Isabel Paterson writes in her book The God of the Machine, “Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends.”1 Thomas Sowell described this motivation as the “Vision of the Anointed”:
Although Adam Smith regarded the intentions of businessmen as selfish and anti-social, he saw the systematic consequences of their competition as being far more beneficial to society than well-intentioned government regulation. . . . The vision of the anointed is one in which ills as poverty, irresponsible sex, and crime derive primarily from “society,” rather than from individual choices and behavior. To believe in personal responsibility would be to destroy the whole special role of the anointed, whose vision casts them in the role of rescuers of people treated unfairly by “society.”2
The Bible establishes the right of governmental authorities to exist: “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Rom. 13:1). Our forefathers understood that governmental power ultimately was established by God, and they structured our nation accordingly, even those who were not Christians. They also understood that giving unlimited power to any man-made institution, even an institution established by God, can result in tyranny. Saul (1 Sam. 8) and Ahab (1 Kings 21) are textbook examples that have lost none of their applicational lessons for our day.
Power is most dangerous in the hands of people who believe what they are doing is for our well being because they contend that their intentions to help the less fortunate are righteous and just. It’s the intention to do good things that counts. The results are less important even if those receiving the government benefits are actually hurt by the programs. In J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, the power of the ring is not something to be desired even by good people. It’s no wonder that Gandalf and the elves shun the power of the ring. Tolkien is doubtful that any person has the ability to resist the temptation of absolute power promised by the ring, even if that power is used for good. Attempts to stop slavery, an exceedingly righteous and needed endeavor, had been done in ways that made the cause seem fanatical. Here’s how Murray Rothbard described it in his article on “Just War”:
The Northern war against slavery partook of fanatical millennialist fervor, of a cheerful willingness to uproot institutions, to commit mayhem and mass murder, to plunder and loot and destroy, all in the name of high moral principle and the birth of a perfect world. The Yankee fanatics were veritable Patersonian humanitarians with the guillotine: the Anabaptists, the Jacobins, the Bolsheviks, of their era.
They are the philosophical descendants of Maximilien Robespierre (1758–1794), France’s Voice of Virtue, who thought the guillotine would contribute to the nation’s salvation. “The humanitarian puts himself in the place of God. . . . Of course what the humanitarian actually proposes is that he shall do what he thinks is good for everybody. It is at this point that the humanitarian sets up the guillotine.”3 America never saw a guillotine. Blood did not run in the streets. There were no attempts to compel equality of outcome. The Constitution was not designed to save everyone or anyone. How times have changed. Here’s how Thomas J. DiLorenzo puts it:
According to the doctrine of “collective salvation,” a Christian cannot be saved and go to Heaven unless one first embarks on a crusade to have government “save” the “oppressed” of society by expanding the welfare state, raising taxes, making taxation more “progressive,” adopting more racial hiring quotas, and regulating and nationalizing as much of private industry as possible. It is a variant of “liberation theology” which, according to Pope John Paul, II, is essentially Marxism masquerading as Christianity.
There is no need for a guillotine when you have the punitive taxing power of the State, regulatory agencies who answer to no one, and a willing voting public to game the system for personal benefit at the expense of others.
The written Constitution “checks” the powers of the federal government by carefully delineating and specifying the powers of each branch. If the Constitution does not grant the federal government power to perform a particular activity, the government cannot legally perform it: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people” (Tenth Amendment). This becomes an extremely important point when any discussion of taxation arises. The federal government’s authority to tax is only as great as its stated function. If the Constitution does not specify a particular function for the federal government to perform then the United States Congress has no Constitutional right to collect taxes from citizens for the proposed unconstitutional activity even if the policy is designed to save us.
The State has failed to heed the Bible’s warning: “Except the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it” (Ps. 127:1). Civil government cannot save no matter how much it taxes the citizens in an attempt to fulfill its political dream of heaven on earth. “In the United States, federal tax policy illustrates the government’s unconscious rush to be the god of its citizens. When a provision in the tax law permits the taxpayer to keep a portion of his money, the Internal Revenue Service calls this a ‘tax expenditure,’ or an ‘implicit government grant.’ This is not tax money that the state has collected and expended but money it has allowed the citizen to keep by not taking it. In other words, any words, any money the citizen is permitted to keep is regarded ‑as if the state had graciously given it to him. Everything we have is from the state, to which we owe gratitude. In fact, we are the property of the state, which therefore has the right to the fruit of our labor.”4 Civil government must be returned to its delegated and limited function under God, to punish the evil doer and praise the good and not act like the Roman Caesar Domitian who demanded that the people address him as dominus et deus, “my lord and god.”
God warned the people in Samuel’s day that their rejection of Him as their true King would mean the—confiscation of their property by an oppressive state: “And [the king] will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. And he will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards, and give to his officers and to his servants … He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants” (1 Sam. 8:14–17). The day is long past when we can say that the Federal Government of the United States has taken a tenth of what we own. The percentage is much greater. What will the judgment be?
- Isabel Paterson, “The Humanitarian with the Guillotine” in The God of the Machine (1943), 235.(↩)
- Thomas Sowell, The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulations as the Basis for Social Policy (New York: Basic Books, 2005), 126, 203.(↩)
- Paterson, The God of the Machine, 241.(↩)
- Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: The Conflict of Christian Faith and American Culture (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books,  1993), 187.(↩)