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Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

On Getting the Government We Deserve

Feb 23, 2016

The saying, “Every nation gets the government it deserves” has been tossed around quite a bit of late. On some social media sites you see it attributed to John Calvin. It seems however that it actually came some two hundred years later, being first said by the French writer and philosopher Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821).

This aphorism may well have some elements of truth to it, and I want to explore it further both in biblical and theological terms, as well as in political terms (we do have the US presidential elections coming up in just nine months after all).

Theological

de MaistreOn the biblical side of things, how far we go with this saying of course will in part be determined by our theological stance. Those with more Calvinist leanings for example will tend to say that leaders are there by divine appointment, even the bad ones like Hitler and Stalin. And Paul of course gives credence to that view as well, as in Romans 13.

But I am not here wanting to re-enter the massive debate on divine sovereignty vs human responsibility. While God sets up and takes down leaders, he has also ordained the political process and expects us to be involved in it. Thus we have a real role to play in determining who will lead us, at least in free, Western nations.

And that raises questions such as: Did Obama get re-elected in 2012 because so many millions of evangelicals refused to vote (thinking – foolishly, I believe – that they could not vote for Romney, thus guaranteeing that we got the much worse Obama), or because it was the express will of God?

As with all these issues, we might best answer by saying: a bit of each. People made choices and got stuck with the consequences, while God was at work behind the scenes bringing about his purposes as well. That God can and does use evil rulers and nations to serve his purposes is of course well established in Scripture.

For example, Assyria is referred to as God’s “rod” in Isaiah 10; Cyrus is called God’s “shepherd” in Isaiah 44; Nebuchadnezzar is said to be “my servant” in Jeremiah 27; and Babylon is referred to as God’s “hammer” in Jeremiah 51, and so on.

But even if God puts an evil ruler on the throne, or at least allows him to be there, is there ever a place for people to resist such evil leaders? Again, it is a tricky area, with entire libraries penned on such topics. But I think we can resist evil and oppressive governments. But I argue that case elsewhere, as in this two-part article:

Is Revolution Ever Justified? Part One

Is Revolution Ever Justified? Part Two

The trouble is, unlike in Old Testament times where we had clear and unequivocal words from God’s prophets to God’s people about what God was doing with the nations, today we do not have that same sure word. I for example can only give my opinion on such matters, but I am not inspired – only perspired.

So we need to be a bit more humble and circumspect when one leader comes or another goes today. For example, a good case could be made that Obama is God’s judgment on America. I would not doubt that at all, but I have no authoritative and inspired word from God to say that with absolute certainty.

So is Obama the leader that we deserve (if you are an American)? Will Trump or Clinton (if they get in – heaven forbid) be the leader we deserve? Again, I cannot say with any assurance and certainty. Maybe. Maybe not. Thus we need to move carefully here as we try to reflect biblically and theologically about the political goings on and current affairs of our day.

Political

But one can also address this question purely in terms of politics and social realities. Given that most electorates in the West are rather dumbed down, politically naïve, and ideologically illiterate, it is often the case that people vote in all sorts of governments that are certainly less than desirable, and doomed to cause great harm, at least in the long run.

The 2012 re-election of Obama is a clear case in point. He was destroying the nation, yet most Americans didn’t seem to care. Indeed, why did they vote for him not once, but twice? Clearly by the time of the 2012 election, Obama and the Dems simply acted like Santa Claus and promised folks a lot of free stuff (Just like Bernie Sanders is doing right now).

So many Americans have stopped working and have become dependent on government handouts (the entitlement mentality) that one can argue things this way: half of all Americans now depend on the government teat, and they simply voted for more free stuff (and the other half of Americans have to work to pay for all this).

As I wrote in a piece the day after that shock election result, this is a recipe for national suicide:

When Mitt Romney made the remark recently about 47 per cent of the electorate relying on money handed to them from the government, and therefore people who will only vote Democrat, he was 100 per cent correct. Why would anyone getting free government handouts – taken from the other 53 per cent of hard working productive Americans – want to stop the gravy train?
They have become addicted to and dependent on the state as a cradle to grave welfare provider, and it is a great system for them: no or little work in exchange for government handouts. We have entire generations now who have an entitlement mentality, and they will be hard pressed to be moved from it.
That is the one clear yet bleak message coming out of America yesterday. But it is not just me who has noticed this. Plenty of other commentators are saying exactly the same thing. One of them put it very simply, if crassly: “Nincompoops Elect Nincompoops For Free Stuff…Case Closed”.
In his article, “In a country of children where the option is Santa Claus or work, what wins?” Rush Limbaugh says this: “Conservatism, in my humble opinion, did not lose last night. It’s just very difficult to beat Santa Claus. It is practically impossible to beat Santa Claus. People are not going to vote against Santa Claus, especially if the alternative is being your own Santa Claus.”

Soviet-born social commentator Alexander Boot wrote an important piece back in 2012 (before that election) in which he looked at the de Maistre quote. Boot says it was aimed at Tsarist Russia. He then says in his article:

What was true about an absolute monarchy is even truer about a democracy, and truer still about the modern version of it. People cast their votes for parties that tell them something they want to hear. And what people want to hear is greatly affected by the kind of education imposed upon them by the same elite from which the candidates are drawn. There’s a circle there, and it can only be vicious.
Keep running inside that circle for a generation or two, and you get not democracy but spivocracy – the rule of those only out to feather their own nests. If by chance they drop a few feathers into others’ nests, then so be it. If not, that’s fine too. They are highly specialised creatures, our politicians, designed to do one thing only: get reelected. Bono publico be damned; it’s their own bono they pursue.
Just look at the way they handle the economy. First one set of spivs spend the country into an economic disaster, all in the name of looking after the less fortunate. This is the shorthand for robbing the more fortunate, which is to say most of us, but we don’t mind. We’ve been taught to accept virtual language as real. We don’t really deserve anything better.
And then the next set of spivs pretend to be doing something about it, whereas in fact they are just papering over the cracks until the next election they hope to win. We accept that too, and some of us, those who write for the Telegraph, seem to believe the wet tissue paper over the cracks is actually rock-solid. Others, those who write for the Guardian, don’t want any tissue paper at all; they want wider cracks. They also want us to join the euro, it’s never too late. That way it’ll be the EU’s headache, on top of the migraine, not to say brain cancer, it has already.

