Government: Good or Bad? Big or Little?

Reframing the Debate

Toward the beginning of De Caelo (On the Heavens), Aristotle makes the well-known remark that “the least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold”—or, as it is sometimes phrased, “a small error in the beginning leads to a large error later on.”  We can easily see that this is true, whether in immediately practical operations or, more importantly, in intellectual investigations.  If our first principles are not right, how can the rest of our reasoning be correct?  This is true concerning our thinking about government.  Is government a necessary evil?  A necessary good?  Is that government best which governs least?  In thinking about these questions, it is good not only to begin at the beginning but to begin with the right questions and their correct answers.

If government were a necessary evil, one reason for this might be that it was something that would not exist had man not sinned.  Christians believe that God originally created one man and one woman whose nature was untouched by evil and who were given special gifts to perfect that nature, but who were then tempted by the Devil and sinned.  Because of Original Sin, all their descendants lost those extraordinary gifts, although man’s basic nature remains good, albeit wounded.  Had Adam and Eve never sinned, and had they begotten children in the state...

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