The Power of Independent Thinking

←  ISSUES


Stay Connected
Get the latest updates straight to your inbox.









Article

Polis, State, and the Common Good



In his critique of William T. Cavanaugh’s classic essay “Killing for the Phone Company: Why the Nation-State Is Not the Keeper of the Common Good” (2004), Thomas Storck invokes the Platonic-Aristotelian tradition to show the teleological necessity of the state. He notes Cavanaugh’s rejection of those claims, a refusal that “puts in jeopardy important truths.” He states (and criticizes) Cavanaugh’s three major claims as follows: 1) the state is not natural; 2) the state forms or “gives rise to” society; and 3) the state has merged with society. I shall critically respond to Storck’s critique of these claims by Cavanaugh within various sub-sections that follow. I will then offer some additional reflection that further supports Cavanaugh’s concerns about the state.

Stressing continuity, Storck writes that, “Political authority has always been both necessary for mankind and, in any particular case, often of dubious origins. But despite that fact, political writers have insisted again and again that the ruler ruled for the sake of his subjects,” making rule, government, or state “an institution as old as the human community” (italics added). Throughout his essay, Storck relies on this notion of political authority as the definition of what it means for a political organization to be natural, and he maintains that the state is such a natural political organization to the extent that it is one in which rulers rule for the sake of their subjects. But here a danger, noted by theologian James M. Cameron, arises, namely, that Catholic writers committed to normative, ideal definitions will find themselves giving “a sacred and unchallengeable character...to the commands of the state, notably where matters of war and peace are in question.”

Read the full article


Joseph R. Stromberg is an independent historian and a Research Fellow at The Independent Institute.






  • MyGovCost.org
  • FDAReview.org
  • OnPower.org
  • elindependent.org