“The duty of any government, it’s primary duty, is the integrity of its own country and it’s citizens.”
The following essay is written from a “liberal arts perspective,” meaning that the author has chosen to use the writings of the ancient, medieval, and modern writers in the “Classical tradition” to make a case for decentralized societies in general, and communities in specific, based upon faith and reason, rather than a centralized state that routinely bungles the handling of crime, the economy, and education.[ii]
It goes without saying that ours is a time of chaos and confusion in all areas of American society. Although we have in our minds what the solution “should be” (depending upon our religious and philosophical presuppositions), by now, given what has happened in both the 2016 and 2020 elections, no one is truly happy with the “results” of presidential elections. From both the left and the right–and all those in between–the accusations fly as the self-anointed, yet well-financed “elites,” vie for the levers of power. Innumerable promises are made that most candidates won’t keep, either because they were just vote-trolling or because the Iron Triangle of bureaucrats/regulators, Congress, and Lobbyists (sent by Wall Street and/or the Military Industrial Complex) will not allow them to do what they promised.
Whatever the case may be, it is time for all Americans to wake up to the folly of “trusting the experts”[iii] about anything and to begin to think for themselves. Perhaps looking to the writings of those who have come before us (and still might be among us) would encourage us to consider a different paradigm than the current top-down role of government that expands exponentially year by year and delivers little.[iv] Granted, we all want “Constitutional Government,” yet even that is rarely taught in schools nowadays; and if it is, it is only from a progressive activist perspective as part of the public-school indoctrination of the masses who will someday vote.
What to do?
Questions to Consider
What is it that holds a society together? What does a “society” look like, and how should it operate? Do we want power to be descending from Washington D.C. and the myriad of alphabet-soup non-governmental agencies set up over the years, which have the force of law, yet are merely bureaucracies started by politicians no longer in office? Or do we want ascending power that comes from local areas (and does not go beyond the specific towns, cities, counties, and states) wherein the state’s function as independent republics–as was originally intended by the founders centuries ago, with legal jurisdiction spelled out in both the 9th and the 10th Amendments?
The current mass society of Americana is unified by three things, yet governed by the governors for their own pleasure–not because they actually care for the common man, as our rulers suggest in their campaign promises and the political speeches they make once in office. Those three areas of unity remain common to all: the color of money, geographic location of North America, and an April 15th tax bill. However, true community would function on the level of what French writer Ernest Renan wrote over one hundred years ago:
A nation is a soul, a spiritual principle. Two things, which, it is true to say, only unite them, make up this soul, this spiritual principle. The one is in the past, the other is in the present. One is the common possession of the rich legacy of the past; the other is agreement in the present, the desire to live together, the will to continue to value the heritage received undivided…Therefore, a nation is a great unity, made up of the feeling of sacrifices one has made and of those that one would make again. A nation presupposes the past; however, it continues in the present because of a tangible fact: agreement, the clearly expressed desire to continue communal life.[v]
Without the concept of this “soul,” society is merely sound and fury, signifying nothing, (to quote Macbeth), as both social media and competing media corporations –financed by corporate money and power–make abundantly clear with their power and ability to control the national and international narrative.
Decision for citizens…
Consider the Following
Societies function best when three areas of society are in sync and work together with a common goal according to the core values of said “society.” Those areas would be:
- The Role of Faith and Family
- The Role of Local Economy
- The Role of Local Government
Dealing with the matter of Faith and Family, modern America is a hodgepodge of belief and unbelief, with pockets of historic Judeo-Christian values still functioning and strong, as well as Muslim and Hindu and various sub-groups of New Age “spirituality” thrown in. What must be understood is that all of these groups hold mutually exclusive faith presuppositions. This will make a centralized “American Ethos” similar to what existed in the past at various levels (there was never a “perfect America”) impossible hence my insistence that Americans think outside the box and begin to think about decentralized communities built upon their own core values, volunteerism, and self-help and governance–rather than any of the above-named groups attempting to “force their beliefs upon others,” with the result that we end up with the never-ending conflict that we have now. It’s time that we return to the concept of local, independent free-states and free-cities.[vi] This would enable the citizens of the aforementioned “hodgepodge of belief and unbelief” the freedom to live their own lives and finance their own needs, rather than to demand everyone else finance everybody else and to attempt to coerce everyone else to use their favorite “pronouns.”
