Stopping Leviathan

The greatest dangers to freedom today come from unlimited government. And communists and fascists do not have a monopoly on this. Western democratic nations are becoming just about as oppressive as the state keeps growing and growing in scope and power.

Back in 1987 political economist Robert Higgs penned an important volume entitled Crisis and Leviathan. He began his book this way: “We must have government. Only government can perform certain tasks successfully. Without government to defend us from external aggression, preserve domestic order, define and enforce private property rights, few of us could achieve much. Unfortunately a government strong enough to protect us may be strong enough to crush us.”

We see this happening throughout history. Unfortunately we do not seem to have learned the lessons from history, or from this volume. Governments continue to grow and expand, and at the same time individual liberties continue to lessen and shrink.

The main protections individuals have against the state are what have been called mediating structures, such as churches, voluntary organisations, corporations, and so on. The fundamental and primary mediating structure is of course the family. As long as healthy families exist, states cannot have unlimited power. This explains why statists have always declared war on the family.

In their brand new book Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before It’s Too Late (FaithWords, 2012), James Robison and Jay Richards make the case for limiting government, and for protecting and promoting the institutions of marriage and family.

Image of Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before It's Too Late
Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before It's Too Late by Robison, James (Author), Richards, Jay W. (Author) Amazon logo

Simply favouring free markets and small government, while ignoring the family, or relegating it into the private sphere, is counterproductive. Thus the libertarians need to get the bigger picture here: “Without strong families, however, we won’t have freedom and limited government for long. Remember, a limited government recognizes but does not control the social spheres outside it.”

They continue, “By recognizing the perennial nature of the family in its laws, the government limits its jurisdiction over individuals and the family. If the government can’t manage to acknowledge something as basic as the family, it won’t acknowledge individual rights for long.

“The destruction of families leads to a larger, more intrusive nanny state. Research by David Popenoe and Alan Wolfe shows a link between the breakdown of marriage and the growth in government spending in Scandinavia. This isn’t surprising. The family is a huge check on government power. . . . The better a family functions, the less you need from local, state, and federal governments.”

That is why socialists have always sought to destroy the family. “The socialist would much prefer a mass of isolated individuals all dependent on the state from the beginning, rather than having to work through a complicated thicket of family ties. Socialist states don’t like other sources of authority that limit their power.”

But as I mentioned, all over the Western world we see the same attacks on family, and the same growth of Leviathan. Consider two quite recent examples of this from the US. The first case comes from New York. Cal Thomas discusses it as follows:

“Are there no limits on government’s power, no place where it cannot go? New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a former (thankfully) Republican, but in name only, has decided to limit food donations to city charities, including homeless shelters, because the government is unable to measure the nutritional value of the food.

“Who in city government believes that a homeless person with no access to money other than what he or she might panhandle cares about the nutritional content of food? If they are able to scrounge up a few bucks on the streets, does anyone seriously think they’re headed to a grocery store to buy carrots and arugula? Any food, including ‘unhealthy’ fast food would be their preferred choice.”

He continues, “Will the government permit ketchup on fries? Maybe it will allow ketchup, which liberals mocked Ronald Reagan for correctly calling a vegetable, but not fries, unless they are unsalted, and then just a few. No super sizing it.

“Who will police this? If a homeless man wants salt on his food, will a city official wrestle the shaker from his hands? Will he be arrested by the salt police if he rebels? Will a woman who has not eaten in days be told she can’t have a second helping because the government won’t allow it under its new portion-control regulation? Will she be fined if she eats more? How will the government collect the fine if she has no money?

“What effect will this new requirement have on restaurants, some of which have donated surplus food to local food banks and charities for years? Will they have to first comply with government dietary regulations before they donate anything? Mire the process in red tape and bureaucracy and the restaurants won’t think it’s worth the trouble to donate at all. It takes the notion of ‘food police’ to a new level.”

He concludes, “I know the rationale. If the homeless eat nutritional food, it could reduce the number of health problems and presumably lower the cost of health care. But more than the issue of salt and portion size is the greater issue of liberty, which is being slowly but steadily eroded by big government that wants to save us from ourselves. The freedom to choose what to eat, drink, smoke and a lot of other things — and to accept the benefits and consequences that go with these choices — are the wedge issues that government uses to snake its way into new areas of our lives.

“Our Founding Fathers issued many warnings about the dangers of growing and intrusive government, which they sought to control with the Constitution. Among the best was from Thomas Jefferson: ‘Most bad government has grown out of too much government.’ No better example of that can be found than in what Mayor Bloomberg has forced on the hungry of New York City.”

