Sinful Nature and the Question of the State’s Necessity

Originally Published on The Libertarian Christian Institute, philosophy, theology

Among Christian libertarians, as with other libertarians, there are differing views concerning the legitimacy, necessity, and inevitability of the state. For some, this is the worn-out debate between a view supporting statelessness (or ‘anarchism’) for a free society, and a view supporting a limited state (or ‘minarchism’) for a free society. Can libertarians, both anarchists and minarchists, cooperate in pursuit of a free society? I think they can. Nevertheless, there is genuine disagreement between these two views, and each view is worth considering.

In a series of articles, I’ll address several common objections I’ve found to be made from a minarchist view against anarchism. The first concerns law and order and the question of the state’s legitimacy. The second concerns human sinfulness and the question of the state’s necessity. The third concerns dominance hierarchy and the question of the state’s inevitability. The fourth concerns our (in)ability to imagine a free and stateless society, and also the question of the plausibility of statelessness.

If John Locke wrote the best defense for the legitimacy of the state, James Madison wrote the best defense for the necessity of it. In Federalist 51, Madison wrote that if men were angels (i.e., sinless) then no government would be necessary. And if angels were to govern, then no limitations on government would be necessary. This seems to be an irrefutable case for minarchism.

As Christians, we know that we are sinners living in a fallen world. There are evil people who do evil things. Sure, there are people who are relatively good to each other, but it’s the bad people we need protection from. By having a limited state, Madison thought that everyone could benefit from the resulting protections. Minarchism supposes that a limited state is preferable to statelessness to ensure the administration of civil justice.

What is it that necessarily follows from the sinfulness of mankind?

One minarchist argument against anarchism is that man is simply too sinful for statelessness. But does this logically follow? Does the sinfulness of man necessitate the existence of the state to any degree as the unilateral administrator of civil justice?

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Kerry Baldwin

independent researcher, author

B.A. Philosophy, Arizona State University. My writing focuses on libertarian philosophy and reformed theology and aimed at the educated layperson. I am a confessionally Reformed Christian orthodox Presbyterian in the tradition of J. Gresham Machen (1881 – 1937)