The State as God's Will


Column by Duane Colyar.

Exclusive to STR

This column explores a common phenomenon that occurs when libertarians express their opinions regarding the state and its operating mechanism, the government. Most libertarian principles are anathema to mainstream political thought. However, some libertarian ideas challenge only the tenets of traditional conservatives while other libertarian ideas are contrary only to the political beliefs of left-leaning liberals or progressives. It has been the experience of this author that conservatives tend to deal with opposing ideas in a calm, objective manner while liberals often become unglued, upset and even angry when presented with ideas divergent from their deeply held beliefs. These liberals regularly terminate friendships with those who dare challenge their belief system and drop them from their Facebook friend roster. College students might escape hearing contrary beliefs that threaten their delicate natures by seeking “safe spaces” or picketing offensive professors who dare express political or economic ideas viewed as offensive by some students. 

A possible explanation for this reaction by liberals is that they tend to view critical comments regarding the state as attacks against their understanding of a higher power. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that one third of U.S. adults do not believe in God as described in the Bible but believe in a “higher power” of some kind.[1]Eighty percent of those between 18 to 29 years believe in some kind of spiritual force. The study goes on to reveal that those who lean toward the Democratic Party are more likely than Republicans to say they believe in a higher power or spiritual force other than the biblical God. Just what is the nature of this higher power or spiritual force? Perhaps the answer can be found in Hegel.

Mark Twain described the prose of literary Germans such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel as follows, “Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him until he emerges on the other side of the Atlantic with a verb in his mouth.”[2]Ponderous as it well may be, Hegel’s “Philosophy of Right” reveals his ideas of the state and the body politic.[3]He describes the state as a divine power, the march of God in the world. The state is “a supreme manifestation of the activity of God in the world,” and “The state is God’s will.” Consequently, the individual must be subservient to the collective. Only then can one be truly “free.”

Granted, only a small percentage of the population is familiar with the writings of Hegel, so how is it that his philosophy of the state is shared by many liberals? Perhaps the answer lies in the liberal view of the state as a great benefactor, a higher power that can feed and clothe people from birth to the grave, provide health care and the education of youth while ensuring safety from the evils in the world. To attack the state with verbal insults and challenges is to attack all that is good, all that the Higher Power can offer, all that liberals believe in. When libertarians and anarcho-capitalists criticize the state and its activities they are seen by liberals as criticizing the expression of God’s will.

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Duane Colyar has published papers in professional journals regarding the residential treatment of children; is a retired state internal audit manager; a retired CEO of a not-for-profit charity; and current on-line instructor.