Raeper and Edwards in their book A Brief Guide to Ideas does a fair job summarizing philosophical and theological thought through the ages. What caught my attention was their chapter titled How Should Society be Organized (Raeper and Edwards 1997 p. 137)? I have had the opportunity to travel internationally the past few years, especially to China. It has given me the opportunity to observe and talk with global citizens about their experiences in their countries. It has given me an opportunity to compare western governance and China governance.
I had a fascinating talk about how the communistic government in China has changed over the past century with a new friend of mine. He shared with me that his first job in the late 1950’s or early 60’s was chosen for him after completing the University in Foreign affairs. His salary was minimal and he was given a one bedroom apartment. Each time he was promoted, the government gave him larger living accommodations (as the government owned all the land) and eventually a car and driver. He went from a one bedroom apartment to a two bedroom apartment to a house, etc… The government would tell him what his new job would be and would move him where ever they wanted him. He said you just move when they tell you to move. Salaries remained minimal through his career.
When China decided to open its doors to the US and western countries, things began to change. My friend had the opportunity to be one of the first to joint venture as part of the government with Coke a Cola. He maintained his state salary and gave his monthly joint venture salary to the government. Eventually, the Chinese government opened up opportunities for individuals to partner with international companies as independent entities approved by the government which is resulting in wealthy Chinese citizens. Now, individuals and families can own homes and apartments leased on China government land. These changes from a pure communism style of government to a hybrid blend with a mix of capitalism have spurred a surge of entrepreneurism and financial growth that is leading China to become the next world power.
Raeper and Edwards talked about three models of society organization, Plato’s totalitarian Republic which has three classes of citizens; Machiavelli and Locke’s pragmatic models and Karl Marx’s communistic, classless society. Which is best? Each has its merits, each has its faults. Some are harsher, some are fairer. How is one to judge?
In my opinion, it comes down to the transformation of man and man’s purpose for existence. These models fail to address the spiritual nature of man. If man’s nature is pure and good, then education of the good may be the best choice according to Plato. But how does one explain evil, war and greed. If man was created good and perfect, but inherited a sin nature, then greed and sinful nature needs to be addressed.
The Bible says, man was created in God’s image and men and women are created to glorify God by living a selfless and loving life. The Bible says that man must be transformed by changing the nature of man from the inside out through a person relationship with Jesus.
If this is true, then maybe the best organization of society is one that is designed to protect individual rights to pursue spiritual goals that improve individuals and enhance society and community.
Societies that try to change behavior from outside rules and laws may not be able to attain the results that come from a Christian-Judeo perspective of transformation from the inside out.
My observation is that western governments and communism are on the opposite poles of the spectrum; personal rights versus community rights. I believe the world governments are dynamic and are mixes of all the theories mentioned above. It will be interesting to see what international governments will look like in 100 years from now. What is the right answer? What do you think?
Edwards, Linda and William Raeper. “A Brief Guide to Ideas”. Oxford, England. Lion Publishing, 1997.