Missouri's 7th District, U.S. House of Representatives




Liberty Under God
The Depravity of Man"

Congress should
  • guard against the Depravity of Man
  • by resigning from office.

In the last 150 years, a remarkable theological shift in doctrine has occurred. Some of the older orthodox writers on the history of doctrine might have reported it had they been alive to witness it, but none of the moderns have commented on it.

For 1900 years, with increasing frequency after the Reformation and leading up to the American Revolution, the Augustinian doctrine of "the Depravity of Man" has been a premise in reasoning leading to the conclusion that the powers of the State must be limited: that a separation of powers must be woven into constitutions, and the path to power riddled with the landmines of checks and balances.


Because man's fallen nature meant that he could not be trusted with centralized political power.

George Washington is reported to have said,

Government is not reason, it is not eloquence it is force. Like fire it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. . . .

It is for this reason that libertarians do not trust "the government." They are often portrayed as being "anti-government." But it is this "anti-government" attitude that made America the freest and most prosperous nation in history.

"Trust No One"

How do libertarians respond to the accusation that they do not have enough trust in government? John Adams wrote in 1772:

There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty."

Should libertarians have more confidence in their government? Thomas Jefferson, 1799:

Confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism. Free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence; it is jealousy, and not confidence, which prescribes limited constitutions to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power. In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.

James Madison warned the people of Virginia (1799):

the nation which reposes on the pillow of political confidence, will sooner or later end its political existence in a deadly lethargy.

Madison added in Federalist No. 55,

[T]here is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust. . . .

Trusting government, having "confidence in government," is un-American.

The British historian Lord Acton put it this way:

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.

The exercise of political power is problematic. We should assume that "great men" -- that is, powerful men -- men who wield the force of "the government" -- are morally corrupt. This assumption should be considered confirmed if he increases his own power during his time of "public service."

"Good intentions will always be pleaded for any assumption of power. The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters ... but they mean to be masters."
~ Daniel Webster

The New Depravity

To be sure, while Christian theologians were using the Depravity of Man to support the state, many others were using Enlightenment premises on the goodness and perfectibility of man to attack authority and community.

After the Civil War, following the great American theologian Abraham Lincoln, the Depravity of Man became the Benedict Arnold of dogma. The doctrine became a turncoat premise in syllogisms buttressing an increase in the paternalistic powers of the State. Whereas Man's "depravity" earlier meant that man could not be trusted with power (whose corrupting influences Lord Acton saw residing in man himself), the modern doctrine indicts the fallen and untrustworthy masses ("the People") and supplicates the sinless and infallible State for social salvation. Because the masses are depraved, you see, the centralized state needs more power to control them.

  • Because criminals are depraved, we need a Police State.
  • Because Muslims are depraved, we need a Garrison State at home and offensive first-strikes abroad.

Thus, when libertarians propose massive cuts in government programs -- or even anarcho-capitalism (the complete abolition of the oligarchical monopoly of violence, with all necessary goods and services produced by competing enterprises in a freed market) -- many folks say, "I just don't have enough faith in human nature to be a libertarian." This is an example of this complete shift in the understanding of "the depravity of man." What such non-libertarians are saying is, "I have complete faith in the goodness and uncorrupt nature of politicians to reign in the depravity of the voters who elected them."

Libertarians do not trust the goodness of those holding a monopoly of force. The depravity of man is better held in check by being forced to work for businesses which compete for the voluntary patronage of consumers in a society where the majority of people reject violence as a solution to personal or social problems. ("Zero-Aggression Principle")

Here are links to both sides of the coin:  first, why the Depravity of Man formerly and rightfully meant the need to limit the State, not increase its scope; and second, why the doctrine of Man's Depravity does not cancel out the fact that man is created in God's Image, and that God intends to save man's culture, not just his soul.

Depravity and Statism

Depravity and Social Order


Under Anarchy

Under "Government"



Given freedom (the absence of government), the depraved man will steal your money. Given government power, that same depraved man will only tax you "responsibly," taking only what is needed for "the public good," or "the general welfare."

Lord Acton:

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.
In 1994 criminals committed 7,885 bank robberies, taking $28 million. That same year, government agencies seized $2.1 Billion in asset forfeiture proceedings, often without probable cause, and often not returned even when innocence was proven.

Taxation steals hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

Fiat money is a form of theft. Trillions of dollars a year.

