God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature. This mode of governance ought to be followed in social life. The way God acts in governing the world, which bears witness to such great regard for human freedom, should inspire the wisdom of those who govern human communities. They should behave as ministers of divine providence.
"Human society can be neither well-ordered nor prosperous unless it has some people invested with legitimate authority to preserve its institutions and to devote themselves as far as is necessary to work and care for the good of all."15
By "authority" one means the quality by virtue of which persons or institutions make laws and give orders to men and expect obedience from them.
Every human community needs an authority to govern it.16 The foundation of such authority lies in human nature. It is necessary for the unity of the state. Its role is to ensure as far as possible the common good of the society.
The authority required by the moral order derives from God: "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment." --CCC 1884, 1897-1899
I have quoted these lines before, in the comments. What I am curious about, in this entire debate, is how what everyone is saying is consonant with the Church's teachings and tradition. I am tempted to say that what Geoff has written (I cannot claim to have read all of it) does not really speak to my point, and indeed he and Andy are having a difficult time really touching each other's points about anything because Andy is speaking about government in very broad and general terms, whereas Geoff at least appears to be focusing his criticism on the government of the United States of America. This focused approach appears in such statements as, "Without a centralized coercive authority chosen by a numerical majority, why would there be any more injustice than there is now, if the majority of men are rational and good the majority of the time?" The "centralized coercive authority chosen by a numerical majority" is clearly the U.S. government. However, in response to this, I would wish to ask a very direct question: What is your picture of authority? I must venture to be so rude as to say that I will entirely lose interest if the response is over three paragraphs and chock-full of newsreport examples. I simply want a vision of how authority would work in a society constructed according to your ideal.
I will also make a clear and very blunt statement myself: The majority of men are decidedly not rational and good the majority of the time! If you are taking this as a premise in how a society should be ordered, then you need to seriously rethink it. The reason why is that, unfortunately, we are all endowed with a little sickness that mars the splendour of our nature. This sickness is original sin, which as St. Thomas puts it, "is an inordinate disposition, arising from the destruction of the harmony which was essential to original justice, even as bodily sickness is an inordinate disposition of the body, by reason of the destruction of that equilibrium which is essential to health."
Ok, no more time for blogging. :)