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Limited government and the depravity of man

By Scott Tibbs, February 3, 2011

I am a philosophical libertarian, and as such I believe that government's power should be limited. People should have the liberty to manage their own affairs as they see fit, without interference from government, so long as they do not harm anyone else. I hold these beliefs because of the Bible's teachings on the total depravity of man. See below:

  • But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. - Isaiah 64:6
  • The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? - Jeremiah 17:9
  • And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart. - Genesis 6:5-6
  • And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. - John 3:19-20
  • As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. - Romans 3:10-12

While I believe government's power must be strictly limited, I am not an anarchist. Because man is naturally wicked, we need to have a government to restrain our worst impulses. (Plus, the Bible teaches in Romans 13 that all authority is established by God.) We cannot be allowed to do whatever we want, whenever we want.

But we must never forget that government is comprised of wicked, sinful men, just as the general population. Because those men are wicked, they will be tempted to abuse their power. We see examples of this throughout human history, from mass-murdering monsters like Joseph Stalin to corrupt elected officials such as Mike Nifong. Whether this is simply because they want to be in control, or whether it is to fulfill greedy ambitions, the darkness of sin lurks in the hearts of men who rule over us in government.

So we are constantly balancing the need to impose godly authority and order with the realization that those in authority are just as prone to wickedness as anyone else. While government is needed to impose order and protect the vulnerable against oppression, government must also be limited to prevent government itself from becoming an oppressive force on the people. We should always remember that authority will be abused, and therefore must be limited.