Monday, July 04, 2011

There's Nothing Holy or Divine in Politics

Tomas Sedlacek, in Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street, analyzes history to get at the roots of contemporary economic theory. In chapter 1 he looks at the Gilgamesh myth. In chapter 2 he considers Judaeo-Christianity. 

It is significant that ancient Jewish thinking desacralized rulers, viewing them as "mere men." "Ultimately," says Sedlacek, "the entire idea of a political ruler stood against the Lord's will, which is explicitly presented in the Torah. The Lord unequivocally preferred the judge as the highest form of rule - an institution that is capable of arbitrating, but will not explicitly rule in the modern sense of executive power." (Op. cit., K, 12%)

Being a king was a total earthly thing, not a divine institution. And humility was one of the most essential attributes for a ruler. King David wrote, for example, that "The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground." (Ps. 147) Sedlacek says that "the entire institution of kingly reign is therefore in the Old Testament something that is not recommended, and is even warned against." (Ib.)

But, as we know from 1 Samuel 8:11-19, the people of Israel demanded a king. So, without God's blessing, "the institution of the ruler as a bearer of executive power was born in Israel. From the very beginning, when God distances Himself from the entire idea, there is an anticipation that there is nothing holy, let alone divine, in politics." (Ib.)