Monday, December 17, 2007

Limited Government Defended

Submitted by Darryl Hart

In theory the two-kingdom position allows for any form of government, from monarchy to socialism conceivably. In practice though, many two-kingdom advocates like myself favor the American form of government which involves at its best constitutionalism, federalism, the separation of powers and limited government. Is there something inherently two-kingdom about this form of governance?

If you believe in the fallenness of man, and you don’t need to be a Christian to do so, then it follows that decentralizing power is a good thing. To consolidate power in one person, office, or government agency may and usually does result in abuse of power for unwholesome ends.

Historically, tyranny of the worst kind has resulted from unrestricted state power. Centralization of the state only makes such tyranny more efficient. Churches have suffered repeatedly from states without limited power. Efforts to make Puritans and Presbyterians conform to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s rule produced an anti-authoritarian streak in Anglo-American Calvinism. A similar logic lays behind the concerns of those who would try to protect the authority of parents to rear children according to their own convictions.

Churches and families are not the only sort of mediating structures that suffer when states control more areas of society than they should. Voluntary associations of all sorts, from newspapers to baseball leagues, would not exist if the state were to regulate all aspects of social life.

Limited government is counterintuitive to some because it requires trusting others to oversee their affairs. It also assumes that a measure of order will emerge from a decentralized polity. The economist, Friedrick Hayek, talked about spontaneous order arising from the seemingly disparate efforts of actors with much less authority of the state taking charge of specific segments of society. This was order from the bottom up rather than the top down. If one believes that the health of local communities is crucial to the health of a nation, then limited government is an important way to protect the prerogatives of towns, counties and regions.

The particular aspect of the two-kingdom doctrine that lends itself to limited government is the inherent recognition of two powers, the church and the state (the family is also in the mix). When you already have two authorities you automatically have some limits on each. Living with the idea of two different powers overseeing your life could well explain why 2k folks lean toward the state’s power being restricted. Its power is not the only game in town.