Is Money and Politics the New Church and State?

Column by new Root Striker JGVibes.

Exclusive to STR

One of the main battles of the Enlightenment was the fight to separate the church from the state. After centuries of inquisitions and religious wars, people had grown sick and tired of the church and the state conspiring together to create empires. The churches were the newsrooms of the Middle Ages, and these ministries of propaganda were responsible for creating the culture that everyone was forced to conform to. Whenever the people would experience the wrath of the state through war, taxation and legislation, the teachings of the church would be used as moral justifications for these transgressions. This is the primary reason why the church was singled out as the source of the corruption, when in reality it was only one part of a multifaceted problem that cuts deep into our psychology. 
When the indignant masses finally managed to separate the church from the state, the size of both shrank temporarily. Without the ability to threaten people with force, the church eventually became marginalized because they failed to win the people over with the substance of their teachings or the value of their organization as a whole. Likewise, without the moral justification of the church to back them up, the state was put in a position where it had to come up with new ways to explain why it was fit to rule over others. The divine right of kings was no longer accepted as a reasonable claim to take ownership over another person; this was actually one of the primary reasons why the church had become so controversial at the time.
Although there was a relative advancement of freedom as a result of this change, the relationship between the state and the general population improved very little. People were still conscripted into unpopular wars of conquest. They were still taxed considerably and were still forced to obey laws that they never agreed to. Only now different justifications were developed to keep everyone in line with the status quo and obedient to authority. Government-funded intellectuals worked all throughout the Enlightenment to create these new justifications for state power. Ultimately they decided on creating a new dogma where the public would be entirely dependent upon the state for survival. This way people would be unable to conceive of a world without a centralized authority and they would never dare ask any questions, so as to not “bite the hand that feeds.”
Utilities and other institutions were established as methods of controlling public opinion and presented as excuses for the constant extortion of taxpayers. Government schooling has acted as the backbone for the new, renovated control system that manages our lives. This institution was much more effective than the church in regards to shaping public opinion and ensuring the acquiescence of the general population. 
At first the people were extremely resistant to handing their children over to the government for 12 years, and rightfully so. However, after a generation or two the apprehension died down and everyone began singing the tune that was being taught in the public school system. People began to see the state and its many institutions as the source of their freedom, instead of the source of their oppression, which it was. To make matters even more confusing, they were told that these institutions were put into place by their ancestors and neighbors, when in reality their neighbors and ancestors were just as oppressed by these systems as they were. So while the separation of church and state did temporarily increase the level of freedom that people were able to experience, it was ineffectual in the long term because war, taxation and domination were still allowed to continue.
There are many important lessons that can be taken from this historical account, because today we find ourselves in a very similar situation. As our civilization rushes into tyranny, many people are suggesting that if we only could take away the influence that financial institutions have over the state then we would finally be able to tame the wild beast called “government.” This is a fairly rational conclusion to come to because there is an unbelievable amount of corruption that exists within the financial sector. However, this approach would not be striking at the root of our oppression; in all reality, it would only cause a minor inconvenience for those in power.
Many researchers and philosophers have used the metaphor of “the gun in the room” to describe the government’s place in society. This is a profound metaphor considering that the state’s primary function is to act as a legal shield for those who wish to carry out organized acts of violence. For centuries, different groups have wrestled the gun out of each other’s hands, only to bring us varying degrees of tyranny and oppression. In the traditional monarchies, the king had control of the gun. In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church had control of the gun and today it just so happens that Goldman Sachs and Northrop Grumman are the ones holding the gun. For these aforementioned parties, things may have changed a bit over time, but as far as the rest of society goes, nothing has changed because they have had the same gun in their face throughout the ages, without reprieve. 

When looking back at this volley of violence that has taken place throughout history, it is not difficult to see that taking the gun away from one group, only to hand it over to another will just slightly change the brand of tyranny that we are forced to live under. The only way to truly put an end to the horrors of war, taxation and domination is to put away the gun in the room, not just squabble over who is allowed to use it. By allowing people the special privilege to use violence without consequence, you are giving them the power to tax, declare war and write their other crimes into law; there is nothing else that this privilege can be used for. 

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JGVibes's picture
Columns on STR: 6

J.G. Vibes is an author, and artist -- with an established record label. In addition to featuring a wide variety of activist information, his company -- Good Vibes Promotions promotes for electronic dance music events. You can keep up with him and his forthcoming book Alchemy Of The Modern Renaissance, at "" . AOTMR will be released this spring, thanks to Leilah Publications. This project features nearly 100 different essays that give historical and philosophical insight into the many important issues that our generation faces. From ethics and voluntary interactions to banking, eugenics and the drug war, AOTMR offers a complete and comprehensive breakdown of the counter culture’s struggle.


Paul's picture

Just an FYI. Early on, I don't believe 12 years of "education" was required. In the 1859 Oregon constitution, there is no requirement at all; it only says the state will provide "education". In the Wyoming constitution (1889 I think) there is compulsory education, but only 3 years is required. Of course later (generally unconstitutional) statutes called for longer and longer periods of indoctrination.

Tony Pivetta's picture

Like all libertarians I oppose "public" education. The government should have no role in it at all.

