The Nature of the State - 2021-04-28
A while back when I had done a post on political parties and an alternative model for a Republican Democracy, I had briefly mentioned the importance of the nature of the State, in other words, the raison d'être of the State: why does it exist? The reason why this is an important question to ask is that, if the State is not serving its natural purpose then it is failing as an entity; and if it is not only failing, but doing so intentionally, then it is ipso facto illegitimate, as it is intentionally contradicting its own purpose of existence. In such a case where a State is illegitimate, it is important to note that this does not (necessarily) mean that any State would be, and therefore we should resort to anarchy; rather it is a call to establish a new model for the State that better enables for it to fulfill its natural purpose.
Ultimately, the issue of the nature of the State is deeply rooted in the concept of the Common Good, which we must define first. To start, we must understand that Good is that which makes Man more virtuous, or to say it in a less technical manner, that which further fulfills Man in accordance to his nature. The Common Good is a Good which can be shared among many, and that does not diminish (or even increases) in value when shared among more persons. This Common Good will (generally) be something that enables Man access to Particular Goods - e.g. a social welfare programme would be a Common Good that enables Men access to Particular Goods such as medical attention, but the social welfare programme is not a Particular Good, nor is the medical attention a Common Good.
Now, getting directly into the role of the State, it is an abstract entity, an institution created by Man for the purpose of making Man more virtuous. As it is an institution, a collective of persons, it cannot act directly upon Particular Goods, but rather it acts directly upon the Common Good. So therefore we can conclude that the State's purpose is to act upon the Common Good in order to enable Man's development as a human person. The State does this by means of the establishment and enforcement of Human Law. This Human Law must be, of course, ordered towards the natural development of Man, and therefore in accordance to Natural Law, which precedes and transcends it. As such, no Human Law is valid which contradicts the Natural Law. In the same manner, there is yet another Law which transcends both Human and Natural Laws, which is the Divine Law: that Law which is established by God Himself. Both Human and Natural Law are subject to this. In the case of the Natural Law, this does not contradict the Divine Law, as the nature of a thing derives from its essential facets, which are creation, created by God. It is, however, possible for fallen and wicked Men to create invalid human "laws" which contradict either of these two superior Laws (Natural & Divine), but as St. Augustine says: "Lex iniusta non est lex."
Knowing this, we should not only stay in the realm of the theoretical, but apply this knowledge in a practical manner to that which surrounds us. Most immediately, as many of us live in some form of Democracy where we are able to have a (limited) say in the manner in which the politics of our States is carried out, we should apply this hypothesis when making our decisions as to what option we vote for. For us to promote any Human Law that contradicts with the Natural or Divine Laws would constitute a grave offense against the nature of the State, and more importantly, as Pope St. Pius X points out, "a great injustice to God".
Unfortunately, it is true that most of our Modern States already suffer from this kind of violence, of "laws" that not only enable but even go so far as to promote evil. This, however, should come as no surprise considering the age of hedonism in which we live in combination with our democratic system of governance. If we (falsely) understand that the legitimacy of the State derives from majority support and not from something that transcends it, that all that is needed for the State to be functioning in an ordered manner is for it to follow the majority opinion, then we arrive at the false conclusions of our current age, where we are the ones who define what is just and unjust rather that a value which transcends both Men and States alike. For a society in which we, fallen Men, are allowed to create our own justice and truth is one where we will tend towards our disordered passions. This is especially dangerous when speaking about the State, as the Common Good is that which can help to reorient us towards our own personal fulfillment rather than our passions; but if this same State is failing in its duty and deviating us from the Path, promoting evil, then it will bring many who may have otherwise been saints down with it to eternal damnation.
I do not pretend here to give a solution as to any system of governance or policy that must be considered. I have my own preferences on the matter, but I do not deem it appropriate to share these here, as each should come to his own conclusion based upon the ideas proposed. But I do believe it vital that we consider this and realize the truly degraded state of our modern societies and their States, and begin to consider and put forward proposals, as well as take action, so as to change this current decadent state of affairs and turn it into something that truly leads to human development and progress.
Pope St. Pius X, pray for us.
- Vehementer Nos § 3, Pope St. Pius X