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
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
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
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
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."
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.
and Social Order
||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."
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
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
|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
Trusting government is idolatry.
Government is The
Most Lethal Idolatry in Human History.