11 March 2004

The state as voluntary association

From the Acton Institute's website, here is a quotation from Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661): "Every man by nature is a freeman born; by nature no man cometh out of the womb under any civil subjection to king, prince, or judge." This is from question XIII of Lex Rex. On the face of it, and even after examining further the context in which this passage appears, I would conclude that it is not true. I appeal to my birth certificate as evidence to the contrary. As I was born in the United States, I was born a citizen of that country and as a subject to its government and laws.

The state is not a voluntary association. It is ordained by God to do justice, as Romans 13 affirms. The author of the Acton account argues that Rutherford believed this too. Yet he would appear to be putting the best face on what is essentially a voluntaristic, and thus defective, view of government.

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