Faith & Family
As a believer, however, this author will write from the Christian perspective and quote one of the early Church Fathers, St. Augustine, who spoke of both faith and family as the microcosm of a society. Depending upon my reader’s faith construct (theist or atheist) or political perspective, they may prefer a writer of their own for their own version as to what a local community, or even a city-state, should look like, from racially homogenous to larger cosmopolitan areas. Again, the national experiment of empire is failing fast, thus this author offers an alternative of decentralized thought and action and dependency of action.
Augustine, author of City of God, believed that there are clear indicators as to what a community is and how it should be organized in terms of actual size and governing structures. Of equal import for him was the actual social life within the city and how people should relate to one another, as the following quote expresses:
And because, so long as he is in this mortal body, he is a stranger to God, he walks by faith, not by sight; and he therefore refers all peace, bodily or spiritual or both, to that peace which mortal man has with the immortal God, so that he exhibits the well-ordered obedience of faith to eternal law. But as this divine Master inculcates two precepts, the love of God and the love of our neighbor, and as in these precepts a man finds three things he has to love, God, himself, and his neighbor, and that he who loves God loves himself thereby, it follows that he must endeavor to get his neighbor to love God, since he is ordered to love his neighbor as himself. He ought to make this endeavor in behalf of his wife, his children, his household, all within his reach, even as he would wish his neighbor to do the same for him if he needed it; and consequently he will be at peace, or in well-ordered concord, with all men, as far as in him lies. And this is the order of this concord, that a man, in the first place, injure no one, and, in the second, do good to everyone he can reach. Primarily, therefore, his own household are his care, for the law of nature and of society gives him readier access to them and greater opportunity of serving them. And hence the apostle says, “Now, if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” This is the origin of domestic peace or the well-ordered concord of those in the family who rule and those who obey. For they who care for the rest rule, the husband the wife, the parents the children, the masters the servants; and they who are cared for obey, the women their husbands, the children their parents, the servants their masters. But in the family of the just man who lives by faith and is as yet a pilgrim journeying on to the celestial city, even those who rule serve those whom they seem to command; for they rule not from a love of power, but from a sense of the duty they owe to others, not because they are proud of authority, but because they love mercy.[vii]
This type of social interaction amongst family, friends, and neighbors is exactly what the reality of God and His ruling over the affairs of men and women should develop. Yet Augustine was no dreamer and knew all too well that human nature was fallen and needed to be governed– and, at times–governed strongly. This, of course, means law and order, and the question of to what extent people should depend upon the agency of the State to solve their social problems. Should the people of God rely upon the State, as Aristotle did by believing and teaching that the purpose of political action is to make men virtuous?[viii]
Or should the Church hold to Augustine’s perspective by suggesting that although the “life of the city is a social life,”[ix] we nonetheless depart from Aristotle by identifying the antithetical nature, spiritually speaking, of the citizens of the city?[x] Due to the spiritual nature of people,[xi] the purpose of government is only to provide stability for society, rather than to strive to make it virtuous! It is to prevent social collapse and violence, theft, and fraud in the streets, as St. Paul notes (Rom. 13:3-5; I Tim. 1:8-11), and nothing more. It is the final stopgap against social chaos. But it can never make hearts change or to be peaceful and peace-loving, as that is not its purpose. It is an institution ordained by God for judgment, not a human with a soul, which is why it cannot forgive. That is the place of the Church.