He then offers nine practical measures to get the economy sorted out, and concludes this way:

You see, if they as much as hint at any such measures, they’ll never get elected again. And why not? Because we the people have been corrupted over several generations to recoil instinctively away from any roll-back of socialism.
We’ve been taught there’s nothing better, so we won’t vote for any candidate, or any party, that fights the hydra of socialism, rather than rapping it gently on one of its heads. And our politicians know that socialism equals state power, they equal the state, ergo don’t touch socialism or else.
As a result we get the kind of economy we deserve, the kind of life we deserve – and the kind of government we deserve. Joseph de Maistre, ring your office.

For those interested, he takes these sorts of thoughts much further in his 2014 volume, Democracy as a Neocon Trick.

So, are Westerners today getting the government they deserve? It certainly seems so politically speaking. And perhaps spiritually speaking as well.

www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2092871/Do-really-deserve-better-government.html#ixzz40u182g2m

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7 Responses to On Getting the Government We Deserve

  • I understand that many Christians support the Democrats in USA and Labor in Australia because of a misguided leaning to what they think is social justice. Our Lord is a god of justice and equity, not equality as it is too often espoused. The warning of Proverbs 1:13-19 is enough for me

    13 We’ll find all kinds of valuable wealth, and we’ll fill our houses with spoil.

    14 Throw your lot in with us, and all of us will have one purse.”

    15 My son, do not go along with them, and keep your feet way from their paths! 16 For they run toward evil; these enticers shed blood without hesitation.17 Look, it is useless to spread a net in full view of all the birds, 18 but these people lie in wait for their own blood. They ambush only themselves.19 Such is the way of all those who seek illicit gain— it takes away the lives of those who possess it.

  • In my my more despondent moments, I fear we actually get better than the governments we deserve – If the majority of constituents in Western countries believe their elected representatives are their slaves to pander to their every whim and desire, then Westerners have yet to elect parliaments who are totally driven by every one of their constituents’ latest forms of lust and greed.

    Given “there is none righteous” by nature, the governments we deserve ought to be punitive and draconian in the extreme…

  • This is why I say people need education in justice and commonwealth. Without education people will continue making the same mistakes and being mislead by the same vested interests. Eg Labor’s plan to remove most houses from negative gearing. Firstly, why should one section of the economy be treated differently and secondly, why do people think that we should continue to subsidies big property developers who are the ones making a killing from immigration while the rest of us look at increased GST or working until we are seventy or more to pay for the required infrastructure. Why should the big property investors get negative gearing and Mum and Dad investors trying to set up a retirement, be slugged with more tax. The net result will be fewer properties for rent and increased rent for those that remain to cover the increased cost with rents also affected by the decreased supply. This is a simple case of where basic principles of justice are being ignored, probably, in Labor’s thinking, to force more people into investing in their superannuation schemes.

  • Dear Bill,

    Thank you for the article. Yes I agree with you. I think we are getting what we deserve politically. Politicians are drawn from the general populace and if most people are secularists or atheists it follows that most politicians will be too and will implement secularist and atheistic policies.

    As for the Catholics in politics in Australia [no names mentioned] as many Catholics are weak in their faith so will the politicians be who are drawn from the Catholic community in Australia. We had one political leader that was a devout Catholic but he was overpowered and his colleagues got rid of him with a great deal of help from the secular media and a misguided population.

    The Old Testament prophets were very clear about what God wanted from the nations.

  • At the next election in Australia we will get the government we deserve, we have little choice. There is little difference between Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten.Both are:
    Traitors
    “Progressive lefties”
    Enthusiastic same sex “marriage’ advocates
    Happy with no-bars late term abortions
    Have a propensity to ban pro-life speakers
    Enthusiastic GLTB Mardi Gras supporters
    Uncommitted to Christian values
    Happy with never ending deficits
    Committed to Big Government
    Comfortable with our $100 million a day borrowing
    Cheerful with a Keynesian spend-our-way-out-of-this approach
    Global warmist
    Carbon tax enthusiasts
    Committed to spend billions on global warming projects overseas
    Staunch republicans
    Contented with ABC left wing bias
    Fluent in political correctness
    Shun conservative journalist
    Relaxed with open borders
    Satisfied about Muslim immigration
    Islamic appeasers
    Defenders of the Grand Mufti
    Willing to surrender our sovereign rights to the UN
    Ambivalent about the defence of Australia
    Woolly in their view of ISIS
    Steadfast in having a ministry based on a gender/age quota
    Snug about the bias of the Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs
    Content with clause 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

  • I have now written an entire article on the quote attributed to Calvin. Do wicked people get wicked rulers as God’s judgment? And did John Calvin say this? See here:

    billmuehlenberg.com/2016/02/27/calvin-on-wicked-rulers-and-gods-judgment/

  • Thanks to my son, Darren, in Perth, Australia for asking me what I thought about your Calvin quote! Read both your articles and agree! In fact the comment from Des Morris sounds like the Democrats of the US! We are getting Trump for President and only God knows what he will do, but I know what I need to do – pray, pray, pray for God’s guidance & mercy! Keep the faith!
    Betsy Smith
    San Diego, CA

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