be only approximate.  The human soul has many dimensions of personality, and there is no possibility of filling any population center with precisely the same profile of likes, dislike, and moral standards.  The best that can be expected is approximation, compromise, mobility, and the opportunity to express and influence the group and its individuals.  In this experiment, every community would govern itself around its own concept of virtue.  Those who advocate for a market-based solution believe such exquisite individualization can be realized by the market, and to a large extent this hope is true.  But, without the context of righteous law that bounds the acceptable market solutions, the market will produce deeply suboptimal expressions of social organization and expression.  In other words, there is no mechanical solution to the problem of societal organization.  We must choose how we wish to organize ourselves.  Government on the highest level should broadly frame the context of human effort and organization, and lower levels should establish more specific boundaries.  The market should be left free to fill in the largest portion of the specifics that satisfy the needs for product, service, and organization.  In other words, a system of government and economy essentially identical to our current society, but freed from the bondage of a Godless government seeking to impose its code of humanistic law upon the social structure.

Having examined these different possibilities of establishing and enforcing a social contract, I believe the best societal solution comes by following the general rules of behavior that are consistent with the form in which we were created.  I don’t think we evolved from slime mold, and hence there is a pattern and design that reflects the will of our Creator.  I don’t believe following or allowing every expression of men’s passions is the best way to find the ideal optimal center of social organization.  

A system initiated far from the equilibrium point will make wild swings around the center before coming to rest at the optimal control point.  And, when there are other bodies in the system, the collisions and interactions add such complexity to the oscillation that the quiet center is almost invisible in the commotion of interaction.

Thus, I believe humanity is best served by teaching Godliness to its youth, and training them to properly exercise their passions within the limits of Godly boundaries.  With such training of the nation’s youth, the system is set on a trajectory of stable, gentle, lawful, and Godly swings of passion that massage the soul with joy.  The extreme swings of passion produced by pornography, drugs, adultery, and violence produce shockwaves in the societal system that disrupt the peaceful and joyful experience of a well regulated life.

America was established as a Christian nation, and if people live by the major and implied principles of the Bible, and the individuals who comprise the society support those principles and discipline those who violate them, there will be very few rebels who survive into adulthood.  Those who do, have shown themselves unwilling to live by the social contract, and are immune to the counsel and rebuke of the community.  Those with such hard hearts, those who are committed to violating the Judeo-Christian ethic, should be prosecuted to bring penitence or isolation from the group to prevent the spread of their social disease.  Such is the essence of the legal system.

The government should be the arm of the codifying the moral structures and will of the people.  Such a concept is only useful or valid if in fact there is a group contract and expectation of Godliness that has a reasonably unified definition.  As a Christian nation, we once overtly identified ourselves as a culture based upon the Judeo-Christian ethic.  The media has used complex legal cases with elements of moral ambiguity to falsely cast the concepts of Christian values as evil, and hateful judgments of innocent sinners (e.g. Lawrence v. Texas).  In this manner, they have used case studies to instruct the public and change the direction of judicial precedent and moral standards.  With this constant reversal, piece by piece, eventually all that was good and true as per the Judeo-Christian moral perspective is now held as evil, and what was once evil is now good.  The coming of such a reversal of the moral systems was clearly spoken about in Biblical prophesy.  Even the modestly dedicated Biblical scholar will note the similarity of prophesy and the events and state of our current time.

Higgs complains of a government that imposes its rule upon a people without their consent, and argues that there is no way of even obtaining that consent.  The argument is plausible, but trivial.  Of course there is no document that explicitly lists the terms of the group contract.  We are born into a society that is organic, has developed its own solutions, and as we come of age can enter into the debate and attempt to influence it.  Such is the nature of life; it is complex, ambiguous, and out of perfect equilibrium with righteousness.  

We consent to the social contract, and consent to be governed by the current administration, not because of our overt and explicit agreement with its principles, but because we arrived by choice or chance in this life environment.  The government derives its authority from “the consent of the governed” only in the most general terms.  Of course we disagree with laws, officials, and structures of government.  But, we are not gods, we are not capable of living lives totally independent or free of influence by others.  The best we can hope for is some influence over our environment, the market, and the government.  And yes, we should have broad agreement on the structure of government, we should be willing to operate as limited agents having the amount of influence that accords to a man with one voice, with the possibility of the voice being amplified by intelligence, articulation, and thought.