As long as men are depraved, there will be more theft when depraved men are given the power of "the State."

There will be less theft under "anarchy," as long as parents have the right to homeschool their children and teach them "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God."


Given freedom, the depraved man will lust after your wife. Given a job with TSA, that same depraved man will behave as a gentleman, professionally evaluating your wife under her clothes through a sophisticated X-ray machine, and ensuring public safety by groping her private parts to vindicate her honor as a non-terrorist. As long as men are depraved, they should not be given power over women through government agencies.


Given freedom, a depraved man will kill other human beings.
Given government power, a depraved man would never
  send a drone against anyone without due process,
  bomb a nation of human beings "back to the stone age" because their "leader" would not "cooperate" with a United Nations order,
  lie on the witness stand to get a conviction for the death penalty
World Governments have murdered an average of 10,000 human beings every single day of the year for the last 100 years without just cause.

These figures do not include abortion, which are a coordinated public/private enterprise.

So-called "anarchists" (that is, archists operating without government approval) only succeed in killing about that many people every year.

"Governments" have killed around 200 million of their "own" citizens. Wars against the citizens of other nations have killed an equal or greater number. That's half a BILLION murders in the last century, committed by governments.

As many as 90 million people were murdered in World War II, which ensured that Poland could be given to Stalin, and China could be given to Mao. 76 million human beings were murdered under Mao. Could Japan have been worse for the Chinese? Could the complete absence of organized governments have been worse for the world?


Given the freedom of anarchy, a depraved man will enslave another human being.

Given government power, that same depraved man would never

Government -- not so-called "anarchists" -- are responsible for the greatest deprivation of human liberty.


      Because we've been trained to fear "anarchy," we give massive lethal power to "archists," who ban the Ten Commandments from government-run schools, and engage in more sin, wickedness, violence, death, and destruction than a Free Market would ever allow unorganized "anarchists" to commit.

Trusting government is idolatry. Government is The Most Lethal Idolatry in Human History.

The Cost of "Selective Depravity"

R.J. Rushdoony defines "selective depravity":

According to the doctrine of selective depravity, most men are naturally good, but some men are diabolically evil. These depraved men have been variously defined in various eras: priests, pastors, communists, fascists, capitalists, bankers, the masses, the blacks, the whites, the Jews, Germans, Japanese, the Americans, and so on. 
A whole segment of mankind must be exterminated, if this doctrine be held, or at the very least brainwashed into submission. 

But if one segment of mankind must be exterminated or brainwashed, this requires another segment to be exterminators or brainwashers. This segment, of course, are not "depraved." They are holy. They are sanctified. They are elite. They are progressive.

The call of the consistent opponent of socialism (the "anarcho-capitalist") to abolish all exterminators and brainwashers is said to be "unrealistic" and "impractical." Doing away with "leadership" to "maintain order" is to ignore "the depravity of man." It is to assume that all men are "naturally good."

Pacifism, we are told, would allow "evil to take over."

There are seven billion human beings on this planet. The overwhelming majority of these seven billion people work day in and day out to feed their families. They are people just like you. You might be able to convince them that we could never do without "the State" and its police and "national security" apparatus.

Although we have crime today (with the State), we are told that we would have more crime without the State.

Is that true?

The State prohibits local public school teachers from teaching students that God says "Thou shalt not steal." How does this reduce crime?

By its actions, the State says that violence is the answer to our problems. We are subtly inculcated in the view that violence is "practical" and "realistic."

But what if we are all taught from birth that violence is never right? What if we were all taught to take Jesus seriously, and never vote for politicians and their machinery of violence?

There would still be criminals, of course. And Jesus says we are to love them, and not to kill them. So there would be crimes.

How much would society have to pay for crimes if society refused to pay for "The State?"

In 1994 criminals committed 7,885 bank robberies, taking $28 million. That same year, government agencies seized $2.1 Billion in asset forfeiture proceedings, often without probable cause, and often not returned even when innocence was proven.

Similar statistics could be marshaled to show that criminals from "the government" cost society a hundred times (100x) more than criminals in the "private sector." If we weren't paying for "the State," we would have more than enough to amply compensate victims of crime.

The belief that criminals are "depraved" but politicians are not, and that people who respond to criminals in ways prohibited by Jesus are not as depraved as the criminals themselves, pushes society into poverty.

next: Campaign Finance, Corruption and the Oath of Office