Describe the models of society laid out by Althusius and Hobbes.
We are living in the shadow of a once great empire that built its foundation upon the words, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The United States, and Canada which has always followed about two steps behind, built an independent society under the guidance of a political model founded by Johannes Althusius called the Federative Polity. This model of political life was most prevalent in the 17th and 18th centuries, and in his book, Politica (1603), Althusius describes society as a series of units or spheres that are all intertwined and functioning in harmony, with the primary unit as the family.
Families form villages, villages form provinces, and provinces may then form a kingdom. All power is shared by the various social authorities and not held monopolistically by a king or central government. Because the rights and liberties of the people precede the king or the central government, the government has no authority by which to arbitrarily interfere with or suddenly cancel god given liberties. It is a mistake for people to think that the government grants you rights or freedoms when the government is not even the creator of them. “- they are endowed by their Creator“. The role of a king or government is to protect the rights and liberties of the people, as well as the authority given to each sphere: the Provence may not infringe upon the rights of the village, and the village may not infringe upon the family. And if a government begins to act like God and is the creator of all rights and liberties, it has turned tyrannical and society is now totalitarian.
Our post-Christian and post-western liberty society is no longer under the Althusian model and is acting ever more totalitarian. Johannes Althusius’ rival, Thomas Hobbes, made today’s political model popular in his book, Leviathan (1651). In it, Hobbes theorizes society as a single flat plane with no diverse array of social authorities. Society is simply a mass of individuals with a central government to rule over them all. There is no social authority that precedes the central government because nothing precedes the government. Hobbes believed that first came the government and then came society. The idea of God-given rights and liberties is thrown out the window, and there is no power or authority that can resist the central government. Although sounding rather scary and dystopian, this political model should be somewhat familiar, as it is the exact opposite of the Althusius model, and the exact model we are living under today.
The rejection of God as creator and Althusius’ political model destroyed the American empire. The dissolution of the family and other spheres of society has advanced the Hobbesian model and made totalitarianism prevalent in Western society.
Can smaller political units contribute to the cause of liberty? If so, how?
Why has the Hobbesian model become prevalent? Why is the idea of smaller political units throughout society rejected? From day one of creation, humans were given power, or dominion to “rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26). It is in our nature to govern over creation, but since the Fall sin has corrupted the human heart to seek power over one another. It is inevitable that a central government will become totalitarian if checks are not put in place. However, the larger a government becomes, the harder it is to enforce those checks and for the liberties of society to be protected. A government can have the best intentions to keep a society “safe” and “happy” by taking control of all authority, but that is a slippery slope to a totalitarian, Hobbesian society.
The Althusius political model of society provides space for multiple layers of society, with power and authority spread out and given to the heads of different spheres: the father is the head of the family, the pastor and elders are heads of the church, and the president, senators, and congressmen are heads of the state. This model reduces the likelihood of a government, church, or head of a family abusing power. Everyone keeps each other in check without infringing upon rights and freedoms. Therefore, smaller political bodies would certainly contribute to the cause of liberty. Small states promote more economic freedom, increase free markets, and increase ethnic, linguistic, religious, and cultural diversity. Why? Because people will vote with their feet, and if a state or small political body begins to infringe upon the rights of the people, family, or church, they can just move to a different state that protects freedom.
Modern politicians love to show how multicultural western societies have become, claiming that their main goal is diversity and inclusivity. But these large multicultural societies do the complete opposite of preserving culture and end up blending everyone into one, large and very bland culture. The freedoms of one religious group will be suppressed over another, one ethnic group will be favoured over another, and one language will dominate the other, till our once diverse land filled with the many beautiful differences God created become lost in the central government dominated state.
Althusius understood the importance of a society filled with many layers and textures. It ensured that no one would be lost in the masses and the freedoms of every individual, group, church, and state were preserved. It is the job of every individual, as a child of God and the citizen of a country, to ensure the freedoms of the people are kept and the authority of central-government is kept in check, because rights and liberties were not created by the government but by God.