The “consent of the governed” is best implemented in a society with a roughly homogeneous culture, moral code, and belief structure.  And, while absolute homogeneity is neither possible nor desirable, there must be a core system of values that is at least implicitly recognized as “the national culture”.  Without such a unifying center, held by a majority, the fragmentation that arises from those who consider themselves oppressed by the alien power will revolt and fracture the harmony of economy, culture, and government.  

Ideally, men seek to express God’s way in their particular geographic and historical context.  Cultures emerge that reflect the uniqueness of each region and its people around the full spectrum of human expression.  A national culture and moral center should arise naturally from the heart of the people and their desire to serve God and follow righteousness.  A culture that grows organically around an entire nation of men who wish to live according to right principles will grow strong, and straight.

Tyranny, slavery, and command economies are brittle because the cells comprising the society have no individual will to pursue the direction of the culture.  A cultural mandate imposed upon a society by a government, corporation, media, or a council of orthodoxy will create a society with little joy of life.  Men desire to operate with as many freedoms and as much freedom as possible.  The limits of freedom can be established by government, monopoly, ignorance, error, and theocracy.  Each of these societal actors can reduce the degrees of freedom and turn men into machines and objects.  A national culture forms organically around men and their economic, religious, familial, and political affinities.  The geographic limitations of weather, terrain, and resources form natural barriers, and various economic, religious, and political systems prosper in different climates.  Pure homogeneity will not arise on a large scale because of the forces of diffusion and gradient that naturally compete to dilute and separate.

The ideal society arises from reasonably derived universal Biblical principles, and could be known without divine instruction.  But, the many passions of life pull and seduce us to engage them in so many different directions, that finding the narrow central path may be impossible without following the inspiration of the source.  Thus, the written word, the Holy Bible provides an anchor point for men to continue checking to see if their thoughts, words and deeds still fall within the broad parameters of righteousness, and if their searching is moving toward manifesting souls that match the finely tuned standards of perfection.

To make the game fair but also interesting, the principles of life must be hidden, but knowable with sufficient study and inspiration.  The rules of life must be complex enough to provide interest, intrigue, and puzzlement even for the most intelligent and enlightened.  And, they must be simple enough in their basic iteration to be recognizable as truth and love by the dull and lame.

The principles of right social organization will always be subject to debate, but society will organize when two or more gather together.  Every group must choose rules, and a model for regulating their behavior in relationship.  Philosophers attempt to identify the penultimate perfection of social organization, but individuals must still make a choice in the absence of a knowledge of that perfect model of social order.  

Throughout the ages, men have tried to derive the principles of right social order, and they have produced many systems of organization, each of which had significant weaknesses.  The ideal system would balance government and market, law and grace, and place limits on men’s behavior where force was needed to properly shape men’s character in the ways of Godliness.  

I believe the US Constitution has struck that balance, and will provide a legal structure for enabling prosperity and freedom for a people committed to righteousness.  It will be inadequate to restrain the passions of a people who in unison seek to break its boundaries.  The Constitution was written with the vision of creating an organizational system that captured the spirit of the Holy Bible.  But, having a Constitution with perfectly Godly boundaries and balance is not enough.  The society it frames must be populated by people who exercise the individual effort to shape personal character in the image of Godliness.  If a society does not truly seek to sanctify the individual, the freedoms and possibilities of the Constitution will be used as legal justification for all types of government-corporate domination for purposes of satisfying the drives of greed and power.  As such, the Constitution could be argued as giving favor to those who had special ties to the Crown.   But, without the trust associated with general language, the Constitution would have been a rigid and oppressive document.  Its generalities give it flexibility to change and freedom, but leave it vulnerable to the propaganda and lies of a people who wish to destroy its spirit and original Godly intent.  A governing document that embodies the wisdom of the ages will strike the required balance between the competing polarities.  It will give freedom to those who deserve it by virtue of their self disciplined regulation of animal passions, and will restrain those who oppose orderly conduct and righteous and fair relationship.

