Rethinking Power We Give Government: Part 2 of 2
BY Matthew Warner
| Posted 2/4/10 at 2:19 PM
There’s another big reason we need to rethink the power we give government.
In part one I gave examples of how the same power we give to government to make moral laws will inevitably be used to also make immoral laws. There is another factor that determines the risk and severity of such an inevitability. And that factor is the level of submission by our government to an unchanging, higher law.
The founding fathers of the United States recognized this as not only important, but essential and foundational to the moral integrity of the government. In fact, the entire basis for the U.S. Constitution is not so much that it gives rights, but that it recognizes and protects our already existing natural, God-given, unalienable rights. But it can only do that if the people and leaders maintain a sensitivity to that Natural Law by first depending on morality, religion and virtue. At least that’s what a lot of smart men thought when creating the most successful and free nation in the history of the planet.
“Statesmen my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand. ... The only foundation of a free Constitution, is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People, in a great Measure, than they have it now, They may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty.” - John Adams
It should be a scary sign that in our day appealing to God’s law, morality, virtue or religion in lawmaking will likely get you thrown out. When was the last time you heard a politician appeal to the Natural Law? It’s a rarity indeed. Yet the Natural Law is the premise for all of our civil rights.
One of the only higher laws politicians submit to anymore is the law of self-preservation. And increasingly they submit to a different kind of “higher” law - international law. This international law is not based in the Natural Law, but on a collective of God-less governments. Chesterton said “Once abolish the God, and the government becomes the God.”
The people barely trusted the federal government in the founding days of our Republic and they hadn’t even abolished God yet. What should that mean for us?
“The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be aid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments. Without religion, I believe that learning does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind.” - Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence
Unfortunately, today our education system is well known for doing “real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind.” When Americans first gave power to government over education they lived in a much different world. Virtue and religion were a part of that education (as they should be). They surely thought no mischief would be done. But we shouldn’t be surprised at all that the government is using that same power now to abolish prayer and religion and to promote a moral relativism and intellectual pluralism that renders virtue meaningless and objective morality intolerant.
We shouldn’t be surprised because James Madison and others warned us of precisely this.
“If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may appoint teachers in every State, county and parish and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision of the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, every thing, from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress. ... Were the power of Congress to be established in the latitude contended for, it would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature of the limited Government established by the people of America.” - James Madison
But, of course, we weren’t taught that little tidbit in our government-run, public education.
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