John Steward of Jesus
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Whom to trust?

November 19, 1980

Government is an abstract concept. There is no such thing as power of government.

Government does not exist in the real world of people and things. In the real world, real people have power over other people, with or without their consent. Real people swing swords, pull triggers, and collect taxes. A government does none of these, Government is a concept or abstract arrangement which determines how those who exercise power are selected and recognized, and how such power passes from one man to another. The concept defines the limits within which this power will be recognized, and for what time. Therefore putting trust in “government” is abstract folly. One may trust the man in power, or one may trust other men to select his successor and demand that the successor fulfill the predecessor’s promises, but if these men cannot he trusted, one has no way of looking to “government” to honor the trust.

If men must find some measure of security outside themselves in human affairs, they should remember that institutions can do nothing. Only the men who represent the institution now or in the future can act. It would be better to trust individual men than those who claim to represent institutions.