The fact that our current administration seeks to control every aspect of our lives is not a reflection of the principles or error embedded in the Constitution.  Rather, the full power pursuit of government toward authoritarian socialism is a reflection of the desire of men to remove God and His influence from the group mind.  Godly men do not expect handouts, bailouts, or enforced charity (disguised as government support).

We do not know whether an intentional cabal, or the natural passions of men have pursued and justified this usurpation of the authority of States, and removal of God from all aspects of public life.  Typically government justifies increased regulatory control by rescuing its citizens from the evils of poverty, sickness, war, moral turpitude, and disaster. The intervention is disguised as compassion or protection, but the end is diminished degrees of freedom, with the arbitrary limits of men placed at the ends of otherwise acceptable behavior.

Our current government has overtly declared that we should not let a crisis go to waste.  Thus, after each act of violence, natural disaster, or tragedy of war or disease, the public opinion can be mobilized to support a governmental “fix” for the problem.  When under stress and threat, the public will easily accept more stringent laws of surveillance, enforcement, and restrictions of behavior.  Harsher punishment with more mandatory sentence comes naturally.

Government intervention should be seldom required in a nation where individuals took their charge to train and discipline their fellow man seriously.  Parents, peers, management, and subordinates should all be ready to use the tools of coaching, instruction, and reprimand in a timely and force-appropriate manner.

Only the violent man and rebel against all reason and repentance need be given over to the State for confinement and punishment.  Children are innately selfish, and if not trained to restrain their passions, and to develop the habits of charity, the negative convergence of trauma, environment, temperament, and spirit may produce criminals and sociopaths.  Effective parenting combats the spirits of rebellion against Godly restraint and trains a child in the ways of the Lord.  Godly parenting will reduce the incidence of antisocial brats entering the stage of life to play out their part and turn a love story into a dramatic tragedy.

Government may grow to become oppressive if:
1) A significant percentage of the people are committed to crossing the boundaries simply to rebel, and their disturbance is sufficiently disruptive that government must use force to maintain order, protect the innocent, or maintain its own power.
2) The government finds it necessary to impose strict and numerous boundaries when people are so disparate in their value systems that they violate each other’s sense of boundary as part of their cultural customs.  Thus, a single, government imposed standard must be established which all must bow to, simply because of the force that government uses to establish and enforce those boundaries.
3) The government becomes filled with men who love the feel of power and wish to exercise it by micro-management, and who further may seek to expand that power to new larger levels by creating a socialistic and/or Global government.

Anarchy may come if:
1) The people have no respect for law, group, others, property, or authority, nor are they checked by the voice of righteous conscience.
2) The people simply decide to revolt against the power that rules them.
3) If the governing authority is eradicated by disease, war, acts of God, and people do not have an internally held and mature sense of  right and proper boundaries.

The concerns raised by Higgs are clever, insightful, well stated, and humorous.  They well illustrate the obvious – we live in an extremely governed state, and we find ourselves disagreeing with the morality of the rulers’ standards of justice and efficiency.  But, he does not offer a real solution, other than the implicit, “Let’s get rid of government.”  

But, if my theory about the point of maximization of freedom on the spectrum between anarchy and totalitarianism is correct, then we must have some government.  But, that government should be minimal.  And, such was the intent and implementation of government by the Founders in our Constitution.  

The first and greatest regulation should be of myself.  After handling my own errors, I am then free to act as God’s hands extended, and give appropriate confrontation, counsel, exhortation, and rebuke, in response to the wrongdoing of my neighbor.  When he repents, it is my place to forgive him and reestablish relationship to the extent that he has proven himself trustworthy.  After violation, it takes time to reestablish trust, and the barriers to close embrace should not be lowered till there is a sufficient duration in demonstration of a changed heart and mind.  Without a renewal and rebirth of character, a man does not deserve trust.  The old, cold heart of the sinner must be replaced before he deserves the trust of an unguarded relationship.