A similar issue is covered by Rebecca Hagelin: “Food is in the news. Specifically, the food that Big Government wants you – or your children – to eat. It started with Michelle Obama’s headline grab: in 2010, she launched a new initiative to combat childhood obesity. It’s a worthwhile campaign – childhood obesity is something parents ought to be concerned about, for their children’s sakes. According to official reports, one in three children is obese or overweight. And the resulting medical costs of obesity-related medical problems adds up to a nearly $150 billion problem each year.

“But as childhood obesity has become the First Lady’s signature issue, it’s assumed the air of ‘government knows best,’ rather than empowering parents to make informed decisions about what’s best for their families. When she launched the effort, Mrs. Obama declared, ‘We want to eliminate this problem of childhood obesity in a generation. We want to get that done.’

“Who, exactly, is ‘we’? The government. From its inception, Mrs. Obama’s campaign has left government fingerprints suggesting a pattern of reaching as far into children’s lives as possible, with typical government tools: money, regulations, and bureaucracy.”

She concludes: “Don’t get me wrong – I strongly support healthy eating and exercise programs. And physicians’ groups have been emphasizing better nutrition and more exercise for years. But as every parent knows, simply putting vegetables on a child’s plate doesn’t ensure they will end up in the right stomach. (Did you know dogs love vegetables?) The solution to the problem of childhood obesity is the same as the solution to many of the problems ailing our nation: strong families.

“The epidemic of childhood obesity has developed alongside the fragmentation and destruction of the nuclear family. According to the Task Force on Childhood Obesity, children’s obesity rates began trending upwards in the late 1970’s. Not so coincidentally, obesity rates rose as more moms entered the workforce, screens (TV, computer, and hand-held) became babysitters, and more children than ever were born into single-parent families. Children can’t raise themselves. Left to their own devices, children will often make poor food choices, eat too much, and watch TV rather than run laps. Common sense tells us that. We don’t need twelve federal agencies opining on the problem.

“It’s not the government’s problem that children are overweight or suffering (yes, suffering!) from obesity. And government won’t provide the solution, no matter how many millions of dollars the Obama presidency throws around. The solution to childhood obesity must come from parents and the other adults in children’s lives (aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, and teachers.)

“One study found that parents and caregivers can play a significant role in reducing childhood obesity with a few consistent behaviors: Parents should encourage and model good eating habits and exercise; take the time to plan meals and resist the plea to buy junk food; and reduce the child’s screen time. But perhaps most importantly, parents who want to prevent obesity or help a child lose weight should spend time with their children, strengthening the relationship in a positive, loving way. Be there to guide, encourage – and provide limits as needed. Children don’t need a government campaign to end childhood obesity. They need parents.”

Tyranny can creep in even by means of innocuous, even good, things. Eating right is a good thing. But governments usurping the role of parents and families is a bad thing. And it is getting worse each passing day. Tyranny seldom appears overnight. It usually comes about incrementally – step by step.

All the more reason to be vigilant now before it is too late.

[1589 words]

21 Replies to “Stopping Leviathan”

  1. It is scary. I have just read After America: Get ready for Armageddon. We must fight for the traditional family and refuse to be intimidated by Big Government.
    Des Morris

  2. Man is made in the image of God. As I understand it, this means that both God and man are spiritual, personal, moral, social beings with consciences which means they can choose and be responsible for their decisions, bearing in mind that the latter is a creation of the former, limited in power and understanding, and and thus totally dependent on the former.

    The state has decided that we are none of this. We are merely matter that has to be controlled, either through heavy policing, fear or drugs. It has assumed supreme control of the conscience and it alone has the authority ti make choices and decisions. It must thus control therefore the minutest aspects of our lives.

    The most iniquitous thing about the British government is that it has said that there should be a clear distinction between public and private morality; and the ‘real world’ and religion. However, whilst the government wants to compartmentalise private and public, and secular and religious it does not hesitate to intrude into every area of our lives; it legislates for every thought, emotion and sneeze. No longer is the Department of Education about education but has blatantly assumed the role of social engineer and reduced parents to becoming mere operatives. Dr, Katherine Rake of the government funded Family and Parenting Institute, and formerly chair of the fundamentalist feminist group, the Fawcett Society, has said in the past, “We want to transform the most intimate and private relations between women and men.” Clearly she thinks that she is a God Almighty.

    David Skinner, UK

  3. David Skinner, thanks for the link on Scott Lively. Useful, as usual.
    John Snowden

  4. 1 Samuel 8:10-18:

    “10 Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.”

