Chapter 3: “County Rights”
3.1 Local government in a free America
The basic premise of localism—and therefore, the basic premise of what I call “County Rights”—is that civil government power should be as decentralized as possible. This is the heart of the program. This section covers that principle of localism: the ideal of freedom and how we once had it in America.
Local Government in a Free America
We need to acknowledge that States’ Rights—though much better than all power being centralized in a large national government—is not a good enough answer to national tyranny. “States’ Rights are for sissies,” as a friend of mine says. Give me “County Rights.” That’s decentralized power. But lest my libertarian friends needle me by pointing out that counties can cajole and extort too, I prefer to argue that civil government power should be as decentralized as possible. If it is possible to have a well-ordered society with little government beyond the family and perhaps voluntary community organization, then we should welcome this.
As we shall see here, localism and decentralized power is the best expression of freedom in government, and it was the way America was originally founded. This is the way it used to be in America, and it worked. So I would like to discuss, briefly, localism or “County Rights” in both principle and practice.
In principle, limited and localized government is an outgrowth of specifically Christian thinking; particularly the demands that 1) rulers are not divine, but themselves subject to a higher law, 2) private property is to be protected and conferred with its own governmental powers under law, and 3) social relationships are based on legally binding contracts, 4) power tends to allow for corruption and should therefore be limited, checked, and safeguarded. In short, we have a society based on religious faith, property rights, honoring of contracts, and individual responsibility—all fundamental things derived directly from the Ten Commandments. And of course, with all of these things is assumed the right to life and the protection of life.
None of the above is guaranteed by a secular state: if only because they can redefine terms as needed, and so do so as they please, take what they wish, and kill when they want.
This kind of lawless behaviour has no place on God’s territory, and it is going to get shoved into the garbage bin of history. Thus, it is nature for Christians to be part of the shoving, and established a decentralized, local governmental philosophy instead.
One modern political philosopher noted the derivation:
The limited state is a creation of Christian thinking, particularly of Augustine. It arose from the fundamental experience of the Incarnation, the appearance of God in human form at a definite place and time of human history. Christian thinking about politics was based on a new discovery about the destiny of man: man lived in order to attain fellowship with God.”1
In other words, beyond the mere popular idea of Christianity, the idea of limited government is based in Christian theology: it is a political development based upon the previous theological development of the historic Church councils, particularly Nicaea (AD 325) and Chalcedon (AD 451). Because only Jesus Christ is the perfect man, and the only God-man, this means He alone has the final word of human jurisdiction. He is prophet, priest, and king. No human government, therefore, has the right to wield supreme or final power on earth, whether in family, church, or state. All people and all rulers must bow the knee to King Jesus, obey his commandments, and love one another as equals before God.2
Christians are to push for a limited government, because God has no time for the idolatry of the unlimited Saviour State.
There can be only one Lord, and only one Source of the Law… and wealthy, politically connected men don’t make the cut.