If the violator does not repent, then bring a small group to confront the violator.  If he does not repent, then take him before the leaders.  If he does not repent then take him before the larger assembly.  If he does not repent, then let the authorities, the judge for the County/State/Federal government administer the appropriate reparative and chastening consequence for his violation.

The ultimate solution for maximizing freedom will come when people raise their children in the way of the Lord.  When such children mature, and govern themselves individually as good servants of righteousness, the people can dismantle the edifices of power that were needed to hold an unruly society in check.  If the society is an overtly Judeo-Christian nation, we have a social contract, and in it are principles both implicit and explicit, subtle and blatant, found in the Bible that illustrate the proper governance of the soul.  Freedom is maximized in such a system because each man regulates his activities without the need for external force, and he chooses only to act rightly.  

In a Judeo-Christian culture/nation, our governing officials should govern in concert with those same principles.  And, they should be called upon only on those rare occasions where violators are so extreme and unrepentant as to rebel against the group ethic.  As citizens, each of us must take responsibility for our own souls and restrain our passions, discipline our desires, and govern ourselves according to those deep and wide set of principles that are the highest distilled essence of the Judeo-Christian ethic.  If each man obeys these principles, he will have little difficulty with his fellow man, and he will have little confusion about defending his boundaries and convicting another when those boundaries are crossed.

A major deficiency in modern American society is our broad lack of strongly held principles.  Instead of being warriors that fiercely and bravely defend the boundaries of righteousness, we allow children, teens, and rude men to violate our boundaries without consequence.  The key to the rehabilitation of our culture is for each man to stiffen his spine and rebuke those who violate, forgive when they repent, reestablish relationship, and proceed with life, stronger, wiser, and more mature as parents, friends, mates, or employer-employees.  The issue of government enforcement almost disappears when there is strong active local rebuke and enforced restitution among the peer and parental group.

There is a deep desire in the human heart for liberty, for freedom, to be ungoverned by anyone.  But, men do not deserve freedom until they have bound their passions and submitted them to righteous internal self-regulation.  But, such a world will exist only when we adopt God’s laws, and govern ourselves so that no one must govern us by force.  We only deserve freedom when we regulate ourselves internally according to those timeless laws that guide humanity.

The atheist, may object to living in a nation where he must follow rules that govern people who believe the Bible is the word of God, and whose society reflects a moral standard and he does not embrace.  The Buddhist, Hindu, or Muslim may likewise object, since they have their own cultural norms.  But, when such social confusion about the implicit standard of righteous ethic exists, the government will naturally impose its social order upon the populace to maintain the social order.  A social order of some type will naturally arise, and every group has the right to adopt the standard by which they choose to regulate their lives.  America was founded as a Christian nation, on Christian principles, by Christian men, who created Founding Documents that reflected those principles.  America is not required to embrace and incorporate all world philosophies and give each creed equal authority in the governance of her social structures.

Strong argument could be made that the purpose of our installment of multiculturalism as the highest social imperative, and the government-supported invasion by the Mexican illegal aliens, is a purposeful strategy.  If the purity of the Judeo Christian ethic is diluted, then no argument can be offered that we are a Christian nation.  No argument from the majority can be sustained that we should all regulate ourselves according to Biblical principles when the presence of large minorities of alternate value systems among us contradicts that position.  With multiculturalism as the new highest virtue, the practitioners of the religion of political correctness are emboldened to condemn all who defend the Judeo Christian heritage with the now familiar epithets of “bigot, homophobe, and intolerant hate monger”.  A new politically correct ethic has replaced our Judeo-Christian heritage, and very likely its attack was allowed by those at the highest levels of trust and authority.  In the place of our Godly system of justice and social ethics, we see a moral system where only sin is tolerated, and advocacy of righteousness is declared a violation of social justice.  This disharmony of values allows the government to declare a need to impose its own standard of morality upon the nation to quell the tensions between the opposing moral factions.  The government faces a crisis of its own making, and the opportunity is not going to waste.

It is logically impossible for every man to have his belief system encoded as the social law.  Likewise, it is not necessary for a nation to accept the legal, moral, social standards of every culture as good, right, and acceptable.  Every nation has its own character, and each has the right to establish the patterns of moral/behavioral norms it embraces.

