Statism in America

My wife subscribes to a publication put out by Ligonier Ministries called Tabletalk. In addition to daily bible devotionals, each month it contains numerous articles written by leading Christian authors. I read one in the August edition written by Dr. R. C. Sproul, Founder and Chairman of Ligonier Ministries entitled “Statism.” In it he notes that he asked Dr. Francis Schaeffer his “biggest concern for the future of the church in America?” Dr Schaeffer said immediately, “Statism.” Dr. Sproul goes on to define statism as a world view philosophy that the federal government is the ultimate authority removing God from His position of supremacy.

A subset of this philosophy is the devolution of authority from statehood to statism. I am not going to address the removal of God from the public square, even though the evolution of the “separation of church and state” has certainly played a major role in this trend. Instead, I am going to look at the evolution of American society as an entitlement society, thereby moving ever forward to statism.

In the early years of the US the country was, for the most part, an agrarian society. Key among the characteristics of this society was self reliance and dependency on family. Each family knew that if they were to make their way in life they would have to do it themselves and maybe with assistance from their neighbors, if they had neighbors. Not in the equation was the government.

Over the last 200 years, it has become more acceptable and even expected for government to hand out those essential elements of survival as basic subsistence with no strings attached. This tendency became more evident under the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson. Barry Goldwater phrased it well when he said, “The government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away.”

In a speech Johnson gave at the University of Michigan on 22 May 1964, he discussed the ills of America and called on the students to work toward solving those ills. Among other things, he pointed out the “crushing weight of poverty,” the overcrowded, understaffed classrooms with out- dated curricula.

To solve these problems, he it would “require us to create new concepts of cooperation, a creative federalism, between the National Capital and the leaders of local communities.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines federalism as, “the theory or advocacy of federal political orders, where final authority is divided between sub-units and a center.” This is the concept that the Founders envisioned when they wrote the Constitution.

So, what did Johnson mean by “creative federalism?”In his speech, he urges the audience to “join in the battle to give every citizen an escape from the crushing weight of poverty…. To join in the battle to build the Great Society, to prove that our material progress is only the foundation on which we will build a richer life of mind and spirit.” These are wonderful thoughts and goals. No one will debate that. However, Johnson’s intent was to make those goals achievable through government action, not through the sweat and perseverance of the individual. As a result, the welfare rolls jumped drastically as we tried to “distribute the wealth” as is being touted by Senator Obama.

Our country had been on an ever-steepening slide toward statism since the New Deal days, but Johnson accelerated that slide. It was further accelerated to include the commercial side our lives under President Carter when the Community Reinvestment act was passed. This forced mortgage companies to make loans that were questionable, at best. This placed a lot of bad loans under the umbrella of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

President Clinton took up the mantle of statism by “encouraging” lenders to make loans available to disadvantaged borrowers to make home ownership more available. This resulted in massive numbers of people buying homes they could not afford. Remember when the Clinton Administration changed the depository regulations for banks in the early to mid ‘90s? You could buy HUD housed for pennies-on-the-dollar. I contend that these actions were a direct result of the Federal Government’s push toward statism.

Now we can fast-forward to a few weeks ago when Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac imploded (along with a number of very large financial institutions). The Democrats are blaming the current administration for this implosion. Talk about mendacity! They are the ones that caused the crisis but are putting the blame directly on the Republican administration.

With the $700B bail-out, not to mention the billions spent to bail of earlier failures, we have steepened the slippery slope to complete statism to almost vertical. Treasury Secretary Paulson is now going about buying large blocks of bank stocks, putting the Federal Government right in the middle of the market square. In many cases, the banks have no choice about the purchase. The federal government is, in effect conducting a hostile takeover. While I am no constitutional scholar, there seems to be a serious constitutional issue here.

I have urged my Congressman and Senators to vigorously oppose these measures. Congressman Lamborn has done so. Unfortunately, our two senators supported the bail-out. Each and every citizen in America has had a huge debt burden placed on them. We have now sunk to not only the concept of individual statism, but now commercial statism has put a pall over our entire economy.

It is time that we put people into office that will vigorously work to reverse this trend and get us back on the track set out by the Founders.

As always, I welcome your comments and discussion.


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