Beyond this, realizing the imperfections that lie with human beings, in as much as we dare to plan at all, what and how do we want a society to function so that people can enjoy a free and prosperous society? My answer is found in the writings of an Austrian-born intellectual and economist who escaped the Nazi occupation of his country and came to America: Ludwig von Mises. Mises, in the area of society and the social interaction of the free marketplace, wrote the following:
The selective process of the market is actuated by the composite effort of all members of the market economy. Driven by the urge to remove his own uneasiness as much as possible, each individual is intent, on the one hand, upon attaining that position in which he can contribute most to the best satisfaction of everyone else and, on the other hand, upon taking best advantage of the services offered by everyone else. This means that he tries to sell on the dearest market and to buy on the cheapest market. The result of these endeavors is not only the price structure but no less the social structure, the assignment of definite tasks to the various individuals. The market makes people rich or poor, determines who shall run the big plants and who shall scrub the floors, fixes how many people shall work in the copper mines and how many in the symphony orchestras. None of these decisions is made once and for all; they are revocable every day. The selective process never stops. It goes on adjusting the social apparatus of production to the changes in demand and supply. It reviews again and again its previous decisions and forces everybody to submit to a new examination of his case. There is no security and no such thing as a right to preserve any position acquired in the past. Nobody is exempt from the law of the market, the consumers’ sovereignty.[xii]
When it is all said and done, Mises has set forth the reality that occupations (and a so-called “fair market price”) are really determined by the talents and abilities of citizens who are willing to place themselves on the market. They offer their services, knowing that success comes only to those individuals who actually have something to offer people, who will in turn be willing to pay them. This is no different than a buyer deciding to buy one type of car or radio versus another type of car or radio: personal choice.
Assuming the quest for cosmic justice is not dominating politics, with politicians promising to implement policies that will “fix all wrongs” (a failed proposition, as history has shown us), then said marketplace will function according to the talents and abilities of those within it. The local population determines what they do or do not want to pay for, thus setting the value and price mechanism in place. Thomas Sowell in his book The Quest for Cosmic Justice explained the impossibility of correcting the past, as well as unfortunate accidents of birth, by government intervention;[xiii] and Ayn Rand in her novel Atlas Shrugged basically set forth over 70 years ago three types of people in society who will determine its survival, depending upon which group dominates: creators, looters, and moochers.[xiv]
Lastly, in terms of how this “society” noted above both by Augustine and Mises should and could operate, and how they would interact with one another, I will end with this quote from German-born Libertarian writer and “Conservative” Hans-Herman Hoppe. He wrote the following about the internal ethos of a city, the social structure of the city itself that facilitated a vibrant and flourishing community. It did so for the simple reason that it allows for the spontaneous development of a society based upon choice, and what individuals choose to have as their governing structures. Hoppe illustrates this principle in his schema for conservative social structure for us below:
Conservative refers to someone who recognizes the old and natural through the “noise” of anomalies and accidents and who defends, supports, and helps to preserve it against the temporary and anomalous. Within the realm of the humanities, including the social sciences, a conservative recognizes families (fathers, mothers, children, grandchildren) and households based on private property and in cooperation with a community of other households as the most fundamental, natural, essential, ancient, and indispensable social units. Moreover, the family household also represents the model of the social order at large. Just as a hierarchical order exists in a family, so is there a hierarchical order within a community of families–of apprentices, servants, and masters, vassals, knights, lords, overlords, and even kings–tied together by an elaborate and intricate system of kinship relations; and of children, parents, priests, bishops… and finally the transcendent God. Of the two layers of authority, the earthly physical power of parents, lords, and kings is naturally subordinate and subject to control by the ultimate spiritual-intellectual authority of father, priests, bishops, and ultimately God.[xv]
Relationally, or perhaps better put, sociologically, the paragraph by Hoppe above gives us something to aim toward regarding the symbiotic nature of a biblical or “conservative” society in terms of peaceful human interaction. Equally of note is the interlocking and counter-balancing nature of all those different levels that, reminiscent of the medieval city-states, act as a restraint against the type of runaway power that we currently face in a centralized societal structure.