America is not required to accept every ideal as equal, and imprint those ideals in the soul-structure of the nation.  We have a right to be a Judeo-Christian nation.  We have a right to ask that those who come to our shores to adopt the American ethos, the identity and soul of being an American.  Those who do not want to embrace our national spirit, should find a place to live that resonates more closely with their heart.  We are Americans, and we have a spirit that is worth keeping pure and separate.  Multiculturalism is not the ultimate virtue.  Godliness is.

The Libertarian dream for organizing America is to allow all ideas, cultures, religions to coexist without imposition of any standards upon anyone.  The Libertarian dream is of a free market that provides nearly every service by contracts between agreeable buyers and sellers, without restrictions.  The Libertarian dream is to provide all the services of government by contract, rather than by taxation.  And, regarding personal freedoms, the Libertarian desires that there be no restrictions on what a man/woman can do with his/her body or with an agreeable partner.  

The question is, “Does what I do to my body have any effect on the rest of society?”  And, the answer is, “Yes it does.”  If I sniff glue, shoot heroin, drop LSD, snort meth, PCP, or cocaine, and go vegetative, psychotic, violent, or emotionally fragile, then I have clearly affected the world around me.  There will be victims.  If I kill or disable myself by risky behavior, I have reduced the total value that the society can produce and consume.  There will be victims.  If I have sex with everyone who is agreeable, I contribute to the disconnection and callousness of society.  There will be victims.  If I violate the patterns of Godly sexual union, I distort my psyche, and enroll others in the same pathos.  There will be victims.  There are no private acts, only acts that are subtle or gross in their immediate and long term social consequence.  We must regulate ourselves rightly at all times.  The effect of doing otherwise is a violation of self and neighbor.  We cannot stand behind a banner of “victimless crimes”.  There is no such thing.  It is either good and Godly, or it is a crime and violation against, self, other, and God.

The Biblical warnings against self destructive use of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll are simply extensions of loving neighbor as self, and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Actions that hurt self, hurt others.  If an act is unGodly, it is hurtful to self and other.  We must take other people into consideration in every action.  There is a perfect way of being which is truly the best for the moment.  We may need to nourish the faint, sharpen the seeker, or chasten the rebel.  The mature man always chooses the right action for his environment.

The question that is always asked at this point is, “Who will decide, who will judge, who will legislate what are the Godly patterns of ingestion, sexual union, or business?”  The answer to that question is worked out organically in the commerce and debate within “the Christian Nation.”  Those who heartily embrace the study of God’s word will find their souls convicted by unGodly behavior.  Men who hold righteous positions will do verbal battle with those who hold opposing positions.  A righteous media will accurately cover the points of debate and inform the general public of the argument, logic, and conclusions of the ongoing social discussion.  The righteous media will hold as its highest principle the ethic of informing the public of the facts so that each man can process the day’s circumstances and develop an opinion and be ready to act to implement truth as he is called in his walk.  

The opinion of one man is not sufficient to establish Truth, nor does the opinion of a group convicted of the same or opposing position establish it.  Rather, men’s best approximation of Truth comes from the commerce and equilibrium of ideas arising from the debate of a nation of men who heartily engage the Word.  When men search for relevant principles and sincerely ask for revelation and illumination, they will come to an understanding of the point where virtues balance, and action can be taken.  Every circumstance brings unique considerations to the table, and a new mind must be brought to each situation as we attempt to determine the righteous balance between competing virtues.  There should be no official clergy declaring doctrinal orthodoxy with relationship to public policy.  But, there should be no discouragement of every official, public and private, from expressing his opinion about the correctness of any particular position.   

