At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Governmentalism, not Statism

No one wants to be thought of as a “statist,” a proponent of “statism,” for the “statist,” it is widely held, is an ardent lover of an omnipresent, omnipotent government.  Conversely, he despises individuality or liberty.

Despite the regularity with which “statism” and the like are bandied about, they are deeply problematic.

Admittedly, over the span of roughly 500 years or so, the concept of a state has lent itself to multiple readings.  Yet initially, the term referred to a political entity, an association organized by a centralizing authority—a government.  Note, government, though essential to a state, was never thought to be synonymous with it.  Rather, a state was the sum total of all activities transpiring within its territorial jurisdiction.  Its government, in contrast, was but one activity among these others.


This understanding of a state may be old, but it is not dead—not by a long shot.  In fact, even those who accept “statism” as a term of opprobrium regularly concede its legitimacy.  Take, for example, America.  When the colonists achieved their independence from England, they saw themselves as forming a union of, not just governments, but something more than this, a union of states. 

Neither the Founders nor their posterity ever regarded “these United States” interchangeably with “these United Governments.”  In fact, up until the War Between the States, Americans, particularly Southerners like Robert E. Lee, for instance, thought of their country first and foremost in terms of their home states.  For Lee, his “country,” his homeland, was the state of Virginia.  The latter’s government was just one ingredient in this mix.


Sometimes even the most avid “anti-statists” are the first to acknowledge that “state” and “government” are not one and the same.  Even as I write this, Edward Snowden, the government employee who just recently revealed the scope and nature of the National Security Administration’s surveillance program, is front and center in the news.  The most avowed “anti-statists” not only defend him against the charge that he is a traitor.  They go so far as to deem him a hero, for while Snowden may very well have betrayed the confidence that his government placed in him, he did so for the sake of preserving the integrity of his country. But his country is a state (in name, anyhow, a union of states).

When Ron Paul (and others) said of 9/11 that it was “blowback” from America’s interventionist foreign policy in the Middle East, his (mostly) Republican detractors accused him of “blaming America.”  His most vocal defenders—“anti-statists” all of them—observed that criticisms of the American government, however harsh and sweeping, are not one and the same as criticisms of the country.


I propose that we jettison “statism” and “statist” from our vocabulary and replace them with “governmentalism” and “governmentalist.

As we have seen, state and government are not mutually equivalent. A state is made possible by its government, certainly, but it transcends it.

Secondly, the term “government” has none of the ambiguity with which “state” has been saddled over time.

Thirdly, and most importantly, it is the love for massive government that “statism” is supposed to be all about.

Governmentalism will probably never catch on; too many syllables (though not as many syllables as “environmentalism,” and that’s now part of our political vernacular).  In any event, it is more accurate a term than “statism.”  This consideration alone should count decisively in its favor.  However, there is another.

The word “governmentalism” is an uglier word than “statism.”  And no term can be too ugly that aims to characterize an ideology devoted to an all encompassing government.

Previous Posts

The Christian Worldview of Rocky Balboa
On November 25, Creed, a spin-off of the Rocky franchise, will be hitting theaters. Rocky Balboa, “the Italian Stallion,” is an American icon. A down-on-his-luck nickel and dime club fighter and strong arm man for a local bookie, ...

posted 11:08:05am Nov. 02, 2015 | read full post »

Ronald Reagan: No Conservative
On October 21, Bill Bennett and Sean Hannity had a somewhat feisty exchange during a segment on the latter’s television show. Bennett made two remarks that are worth focusing upon. First, when asked whether he is “ok” with a Trump ...

posted 12:50:21pm Oct. 26, 2015 | read full post »

Mitt Romney, Faux Conservative Extraordinaire
Those of Donald Trump’s “conservative” critics who accuse him of promoting a faux conservatism would be well served to look in the mirror. In the GOP presidential primaries of 2012, many of the same commentators, like Charles ...

posted 9:42:36pm Oct. 25, 2015 | read full post »

Guest Blogger, Myron Pauli: "Political Orphans"
While both political parties pay homage to and occasionally quote Thomas Jefferson, the plain fact is that old TJ could never win the nomination of either party. Would the Democrats nominate a male white supremacist who owned slaves even to the ...

posted 8:07:12pm Oct. 13, 2015 | read full post »

"United in Hate: The Left's Romance With Tyranny and Terror:" A Review
When Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson claimed that Islam and the American Constitution are incompatible, he immediately found himself buried by an avalanche of criticism. Neither the tone nor the substance of the lion’s share of ...

posted 9:40:13pm Oct. 06, 2015 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.