By implication, we should consider the same paradigm: localism at a greatly decentralized level as compared to the current paradigm under which modern Americans live. Although having memorized the traditions of the past and believing the political rhetoric of the present, most Americans are generally oblivious to their true financial and legal plight under the modern super-state America has become, as well as the cascading effects of a humanistic worldview.[xvi]
Upon reflecting on this dilemma, we can conclude that perhaps the real problem for those outside the Christian community is both the silence of the Church in many areas, and its lack of clarity and consistency in its message. Unless the Church, as “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), does its job prophetically according to Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17), there will be no basis for truth (Colossians 2:8-10), thus leaving man in a state of intellectual and moral free-fall (Galatians 6:7).
This must change because at the heart of this dilemma is the key to the large global debate over what constitutes a “good society,” and thus a “good culture” for the human being. Moreover, that “key” is a Christian world and life view, and the ability to reconcile religion with society, based upon a solid foundation of faith in a transcendent Being, which is God–yet utilizing principles that will provide opportunities for unity, rather than fragmentation which is normally the case now. This faith and reason approach would be the same in other faith traditions, as well.
Granted, there are those who will not fit into such a society, or community if you prefer, but it is then and only then that the State should step in, as Mises makes clear:
The market directs the individual’s activities into those channels in which he best serves the wants of his fellow men. There is in the operation of the market no compulsion and coercion. The state, the social apparatus of coercion and compulsion, does not interfere with the market and with the citizens’ activities directed by the market. It employs its power to beat people into submission solely for the prevention of actions destructive to the preservation and the smooth operation of the market economy. It protects the individual’s life, health, and property against violent or fraudulent aggression on the part of domestic gangsters and external foes. Thus the state creates and preserves the environment in which the market economy can safely operate.[xvii]
It is this “environment” that Mises wrote about above–herein work can take place, the marketplace of buying and selling can take place, innovation and creativity can occur, and civilization can be built up that the law is designed to protect, thus allowing men and women to be faithful stewards of their talents and abilities for God (Matthew 25:14-30).
Granted, the above three writers do not directly convey a word from God, nor are they the only men who have written of such things throughout history, whether Christian or non-Christian. Rather, their writings are set out for your consideration as to what a society might look like on a local, decentralized basis wherein people actually know their neighbors and their rulers. Even the ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle suggested a localized society for the Common Good[xviii] of the citizens, rather than having rules and regulations imposed from the top down by faceless bureaucrats in Washington over a thousand miles or more away. This type of system has proven unworkable by all centralized, command economies in history, from ancient Rome all the way up to the Soviet-era Russia, China, North Korea, and the current basket case of Venezuela wherein electricity and toilet paper are rarities and the people barely eat.
Freedom Is Not Free
Freedom is not free and must be planned out and worked for, protected, and taught to the next generation as an inheritance to hold tightly and learn about and protect and, with God’s grace, pass on to the following generations of the future–or else there is no future! Endlessly squabbling over and preaching about prophecy charts lining up with affairs in the Middle East is futile. They have not only been proven wrong by virtue of the fact that it is 2023, and I am writing this, and you are reading this–but they also ignore two very important statements found in the Bible:
- No one knows the time of His return (Matthew 24:36).
- Occupy until He comes (Luke 19:13).
The cosmic and history-changing events of the return of Christ from the Christian perspective are a theological reason to hope–not to do nothing and wait. As Christ said, “to whom much is given, from him much will be required…” (Luke 12:48). We are either good stewards of ALL that we receive from the hand of the Lord (Matthew 25:14-30), or we are unprofitable servants, good for nothing but to be trodden under the feet of men (Matthew 5:13).
While there is still time, it is (as noted in a previous essay titled “The Last Man Standing”) the “time” for those who “understand the times” (I Chronicles 12:32) we are faced with to begin planning on a very uncertain future in the world in general and America in specific. That, and to have the wisdom to heed the call of Jeremiah who told God’s people long ago and far away:
4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat they produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare (Jeremiah 29:4-7).
