You’re right, Tom, true happiness is possible only when the individual is free from the onerous power of the state.
Aristotle long ago made clear that ethical actions (which were and are the required preamble to happiness) must be voluntary. Christendom too has taught for two thousand years that true Charity (originally love, caritas) must be voluntary. So “government charity” is a contradiction, and “mandatory love” is an abomination. The “benevolent” state robs the individual of the right (and the means) to perform true (voluntary) Charity and forces “social justice” on him instead. Thus is envy enthroned.
Oppressive government deprives the individual of the right to act in liberty to exercise Charity (a theological virtue) as well as the other virtues — those virtues which our founders recognize as a prerequisite both to liberty and to happiness. By harmonizing our own lives to “The Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” we remove the “need” (actually the lust) of government to move in and “do what we cannot do for ourselves” — all “for our own good,” of course.
Christianity has bestowed on the West two other fundamental truths. First, unlike any other civilization in history, it demands “by nature” a limited state. (Augustine: Since our ultimate goal is salvation, and since the government can’t save our soul, we must be allowed a wide realm of freedom so that we can work out our salvation in freedom.)
Second, Christianity predicts the failure, evil, and suffering that ensue when the plundering state attempts to destroy the limits that the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God put around its power: In the first epistle of John, 2:16, the apostle tells warns us that superbia vitae — the pride of life, the lust for glory and fame, is “of the world.” Augustine calls it libido dominandi, the lust for power over one’s equals.
Yes, it is diabolical. The Prince of This World goads the state to destroy liberty and to defy “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” because he hates God, he hates liberty, and he hates true Charity. Laws should be just, yes, but it was Rousseau, not Christ, who told us that the state should “force us to be free.”11:32 am on January 21, 2012 Email Christopher Manion