Monday, February 06, 2006

Against Leviathan

Our country is and has been committed to the notion of Leviathan.

There is a pervasive belief that for the greatest good to take place government power ought to be highly centralized in the hands of the federal government in Washington.

This is not a new idea. It goes back to Alexander Hamilton and weaves through Clay, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson, FDR and now is something simply assumed by all.

I'm against it. I think the modernist impulse to centralize is highly destructive of human community and the human person.

Leviathan is so pervasive that none but a few voices even question its existence. Take the recent debate about cuts in increases in Welfare. The debate was not about whether the "welfare state" (a leviathan concept if ther ever was one) should even exist. The debate is about how much ought to be spent.

Using the welfare state as a foil, let me outline my thoughts.

1) I believe deeply in an ethic of common provision. Free markets are good at what they do well, but they have limits. There are people who fall through the cracks for numerous reason. It is right to make provision for those people.

2) I am against the "welfare state" (the large, centralized federal bureacracy). Huh? Here's the deal. I am not against government being involved in common provision. But, there are other governmental structures besides the federal government. Think state and local. These structures are closer to our lives. These structures exist on a more human scale. There are also non-governmental structures -- family, church, voluntary associations, etc. These can administer public provision.

3) The "welfare state"/Leviathan kills or at least highly diminishes these other expressions of human community.

4) I think these other expressions of human community are more important for the thriving of the human person.

The local, the visable, the face to face, the relational -- these ought to be the priority in a polity -- not the centralized, the bureaucratic, the national. Leviathan ought ot be resisted.

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