Power Against People – A Christian Critique of the State (web publication)


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The dangers of too much government power
In the 21st IEA Discussion Paper, Philip Vander Elst explains how the moral and material progress of human societies has been directly related to their success in curbing the power of government and releasing the creative and altruistic energies of individuals.

Ever since that period in European history known as the ‘18th century Enlightenment,’ the idea has firmly taken root in Western culture that the power of the State should be harnessed and mobilised for beneficial purposes. Whether the objective has been the elimination of poverty or the education of the people, the furtherance of social harmony or the achievement of greater equality of opportunity, there has long been a general tendency amongst most people – including Christians – to view Government as a positive force for good and the best vehicle for achieving positive social change. Confronted by some problem or injustice, most people today typically look to the State for a solution and blame politicians when things go wrong. The purpose of this paper is to challenge this mentality by inviting readers to look more closely at the coercive nature of the State and its negative record in history. By doing so, they will see that over-mighty Government and the abuse of State power has been the common factor in war, slavery, political oppression, and religious and ideological persecution. It has also been the chief cause of mass poverty, famine and economic dislocation in the 20th century.

2008, Discussion Paper 21

Further reading:

Economy and Virtue edited by Dennis O’Keeffe

Capitalism, Morality and Markets by Brian Griffiths, Robert A. Sirico, Norman Barry and Frank Field

Catholic Social Teaching and the Market Economy by Philip Booth et al.

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