In short, we should have a minimal government, which will only be possible when each man takes responsibility for disciplining himself and others according to Godly standards.  We were established as a Christian Nation, and as a nation we have the right to choose any moral-legal philosophy to govern our interpersonal relationships.  The Federal government should be organized to simply execute, judge, and enforce the 30 powers given it by the Constitution.  The State and local governments should be able to form any kind of society that they wish under that broad umbrella of Constitutional limits.  For example, Maryland was a Catholic state for a number of years after the Constitution was signed.  Nevada is a state that wants to promote brothels and gambling.  California wants to be a haven for marijuana use and welfare recipients.  Massachusetts wants to champion the equality of homosexual marriage.  All of these choices are within the 10th Amendment rights of each state to decide its moral system, and each state will produce its own fruit, which in turn will give evidence of the success of each societal experiment.  The City and County governments should likewise operate under the general charters of the larger State and Federal frameworks.  Each locality should be allowed to prosper or fail according to the fruit of its own labor.  The only assistance given should be moral, in providing encouragement, instruction, and support in righteous government to those which have chosen failing policies and moral postures.

I have established for myself sufficiently with the above arguments that men require a minimal governmental structure to properly organize life.  The question is simply what principles, structure and organization men should chose for their government.  I contend that the maximum freedom is created for people when the principles of people, groups, and each layer of government, are identical to the laws of God.  If there is too little or too much government/regulation, the freedom men experience will decrease as they move away from that optimum.