Strictly speaking, though, only federal involvement in education is unconstitutional. Whether the various states' provision of education is constitutional depends on each state's constitution. I believe all 50 states make provision for it, which includes the "longer and longer periods of indoctrination."

Paul's picture

My understanding (admittedly not rigorously tested) is that state constitutions created prior to about 1850, when state "education" was imported to America from Prussia, do not mention education at all (unless later amended to do so). Right around 1850, as with Oregon's constitution, it gives the state a role in "education" but does not make it compulsory. Later constitutions like Wyoming's adds a compulsory component. I bet very few actually call for 12 years of compulsory "education" though, even now.

The unconstitutional part I was referring to was the compulsory part, where statute calls for compulsory "education" beyond what the state constitution allows.

Some people claim state constitutions are plenary, i.e. that states are able to do anything the constitution does not explicitly prohibit, the reverse of the way the federal constitution is interpreted. I think that is nonsensical. But I also think that constitutions do not work in any practical sense, that they are more for show.

Tony Pivetta's picture

Interesting. You could be right. I thought state constitutions either provided for free (!) and compulsory (!!) public education, or created school districts with authority to do so.

At any rate, you weren't advancing any theory of incorporation. I still hear libertarians insisting tax-funded Nativity scenes violate the U.S. Constitution. They do no such thing. The First Amendment merely bars the U.S. Congress from establishing a state religion. It says nothing about what the states may do.

Not that I think it's a good idea for non-Christians to be compelled to promote Christianity in any way. Nor, for that matter, should Christians be compelled to promote secular humanism in any way--though that's precisely what they do when they pay taxes for government schools.

I agree with your assessment of constitutions. Paraphrasing Lysander Spooner, they've either given us the government we have or been powerless to stop it. Either way, constitutions are of "no effect."

Tony Pivetta's picture

This is a truncated and grossly overstated, not to say distorted, summary of Church-state history. It will take more than just an FYI to correct it. I'll give it shot anyway.

"In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church had control of the gun"?! This would certainly be news to St. Ambrose of Milan, the Archbishop of Canterbury St. Thomas a' Kempis, and Pope St. Gregory VII. Take a cursory tour through the pages of Wikipedia when you get a chance. Read about these high-profile prelates' bitter conflicts with the civil authorities of their day: the Emperor Theodosius, King Henry II of England, and Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV.

For that matter, read the Jewish agnostic Murray Rothbard's account of the development of capitalism in Medieval Europe. He attributes it to political competition. The Holy Roman Emperor, kings, dukes, earls, knights, the guilds, merchants, feudal lords, simple peasants and, yes, the Church were all very protective of their turf. The patchwork laid the groundwork for property and individual rights and the marketplace. If you can't have anarchy, radical decentralization is the next best thing.

In sharp contrast, the pagan authorities of ancient Rome did not differentiate between faith and state. Neither does Islam. Neither do run-of-the-mill secular humanists. (This gang aggressively rejects traditional religious mores, even as it insists on translating its effete, not to say warped, notions of the good—e.g., taxpayer-funded abortion, drug prohibition, equal employment diktats—into civil law.) The bifurcation between temporal and spiritual is entirely a Western, i.e., Catholic, development.

At various times and places, Catholic monarchs may well have melded church and state in ways not consistent with the libertarianism readers of this website espouse. At various times and places, the Church may well have failed to disabuse them of the notion they should be melded. But the Church always upheld a fundamental distinction between the two. That's a lot more than I can say for the Enlightment jihadists who turned Notre Dame Cathedral into a shrine to Athena (goddess of Reason, don't you know?), even as they rampaged through the Vendee, perpetrating wholesale slaughter of priests and faithful peasants alike.

For many of us, Christianity informs our anarchy. We believe in applying the rules governing human behavior in truly universal fashion: no exemption from "thou shalt not steal" and "thou shalt not kill" for politicians, bureaucrats or generals. Yes, institutional Christianity's record is somewhat checkered in this regard. But cavalier summations and sweeping generalizations do nothing to advance your message, which is quite elegantly and succinctly stated in your concluding paragraph.

JGVibes's picture

i appreciate your well thought out response and your deep knowledge of religious history. I want to be clear that i am not attacking religion in any kind of way, i am simply pointing out how religious institutions in the past have have used the government to carry out acts of violence. we saw this with the crusades and the inquisition, that was what i was referring to when i said .."the church had the gun in the middle ages".

i also agree that following Christs teachings to a T would result in a free society, but i wasnt really talking about christ here... just about specific religious institutions that forced their will into people in the past...many of these institutions proclaimed to be "christian" but thats besides the point...believe in religion doesent pose a threat...but using government to force your religion onto others is a bad thing

i dont think that is being disingenuous, my only point here was, separating the church from the state did nothing to stop what the state was doing... it only changed their justification...before they said it was god, so people separated church and state, and nothing changed... today they say its money... so people want to get money out of politics...but again that wont do anything either... the true problem is power...which is politics itself

..i was simply saying that although the state used the church as a justification for the violence that they carried out in the middle ages, the source of violence was still the state...and it will always be the state...because the state is the "gun in the room"

i hope that clarified my message a bit...and wasnt too ranty :-)