Saturday, October 04, 2014

Big Government, Micro-Regulation and Morality

In a 2012 article for National Review entitled “The Perversion of Rights”, Mark Steyn laments the age of micro-regulation:
“That’s the real ‘hot topic’ here — whether a majority of citizens, in America as elsewhere in the West, is willing to ‘leave it up to the government’ to make decisions on everything that matters. On the face of it, the choice between the Obama administration and the Catholic Church should not be a tough one. On the one hand, we have the plain language of the First Amendment as stated in the U.S. Constitution since 1791: ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’

On the other, we have a regulation invented by executive order under the vast powers given to Kathleen Sebelius under a 2,500-page catalogue of statist enforcement passed into law by a government party that didn’t even bother to read it.”
The Practical Problem

Steyn warms to his subject:
“The transformation of “human rights” from restraints upon state power into a pretext for state power is nicely encapsulated in the language of Article 14 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which states that everyone has the right ‘to receive free compulsory education.’ Got that? You have the human right to be forced to do something by the government.”
and then goes on to contend that the number of individuals effectively involved in governing is necessarily proportionate to the number of issues that are perceived to require the active intervention of government:
“… with so many pseudo-‘rights’ bouncing around, you need a bigger and bigger state: Individual rights are less important than a ‘rights system’ — i.e., a government bureaucracy.”
He is not being paranoid. We are rapidly reaching a point where it is taken for granted that every single issue of life requires the management of government, and therefore a multiplication of the number of decision-makers involved in its administration.

The Underlying Moral Issue

As a Christian, I have to go a step beyond Steyn’s very reasonable concerns about the disappearance of freedom of speech and the increasing micro-management of the lives of people in all western nations by their governments because Solomon, in the word of God, tells us that the proliferation of people in charge is actually an indicator of a country’s moral failure:
“When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but with a man of understanding and knowledge, its stability will long continue.”
(Proverbs 28:2)
The ESV and other versions read “transgresses”, but the sense is that of rebellion, presumably rebellion against God himself. The transgression here is a violation (or a number of violations) for which the entire nation bears responsibility, not merely one wicked leader. It is a national spirit characterized by stubborn, hard-hearted willfulness.

Really, what could be more relevant?

Some translators understand the “many rulers” to speak of a succession of individual leaders all ruling ineffectually for very short periods of time, which certainly reminds us of conditions in the nation of Israel during the last few years before the Babylonian Captivity. Israel was governed by numerous short-lived and wicked kings, some of whom revolted against and killed off their own masters. That is certainly one possible way Solomon may have intended his statement.

On the other hand, the latter part of the verse seems to contrast the rule of one wise man with that of numerous “princes” or lower-level dignitaries. I suspect what’s in view here is the devolution of power from a single, wise, responsible man to a large number of subordinates. The “many rulers” are the logical consequence of rebellion.

Which in fact is exactly what we observe today.

Observing the Solution

The micro-management and bureaucratization about which Steyn complains are a direct result of the moral decline of the western world. Just as God once “found fault with the people” of Israel, so the citizens of our modern nations have taken to themselves the right to orient their own moral compasses in defiance of the standards of heaven. We are reaping the inevitable results of that rebellion.

The clock, unfortunately, doesn’t wind itself backwards. For the problems Mark Steyn observes, I see little prospect of peaceful resolution. But Solomon provides hope: a man of “understanding and knowledge”.

I wish we had one of those to vote for. It would be a nice change. But I think we may have to wait for the one of whom it is said that:
“Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”
(Isaiah 9:7)
That’s the only kind of Big Government that works for me.

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