    There is nothing new under the sun!
    John Angelico

  5. Thanks John

    Of course we have to be a bit careful here, as libertarians – even anarchists – are quite fond of quoting passages like this. But the actual story of Israel and the monarchy is a bit more complex as we know. I discuss this here for example:

    I am of course not saying that there is no place for government – just limited government. But yes this passage does offer some warnings to us all.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  6. Gary North makes the point, in his book, Baptised Patriarchalism: the cult of the family,

    that the only defence a Christian family has against a Leviathan state, is a Biblical Christian Church. To work at strengthening the family, without reforming the church, is a lost cause.

    The Church, not the family, is the central institution of God’s kingdom. There is no marriage and giving in marriage in heaven, but the church continues into Eternity. A strong, Biblical Christian Church is essential to strengthen family, and to defend family from the encroachments of civil government.

    It was the abdication of God-ordained Church responsibilities that created the environment for a Leviathan state. It will be the Reformation of the Church that will put Leviathan back on its chain.

    Lance A Box

  7. Thanks Lance. Yes, I am mostly with you. However, the institution of the family was not only created by God, but it preceded both state and church. And we can argue that the Trinity itself is a type of family. And our adoption into God’s family will be an eternal reality.

    But yes you are right that as the church allowed the state to usurp its many roles, the family suffered big time as a result.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  8. So what will happen if the homeless get less food donations? Will they be healthier going hungry or scavenging for food in bins?

    Is nutritional value really the biggest problem in the lives of the homeless? This reminds me of the similarly visionary in NSW banning smoking for mentally ill patients.

    There is no bounds to the wisdom of the self Anointed.

    Damien Spillane

  9. Thank you Lance for the link to Gary North. However, Bill raises an important point that which is that without the family none of us, including the church, would exist.

    Plus, many churches actually undermine the family by having wannabee women vicars preaching from the pulpit down to their husbands who are seated in the pew below with the kids. This surely reverses the biblical order for husbands and wives. Woe betide a church leader who admonishes a woman without first addressing her husband, who has authority and responsibility over both his wife and children.

    David Skinner, UK

  10. Bill and Lance, we are looking at a three-legged stool.

    Unless all three legs are of equal length, properly made and fitted together in their correct relation one to the other, the seat will be unusable.

    I agree that we can’t elevate the family to cult status. My contention would be that the church will remain anaemic while families are weakened by their submission to worldly principles, and the dominance of “government as God”. We need strong families, and strong men to be leaders at home, then elders and ministers of the gospel so that a strong Church can stand up against the force of the State.

    I commented to our bible study this week that if you look at all the science fiction blockbusters, they hold to a rigid, totalitarian view of life – Clarke, Asimov, Frank Herbert, futuristic TV series like Star Trek, even the Doctor Who series all view life as something to be controlled by a central government.

    This world-view has permeated the culture and seeped into everyone’s mind, and we need a constant Rom 12:2 transformation to dig it out and re-establish a Biblical world-view within families AND the Church.

    John Angelico

  11. A significant problem. The thing is that the larger population seems to be unaware of what’s at stake, and continues to look more and more to government as its saviour.

    Good example in today’s Hobart Mercury

    Slowly but surely socialism has expanded in our country, but worse still it has infiltrated the mindset of most people to be expected. The idea that individuals and families should have responsibility and initiative in significant societal matters is a scarce one, and the concept of the government NOT having a say in something often seems inane to many.

    Sadly, these are things not being taught in the Church at large either, and so many Christians think humanisticly when it comes to the government leviathan.

    Isaac Overton, ACT

  12. Lance, sounds like an interesting book. Bill and David have already taken a lot of words out of my mouth, but I would just like to add this. Rather than looking at how things will be in heaven, by that I mean projecting what will happen there back onto this life is a dangerous thing to do.
    Yes, we know that marriage will no longer be in heaven, but that doesn’t make it wrong for this life. We do better looking back at how things were at the beginning of creation when it “was very good”, because we still share the same location with Adam and his wife Eve.
    As to that food distribution problem you described, Bill, are they also going to ban all advertising for unhealthy junk food or don’t they care about those people who eat it as long as they can foot their own health care bill? How hypocritical.
    Many blessings,
    Ursula Bennett

  13. Bill,

    I am in 2 minds re: “The freedom to choose what to eat, drink, SMOKE and … to accept the benefits and consequences that go with these choices.”

