Why We Won’t Need the Government Anymore (Maybe)

Anarchy – the government is unnecessary, undesirable, or harmful. On one end of the spectrum of anarchism you have some people who hold that the government is a necessary evil, on the other end of the spectrum you have those who believe that the government is an unnecessary evil that we need to eliminate as much as possible. Both of these positions are untenable.

Anarchy!!!
Anarchy!!!

Minarchism – think of this as minimal anarchism (that’s easy to remember). Minarchists like Robert Nozick argue that governments ought to exist, but they ought to have a very limited function, namely the protection of individuals. That means that police, courts, fire departments, the military, etc. have a right to exist. Minarchism is the so called – “night watchman” state. In a real world this position is untenable. However, we ought to ask ourselves, an ideal world, is a minimalist form of government the best form of government? Or we might even want to ask ourselves –

In the new heavens and the new earth, will there be any form of human run government?

“In the new heavens and the new earth we won’t need the government anymore. Jesus will be our king. Government is a necessary institution in this fallen world, if the fall had never happened government would not have developed.” I highly doubt all those things. And so did Abraham Kuyper….

Humans need government. Political institutions aren’t the result of the fall.

Without a doubt the government should keep from unduly intruding upon other institutions (what “unduly” actually means is certainly up for debate.) However, according to Kuyper, the government certainly has some legitimate functions – 1) it exists do adjudicate disputes between competing institutions and people as well, 2) it exists to defend the weak against the strong, and finally 3) it exists to ensure that everybody is playing a part in making the society flourish.

Abraham Kuyper

All of these points seem to point towards a minimalist form of government that would only exist if the fall hadn’t occurred. 1) Disputes would not occur if people didn’t have sinful competing desires. James seems to say so – “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight.” 2) The weak only need defense in a fallen sinful world where the powerful are prone to prey upon the weak. The author of Ecclesiastes seems to say so – “If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at church things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still. The increase from land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.” 3) People wouldn’t need to government to ensure that everybody is flourishing, because in an unfallen world everybody would care about making sure that others are flourishing. However we are selfish people and there aren’t enough resources to go around, so selfish people make sure that they flourish with little regard to the flourishing of others, especially of those others are not like them.

So it seems as though government is necessary because of our fallen condition. If we weren’t fallen we wouldn’t need government. Kuyper (and I) would disagree with that line of thought. Kuyper believed that the political authority that we currently experience is simply a manifestation of something that was already implicit in creation’s design prior to the fall.

Even if the fall had not occurred government would still have developed.

Richard Mouw, explaining Kuyper’s position has argued that “the government is not fundamentally a remedial response to human perversity, but a natural provision for regulating – “ordering” – the complexity of created cultural life” (Abraham Kuyper, 51). Mouw leads us into a thought experiment where we imagine a pre-fall world, in this thought experiment you have two people living in an apartment complex. One person is a tuba player who wants to practice on a daily basis at the same time as her neighbor puts his children down for a nap. Neither of these people have sinful desires – in fact they are both good desires, one is working towards cultivating culture and the other is fulfilling parental responsibilities. The tubal player wants to make music for people to enjoy, the father wants his children to be well rested and healthy. These two people need somebody to help them resolve this benign dispute. Mouw leads us into another thought experiment.

Think about traffic patterns. Even sinless people would have to agree about which side of the road they would use when driving their cars. Thus there is a need for regulation of group activities, even when it is not necessary to reinforce such regulative activity with coercive threats. (52)

Both of these short thought experiments illustrate the fact that there is nothing implausible about a political system or a governmental institution existing in a world where sin does not exist. Order and regulation are a necessary part of human flourishing, order and regulation are woven into creation itself. All this to say, even if the fall had not occurred, human beings would naturally develop some system of ordering and regulation because 1)it is pragmatic and 2)it is woven into creation.

So back to the idea that “in the new heavens and the new earth we won’t need the government anymore…” The truth is that if God wove the need for government into the nature of creation itself (even if we only catch a glimpse of that prior to the fall) then why believe that the very same need that existed within us prior to the fall will suddenly disappear in new creation?

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