There are two definitions of "government" -- the older definition and the newer one -- that lead to two completely different societies.

R.J. Rushdoony notes that the newer definition of "government" is always preceded by the article "the"—"THE government."

One of the most revealing and deadly linguistic errors of our time is the equation of the word "government" with "state." When the average person, and indeed almost every man, hears references to government, he immediately thinks of the state. This usage is a relatively modern one. There was a time when, in common usage, especially among the Puritans, the term for the state was "civil government." Government in itself was a much broader concept.

Rushdoony describes the older concept:

The basic government is self-government. . . . A free social order rests on the premise that self-government is the basic government in the human order, and that any weakening of or decline in self-government means a decline in responsibility and the rise of tyranny and slavery.

Second, next to self-government is another basic form of government, the family.

Third, the church is a government and an important one, not only in its exercise of discipline but in its religious and moral influence on the minds of men. Even men outside the church are extensively governed in each era, even if only in a negative sense, by the stand of the church. The failure of the church to provide Biblical government has deadly repercussions on a culture.

Fourth, the school is a government, and a very important one. The desire of statists to control education rests on the knowledge of the school's significant part in the government of man. For formal education to be surrendered to the state is thus a basic surrender of man's self-government.

Fifth, a man's vocation, his business, work, profession, or calling, is an important government. A man is governed by the conditions of his vocation or work. In terms of it, he will educate himself, uproot his family and travel to another community, spend most of his waking hours in its service, and continually work therein to attain greater mastery and advancement.

Sixth, private associations are important forms of government. These can include a man's neighborhood, his friends, voluntary organizations, strangers he must meet daily, and other like associations. These associations have a major governing influence on man, but they can also be means and areas whereby he exercises his government over others, influencing or directing them.

Seventh, another area of government is civil government, or the state. The state is thus one government among many, and to make the state equivalent to government per se is destructive of liberty and of life.

History now demonstrates that all these other forms of government—from self-government to the various voluntary associations—cannot long survive if the moral legitimacy of "THE government" is granted.

Self-government requires the character of Christ. Christ was executed by "THE government," and in the face of its rage and violence, He remained self-governed.

The self-governing Christian man honors marriage, does not live by theft, does not take vengeance on his enemies, and does not resort to coercion or violence to overcome life's frustrations. A Capitalist society depends on these values to prosper. In the family, church, the school, business, and in voluntary associations, one cannot overcome competitors by "bombing them back to the stone age." One cannot raise needed funds by announcing a "tax hike" and threatening to lock up unpaying neighbors in the basement with sociopathic felons.

When men do not have the character of Christ, they lose the capacity for self-government, and resort to violence to deal with their frustrations.

"THE government" exists precisely to do what no self-governing Christian man would ever think of doing in his family, his church, his school, his business, or in his other voluntary associations.

After "THE government" publicly legitimizes the systematic violation of God's Commandments, then we begin to see their violation in all other areas of society, all other forms of "government."

Yes, it's nice to forgive others in your "private" life,
but not in "the real world."

"THE government" defends its actions by making disobedience to God's Commandments "realistic" and "practical," and Christlike character "utopian," subjective or mystical. Urban gangs embody "THE government's" claim that "might makes right."

"THE government" — historically and legally — is organized violence, which is to say, the enshrining of the lack of self-government -- systematic government-failure, organized non-government. Those who lack the patience and faith of Christian self-government band together (or "vote" together) to create contract killers to deal with their frustrations, and this institutionalized vengeance is funded by theft. "THE government" is the failure of Christian self-government on a massive society-wide scale, and an acceptance of that state and a rationalization of that acceptance.

1776 marked the origin of a "new" form of government in America. But it actually marked the end of the older concept of self-government and the beginning of The New World Order of systematic irresponsibility, chaos and lawlessness. The Founding Fathers were correct to deny the legitimacy of British taxation (which never amounted to more than a 5% tax rate), but unBiblical to resort to organized violence and revolution. We don't kill IRS agents in our day even though they attempt to confiscate ten times as much as the British attempted to extort from the colonists. It was more wrong for Americans to kill the British in 1776 over taxes than it would be to start killing IRS agents today.

While much of the Constitution and Bill of Rights was intended negatively to keep "THE government" small and prevent it from infringing on God-given rights, positively the State represented an institutionalization of revolution, a permanent armed resistance to future foreign tax collectors, and a substitute for a society permeated by the character of Christ and protected by the blessing of God.

Every single person who signed the Constitution would deny that he was substituting "THE government" for Christian self-government. But this is what happened, and what inevitably happens. We do not have men living today of the caliber of Jefferson, Madison, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and others who framed the Constitution. No new Constitution or Constitutional Convention in our day can ever do any better a job at preventing the attack on self-government by "THE government."

We need to pray that God will raise up a new generation not of "Founding Fathers," but of "UnFounding Fathers," who will once and for all destroy the myth of "THE government."


The Sources of Government in Society

In the face of the reasoning above, some will still say that if we abolish "THE government" society will collapse into chaos and lawlessness. Perhaps a more positive approach will work. Instead of indicting "THE government," let us see how all the other forms of government can bring order to society.

Abraham our Model
What is needed for a "well-governed society?"
These are created by strong families, not "THE government."
Government and the Lex Mercatoria
History gives many examples of good government without "THE government."
Who Counts the Most Important Things of All?
Not Washington, D.C.
How Should We Then Live?  
Long-forgotten paths which generate social order
Voluntary Associations
A more potent source for social order than coerced action
Gary North on "social overhead capital"
Significant expenses not always found on the ledger books
America's Founding Fathers recognized this
Statism: The Idolatry of our Age
Obedience in Life
pleases God more than Ritual and Sacrifices in Church
Virtue in a State-free society
Morality, not coercion, creates social order
Morality in a Church-free society
Education must be religious
Trusting God rather than the State
"Vengeance is Mine," saith the LORD; so is social order
Eliminating Pornography without "THE government."
Controlling Immigration without "THE government."
These principles apply to every form of crime and social disorder.