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A View from the Altar / What’s the government FOR, anyway?
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What’s the government FOR, anyway?

The 2012 general election will begin in just a few hours.  The biggest question never asked is, Why is there a government?  What is its purpose?

Purpose introduces the idea of an Agent who does the purposing, yes?  And an Agent with a purpose brings along the idea of an ought.  There are things the government ought to do, and things it ought not do.

The most basic purpose of government is to avenge crime (Gen 9:5-6, Rom 13:3-4).  Within a government’s borders, we do that with the police.  Outside a government’s borders, and for crimes of an international character, we do that with the military.

There are other things governments ought to do as indicated in the law of Moses such as establishing just weights and measures (which included coining money in those days), overseeing certain matters of public safety, enforcing lawful contracts and agreements, and so on.  So the biblical idea of government is not a pinched up little wad of stuff supervised by libertarian tightwads with attitudes.

On the other hand, the Bible starkly contrasts two concepts of government.  The law of Moses prescribed a limited government.  It got a revenue stream based on the tithe, or ten percent of the net produce of the land.

The governments of the heathen were not limited, at least not conceptually.  Heathen potentates conceived of themselves as the sole proprietors of their domains, and anything you possessed was at their pleasure.  Think Nebuchadnezzar here.  Whom he would he slew, and whom he would, he kept alive.

If we ever had anything like a real debate between candidates for the presidency, senate, or house of representatives, there are two questions I’d love to hear:  First, on your principles, what should be the limit on the percentage of earnings the government can take in taxation?  Second, what is the principle, and its source, that you believe should limit the government?

A person who truly believes in limited government should be able to come up with a numerical limit.  Just as importantly, a person who believes in limited government should be able to explain what limits it.  A government that is limited implies something above the government, a concept which I am convinced is literally incredible to our friends on the left — and which is getting close to the same on the so-called right.

If anyone running for office in 2012 believes in limited government and has principles that explain the limitation, I haven’t heard about it yet.

otherbrothersteve@gmail.com

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