Last edit: 7/11/2010

Consent of the Governed? Robert Higgs on Jun 1, 2010

What gives some people the right to rule others? At least since JohnLocke’s time, the most common and seemingly compelling answer has been”the consent of the governed.” When the North American revolutionariesset out to justify their secession from the British Empire, theydeclared, among other things: “Governments are instituted among Men,deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.” Thissounds good, especially if one doesn’t think about it very hard orvery long, but the harder and longer one thinks about it, the moreproblematic it becomes.One question after another comes to mind. Must every person consent?If not, how many must, and what options do those who do not consenthave? What form must the consent take — verbal, written, explicit,implicit? If implicit, how is it to be registered? Given that thecomposition of society is constantly changing, owing to births,deaths, and international migration, how often must the rulers confirmthat they retain the consent of the governed? And so on and on.Political legitimacy, it would appear, presents a multitude ofdifficulties when we move from the realm of theoretical abstraction tothat of practical realization.I raise this question because in regard to the so-called socialcontract, I have often had occasion to protest that I haven’t evenseen the contract, much less been asked to consent to it. A validcontract requires voluntary offer, acceptance, and consideration. I’venever received an offer from my rulers, so I certainly have notaccepted one; and rather than consideration, I have received nothingbut contempt from the rulers, who, notwithstanding the absence of anyagreement, have indubitably threatened me with grave harm in the eventthat I fail to comply with their edicts. What monumental effronterythese people exhibit! What gives them the right to rob me and push mearound? It certainly is not my desire to be a sheep for them to shearor slaughter as they deem expedient for the attainment of their ownends.Moreover, when we flesh out the idea of “consent of the governed” inrealistic detail, the whole notion quickly becomes utterlypreposterous. Just consider how it would work. A would-be rulerapproaches you and offers a contract for your approval. Here, says he,is the deal.I, the party of the first part (“the ruler”), promise:(1) To stipulate how much of your money you will hand over to me,as well as how, when, and where the transfer will be made. You willhave no effective say in the matter, aside from pleading for my mercy,and if you should fail to comply, my agents will punish you withfines, imprisonment, and (in the event of your persistent resistance)death.(2) To make thousands upon thousands of rules for you to obeywithout question, again on pain of punishment by my agents. You willhave no effective say in determining the content of these rules, whichwill be so numerous, complex, and in many cases beyond comprehensionthat no human being could conceivably know about more than a handfulof them, much less their specific character, yet if you should fail tocomply with any of them, I will feel free to punish you to the extentof a law made by me and my confederates.(3) To provide for your use, on terms stipulated by me and myagents, so-called public goods and services. Although you may actuallyplace some value on a few of these goods and services, most will havelittle or no value to you, and some you will find utterly abhorrent,and in no event will you as an individual have any effective say overthe goods and services I provide, notwithstanding any economist’scock-and-bull story to the effect that you “demand” all this stuff andvalue it at whatever amount of money I choose to expend for itsprovision.(4) In the event of a dispute between us, judges beholden to mefor their appointment and salaries will decide how to settle thedispute. You can expect to lose in these settlements, if your case isheard at all.In exchange for the foregoing government “benefits,” you, theparty of the second part (“the subject”), promise:(5) To shut up, make no waves, obey all orders issued by the rulerand his agents, kowtow to them as if they were important, honorablepeople, and when they say “jump,” ask only “how high?”Such a deal! Can we really imagine that any sane person would consent to it?Yet the foregoing description of the true social contract into whichindividuals are said to have entered is much too abstract to capturethe raw realities of being governed. In enumerating the actualdetails, no one has ever surpassed Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who wrote:To be GOVERNED is to be kept in sight, inspected, spied upon,directed, law-driven, numbered, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at,controlled, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures whohave neither the right, nor the wisdom, nor the virtue to do so. To beGOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction, noted,registered, enrolled, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed,licensed, authorized, admonished, forbidden, reformed, corrected,punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name ofthe general interest, to be placed under contribution, trained,ransomed, exploited, monopolized, extorted, squeezed, mystified,robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word ofcomplaint, to be repressed, fined, despised, harassed, tracked,abused, clubbed, disarmed, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned,shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and, to crown all, mocked,ridiculed, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is itsjustice; that is its morality. (P.-J. Proudhon, General Idea of theRevolution in the Nineteenth Century, trans. John Beverley Robinson.London: Freedom Press, 1923, p. 294)Nowadays, of course, we would have to supplement Proudhon’s admirablyprecise account by noting that our being governed also entails ourbeing electronically monitored, tracked by orbiting satellites, tasedmore or less at random, and invaded in our premises by SWAT teams ofpolice, often under the pretext of their overriding our natural rightto decide what substances we will ingest, inject, or inhale into whatused to be known as “our own bodies.”So, to return to the question of political legitimacy as determined bythe consent of the governed, it appears upon sober reflection that thewhole idea is as fanciful as the unicorn. No one in his right mind,save perhaps an incurable masochist, would voluntarily consent to betreated as governments actually treat their subjects.Nevertheless, very few of us in this country at present are activelyengaged in armed rebellion against our rulers. And it is preciselythis absence of outright violent revolt that, strange to say, somecommentators take as evidence of our consent to the outrageous mannerin which the government treats us. Grudging, prudential acquiescence,however, is not the same thing as consent, especially when the peopleacquiesce, as I do, only in simmering, indignant resignation.For the record, I can state in complete candor that I do not approveof the manner in which I am being treated by the liars, thieves, andmurderers who style themselves the Government of the United States ofAmerica or by those who constitute the tyrannical pyramid of state,local, and hybrid governments with which this country is massivelyinfested. My sincere wish is that all of these individuals would, foronce in their despicable lives, do the honorable thing. In thisregard, I suggest that they give serious consideration to seppuku.Whether they employ a sharp sword or a dull one, I care not, so longas they carry the act to a successful completion.Addendum on “love it or leave it”: Whenever I write along theforegoing lines, I always receive messages from Neanderthals who,imagining that I “hate America,” demand that I get the hell out ofthis country and go back to wherever I came from. Such reactionsevince not only bad manners, but a fundamental misunderstanding of mygrievance.I most emphatically do not hate America. I was not born in someforeign despotism, but in a domestic one known as Oklahoma, which Iunderstand to be the very heart and soul of this country so far asculture and refinement are concerned. Moreover, for what it is worth,some of my ancestors had been living in North America for centuriesbefore a handful of ragged, starving white men washed ashore on thiscontinent, planted their flag, and claimed all the land they could seeand a great deal they could not see on behalf of some sorry-assEuropean monarch. What chutzpah! I yield to no one in my affection forthe Statue of Liberty, the Rocky Mountains, and the amber waves ofgrain, not to mention the celebrated jumping frog of Calaveras County.So when I am invited to get out of the country, I feel like someoneliving in a town taken over by the James Gang who has been told thatif he doesn’t like being robbed and bullied by uninvited thugs, heshould move to another town. To me, it seems much more fitting thatthe criminals get out.