That, and to obey the command of Christ to:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27).
Christian Liberty Homeschools wishes you the best for this Thanksgiving holiday and encourages all to pray and work for the future, and trust in the providence of God for the rest (Romans 8:28). We are available for you at: www.homeschools.org.
[ii] As essayist Nikolai G. Wenzel notes in his book review of Alexander William Salter’s booklet The Spirit of 76: Libertarianism and American Renewal, “Education, economic stability, healthcare, the entitlement crisis, poverty, immigration, and foreign entanglements are all solvable through smaller government, a smaller scope of politics, more voluntary solutions, more cooperation, more market opportunities, and more respect for the Constitution,” to which I add ESPECIALLY the 9th and 10th Amendments!
[iii] “A fortune made through production is a fortune made by serving others. But a fortune made from inflation is a fortune made at the expense of others,” similar to politicians in government who make fortunes. Quotation taken from an essay entitled “Easy Money Undermines Social Mobility,” by Karl-Friedrich Israel in: https://cdn.mises.org/september_october_2023_ta.pdf
[v] Ernest Renan, “Discours et conferences. Qu’est-ce qu’ ne nation?, Oeuvres”, Tome I, p. 903f. Translation by Jean-Marc Berthoud, as quoted in: Calvinism Today, Vol. IV, No. 1, (January 1994): 3.
[vi] Free state is a term occasionally used in the official titles of some states. In principle the title asserts and emphasizes the freedom of the state in question, but what this actually means varies greatly in different contexts. Sometimes it asserts sovereignty or independence (and with that, lack of foreign domination). Sometimes it asserts autonomy within a larger nation-state. Sometimes it is used as a synonym for “republic” but not all “free states” have been republics. While the historical German free states and the Orange Free State were republican in form, the Congo and Irish Free States were governed under forms of monarchy. In this extended essay, “Free State” or “Free City” will refer to an organization similar to an independent entity–sometimes called a “city-state” whose territory consists of a city that is not administered as part of another local government. In other words, those states that were governed by their own laws and were not subject to any foreign power or, for that matter–a centralized governing power that ruled from a distance.
[vii] City of God, Trans. Henry Bettenson, (London, England: Penguin Books, 1972; 1984), XIX.xiv.
[viii] Aristotle, Politics, Trans. B. Jowett; Historical Introduction to Philosophy, ed. Albert B. Hakim, 4th edition, (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2001), 1:2.
[ix] City of God, Trans. Henry Bettenson, XIX.xvii.
[x] Ibid, XIV.xxviii.
[xi] Augustine, Enchiridion, Trans. Albert C. Outler in Volume VII of The Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia, The Westminster Press, 1955), LI.
[xii] Ludwig von Mises, Human Action, (San Francisco, CA:Fox & Wilkes; 1996, 4th edition), p.311.
[xiii] Thomas Sowell, The Quest for Cosmic Justice, (New York, NY: The Free Press, 1999).
[xiv] Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, (Signet: New York, NY, 1957).
[xv] Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy: The God That Failed, (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Press, 2001), p. 188.
[xvi] Charlotte Twight, Dependent on D.C., (New York, NY: Palgrave, 2002). Twight writes thoroughly on the hidden costs of letting government bureaucracy grow and the visible costs of their control over the country.
See also: Augustine, City of God, Trans. Henry Bettenson, IV.xv. 4th century Church Father Augustine was concerned about the danger in allowing a city to grow too big, not only due to the difficulty of managing it, but also the tendency of rulers to grasp for more and more power, and the desire to project this “power” on neighboring cities or countries.
[xvii] Human Action, p.257.
[xviii] Aristotle, Politics, 7:4. With Aristotle, the concept was that everyone knew one another within the city. Thus, there was a built-in check on anonymity amongst politicians/law makers. Plato’s desire was that the various social, economic, and political functions could be carried out smoothly in times of peace or war, as well as achieving appropriate land distribution amongst the populace. See: Plato, Republic, 4:423a-c; Laws, 737-740.