    As a doctor, I would like to see cigarette taxes double every year, so that in 5 years the tax on these would 32* what they are currently. Or every 3 years or … whatever amount to eventually push cigarettes out of the reach of most people and eventually eliminating this health risk from our society. The trouble is that smokers do not accept the consequences that go with their actions as the public purse pays for most of the health consequences of their actions. Even in the private system, premiums are inflated because of privately insured smokers.

    Yet I feel that the limits on smoking have gone a little too far at times (some no-smoking areas are unnecessarily restrictive in my opinion).

    So regulation, re: this issue is good and bad …

    Yet smoking is not intrinsically a Christian issue, despite my growing up in a family and church environment that equated cigarettes and even medically acceptable levels of alcohol consumption as unChristian. It was a great breath of fresh air when I heard a talk at a church camp, when I was in my mid-late 20s that said basically “smoking is dumb medically but has nothing to do with whether or not you are a Christian.”

    So I am not sure where a Christian balance should lie between freedoms and good government action …

    Graeme Cumming

  14. But Graeme, does not 1 Corinthians 3:16,17 say, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”

    So also in other places in the Bible it talks about a man’s body not belong to himself but being part of and belonging to his wife. What does a wife think of her husband smoking himself to a cancerous death. It also talks about the need for self-control and not allowing anything, including appetite to master a person to the extent that it becomes a drug.

    Finally my grandmother apparently used to say that if we were meant to smoke, we would have been born with chimneys.

    David Skinner, UK

  15. I would also say beware of church camps. They have a lot to answer for. People say all kinds of things. What does the Bible say?

    David Skinner, UK

  16. Follow the money!!
    We have a dog chasing its tail.

    It is very convenient that the king or government should organize our defense, our roads and other pan national infrastructure; and that we should pay taxes for that.

    It is also very convenient that the king or government should organise the education of our children and be strong partners in our health care; etc etc We also pay taxes for that, plus we abdicate some responsibility. No longer do we have all the say about what our kids should learn and who should teach them. No longer are we responsible financially for the health risks we take by living our lives the way we do.

    We give the government money to do it right. If its not right we blame the government; and then the government asks us for more money and that we live with less responsibility and less freedom. AD INFINITUM. Likewise, the government wants to be fiscally responsible and reduce waste, so again more and more regulation is put in place to reduce risk and costly lifestyles eg smoking and gambling, crime and violence, are put in place.

    I fear and hope that Lance Box is right. The people of this nation, beginning perhaps with the people of God, need to begin to take back the responsibility. the cost, and the inconvenience of raising and educating our own families, caring for our own health and caring for our own poor, disabled and retired. We need extended families and strong local communities for this.

    We need to be able to handle disappointment, failure and loss on a much more personal level.

    There are some wonderful things about living in Australia with its social security safety net, but there is a terrible downside. That downside is our abdication of our place as citizens, and handing that privilege to to government agencies that seemingly are more and more served by social engineers and those who hold radically unbiblical world views.

    BTW, John Howard (one time PM of OZ) told me that in regards to education, health and welfare, anything that can be done within a family or community context, costs the government seven times as much to achieve.

    If you rescue a fool, you will only have to do it again!

    Bruce Knowling

  17. Taxing the smoking habit out of existence is not only a pipe dream, but also “favours” the rich again who would be allowed to “hang on to their right” for longer than their poorer counterparts. Addiction needs to be broken at the rout of addiction and can’t be suppressed through availability. Ultimately, the power of God and prayer can brake that, this is what happened in my own life, but education and personal concern and encouragement contribute much to freeing people from addiction. One can see what happens in the drug scene and what extent people go to in order to get the fix. If it is legal, it should not be taxed beyond what is reasonable and of course the cost of public health care, if that is where we are staying needs to be calculated into that “reasonableness”. It would be far better to make it illegal. Unlike alcohol, it has absolutely no benefit at all. David said “what does the bible say?” Paul encouraged Timothy to “have a little whine” and all the instructions in proverbs concern the overuse of alcohol, so I am not sure if a prohibition on alcohol is possible. But smoking cold be made illegal without depriving anyone of any benefit this practice could render. The least I would like to see is that all public places are none smoking areas, including foot paths, parks, car parks, everything except private dwellings. If smoking is legal, then people need to be allowed to do it at home if they so choose.
    It is important to study and understand the biblical parameters for civil government. They don’t stand out like a sore thumb and disagreement on details or implementation might be with us while this world lasts, but I believe they can be found in their broad brush outlines. But it is lack of biblical scholarship in this matter that has lead the church to abdicate important areas of authority like education and welfare.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

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