Statism is the belief that the civil government (or man via civil government) is the ultimate authority in the earth and as such is the source of law, morality, and righteousness (that which is right and wrong). Statism has manifested itself in different ways throughout history, and can be expressed through democratic and non-democratic governments alike.
A statist government treats its political sovereignty as a platform for moral sovereignty. In other words, as ultimate sovereign, the state is therefore not subject to God, the Bible, natural law, or any other religion or ethical system. A statist government need not be accountable to its own citizens.
The philosopher Georg Hegel described the state as "God walking on earth". In other words, as the state is the ultimate power in life, it assumes the status of God and can do as it pleases. This line of thinking influenced the political thought of Karl Marx. From the perspective of society at large, this attitude was summed up by William Marina as:
The significant question is: Why do a large number of people come to believe that only through increased state intervention can justice be achieved? To a great extent this belief is due to the overwhelming acceptance of the state as the source of value and law. Society not only looks for solutions within the paradigm defined by the state, but also find it difficult to consider the view that statism is a the heart of the problem.
Examples of statism
Most often, statism is manifested by governments that create laws which overrule the moral precepts of the Bible. These laws can be manifested in any given field, with three examples being politics, economics, and education. Election rigging and restrictions on free speech against the state are two examples in the political arena. Statism in the economy is realised through a range of measures, including state-controlled enterprises and monopolies, the setting of unjust taxation rates, and central planning of the economy. Since the 19th century, statism has also made its presence felt in the field of education. This has occurred through government schooling, state accreditation of universities, and laws that control or outlaw homeschooling.
While statism is usually entrenched in the civil realm (to greater or lesser degrees), its more extreme forms expand into other realms, such as the spiritual. A statist country can make religions illegal, on the basis that the state has the right to rule over religion, and not vice versa. The extent of statism in a given nation is enshrined in its Constitution, which can either establish it, protect it, or limit it. Where a Constitution places few limits on the scope of the civil government, it can give rise to totalitarianism or fascism.
Pushed to its logical conclusion, statism implicitly entails worship of the state in place of God (or as a god). This practice was common to pagan cultures such as the Roman Empire, which demanded worship of the emperor as sovereign. As Christians worshiped God instead of the emperor, this meant that God was sovereign over the state (and not vice versa). Since this position was antithetical to pagan statism, Christianity was illegal for some time during the Roman Empire, with many Christians put to death during the rule of the emperor Diocletian.
Support for statism
Support for statism exists more commonly among liberals than conservatives. Non-partisan lobby groups can also reveal their statism by campaigning for more "government leadership" on a given matter. This style of language assumes that the civil government has the best means of addressing the issue. It also gives an invitation to the state to increase its role in the everyday affairs of society.
Opposition to statism
In the BIble, Acts 5:29 states "...we must obey God rather than men". This puts limits on the ultimacy and sovereignty of the state. A statist approach to government has also been opposed by a range of groups, including laissez-faire capitalists, libertarians, anarchists, and objectivists.
Objectivists have stated:
|“|| A statist system—whether of a Communist, fascist, Nazi, socialist or “welfare” type—is based on the . . . government’s unlimited power, which means: on the rule of brute force. The differences among statist systems are only a matter of time and degree; the principle is the same. Under statism, the government is not a policeman, but a legalized criminal that holds the power to use physical force in any manner and for any purpose it pleases against legally disarmed, defenseless victims.
Nothing can ever justify so monstrously evil a theory. Nothing can justify the horror, the brutality, the plunder, the destruction, the starvation, the slave-labor camps, the torture chambers, the wholesale slaughter of statist dictatorships.
R.J. Rushdoony noted:
|“||Religion in pagan antiquity was a department of the state, and its function was to provide the rationale for the law order of the society and insurance for individuals. The state was seen as the supreme and primary organization of life in developed paganism, so that the essence of religious life was man's relationship to the state, or to its ruler. The gods acted through the state, and all institutions were comprehended in the state and its life. Biblical religion was a denial of this.||”|
Ronald Reagan famously said:
|“||The ten most dangerous words in the English language are "Hi, I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.||”|
Examples of statist nations and regimes
- McDowell, S. Rendering to Caesar the Things that are God's in Statism: the Golden Calf of the Modern World; Providence Foundation Biblical Worldview University; Charlottesville. p. 15, (2009)
- House, H.W. (ed). The Christian and American law: Christianity's impact on America's founding documents and future direction. Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids; p. 143 (1998)
- Marina, W. "Egalitarianism and Empire" in The Politicization of Society; LibertyPress, Indianapolis. p. 141 (1979)
- Invasive Species Council. ISC WELCOMES LAUNCH OF NATIONAL INVASIVE SPECIES ALLIANCE 22 May 2009.
- The Objectivist Newsletter, p. 44 (Oct. 1962)
- The Objectivist Newsletter, p. 44 (Oct. 1962)
- Rushdoony, R.J. "Theology and the State" in The Institutes of Biblical Law: Law and Society, Volume Two. Ross House Books, Vallecito, p. 110. (1982, third printing 2001)
For a more detailed treatment, see Liberalism.